Thursday, July 25, 2013

Puratich Netshed

Gig Harbor's Netsheds
(The Largest Inventory on the Puget Sound)

We know the commercial fishermen from Gig Harbor and the West Coast have been fishing for salmon that since the the mid-19th century. 

And, the salmon operations seem to over shadow the other major fisheries on the West Coast.  I believe it is time to pay the respect to these other fisheries that they deserve and recognize the fishermen from Gig Harbor that engaged in those operations.  By participating in these other major fisheries, our commercial fishermen became well-known and respected throughout the entire fishing industry.  And each of these fisheries had an effect on all those living on the West Coast and elsewhere in one way or another.  Just think about all the fish you eat in addition to salmon: crab, squid, cod, sole, halibut and tuna to name a few..

The family built, maintained and continue to operate this week's netshed was one of these fishermen.  And, as you will see when you read the Historical Context of the City of Gig Harbor's Netshed Survey the family's legacy is on-going in several major fisheries.  By doing so, their fishing season (or time from home) is closer to eight or nine months rather than just three or four.  

Paul Puratich was born April 13, 1888 and came to Gig Harbor in the early years of 1900.; and in 1917 he was a crew member on Andrew Skansie's purse seiner "Spokane".  According to Lee Makovich in The Fishermen's News  February 2002   "It is believed that the senior Puratich worked as a crewman aboard other fishing boats for several years prior to that time."  

Paul's first boat was built by Skansie Shipyard in 1918 and was christened "Emancipator".  This first boat was very advanced for the time and cost, after fully equipped with everything necessary for fishing, was $6,000.  A lot of money in 1918.  In today's money, that is approximately $92,308.  And, has been maintained and used by the Barhanovich family in Everett since they purchased it in the 1920s.

Paul Puratich was an early believer in the diversification of his fishing operations; and his grandsons continue that philosophy today.  Paul was an active and proficient salmon fisherman in Alaska and the Puget Sound but he was also an early participant in Oregon and California sardine fishing.   Paul had his boats specifically constructed for the purpose of being employed in various fisheries.  Paul's son, John (Johnny) was a pioneer in the Northwest hake fishery; the "St. Janet" was used for this fishery and was kept busy for much of the year.  Robert (Bob) started fishing when he was 7 and Joseph (Joe) started when he was about 8; they both carry on the tradition as a commercial fisherman started by the Grandfather those many years ago.

Some of the Puratich family boats were:  "Favorite"; "Venus"; "Lone Eagle" (lost when involved in a collision with the destroyer "Crosby" in April 1940); "Alaskan"; St. Janet", "Marauder I" and "Marauder II".

I want to thank the City of Gig Harbor for allowing me to use material from the Historic American Engineering Survey on Gig Harbor Net Sheds.  The complete surveys can be located  

The PURATICH NETSHED is the eighth of 17 netsheds along Gig Harbor’s waterfront and will be the subject of this week’s blog.  A copy of the survey can be accessed at  The survey includes Engineered drawings in Plan and Profile thanks to funds provided by the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the National Trust.  To view images of the Puratich Netshe go to

You can also obtain a copy of a brochure for a self-guided tour of the 17 netsheds from the City of Gig Harbor, the Harbor History Museum, or the Chamber of Commerce or click 

To me and many others, the netsheds of Gig Harbor are a constant reminder of the first major industry here after the white settlers arrived.  It was the Europeans escaping hard times in their homelands that came to Gig Harbor and either took up fishing or continued fishing earning them and their families a livelihood on the water harvesting the bountiful fish in the surrounding waters.  The principle fishermen were Croatians, but there were many Scandinavians as well.

The 'netsheds' were built by the immigrants to provide a place to mend nets, repair their boats, provide a gathering place between fishing seasons and perform other jobs necessary to get their boats ready for the next venture at sea.  Fishing is a full time job otherwise known as "12-month job".  Many men fished the Pacific Ocean waters from the coast of South America to the Bering Sea.

Today's fishermen ranging in age from their 60s (maybe 70s) to their early 20s are still carrying on the traditions and values of their ancestors. Fishing is a living, thriving, industry - young people still enter the fishing profession after completing their education.   Over the past 36 years that I have lived in Gig Harbor I have seen many historic net sheds and fishing families properties disappear.  Some of these historic properties have changed hands and have been adapted to reuse and rebuilt retaining little if any of the original features.  

When you look at the west side of Gig Harbor Bay and you'll find  the 17 net sheds we are identifying in this and the other 16 blogs, you can see the remnants of what was one of the most vibrant working waterfronts on the Puget Sound.

Okay, so now I have encouraged you to check out a few of these structures -  how do you go about it? As I mentioned earlier, the City of Gig Harbor has prepared a brochure for a self-guided tour of all 17 net sheds.  Grab a copy and then decide how you are going to do it. But remember that except for the Skansie and Ancich Brothers netsheds these netsheds are privately owned and you will need permission from the owner to enter unless they are operated as a business enterprise open to the public.

If you have a boat, that is the best way; it allows you to close your eyes and visualize how busy those properties were in their heyday.  But, though not quite as impressive, you can do the same thing walking along Harborview from the old Ferry dock at the mouth of the harbor all the way up to West Shore Marina.  

Tune in next week for the next in our series on the historic net sheds of Gig Harbor.

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