In the Clatsop County corner of the world, winds have howled, storms have surged, rains have come in incessant sheets and the 2018 commercial crab season has opened. Commercial fishing remains a part of our history and continues to be a driving economic force that allows our communities to thrive. For many fisherman in the area, the opening of a new season means waving to their families on the docks as they drive into tumultuous waters in search of a bountiful catch.
For more than 20 years, Matti Haggren has been submersed in the family business. Over the last century, the Haggren family has commercially fished throughout the Pacific Northwest and has passed down the passion for fishing from generation to generation. Matti, who has a wife and two young boys, now resides in Astoria with his young family when he is not out at sea. While he remains local during the winter crab season, he spends his summers in Alaska in search of Halibut and Salmon. “Depending on the year they also fish for Tuna and Shrimp,” said Marlie Haggren, wife to Matti and long-time local of Astoria. “They typically fish on the water about eight months out of the year and never seem to slow down.”
The family legacy began in 1904 when Mikko Haggren of Finland, immigrated to Astoria to begin fishing on the Columbia River on a butterfly gillnet boat. Mikko fished for 68 years, both out of Oregon and Alaska, and passed his knowledge to his son Herman Haggren who based fishing operations out of Astoria for his entire career. Third generation Mike Haggren (Matti’s father) jokingly says, “he was too lazy to find a real job” and has fished for 52 years. “M/V Defiant incorporated in Astoria in 1975,” he continues. “When fishing was on a downturn in 1979 I went to Kodiak for king crabbing. Then in 1980 decided to try a winter tanner crabbing, shrimping, and got into the Americanization of the trawl fisheries.” The Defiant is now operated by Matti’s brother Byron out of Astoria.
Mike has continued to fish, but has also continued the family tradition by passing his love of the water to his children. In their youth, siblings Matti, Byron, and Sarah were brought on deck of their family boat every summer. “While probably not the most desired family vacation, all three learned the old-school work ethic and what it takes to survive,” comments Mike. “They know their roots.”
While Matti and his family work hard on the water as fourth generation fishermen, they have begun carving out a slice of history for themselves. What began as a young man’s dream for his family in 1904, has grown into the successful launch of a locally built boat. Known as “The Charley” project, the boat started as a major retrofit in March 2017. Mike, along with architect Jason Huff, designed the plans for The Charley and then contracted out the implementation to Warrenton company North Coast Marine.
“Phil Rohr along with his team of only two guys, Noe Rivera and Joaquin Cruz, welded each module together. explains Matti. “They worked endless hours, every day, start to sail. As the boat started to take shape so many other people helped with the job, Warren Junes with hydraulics, Russel Mead of Cascade Yacht Works was responsible for all the electrical work, Polk Riley designed the name, Richard North from Western Fabrication in Astoria built the wheelhouse, James McKey owner of Dustless Media Blasting did the sandblasting, and the list goes on. Ric Lahti and Steve Peterson did an incredible job with the woodwork. The crew has spent countless hours doing their share to help out with the odds and ends.”
Family members including Bobbie, the Haggren family matriarch, also helped with clean up, errands, and tasks whenever possible.
With many long nights and early mornings The Charley became sea worthy and made its first launch on November 28, 2017. The boat ended up needing a tow by Matti’s brother Byron, but she floated. Over the course of 9 months what began as a metal husk of a boat turned into a custom-built 59 foot long by 26.6 feet wide boat capable of crabbing, fishing for halibut and tendering salmon. Owned by “Gen IV” a collaborative partnership between parents Mike and Bobbie Haggren and their three children, the boat will be making its first voyage with the 2018 crabbing season. When crabbing opened mid-January, Matti captained The Charley out of the Columbia River as his family excitedly and anxiously cheered him on.