Paper pub. date
January 2008
ISBN 9780870712968 (paperback)
6x9 inches, 336 pages. B&W drawings.

Catching the Ebb

Drift-Fishing for a Life in Cook Inlet

Bert Bender
Drawings by Tony Angell

Bert Bender started fishing Alaska’s Cook Inlet in 1963 with a 30-foot sailboat converted to gas power and with no equipment for pulling in a net. Catching the Ebb recounts his thirty summers of gill-netting for salmon and describes his parallel career as a professor of American literature. Drawing on his academic specialties—American sea literature and the influence of evolutionary biology and ecology in American writing—Bender celebrates the fishing life and traces the fishery’s path of change, from shifts in the market and the demise of canneries to the effects of the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989 to the rise of the farmed salmon industry.

Catching the Ebb will appeal to readers interested in Alaska, the sea, and the fishing life. In addition to its stories of people, boats, and fish, Bender’s compelling memoir addresses the critical question: Can we restrain our heedless pollution of the sea and avoid depleting ocean resources?

About the author

Bert Bender taught literature at Arizona State University for thirty-three years. He is the author of Sea-Brothers: The Tradition of American Sea Fiction from Moby Dick to the Present, The Descent of Love: Darwin and the Theory of Sexual Selection in American Fiction, 1871-1926, and Evolution and “the Sex Problem”: American Narratives During the Eclipse of Darwinism. He lives in Atascadero, California.

Read more about this author

“That Catching the Ebb is written by a lifelong literary critic and writer who is also a professional commercial fisherman is what gives its unusual quality to this well-written and always absorbing book.”

—Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopard and Men’s Lives


“Bert Bender has dragged his nets up and down the coast of Alaska and the inlets of his studies, and brought up a world of work and earned contemplation. I loved this book.”

—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies

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