On The Job

salmon or gold

something on the horizon
approaching storm
my dad...croc
bear prints
4 am. bering sea, alaska
bristol bay nap
ugashik, alaska
What's your profession? Please describe it.

I run a small salmon fishing boat (32 ft.) with my dad in western Alaska. We have a funky little boat my dad bought for 8 thousand dollars a few years ago and have gradually rebuilt it. My dad, most commonly known as "Croc" started fishing in Bristol Bay in 1965 and I joined him 18 years ago.

Where do you do this?

Just a little above the alutian chain on the edge of the Bering Sea sits Bristol Bay which supports the largest salmon run in the world. It is a rugged, windswept and often unforgiving yet beautiful.

Do you enjoy what you do?

Yes... hard but rewarding. The physical work and long hours are challenging coupled with trying to keep the boat running, catch fish, cook, mend nets,big waves, biting wind, not get hurt etc., etc., may seem like a nightmare but I do enjoy it.

When you were young, what did you want to "be" when you grew up?

Not really... but it definitely shaped my life. I find it really gives me perspective, having all the things we normally take for granted.

Do you feel stuck doing what you are doing?

The term "stuck" surely apply while fishing in the shallows, break down or run aground while trying to cross a sandbar but stuck in a job I don't like...no. The season only lasts a couple months and by the time I am utterly exhausted and can't wait to get off the boat its all over and I get to come home.

What are the most and least satisfying parts of your job?

The feeling of accomplishment and bonds formed on the sea

How do you combine photography with your job?

Its a challenge... my free time for photography is next to nothing. There are however plenty of characters and interesting things to photograph.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Native Alaskans have lived off salmon for thousands of years and the commercial fisherman of Bristol Bay not only contribute up to 300 million dollars a year to Alaska's economy but are part of a rich and irreplaceable cultural history. The salmon also support the entire ecosystem and food chain bringing nutrients from the ocean to the wildlife that depends on it. The battle between renewable and nonrenewable resources will continue to wage, one side fought by giant multinational corporations and the other by people who want to protect the environment and a way of life. The proposed mine can destroy this incredible natural resource and once gone, like the gold and copper, will be gone forever but if protected the salmon will continue to thrive.

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2 responses

  • Chris Whitney

    Chris Whitney said (1 Dec 2008):

    Great story and images!

  • Nancy Charter Kechnie Goatbe

    Nancy Charter Kechnie Goatbe said (5 Dec 2008):

    I lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands in my 20's..and on a clear day we could see Alaska.. I love smoked salmon mmmm..Beautiful pictures of the ruggedness of the ocean, and fishing ... I hope the mine is not created and the fish allowed too continue their lives

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