Over the last several months we've been working on a Young Fishermen Friday and Maker Monday series on our social media channels. This project has given us an opportunity to share the stories of the Alaskan fishing community and provide an inside look at this special world we feel so lucky to be a part of. It's also given us a chance to celebrate the community of makers and creatives throughout the state that we feel inspired by each and every day. We are excited to continue working on this in 2017 and hope you enjoy the following stories from a few of the Alaskan fishermen and makers we've been able to get to know better this winter!
If you know a young Alaska fisherman or local maker you would like to recommend for the project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nels Ure // F/V Coachman II, Bristol Bay & F/V Miss Gina, Kodiak
Nels Ure has been drifting for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon for seven years on the F/V Coachman II and recently began long lining halibut on the F/V Miss Gina in Kodiak. Fishing continues to be a huge part of his life and he each season he gains more respect for the fishing community, the ocean's resources, and the opportunities that commercial fishing has presented to him. He has an incredible Instagram feed where you can see more of his commercial fishing experiences: @nelzure.
What's the best advice you could share with other young fishermen?
My advice to young fisherman out there is to continue to pursue the Alaskan dream in these changing times... the graying of the fleet is a real epidemic and we are the future of this state's industry. Together we can continue to provide this planet with quality seafood & only together can we change the fate of oceans, by continuing to respect the rules and regulations put in place. This is our home, our livelihood, our identity, and no one can ever take that away from us.
Madison Thompson // F/V Decision, Sand Point
Madison Thompson has spent the last two years salmon seining aboard the F/V Decision near Sand Point and continues to remember the goal she initially went into commercial fishing with: approach every task with purpose.
What's the best advice you could share with other young fishermen?
When I began my fishing endeavor I was setting a personal goal for myself, do my job with purpose. No matter the task I was given, from scrubbing salmon scales from the deck boards to patching net, I told myself that it was part of the bigger picture: be the best I could be. The best piece of advice I have is to push yourself through the grind and get the job done, success will come to those who work hard and have patience.
Sonja Rootvik // VHF Boardwalk, Bristol Bay
Fishing in Bristol Bay is something Sonja Rootvik has been a part of every summer since she was two weeks old! She setnets on the Ekuk beach on the Nushagak River with her mom, dad, and three older sisters. See more of her sweet sockeye salmon fishing photos on Instagram: @sonja530.
What drew you to the work of fishing?
I love escaping the “real world” distractions and updates and notifications, and living instead by the changing tides, common sense, and the flow of nature. It is hard work and long exhausting hours, but there is no better exhaustion at the end of the day than having worked in one of the most beautiful places on earth, being part of one of the most magical natural phenomena in existence. Fishing here gets in your blood, and it pulls you back every year, just as it does the salmon.
Heather Kelly // Heather's Choice
Heather Kelly fell in love with dehydrating her own food after preparing 50 pounds of it for a 25 day rafting trip down the Colorado River! After spending six seasons as a raft guide in both Alaska and Colorado she returned to her home of Bird Creek, Alaska in 2014 where she now runs her own dehydrated food business, Heather's Choice. She's an evolutionary sports nutritionist, certified psychology of eating coach, and hard core outdoor adventure woman. We especially love her Packaroons and now carry her Smoked Salmon Sockeye Chowder on our online shop. Keep up with her adventures and new products on Instagram: @heatherschoice and Facebook: @Heather's Choice.
What do you love about living + working in Alaska in particular?
When I was ready to start Heather's Choice, I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be other than Alaska to turn this business idea into a reality. Not only do we have endless opportunity for getting outdoors for "field testing", but the community is unbelievably supportive. Everyone wants to see you succeed! Doing business in Alaska comes with it's own set of challenges, but for a lot of us, it's worth it to be doing business right here at home.
Mathew Scaletta // Wild Fish Cannery
Mathew Scaletta's grandmother started Wildfish Cannery 30 years ago by in Klawock on Prince of Wales Island. He now runs the business where they've been able to increase production and partner with more & more fishermen who direct market their catch each year. Give them a follow on Instagram:@wildfishcannery and Facebook: @Wildfish Cannery to get a taste of their smoked coho, king, and white king salmon.
What/who inspires you to do the work you do?
My family use to own the old cannery at Steamboat Bay on Noise Island, and I spent every summer there when I was growing up. I remember my dad working 48 hour straight when they had big loads of salmon on the floor to process, and from as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be working too. I think I was 8 when they begrudgingly let me work on the slime line.
Later on I started helping out my grandmother here at Wildfish. She taught me everything she knew about business and smoking salmon. We lost her to cancer last winter, and her strength serves as a major inspiration to the work I do here. I own a lot to her, as well as all the other strong women in my family. I spent my 20's working as a cook in top kitchens between Portland and Chicago. I've been lucky enough to work under some of the country's best chefs, as well as with the best ingredients. Much of how I approach food and business comes from lessons learned in those years.
Elissa Brown & Chris Pike // Wild Scoops
Elissa and Chris launched their business in May of 2015 where they began selling their delicious ice cream products at local markets and events. They’ve been growing ever since and have now opened their very own test kitchen in Anchorage (636 E. 15th Ave.) where they will eventually have a small storefront! What we love most about their business is that they utilize local Alaska produce and wild ingredients whenever they can get their hands on them. Their ice cream caters to the local taste buds and they’re alway stepping out of the box to make something fresh—like their summertime Spruce Tip flavor! Find out about their latest flavors and pop-up locations on Instagram: @wildscoops and Facebook: @Wild Scoops.
What's the best advice you would share with other young makers / entrepreneurs starting off?
I think it's helpful to think of your small business as one part of a larger community ecosystem. It can be so overwhelming to just try to go at it alone, but if you always have an eye open for collaboration and cooperation potential, then there are so many win-wins that arise. By looking for other small business to work with in some way, it strengthens your support network and builds a sense of community. Good places to start are with others who share your same core values. From the start, we were looking for Alaskan producers who had tasty ingredients we could put in ice cream, and other foodie businesses to co-host events with, and as a result, everyone's businesses benefited.