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Young Fishermen Summer Features

July 28, 2018

Stories from time at sea are what keep fishermen connected in between seasons. The stories of others who live, work, and rely on the ocean keep us in touch with Alaska's wild waters and the lives we lead on them during fishing season. Each week we share a little glimpse into this unique life on the water as told by Alaskan fisherman. 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 courageous, resilient people 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 with this summer. We can't wait to hear from more fishermen about their experiences on the water this season. 

If you know a young Alaskan fisherman you would like to recommend for this project, please email us at aksalmonsisters@gmail.com. Check @aksalmonsisters on Facebook and Instagram for your weekly Young Fisherman Friday feature!

 

 

Zane Torpy@zanetorpy
Vessel Name: Ariel
Species: Pink Salmon
Place/Fishery: Prince William Sound

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I got into the commercial fishing industry in 2016, after being around it for most of my life. I’ve tendered, ran boats for hatcheries, seined and done a little gillnetting. It’s something I’m still getting into but it excites me to see myself grow, with tons of opportunities to gain experience and further myself.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
It was only a matter of time before I got hooked on fishing. As a kid I would watch boats come in from openers and hear the fisherman talk shop. The idea of making a life out of it was always close by. As much as I love the water, and this beautiful place, it was the excitement of the people around me that drew me into this life. There’s a light in people’s eyes that I have yet to find anywhere else. It becomes more than a job, it’s a livelihood and a lifestyle that completely envelops you. It’s an extremely diverse population with men and women from all walks of life who are all here for the same thing, fish. I can find enjoyment in almost every aspect of the job, from the dynamic workload to the community that surrounds and supports the fishermen.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
The boat I fish on is crewed by my friends Eli, Mathias, Dane, and myself. They’ve been my buddies since before I can remember and may as well be family. It’s our first season solo without Eli’s dad running the boat, making things a bit more stressful but also that much more rewarding. Fishing with friends makes the slow days, the rainy closures, and the difficult moments enjoyable. It’s exciting to see us rise to the challenge and grow as a team.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I think about being on the water during the season I visualize the sunny days, moving through the Sound with music playing in the wheelhouse. It’s what I miss first when the season ends, but after enough time away from the boat I even start missing the rough water days, soaked through and shivering.

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
Alaska’s oceans have humbled me in a way that nothing else could. It’s shown me how little control we often have, and how to exempt that. The oceans have presented me with 70 mile an hour wind blowing rain in my face so hard it blocks out my vision, storms that can last for days. It’s taught me just how capable I am when need be. It’s also shown me that no matter how dark the days are, with patience and a tight grip the storms pass, the clouds part and the days get better.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given is to learn from everything. Everything that goes wrong, everything that goes well, it can teach you something for next time. If something breaks that teaches you how to fix it. This advice helps me to keep a optimistic views when things go wrong.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?
It’s important to think about where your food come from, and the impact that food has on the world around us. Not only is the salmon we harvest good tasting and good for us, it’s sustainable. This fishery is closely watched and regulated to insure a long life of the industry and the waters we fish. Our fisheries our full of passionate people, people that take pride in what they do and the communities and waters they call home.

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe was thrown together a few years ago when my skipper and I were trying to grill up a few fillets after a few long days. Equal parts mayo and brown sugar, with a little bit of siracha and soy sauce spread over some chinook, wrap it in tin foil and grilled. It’s nothing fancy, but I haven’t found a better compliment to the rich meat on a king salmon.

Is there ANYTHING else you want to share to about Alaska's fisheries & fishing community?
I think I’d just share the hardwork and care that goes into the fish we harvest. There’s people out in the wind and waves that could be anywhere else but they keep fishing. It’s a life they pass onto their kids, it’s something they believe in.

 

 

Lindsey Aspelund@lindsraya
Vessel Name: Bristol Bay Setnet
Species: Sockeye Salmon
Place/Fishery: Naknek, Bristol Bay

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I’ve been a commercial fisherman for 21 seasons, 8 seasons on a drift gillnet vessel and the rest as a setnetter.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
My family got me hooked on fishing - I grew up along the beach of the Naknek River and Kvichak Bay. I learned how to pick salmon out of a gillnet as a child and spent lots of time out fishing with my family, whether sport or commercially.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
I fish with my family and friends. This season I will have my mom and nephew working with me, along with my boyfriend and one of our close friends. Everyone that I fish near are both family and friends, and it's like a reunion every season.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see an endless sky and extreme tide flats. Sunsets out on the water are spectacular. Of course my favorite sight is a net stuffed full of fish though!

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
Alaska’s oceans and fish have taught me that nothing is a guarantee but you work hard anyway. It's not about the end result but the experiences along the way.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given is to listen to others; they're giving advice because they genuinely care. I was not very humble in my beginning years and saw advice as criticism, but today I'm very thankful to everyone who has given me input and helped me along the way.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?
I want the world to know that I participate in a sustainably managed fishery that is constantly striving to improve the quality of the product we harvest.

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe is smoked salmon dip using smoked king salmon or sockeye salmon - it's always a party favorite!

Is there ANYTHING else you want to share to about Alaska's fisheries & fishing community?
It's the best part of my life! I feel so thankful to have been raised in a fishing family, and I love the sense of community you feel when connecting with someone else who loves fishing in Alaska.

 

 

Grant Niver | @surrendersalmon
Vessel Name: F/V Surrender
Species: Sockeye
Place/Fishery: Bristol Bay, AK

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I’ve been a commercial fisherman since I was 11 years old. I grew up around my dad's commercial fishing vessels my entire life, but I started as a deckhand when I was 11. That would make 18 years to date.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
Commercial fishing has been part of my family for two generations now. My dad fished with his father, and my brothers and I grew up fishing with dad and still do to this day. The fact that I get to go out and do something I love with my family every summer, in a place as beautiful as Bristol Bay, keeps me coming back every season.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
Our crew is made up of myself, my two younger brothers, Blake and Bryce, and my dad. My dad owns the vessel and is our skipper. We typically bring on a few close family friends throughout the season to help fill in too.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see the splashing of salmon in a full net. Call it wishful thinking, but we've been blessed the last few years with great Sockeye runs in the Bay. I'm grateful for the opportunity to fish the largest Sockeye run in the world.

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
Alaska’s oceans and fish have taught me to appreciate the amazing resources that Alaska and its waters provide, and to never take it for granted. Large salmon runs are never a guarantee, and with so many outside factors threatening our fishery - whether it be environmental or mining #NoPebbleMine - Alaska and fishing has taught me to focus on the present and enjoy it.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given is to wear motion sickness patches. I don't mean to sound like sissy, but patches are a game changer and really help with sea sickness.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?

I want the world to know that Bristol Bay Sockeye salmon is the best salmon on Earth. I live in Minneapolis, MN now, and I started my salmon company, Surrender Salmon, to provide Minnesotans access to Wild Alaskan Sockeye. I love being able to make a little money and grow a small business, but what I enjoy most is talking with people and educating them about what makes Bristol Bay Sockeye such a phenomenal product. There's so much deception in the seafood market today, with the farmed fish industry constantly labeling their product with misleading labels that say "Wild Caught" etc... it's my mission , and Surrender Salmon's mission, to shine a light on the differences between truly WILD Sockeye salmon, and the impostor farmed fish that's so abundant in the market.

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe is...Ohhh I think I have to go with blackened salmon quesadillas.

Is there ANYTHING else you want to share to about Alaska's fisheries & fishing community?
Alaska is feeding the world. We are the leader in authentic, WILD seafood. Pebble Mine poses a direct threat to Bristol Bay's thriving fishery. It's more important than ever to contact your congressmen and senators and let them know that you OPPOSE Pebble Mine. Every public comment, phone call, email or letter matters.

 

 

Trevor Hash | @goosemalone
Vessel Name: F/V Champion
Species: Salmon
Place/Fishery: Pws

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I’ve been a commercial fisherman for... going on 5 years, 3 of those years I’ve been fishing year round.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
It wasn’t the money, the first season I fished I was in Kodiak longlining P Cod. I made $180 after 2 months but I was hooked. Sure the work is hard and at the time the pay was crap but I remember deciding at one point that I would rather be happy and fishing than miserable and making money – as ass backwards as that sounds.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
I’ve fished with the same captain and skiffwoman going on a year now. We did PWS last year for salmon, spent the fall bringing a boat back from Kodiak, we did squid in the winter and this spring we went full out on a rehab of the current boat, the champion. This year we have a couple of guys on deck who are new to seining but not to fishing.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see big bags of fish rolling on or full pots.

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
They’ve taught me that you’re so tiny. The ocean is one of the most powerful things in the world and if I’ve learned anything it’s that you can’t control it. You can’t fight it. You just have to respect the water.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given... is to make sure you’re trying to be the best deckhand you can be. Everything else will fall into place as long as the hard work and determination to be the best is there.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?
Honestly I don’t want them to know much, I have the best job in the world, I get the best views and do things that people don’t want to do.

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe is thinly sliced black cod that is pan seared.

 

Autumn Powell@autumnception
Vessel Name: Alaska Spirit
Species: Salmon
Place/Fishery: Kodiak, AK. Salmon Tender

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I began commercial fishing when I was 14 years old on the back deck of the F/V Icelander, headed out on a Halibut trip. In the years following I have tendered for salmon and drift gillnetted for Sockeye in Bristol Bay. I have yet to spend a summer away from the sea.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
My father is the reason I have always found myself out to sea. His first crab season was at the young age of 16, and like me, has found it impossible to leave since.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
My crew has been different every year. When I was young, I fished with my brother and father. Recently I have found myself tendering with my dad as the skipper. This year on the Alaska Spirit I will be working with old family friends.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see the placid waters of Prince William Sound rising into the steep, green mountains that ring the coastline.

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
Alaska’s oceans and fish have taught me the importance of taking care of the sea. Our oceans provide so much for us: food, jobs, adventure, and meaning. There is nothing else in the world like it, and I want to be able to show my future children how to use the ocean’s bounty like my father did for me. I also learned through Alaskan’s oceans to be humble. It is so easy at times to feel as if we have tamed the sea, but in truth we never will.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given is to work every day as if I am going to be fired tomorrow.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?
I want people to know that fishing is not just a job to anyone. Here, it is our way of life. Smoked salmon is a Christmas gift; King Crab is a reason to invite the new neighbors over. Fishing itself is a way to bond with your family.

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe is Coconut Prawns. I take freshly caught prawns, shuck them, devein them, and then rinse them off to prepare them. Next I roll them in whipped eggs, and then a mixture of flour, salt, and shredded coconut flakes (unsweetened). I fry them for about 4 minutes on each side, until the batter turns a nice golden color. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, and enjoy!!!

 

 

Helen Decker | @hd_francis
Vessel Name: McCrea
Species: Salmon
Place/Fishery: Southeast Alaska/ gillnetting

How long have you been a commercial fisherman?
I’ve been a commercial fisherman for... 12 years. Since I was five years old, I’ve commercial fished with my family in the summers.

What (or who) got you hooked on fishing?
My father and mother began bringing my brother and I on fishing trips when we were babies. As soon as we were old enough to pitch fish, we were put to work! I’ve been in love with it ever since.

Tell us about your crew! Do you fish with your family, friends, different people every season?
In prior years, my whole family fished on the boat, my dad, mom, brother and me. My brother went seining 4 Year’s ago and since then it has only been my dad and I on board.

When you close your eyes and think about being on the water during fishing season, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see... Zimovia Straits on a rainy summer day where the sun is still trying to peek out from behind the clouds and casting a rainbow across the net where fish hang like grapes and I just look across at my dad and smile.

What have Alaska's oceans and fish taught you?
Alaska’s oceans and fish have taught me... how unpredictable life is and also how much you can achieve with a hardworking work ethic and a good attitude.

What's the best advice you've been given as you embarked on your fishing career?
The best advice I’ve been given... is that the fishing industry isn’t always predictable or a constant cash flow but as long as you are working doing something you love, that’s all that matters.

What do you want the world to know about your work as a fisherman and the seafood you harvest?
It’s a dangerous but beautiful field of work and the seafood is the finest food on the planet! Wholesome and sustainable!

What is your favorite seafood recipe?
My favorite seafood recipe is... a tie between the simple grilled white king salmon and Thai red curry with crab.

Is there ANYTHING else you want to share to about Alaska's fisheries & fishing community?
If you are even the slightest bit interested in a fishery, pursue that interest. There are unlimited opportunities within Alaska’s fisheries and the experiences you collect fishing really are once in a lifetime!



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