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AFSC Historical Corner:  Scoter,  the Agency's Bristol Bay Boat

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Scoter
The Scoter.  Bureau of Fisheries photo, 1925.
 

Vessel Details
Year built: 1920
Location built: Tacoma, WA
Builder: unknown
Designer: unknown
Other names/id: Clatsop  (1920-21)
#219922  (USCG ID)
Length: 57'-65'  (sources vary)
Breadth: 15'
Draft: 6.8'
Tonnage (tons): 41 gross, 28 net
Original power: 50 hp, 3-cylinder Frisco
Standard gas engine
Average speed: 8 mph
Known skippers: Hector McAlister  (1922)
Joseph Paulsean  (1923-27)
? Herre  (1928)
Nels Rogney  (1929)
Lin Jorgensen  (1931)
Ole H. Elveness  (1940)
Nels Christiansen  (1944)
Milton Harenden  (1949)
Federal service: 1922-49
Disposition: sold ca. 1950?

Built in 1920, the 65-foot purse seiner Clatsop was property of the Bristol Bay Packers when the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) purchased her in April 1922 for $5000. Following the sale, she was renamed the Scoter by the BOF and towed from her location in Portland, Oregon, to Bristol Bay, Alaska, by the steamer Akutan. The Scoter arrived the following month on 16 May to begin her lengthy service of fisheries enforcement work.

During the fishing seasons, the Scoter was used primarily by the BOF agent in charge and wardens of the district. The vessel soon became a valuable addition to the Bureau's Alaska fleet, as federal officials could now contact and direct the various boats, crews, and fisheries patrol operations in the entire Bristol Bay area, including the Kvichak, Naknek, Nushagak, Igushik, and Ugashik districts.

Supporting the Scoter were several low-draft power launches used for predatory trout work, weir support and fishing patrol. This fleet made it possible for the first time to act efficiently against fishing violators over the entire region.

The Scoter frequently patrolled Southeast Alaska during fall fishing seasons and was usually out of water during the off-season months at the Bureau's marine ways on Naknek River. This was done each year until 1928, when the boat began bringing fishery workers down to Seattle, Washington, each winter. In addition to the workers, passengers on the return trips north each spring would include BOF employees and occassional dignitaries.

While visiting Seattle, repairs and the occassional extensive remodeling was done to the Scoter. In the winter of 1928-29 she was completely overhauled with a new pilothouse and extended aft trunk. In winter 1930-31 she received a new 66-horsepower Washington diesel engine, which allowed the old 50-horsepower gas engine to be installed in the BOF boat Blue Wing. Significant renovations were done again to the Scoter during winter 1932-33.

In 1928 salmon fisheries Chief Investigator Dr. Willis H. Rich and BOF agent Dennis Winn used the vessel to visit key fishing areas and facilities in Bristol Bay. Near the end to the 1920s the Scoter and other BOF boats were part of the northern Pacific halibut patrol fleet, in which the skippers were granted search and seizure powers with regard to illegal fishing. In the 1930s the Scoter was assigned to patrol seal herds in the vicinities of Sitka, Alaska and Neah Bay off the northern Washington coast.

The Scoter's continued service during the 1930s also involved participation in Alaska activities in addition to fisheries enforcement:
 
  Scoter
FWS vessel Scoter after major renovations.  Auke Bay Laboratories photo.
a 1933-34 Civil Works Administration winter project clearing log jams and other obstructions to spawning salmon from the streams in southeastern Alaska
 
a 1935 salmon-tagging experiment in Southeast Alaska (along with the BOF vessel Kittiwake) in which 1,900 pink salmon were tagged. Over 33 percent of tags were returned by the public along with information concerning the time and place of each capture. Each returned tag amounted to a 25-cent reward
 
stream inspections and surveys around the Alaska Peninsula, Prince of Wales Island, Kodiak and Craig in the late 1930s

As a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) boat in 1941, the Scoter hauled framing lumber from Seattle to Naknek, Alaska, for the construction of the Agency's Field Laboratory on Brooks Lake, an important location for over 30 years of successful salmon research and management.

Sparce information provides only a brief hint as to the vessel's history in entering the 1950s:
 
according to the Alaska Shipwrecks website, the FWS vessel Scoter "went on the rocks and was lost September 19, 1949 in Slocum Arm [Alaska]".
 
the Juneau Empire (Alaska) newspaper (2-9-51) stated the vessel "was disposed of" in 1950 and that the FWS had plans to replace her.
 
the Daily Sitka Sentinel newspaper (5-10-51) wrote that "Mr. and Mrs. Don Martin had the Sitka Marine Railway install a new bug shoe* on his 65 foot vessel, the Clatsop. The craft is known in Sitka as the Scoter. Clatsop was her original name...built in 1920 at Astoria, Oregon. Mr. Martin has installed an automatic pilot, direction finder and...radio telephone. He plans to leave Sitka Friday to fish for tuna off Guadalupe on the Mexican coast, working up as far as Monterey.

* a "bug shoe" is a length of hardened material, such as ironbark, placed on the sternward keel extension (skeg) to protect from shipworm damage.
 


Additional reading:

Eicher, E. J. 1967. History of the Bristol Bay Investigation, 1938-1956. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries manuscript.  (.pdf, 7.9 MB).
 

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