The longline fisherman often inspires an image of a big boat, a multi-person crew and screaming hydraulics. Terry Perensovich is the exception. Hand hauling out of a 16 foot Boston Whaler was how he liked to get it done and at 60 years young he still fishes his D-Class halibut from a skiff. At one point the Whaler had a hydraulic hauler from the outboard, but it was more trouble and maintenance than it was worth. “I wasn’t bummed when it broke,” says Terry. “I preferred handlining, kept things simple, but the anchors did get lighter over the years.” Terry has since upgraded to a 25 ft custom aluminum skiff with an electric hauler, but the program has stayed relatively the same. According to Terry, “When you’re out there your whole world is to keep the boat floating and put fish in the boat.” Camping on the beach as the sets soak was his typical routine, although this year with Covid-19 and social distancing protocols, his trips have been mainly day trips. He has felt other effects from the pandemic such as the drastic drop in dock price. Fortunately Terry felt from a young age that it was always important to be diversified. Terry began fishing in the derby days. He loved that he could take off from one job, usually construction, and go fish the derby, then go back to another job.
“I don’t want job security,” he jokes,” You go stale if you do the same thing every day.” Spoken like a true fisherman as Terry explains why he chose fishing over stability. Even with years of urging from his father, a life-long government employee, Terry always chose the non-traditional path. “It’s important to have a diverse skillset in today’s world,” Terry explains as he reflects on all the jobs he has held over the years. Shipwright, trapper, fisherman, construction worker and caretaker are only some of the hats Terry has worn.
Born and raised in Sitka, at 19, Terry went to Maine for Shipwright school. He has a love for the craft but no longer practices it as a business. He is currently rebuilding a 40 ft double ender wood troller named the Myrna D. The vessel had been destroyed in a fire, but he loved her lines and enjoys the work without the pressure of it being a job. “There’s no one standing over your shoulder, no deadlines, no one asking you how much is it going to cost,” he explains.
Aside from fishing, Terry spends a portion of his year care-taking a homestead on Admiralty Island. He still traps for martin, something he has done since childhood. “Fur is a much better product than all the plastic clothes we are wearing now.” He laments the downfall of the prices for furs, but he still enjoys trapping as more of a hobby. When the price of a martin pelt goes from $200 to $12 it’s hard to justify it as a business. Nature has a way of forcing us into reflection and as Terry reflects on this upcoming winter trip to Admiralty Island he shares, “I manage to fill my time but I feel more fulfilled than filled.” He enjoys the time in solitude to reflect on his life and goals for the upcoming year.
When asked about his future, Terry refers to the statue of the Pioneer in front of the Pioneer home in Sitka. He sees his future like that of the pioneer, with his pack full, his tools in hand, he’s ready for anything that may come his way. “If all you do is fish and one day you decide to retire and stop fishing, your whole identity and self worth stops with it,” Terry explains.
Sometimes he wonders how he is still fishing after all these years, but good work ethic and a diverse set of skills can go a long way in this world and Terry is proof of just that.