Every week we share the stories of Alaskan makers and young fishermen on our social media channels. This project has given us a deeper appreciation for the community who work on Alaska waters and those who work to create Alaska goods. Everyday we learn from new people who inspire us to be better fishermen and create more beautiful things. Enjoy the following stories from a few of the Alaskan fishermen and makers we've learned from. Stay tuned for more wonderful stories this summer!
If you know a young Alaska fisherman or local maker you would like to recommend for this project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Ekborn // Kodiak
Whether salmon seining out of Kodiak or commercially diving for sea urchins in California, Emily Ekborn feels at home when she’s on or in the water. After hopping on different boats the past three Alaska fishing seasons, she plans to continue coming back, doing the hard work on the water that she loves most.
What drew you to the work of commercial fishing?
The lure of the simple life, a way to escape unnecessarily complicated city living. A way to find out who I was, and what I was passionate about outside the craziness of the concrete jungle. Knowing that using my own two hands, and putting in hard work and long hours, I was going to be a part of the amazing community that feeds America. Not to mention getting to live on the water and waking up to the insane beauty of the Pacific Ocean for months at a time.
Monica Zappa // F/V Black Dog & F/V Shizam, Humpy Point, Kasilof
Monica soaks up the sunshine and set-net life. The last six summers Monica has spent salmon fishing in Humpy Point, Kasilof (one of those was in Egegik). What does she do the rest of the year? Why training for and mushing in the Iditarod of course! You can't really get a more #alaskalife than that.
What's the best advice you could share with other young fishermen?
Get creative. Fishing is a wonderful lifestyle but often hard to make a living off of. Find and support direct marketing, value added marketing, and always take great pride in offering the best handled and quality product for whoever ends up making the wild salmon a delicious and healthy meal! Be an advocate for the salmon! In the off season I am an Iditarod musher and have used the venue to raise awareness of environmental hazards, like Pebble Mine, that could threaten the future of our fish. Clean Water, Wild Salmon!
Chris Jonhson and Danielle Ringer // F/V Northstar, Kodiak
Chris is all (salmon) smiles on the dock in Kodiak. Chris Jonhson and Danielle Ringer fish on the F/V North Star for salmon, cod, rockfish, and shrimp. AND they tender for sea cucumbers! When there’s a tanner crab season, Chris jumps at the opportunity to crew for that. When she's not fishing, Danielle works hard to support and research local fishermen’s engagement with fisheries policy. Give them a follow to keep up with their fishing operation: @northstarharvest.
What drew you to the work of fishing?
Chris: It’s what my father did. All the people I idolized, my role models as a young person, that’s what they did. There’s nothing like it. The connection you have with your surroundings when fishing on a tiny boat in a vast ocean, the intensity and amount of required awareness, it’s addicting. That feeling of euphoria that I get. For every five hours of torture, five minutes of bliss and it’s totally worth it. It’s one of the rare instances where your occupation defines who you are, and it’s a good thing. When you’re a fisherman, there’s real true pride in that.
Danielle: Some of my favorite photos are of my dad fishing out of Homer. Today, balancing my role in our operation and my research keeps me focused on the unique lifestyle fishing out of coastal Alaska offers. It’s about a real connection with nature, camaraderie within rural communities, and providing high quality seafood. I couldn’t imagine not being involved with fishing..
Margo and Frank Reveil // Jakolof Bay Oyster Company
While we love all Alaska seafood, oysters definitely hold a special place in our hearts. It's hard to beat a sunny day spent eating Jakolof Bay Oyster Co. oysters at a picnic table at the Oyster Shuck Shack-teau in Homer. Margo and Frank Reveil own the company and grow the incredibly delicious oysters at their farm in Jakolof Bay, AK. One taste and it's clear that quality is their top priority.
What/who inspires you to do the work you do?
Different tasks call on different inspirations. When I'm shucking oysters, I'm inspired by the heartfelt compliments of satisfied customers. When farming it's seeing the shape, taste, quality, and yield improve when we make improvements in gear, techniques and husbandry. When researching techniques, it's the oysters themselves that inspire, with their amazing capacity to thrive on beautiful microscopic plankton, as filter-feeders they actually clean the water as they grow -- and we just have to figure out when, and how, and where to move them so they respond with better meat, faster growth, stronger shells and more interesting flavors.
Amarie Young // Wakanda River
Amarie Young's illustrations, handmade goods, and fiber arts are downright wild and we were drawn to them for that very reason. Her designs tell stories of rushing waterways, walks through the forest, and wild animals. Originally from central Texas, she now calls the island of Kodiak, AK home where she has established her very own studio, Wakanda River. She also has an online shop
What/who inspires you to do the work you do?
It is nature herself who guides me through the works I'm most passionate about making. I find deep comfort in studying animals far and wide and nature's life cycles through fine lines and the matrimony of simplicity paired with rugged design. Creating is a means to life for me. If I'm not creating, I don't feel... balanced. Every day, I spend time focusing on the wild heart of nature, soaking it in, and replaying it back onto paper, however it feels right.
Marsh Skeele // Sitka Salmon Shares
Sitka Salmon Shares is run by fishermen-owners who provide fish-loving Midwesterners with wild Alaska seafood through home delivery, wholesale partnerships, and farmers markets programs. What started with some people in Illinois going crazy over Marsh Skeele’s wild Alaska coho salmon has now grown into a company with three distribution hubs in that part of the country. While Marsh lives part of his year in the Midwest, fishing season in Alaska is always on his mind.
What do you love and living + working in Alaska in particular?
There are so many things that I love about living and working in Alaska. I now spend part of my year in the Midwest, which polarises what I miss and love about living there. For one, the raw natural beauty of a place so untouched and wild. I love getting out into the wilderness where you are more likely to encounter a bear or deer than you are another person. I love the seasonality of Alaskan life and being so in touch with the environment around you. I love seeing the marine life return to feed on the spawning herring and knowing the dark winter is almost over. I love the seeing the salmonberry flowers start to bloom and knowing that it's time to catch salmon. Then to see the last of the fireweed flowers signal summer's end. I love gathering wild foods and sharing them with the wonderful community of people such a special place draws.
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Rich stories, sketches from the sea, recipes, poetry, time-tested advice, knot-tying - these are just some of the elements that weave into the fishing net of our lives. We are thrilled to be contributing members of The Young Alaska Fishermen’s Almanac, a first-ever compilation that celebrates our unique, shared and cherished fishing ways of life. The Almanac captures the ingenuity, persistence, humor and passion of the next generation of fishing leaders in Alaska and shares the stories of those who fish on Alaska's wild waters.
Meet Alaskan maker and private chef, Morgan Stewart of Gypsy Kitchen in Homer AK. If you're like us and crave seafood pretty much every day of the week, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of her interview for a Pesto Parmesan Baked Halibut recipe featuring Salmon Sisters Seafood.
Meet Oceana Wills! We grew up with Oceana in Homer, Alaska. She fishes commercially for sockeye salmon during the summertime in Bristol Bay and works on her artwork the other parts of the year. Her ocean-inspired prints cover the walls of our own home and we are so happy to share them with you! Find her prints on our web shop and at oceanawills.com.