Kenai Peninsula fisherman Snooks Moore retires from lifelong participation in Alaska commercial fisheries

Homer’s Snooks Moore has spent her life in Alaska commercial fisheries.

After 38 years in the salmon drift fishery, the 79-year-old Kenai Peninsula woman will, for the first time, not be heading to Bristol Bay with the F/V Razor’s Edge.

“She wanted to keep fishing but Grandpa wanted to go travel and enjoy life. It’s been about four years that he’s been pushing for it and she finally agreed,” her grandson Justin Arnold, said.

The Moore family has been in the Cook Inlet area for many generations and Moore originally started fishing in setnet operations in the Kasilof region. She also participated in the Cook Inlet drift fisheries and then False Pass for several years before heading to summers in Bristol Bay.

“My folks had setnet sites on Kalifornsky Beach, where I spent all my childhood, that they bought from my uncle Jack in 1939. They also had some sites closer to the Kenai River,” Snooks Moore said in a conversation on June 7.

Aaron Fleenor with Northern Enterprises Boat Yard shared an array of public media documents highlighting the Homer fisherman over the years. The first was published in the Anchorage Daily Times in November 1971: “Salmon Skipper Competes with Men.” Second, “More Salmon runs are Possible” from October 1977. A third, from the Homer News 1982, “Fishing, banking, family all add up for ‘Snooks’ Moore.” Another from the Homer News, Oct. 14, 1993, is headlined “Moore is first woman to net fishing honor.”

“I started fishing on my own about 1970, my husband built a 42-footer and I thought I could run it. I picked fish all my life at the setnets. I didn’t know much about running a boat but I had been out with my dad and with my first husband a little bit. The first place I took our boat was to Glacier Spit on the other side of the Bay,” she said. “Next, we headed up Cook Inlet to the Columbia Wards Cannery that used to be the Libby, McNeill and Libby Cannery. It was a pretty rough landing because I was running with the tide instead of against it.”

She also talked about how she and her husband Ken Moore started the Northern Enterprises Boat Yard.

“Ken and I met in 1966, we were married in 1972. He already had the property on Kachemak Drive. He was doing quite well in fishing and thought it’d be nice to have a place to pull the boat out of the water. Somewhere around 1979, that’s the first year I went to False Pass, we started to think about the tides here and how much time we would have to pull boats out of the water. We knew about travel lifts because we had used them in Seward. There were a lot of shallow water seiners here and people wanted it, so, we borrowed the money and pulled our first boat here in 1981,” she said.

“We built up a pretty good clientele of boats pretty quickly and we just started clearing the yard space a little bit here and a little bit there. It’s now 35 acres and we have three travel lifts. We can store about 450 boats over the winter. A lot of fishing money went into the yard,” she said.

Justin Arnold originally started his fishing career in Bristol Bay with his grandmother 22 years ago. After a few years fishing with her, she pushed him into purchasing his own boat.

“She told me she’d lose some money without me as a deckhand but you need to do it. Without her I wouldn’t have been able to build my original boat into something,” Arnold said.

The boat name includes a small label of “G-ma” on the stern.

“A lot of the captains in the Bay, especially the younger ones who are in the 30-40 age range, have called her ‘Grandma Snooks’ for years. She’s always had so many people following her around on the Razor’s Edge, she used to call it ‘The Boys Club.’ We’ve had aunts, uncles, cousins, lots of family fish on that boat,” Arnold said.

Snooks sold the Razor’s Edge in Dillingham this spring and that’s where the boat is now.

The Razor’s Edge got its name from a herring set Ken Moore made in Bristol Bay.

Arnold tells that story briefly.

“Grandpa decided to make a set with just 15 minutes left in an opening. Regulations for herring are that you have to have your net closed by the end of the opening in order to legally keep the fish. He closed up with just a minute left with the troopers sitting right there. Someone came up to him afterwards and said, ‘Ken, you’re really living on the razor’s edge!’

“So, that’s how her boat got the name,” Arnold said.

Prior to the Razor’s Edge, Snooks ran the Debra Lee in the Cook Inlet. The boat was named for her oldest daughter.

The F/V Snooks launched from Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on June 7.