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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Biographical
  • Language:English
  • Pages:364
  • eBook ISBN:9781098336929
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098336912

Opening Day

by Ernie Koepf

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"Opening Day" follows the life and times of Alex Skarsen through the eras of commercial fishing along the West Coast. When Alex got into the industry it was a different beast. Over the years it's changed, but the sea is still the place he goes for solace, affirmation, and a living. This novel captures the flavor of the fishing life and the deep changes in the values of the industry. From Central America to Bristol Bay Alaska, folks carry on their endeavors. But the always looming, dominant factor of money casts its heavy shadow. This wistful, funny novel is a portrait of a culture in upheaval.


Follow the arc of Alex Skarsen’s life. Born into a fishing family, fate offers him the choice to follow in the family tradition. The era of his father’s time has passed, things are different now and the arc now resembles a long learning  curve. The things that matter the most remain the same.

About the author
Ernie Koepf lives in the East Bay with his wife, Jan Moestue. He fished for salmon, crab and herring on the West Coast for over 35 years and is now retired. He has written articles published in Pacific Fishing magazine, run a marine haul-out, was a deputy harbormaster at Half Moon Bay, a member of numerous co-ops and fishermen's associations and acted as a class representative in the HanJin Shipping Co. lawsuit.

Book Reviews

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Opening Day by Ernie Koepf Ernie Koepf's new novel, Opening Day, is a piece of Half Moon Bay fisherman lore, animated by a real life fisherman who writes what he knows.  He tells the tale in the voice of Alex, who comes of age as a deck hand in the tutelage and camaraderie of the crew of the fishing vessel Fin, with his father, uncle and brother, and family friend Cal. They show him the ropes in the old ways and he learns lessons about life from the hard work that becomes a part of his learning curve, as he grows from a novice to a fisherman in his own right. He gives us a peek into the politics of fishing and how they evolved as supply and demand change in the ecology of the crab and salmon fisheries.  Lots of salty characters color the landscape of his descriptions of a Half Moon Bay of old, as it transforms into a different business model as he enters midlife. The author chronicles the friendships and the loyalties of Alex's fellow fishermen of old, as a group who help their own. As time goes by they find themselves relying upon a gradually shrinking bounty of the sea, compounded by better technology and competition that crowds out the old timers. Alex gains insights about just how much has changed in the harbor when he becomes a staff member, and much of it at his own peril. Alex's many life passages, choices and loves are peripherally drawn, in perspective to the centrally large fishing life that seems to consume most of his time and energy; while he scrambles to find happiness in between the lines. I found myself on the edge of my seat as the many hair raising tales of close calls, disasters and profound loss unfold in this story, brought authentically to life by the fishing expertise of the author. The hard work and sacrifice of this grueling lifestyle that the author has loved so fully are shown affectionately and honestly in the pages of this book.  He ties all of these aspects together with  Alex's self examination of his own integrity in a refreshing and straightforward way that made it a very entertaining read, especially for a coast sider who has watched a bit of this harbor narrative from the shore. Read more
A Rave for Opening Day Opening Day is a gripping, informative and entertaining story drawn from Koepf's years fishing the waters of San Francisco Bay and the coast aboard his beloved Ursula B. Anyone interested in learning about the fishing experience along with the seasoned and colorful characters who inhabit it, here's your read. And a great read it is: every sentence is loved on, every page a delight. Ernie is particularly adept at capturing the thoughts of a young man as he's immersed into the new world de la Mare, as the fishing trade itself is undergoing upheavals. We learn along with the protagonist and come away refreshed, informed and ... hey, what's that smell? Bravo! Read more
Coming of Age in a Northern California Fishing Village This is a coming of age story set in a Northern California fishing village in the 1960's. Alex, the protagonist, takes you on a fascinating journey of his life with a unique cast of characters who lived and fished on the edge of the continent in what is now a vanished era in local California history. One of the major themes of the book centers on the values of the WW11 generation who understood and valued comraderie and held deep respect for the ocean. The book is filled with humor, honesty,adventure and love of the sea and of the fishing life. This is an enjoyable and rewarding read from an author who spent forty years commercial fishing. The book is recommended for any ocean lovers and especially for those with an interest in dangerous,challenging and rigorous life of commercial crab fishing as well as those who enjoy reading about life in a small coastal town in a rapidly changing world. Read more
Opening Day I often marvel at the power and vastness of the ocean; a wilderness I have no access to. Ernie Koepf’s book gave me access into the wilderness commercial fisherman are intimate with. Adventures, challenges and technical skill are encompassed in his story. The book chronicles changes in the community; at home and at sea. Fishing shifts along with the changing culture of each decade; it moves from community cooperation towards a culture of competition. I enjoy eating fish and don’t think I can take for granted anymore what’s on my plate and how it got there. I am eating a piece of the wild. Kuddos to Koepf for trying to put a rarefied lifetime into a story we can participate in. Read more
OPENING DAY Disclosure: Ernie is a very close and longtime friend. One of the first fishermen I met in Half Moon Bay when struggling to get a toehold in what is a cautious industry, especially when it comes to who a Sipper wants to take to sea. That friendship, combined with others Ernie introduced me to, helped me to not only become a part of the local fleet, but esteemed in my confidence and ability to get work. With that help, I grew and began to understand this complicated and nuanced pursuit. And thrived! But enough about me: This Novel is significant to anyone trying to understand Commercial Fishing no matter what the fishery, area or coast. It lays out the nuances of the West Coast fish biz in such a way that anyone will understand what the trade is about. Hint: It's very complex....complex, nuanced and mishmashed. An amalgamation of thousands of fishermen, buyers and middlemen; all independent souls with different ideas on how to get the cat skinned (or the fish filleted!). Ernie lays out how all that gets done (or not) in a clever, concise page-turning voice that will leave any reader understanding what's behind that seafood you see laying on ice in the supermarket or fish stand. It will also educate many fishermen that know the business but do not have the deep history Ernie inherited from the Koeph family, as well as all the old-timers of Princeton by the Sea and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. You will flip through chapters, and remember this book's message forever. You will understand the way of the fish. Whether you are curious about fishing or not, you will turn pages and want more with each chapter. It's an elegant, well-written story. It has feeling and heart. Read more