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Young Alaskan Fishermen

January 22, 2018

Every week we feature a young Alaskan fisherman on our social media channels and share stories from their life on the water. This project was born out of a desire to share an inside look at our community of seafaring people and their work on the water. The stories of these brave, hardworking Alaskans are what inspire us to do the work we do and share the story of Alaska's fisheries with the world! Enjoy the following words from a few of the fishermen we talked to this fall and winter.

If you know a young Alaskan fisherman you would like to recommend for this project, please email us at aksalmonsisters@gmail.com.

Kiva McCarthy
Sole, Rockfish, Pollock, Grey Cod, Black Cod, Salmon | Kodiak Island | F/V Stella

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you? 
Alaska’s oceans have taught me that there’s no greater, more rewarding gift of life than being granted the opportunity to spend your days working long hours in wild places with people that you love.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see? 
When I close my eyes and imagine being on the water during fishing season I see my ten year old sister plucking fish off the deck and shooting me the happiest smile, and I see my Mom in her funny boots making jokes, and life is simple, and life is happy.


Georgeanna Heaverley

Sockeye & Coho Salmon | Cook Inlet | F/V Benjana & F/V Nedra E

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
I see fish hitting the net, lighting up the water. It's a feeling like none other to see this, it's electric and revitalizing to know you're in the fish. Every fisherman knows this feeling. It's what makes the hard work all worthwhile. Fishing in Cook Inlet is truly beautiful. There are mountain ranges on each side of us- the crown jewel being Mt. Redoubt towering above on the west side.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
Because of my father's passion and dedication to the commercial fishing industry I have also developed a love and respect for being out on the water. The first season was hard –more physically demanding than I had anticipated. It took some time to learn my way around the boat but once this past season hit, I was able to hold my own. That's when I really felt hooked, and knew commercial fishing was something I wanted to continue throughout my life.



Heather Hardcastle
Sockeye, Coho, King, Pink, Chum Salmon |  Taku Inlet | F/V Heather Anne

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
My earliest childhood memory is of my dad and grandpa taking my little brother and me out one evening to a bay near our Taku Harbor cabin to watch spawning pink salmon swirl below us. At age 3 or 4, I was enchanted by the sight of thousands of green-gray bodies flooding into narrow, shallow creeks. I can still hear and smell the hum of the old
Evinrude two-stroke when I return to this memory in my mind—and I remember the look of reverence on my dad’s face. I literally fell in love with wild salmon that night, and have joined my parents in chasing them and loving them deeply ever since.

What have Alaska’s oceans and fish taught you?
My home waters and wild salmon have taught me that it is an ABUNDANT world, incredibly so. They have also taught me to be resilient, to be persistent, and to have GRIT….and, at the same time, to be graceful, to let go, and to SURRENDER.


Katrina Lynn Leary / Pan'aq
King Salmon, Red Salmon, Chum Salmon, Grayling, Dolly Varden, Broad Whitefish | Napaimute & Holokuk River, Alaska


What (or who) got you hooked on fishing? 
Living in rural Alaska, it's inevitable that you're going to be raised around fish. As a young girl subsistence fishing was always important. It was a family thing. We all congregated together, no matter which part of the state we were in, to harvest fish. I remember being a young girl, hanging out on the fish raft, practicing with a little uluaq on smaller fish while the older women took care of the bigger ones. Or patiently waiting for a female salmon so I could use the eggs as bait to fish for suckers off of the fish raft. Ever since then, I have loved fishing. In the summers we kuvya (fish by net), use the fish wheel, or rod and reel. From June to late July we are harvesting fish. In the winters we have lush lines, black fish traps and manaq (ice fish). My parents always made sure that all four of us were involved in some way, whether it be drifting, checking the fish wheel, cutting, rinsing, tying, or brining. Every one of us was kept busy. And eventually you fall into this way of life and adapt to the work it takes to help keep your family fed.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see? 
I see being on the boat with my dad and one of my siblings at 3 a.m. It's the perfect time to drift. The salmon swim toward the surface of the river during the evening rather than the bottom, as they do during the day. My dad is smoking a cigar and we are filling our mugs with hot coffee from a thermos. It's June and the sun is rising just as fast as it is setting. The fog is rolling in and out of the river. We are drifting in front of Napaimute. Every so often the foam floats that help the net float, bob, indicating a fish being caught. We watch in excitement as every once in awhile, multiple floats bob at once telling us a large school of fishing is passing by. This brings huge smiles to our faces, knowing that tomorrow will be another busy day on the fish raft. We pull in the net. One person pulling, one person getting read to grab the fish... THEY CAN SLIP OUT! We pull in a big king, both of us working to get it in the boat. My dad has the biggest smile of us all. He's especially grateful for this 24-hour opening. We all are. 4 a.m. hits and the sun is rising. The birds are waking up and the sound of their songs are refreshing. A sign that summer is well underway. We decide it's a good time head back home so we have the energy to help put fish away tomorrow.


Marcus Williams
Sockeye Salmon | Bristol Bay

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season? 
Throughout the years we have had many, many friends join our family in Alaska. Some have returned and some have not, but our family is always the core crew. My father, my younger brother and I are the captains. We operate four sites and usually bring up four to five other crew mates. My mother will jump in to help when we need her, but she has paid her dues on the water and in the mud and now enjoys running her bed & breakfast in Naknek. My Memaw has continued to come up every season for the past 50 years. We rely on her for freshly brewed coffee, homemade tortillas, and stories about the “old days.” I met my fiance in Naknek five years ago and she has now joined the family operation, helping to organize and run the processing of our harvest. We have a “normal house” and the BnB located in town, but during the season we spend our time on the beach in our patchwork cabins without running water or electricity, eating our meals on the same table and sleeping in the same small room as my family did in 1967.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
Fishing season represents a lot of feelings for me. No doubt is it difficult at times, but ultimately when I close my eyes and bring myself back to that place, I feel a profound sense of peace - the gentle lull of ocean waves and the vibrant colors of the sun reflecting off the water, countless memories of growing up there surrounded by people I love, and the satisfaction of working hard to be a part of this beautiful system. I’m always ready for a bit of rest at the end of the season, but it doesn’t take too long for me to want to be back there again.

 



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