By the age of five, Stan Shones was already helping out on his dad’s boat. For four decades he averaged 280 – 300 days per year on the water. About ten years ago, he finally decided to leave the actual fishing to his captains and crews. But Stan hardly slowed down. His typical days still average six to ten hours of vessel upkeep and management, which is how he likes it. In fact if you ask him about his choice of careers he’ll tell you: “No regrets, I’d like to do it again.”
Stan’s boats have been based out of Newport since 1979. Married for 56 years, Stan and his wife Roberta raised three boys in the area, two who became fishermen themselves and one who became a chiropractor. Stan and Roberta have also been blessed with eight grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren.
Over the years, Stan has owned a dozen boats. His first was a 26-footer, which you could fit three of in the Miss Berdie, an 88-foot vessel Stan purchased in 1988. Tom Stam has worked on the Miss Berdie for more than 30 years. About 20 years ago Tom became the captain. These days he’s also a partner, as is Paul Shones. Tom and a crew of three head the boat to Alaska each winter to fish for pollock and cod. During the summer and fall the Miss Berdie typically fishes for Pacific whiting and crab along the coasts of Oregon and Washington.
Stan also still owns the 62-foot Emerald Sea, a vessel he purchased in 1981. The Emerald Sea employs five and typically fishes for squid, sardines and crab.
Part of the reality of owning fishing vessels is adjusting to change. Government policies often force boats to ply waters far beyond traditional fishing grounds. The increased distance makes trips back to port economically unfeasible, so boats need more capacity. Stan says candidly: “If you don’t upgrade, you fall behind.”
Last fall a major conversion was started on the Miss Berdie. Its hull was widened from 28’ to 39’, virtually doubling the ship’s holding capacity to 440,000 pounds. The wheelhouse, galley, engines and refrigeration were all replaced. The complete process will take about a year, but Stan kept the entire crew employed working on the conversion.
Major conversions on large fishing vessels can cost millions, which is one of the reasons why having a good banking relationship is important to vessel owners. Stan has banked with Oregon Coast Bank for more than a decade. “They know us, know our history, and know we do business right,” he explains. “When we decided to upgrade the Miss Berdie, we were able to talk face to face with our bankers – that’s important to us.”
After all these years, fishing is still in Stan’s blood. “In my spare time I work,” he says with a smile. But he admits that his grandchildren and great grandchildren do keep him busy. Stan also has taken time to give back. He served for many years on the state’s Fish and Game Development Board and the Crab Marketing Association. He’s currently Chairman of the Board of Mid-Coast Christian School.
What’s his secret of success? “Keep your nose clean and work hard,” says Stan. He also remains thoroughly grounded – “God has blessed me in ways that I never expected.” Fishing for a living teaches people a lot of things, perhaps the most important is humility.