Capturing our Croatian and Commercial Fishing History

I went to a presentation at my local library last week.

It was sponsored by the Alzheimer Society and was the first in its “Memory Makers” series. This particular event focused on 20th century Croatian immigrants from the island of Vis (you’ll notice the correlation between the island of Vis and the name of our family’s fishing vessel, pictured above) and the impact the immigrants and their descendents had on commercial fishing and the commercial fishing community.

I attended the event with my mom; unfortunately, my dad was in Ketchikan and had to miss it. I felt bad about that, since Dad also had to miss a fun event last fall,  when Toni Mirosevich came and read from her book of personal essays, many of which touched on her Croatian commercial fishing family heritage.  That time, Dad was in Westport with George during the start of the Dungeness crab season!

Anyway, the talk (given by a local historian who is not Croatian but grew up near the community) was informative, and I was impressed that he so accurately covered many of the names along with much of the local history. He was brave to stand in front of a group of Croatian-related people and present information about their heritage. A couple of times I caught my own mom shaking her head and whispering quietly. 

“That was Mike Karuza, not Mitch Karuza!

“I don’t think that year is right.

“Nicholas Karuza is not in that photograph. That must be somebody else.”

We also talked about how useful and wonderful it is that someone is taking the time to capture such important, valuable, and local commercial fishing history in preparation for a book. We’ve lost so many old-timers in the past ten years (including my grandpa and his four brothers along with brilliant soul Martin Tomich) that if someone doesn’t record it now, our history could be lost for good, and  sooner than we think.

Some interesting bits of information from the talk:

  • The first known Croatian immigrant from the island of Vis to our local area was likely Anton Glenovich;
  • Purse seining (a method of commercial fishing used in salmon fisheries) was invented by Croatian fisherman from the Island of Vis. These men had (and have) a long and deep history of being seamen and fishermen;
  • Most of the continuing innovations, methods, and gear used for purse seining were created by Croatian immigrants;
  • The Croatian immigrants and their descendents had a “macho” work ethic and a culture of male pride, strength, and fortitude.


  1. Hey Jen! This is random , but I just was wondering if you could give me the name of that test or organization you said to go through to get my pilates certification to teach it. I want to look into it. Also, I got a new email address…I typed it in. My other one hasn’t worked for a while. Thanks!=)

  2. I also have to give big thanks for Brian, the historian of the south side, for taking on the project of Croatian history and the families of that community.

    I realize I have to get our family history finalized before no one is around to help out with family names and boats.

    Growing up on the northside in the 40’s and 50’s made going to the southside like going to another town. I knew it was a different community than the one where I was raised.

    Brian’s reading was a great inspiration for me to do some more research.

  3. Hi, my name is Olivio and I was in Zadar. My question is, do you know if refrigeration was used in commercial fishing in Croatia back in the late 60’s and 70’s.

    • Hi Olivio! I love your name. Thanks for writing! I checked with a source with fishing family ties to Croatia and here was his reply:

      Interesting–I would have to say no–I think they fished daily, with small boats, catching mostly small fish, I doubt they even had ice available for their fish. Most of our seine fleet didn’t have refrigeration in those decades. I’m 99.9 % sure there was no local boats with refrigeration.

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