ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF WRITING THIS SERIES is digging into a topic that interests me. The world is an infinitely fascinating place and I never have trouble finding a unique setting or profession in each book for my characters to run around in. For my current project, Logan’s 9th adventure, it’s commercial crab fishing.

I’ve wanted to explore this topic ever since I moved here to the Oregon coast six years ago—commercial fishing is the lifeblood of this area, particularly in the town of Newport, OR, twenty minutes south of me.

It’s always tough to know where to start when there is so much to learn, so I usually begin with people who are living the life I want to learn about. Armed with an initial short list of questions, I start asking them and see where the conversation takes me. Often, interesting details will push my story in a new direction or suggest an interesting character. Their world begins to take shape and form as they share their lives with me. I never know what pieces of information will be helpful for my story until I write it. And of course, my own life is enriched along the way. I’ve discovered new passions and of course, yes. . .new recipes!

This time, I started with a source I’d discovered while researching charter boat fishing for Safe Harbor: Logan McKenna Mystery Book 5. Stu is a former NOAA special agent who lives in my neighborhood. He has since retired from that job, but put me in touch with his replacement, Mitch, who was very helpful. From him, I learned that some fisheries are federally regulated, such as sablefish (commonly known as black cod, although it is not technically cod). Crab, it turns out, is state regulated. Both fisheries are very high value and the permits that allow commercial fishing are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and are tightly clung to and passed down in families, usually, although they do come up for sale sometimes. If you’re interested, you can google fishing permit brokerages and go from there.

I learned that sablefish permits are attached to a person and that person needs to be on the fishing vessel from the time it leaves until they come back and offload the fish. First receivers verify this with signatures at each end. Crab permits, on the other hand, are attached to a fishing vessel, not an individual.

These two fisheries are also located in very different places-sablefish is found far out and very deep down, while crab is found not far offshore. The seasons differ, too. Crab season is in the winter, while sablefish is later in the year. Neither always have set dates, as you’ll see in the book. A lot goes into deciding when to open a season. For crab it’s domoic acid levels and meat on the crab.

The most dangerous part of being a commercial fisherman out of Newport, no matter what you are fishing for, is ‘crossing the bar’. If you want to get a better idea of what that entails, check out Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove, which was filmed right here in Newport with real fishermen and their vessels.

Most of this research does NOT end up in the book itself, but understanding a topic more deeply really helps me make my characters and settings more realistic and hopefully, more fun, for YOU, my readers, to enjoy!

Next up:  How to Clean a Dungeness Crab!