Left: Nick Gumlickpuk assembling commercial salmon nets for fishermen in the Peter Pan Seafoods net loft in Dillingham, Alaska, 1999. Photographer unknown. Right: Gillnets with wooden cedar corks in storage at unidentified cannery, Nushagak, Alaska, 1917. Photographer John N. Cobb.

NET LOCKER: The Net Gang

"Lockers are where the nets are hung,

lies are told,

and dreams are shared…"

— Marcia Dale, Net Hanger

In the early days of the fishery, fishermen were company employees. When not fishing, fishermen were paid “run money” for additional work around the cannery and assisted the spring-fall crew with the cannery set up and shut down tasks. They were divided into “gangs”: Net Gang, Mud Gang, Scow Gang, Ship Gang, etc. The Net Gang worked in the lofts hanging, patching, and mending the gill nets used to harvest salmon.

Company Net Bosses issued equipment to outfit the sailboat fleet with a mast, boom, sprit, tent, sail, anchor, oars, and tie-up lines. Fishermen were also issued a stove, coffee pot, stew pot, fry pan, utensils, and bailer to remove water from the sailboat in case of emergency. Fishermen were issued gill nets made with cedar corks that would float on the surface of the water and support a webbed linen net that would “hang” like a curtain in the shallow muddy waters. The bottom of the net was secured with a weighted line to ensure that the net would sink and hang vertically in the water against the dramatic tides that sweep the bay.