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The speaker is a 65-year-old White man with a grade school education from Washington Island, Wisconsin; he was recorded in 1969.


County: Door
State: WI

Located about seven miles off the tip of the Door County peninsula, Washington Island has always relied on fishing. In the 1870s a few Icelandic fishermen discovered it as an ideal place to live and work, and sent word home to their compatriots, who came in large numbers. The island has also been well suited for agriculture, with potatoes, peas, dairy products, and orchards sustaining the economy. In recent years tourism has been extremely important, with the island accessible across the notorious "Death's Door" by numerous ferry trips daily. The speaker, a life-long fisherman, talks about his work.
Inf: We dropped these hooks over the side and then we put uh, what-what we call plugs o-on and they, they have different, they have different length lines on 'em. Uh, some are two ply and some are four, some are six, some are eight, some are twelve. Uh, we uh, we put 'em at different levels t-try to locate the fish, to see where they're running. And then when we locate the, the fish, then we, we set our hooks at that certain level.

FW: I see.

Inf: And we float, we float these and we uh, when we put that hook through the back of uh, of the fish and out uh, and out through his mouth, you know, which is a job to be prized, quite a little skill, the speed, [FW: Yeah.] you know.

FW: They do it fast when they're paying out the line.

Inf: Sure. Uh, because we have the boat running along at a, at a pretty fast clip at the same time. And you gotta keep up with that boat and boy you don't want to get stuck with those hooks. You better know what you're about. And then we uh, uh, like I say, all depending on the light of the moon, particularly. Uh, uh when the moon is real light then the fish go down a little deeper. [FW: Oh] And then when the moon darkens and then they come closer to the surface. But that's the way they used to work. [FW: Yeah.] But you see they were uh, they were essentially herring chasers what-what we'd call uh, they were the big fellas and the s- fast ones, you know, th-the clever devils. And they, they would come up to the top to try to get those herring. But now of course with these alewives clearing the herring off, I don't know, maybe the trout would work out. And they seem to be working entirely different than they used to.

FW: When you say herring chasers, do you mean a kind of fish or do you mean the ac-?

Inf: Well uh, eh, uh, eh, this is regular trout, but eh, but, but if they're real fast swimmers and that, they, they go up from the water and catch the herring that are swimmin' high in the water.

FW: I see.

Inf: And those herring too ar-are very, very fast. But the trout have to be able to catch 'em, [FW: Yeah] you see.

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