Cordova Chronicles: Fishing is the Name of the Game

Shown here near Harbor Hydraulics, the F/V Aquaholic is one of large fleet of bow pickers preparing for the highly anticipated first Copper River gill net opener. Dick Shellhorn photo

With the tempo picking up all over town, one can tell another fishing season is right around the corner. 

The streets and intersections are filled with vehicles, and what I call “summer” speed limits, as well as vanishing parking spaces, now seem to be the norm.

Another traditional harbinger is massive bow pickers headed for the crowded boat ramp opposite Baja Taco.

Who hasn’t had to patiently wait as they are maneuvered to launch, providing an opportunity to ponder the names of these craft?  

Nautical writer William Snaith, in his essay “About Figaro” wrote much about the naming of sailing vessels, but his truisms apply to all craft.

The F/V Net Profit, shown here near Baja Taco, will soon be in the water using its nets to seek a profit, as another fishing season is about to get underway. Dick Shellhorn photo

“The choice of a boat’s name is the semantic key to one’s dream, a revealing decision,” wrote Snaith.   “The clues to his attitude are as clear as strewn shreds in a paper chase.”


With over 400 bow pickers in the Cordova fleet, Snaith would have found considerable pleasure in reflecting on various monikers.

For example, consider the F/V Aquaholic, clearly hooked on the Copper River’s murky waters, anticipating reds and kings hitting the gear in that first set of the season.

Or how about the F/V Net Profit?  Clever.  A gill net leads to a net profit, hopefully – although have you ever met a fisherman who claimed to be making money?

Then there is the F/V Slo Learner, reflecting the continual challenges and frustrations of outsmarting salmon and seas on the ever-changing Copper River Delta.

The F/V All In and F/V Done Deal let it be known that fishing is a financial gamble; perhaps the F/V Slack Water and F/V Prime Time run together, as that stage of tide is when some of the best fishing occurs.

Will it be F/V Easy Going or F/V Serious Biz is a question with no sure answer – if you get there.  Just ask the F/V May Run. 

True, on some days it can be F/V Awesome to be F/V Jamin Salmon as a F/V Bounty Hunter.

But as F/V X-Factor indicates, things can go south in a hurry, resulting in a state of F/V Entropy, and creating a F/V Stress Pt.

Once gill nets are loaded aboard, the F/V May Run, here tied up in the Cordova small boat harbor, appears ready to go for the first Copper River opener, which typically occur in mid-May. Dick Shellhorn photo.

Bad weather can cause a F/V Sea See Rider and give one pause to consider F/V dunfishin.

Yet scattered among the fleet, for those less grammatically nimble, are more traditional names, typically for places or family:  F/V Boswell Bay, F/V Kokenhenic, F/V Jennifer Lynn, F/V Katie James. 

And one has to consider the tale behind one of the most intriguing names in the fleet, which Snaith would undoubtable have enjoyed. 

Rare is the day a new boat is completed on schedule, and in this case a skipper eager to get his craft out fishing was asked by his boat builder what he would like for its name.

The reply was a dismissive “Whatever”, and there you go, the F/V Whatever was born.

Come the first Copper River opener, in a roar that sounds like Cordova’s answer to the Indy 500, the fleet will exit the harbor to waves and cheers from family and friends gathered on the landfill near the end of the breakwater. 

Another season is here. And regardless of what is painted on their bows, may all have a safe and successful year.