Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Summer Means It's Time To Head Out Commercial Fishing!
I hadn't yet unpacked my stuff from my Africa trip, before I started packing for commercial fishing season. Switching out warmer weather clothing like shorts, flip flops, t-shirts, and light safari pants, and replacing them with heavy duty rain gear, "xtra tuf" rain boots, thick warm socks, and sweat shirts.
I'll also lose my African tan, grow out a thick rugged beard, making me look more like my Scandinavian ancestors. My soft photographer hands will transform into strong, callused, salmon picking machines. My shoulders will strain from pulling in nets loaded with thousands of pounds of salmon, and my mind and body will toughen with every storm we crash through, and exhausting 24 hour work days.
Commercial fishing in Bristol Bay is only 6 weeks long, so when the fish are running you are always working. You just suck it up and work hard, hopefully being rewarded with a big pay day at the end of the season. For me a good pay day means I get to afford to travel again and photograph some new location in the world.
Commercial fishing is a way of life to a lot of Alaskans. Alaska is home to the largest salmon runs in the world. Each year millions of salmon return to spawn in Alaskan rivers. Bristol Bay is the biggest, with rivers like Egegik, Naknek, and Kvichak which each have had runs of 29 plus million fish returning.
Last year was an exciting year on the boat. It was rough and stormy all year, we had to work long grueling hours, and my deck hand, got his arm ripped open from a 6 foot salmon shark, that got stuck in our net. It didn't take long for rumors to pass through the fishing fleet, so within the day people were calling us on radio, asking "Hattrick Over" " This is Hattrick" "I heard one of your deck hands had his arm ripped off by a shark, I'm sorry."
After getting his arm ripped open and having to fly to get his arm stitched up, we had his rain jacket decorated for him with a drawing of a shark.
What's great about fishing in Alaska is, you will never know what to expect. Every year is different. After a wild and adventurous 7 months, traveling across the entire continent of Africa, I only hope fishing season is just as exciting. Though, out on the boat in Alaska, there are few less worries that I had to worry about in Africa, such as not getting Malaria, there are no snakes or scorpions on the boat, and no chance of coming across crazy Nigerians, illegally logging, then holding a machete up to my neck and demanding my camera.
After the season, I will be flown back into Katmai National Park, where I will go backpacking alone, for a week to document the amazing volcanic eruption that transformed the landscape.
Also home to one of the largest concentrations of brown bears in the world, I will hopefully get some up-close photos of these amazing animals, as they chow down on salmon, trying to fatten up before winter.
I was recently eating at a Chinese restaurant and I opened my fortune cookie and it read, " you will have a close encounter of a serious kind." We will just have to wait and see what kind of encounter I will have.