DEPOE BAY — Former county commissioner Terry Thompson emerged from his first commercial fishing expedition since his stroke four months ago with a heavy haul of ling cod destined for a premier seafood restaurant in Newport.
Flashing the familiar Thompson grin, Terry said he had plenty to smile about — his emerging victory over stroke, the return to fishing, the miracle that saved his best friend’s life and unexpected recognition.
You burnish your old-timer credentials by knowing Terry Thompson, who was born into a Newport fishing family and went on to own and operate eight commercial vessels over the next 45 years — including the 18-foot outboard he runs out of Depoe Bay.
Voted by Lincoln County into the Oregon House of Representatives in 1994, Terry served the full three-term limit before his election to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners in 2002. Sixteen years later, in a bit of Shakespearean irony, he was defeated by the daughter of a lifelong fishing buddy and the girl he taught how to fish, Commissioner Kaety Jacobson.
Just a couple of months after being retired, he was hit by the stroke. But on June 12, he was back in the saddle, going full-tilt to the glory holes. He told me the ongoing recovery has been “tough,” but he was feeling chipper enough to go back to sea with an able seaman aboard.
Terry’s slate-blue eyes lit up as he talked about the miraculous recovery of his best friend, a commercial salmon fisherman who fell overboard May 29 from a moving boat without a lifejacket, carrying only a handheld radio to alert rescuers to his deadly plight.
“I can tell you exactly what happened,” said Terry, explaining the fisherman had braced himself on a plastic “Scotty” outrigger that shattered and gave way. “That never should have happened, but that plastic had been exposed to so much weather it became brittle and snapped when he put his weight on it. It made the case for aluminum outriggers.”
The experienced fisherman had minutes to live in 50-degree water, but used his handheld radio to guide a passing boat to his position. Terry looked skyward in praise, but dismissed the notion that fishing alone is crackpot. “You can’t make a living under a hook-and-line permit with deckhands and crew to pay,” he said. Case closed.
Terry alluded to another big event, “some award,” which took a little digging with state officials to expose. On June 11, Terry and fellow members of the obscure but influential Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee had received the 2018 Oregon State Land Board Award.
“Hardly anybody’s heard about the group, but it’s had a huge impact on Oregon,” Terry said, describing a think tank of astute fishermen and underwater-cable industry promoters that have saved fishing grounds and made the state the main receptor of overseas cables.
For many people, Terry’s exit from the public stage seemed too sudden; news of medical developments left us doleful. But I can vouch for the recuperation after seeing Terry grinning with his catch.