Tiggie: The Lure and Lore of Commercial Fishing in New England is a collection of stories from Charles “Tiggie” Peluso who moved to Cape Cod in 1946 after World War II to start his life as a commercial fisherman. Tiggie took surprisingly well to the lifestyle despite the uncertain income, danger and extremely hard work. Not only did he master offshore fishing for sea scallops, longlining for cod, haddock and halibut, but he eventually moved inshore and mastered fishing for bay scallops, quahogs, and even striped bass!
Tiggie, despite his lack of education, managed to keep detailed manuscripts of his fishing trips, many of which were transcribed for him. It would be another forty years before he unveiled these stories to his co-author, the local shellfish biologist and conservation officer, Sandy Macfarlane. Sandy read the stories and found them to be compelling, so much so that she compiled them into this book. There are extended portions following each story where Sandy and Tiggie discuss the story and sometimes go in to further detail about fishing techniques or the political and economic undertones. The perspectives of commercial fishing and conservation clash, and makes for an even more interesting read, especially late in the book where Tiggie admits to poaching on a few occasions.
Tiggie’s stories range from the bold to the brazen and from the tragic to the triumphant. His descriptions of fishing techniques, the dangers and economic hardships of being a commercial fisherman, and the characters surrounding him will leave a lasting impression on the reader. One of the things that fascinated me throughout this book was that these fishermen had profound memories and navigation abilities, finding their way offshore without the aid of technologies we now take for granted like LORAN, SONAR, or GPS.
It’s not until the last part of the book that Tiggie moves to inshore fishing, and reading about some of the subtleties in his tactics for catching bass is both informative and humorous. Tiggie was such a good fisherman that he was often shadowed by other fishermen trying to spy on his techniques. Tiggie would sometimes to go great lengths to keep people from seeing what he was doing, even so far as to keep his rod entirely underwater.
Tiggie’s story is a fantastic and profound read for anyone, but fishermen will be sure to appreciate these sea tales.