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The First Catch, Alaskan Salmon in the Net

Nelly and Michael are out fishing the glorious Copper River Delta.

alaskin river drifters river landscape
Photography by: Drifters Fish
A glacial river running through the Copper River Delta.

Alaska is a wild place to call home. From the rigid, rugged mountains that frame the harbor to the twisting rivers that surge glacial water into the ocean, we are surrounded by fierce beauty. This place shapes hardworking men and women, built by endurance and ingenuity. I was raised in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, learning early in life about what having stamina meant and being passionate about your work. I spent my summers through high school and college working with my dad and brothers harvesting wild salmon in Prince William Sound. It was a small family operation, and my dad made the effort to make us feel like a big part of running the boat. He’d have us up to the wheelhouse, and we would talk through where to fish next and other decisions to be made for the boat. It was an operation that gave me a sense of ownership and a glimpse into the independence that comes from running a small business.

heading out boat drifters
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Michael on the Pelican heading out on to the fishing grounds. (Yes, this is May in Alaska!)

Michael and I started fishing together on our own boat just a few years ago, and working alongside each other came naturally after the years we spent employed by our families.We met one summer when the fishing was slow and we had too much time in the harbor without work. He had come to Alaska for the adventure and to fish with his cousin. We connected over a love for this wild place and the salmon that lured us out on the water every summer.

fishers holding salmon
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Nelly with opening day's first catch.

We fished our first opener of the season last Thursday. With a light drizzle that increased to heavy rain throughout the day, we worked with the swell of the ocean, a monotonous rhythm of set the net, pick the net, set the net, pick the net. Our effort was rewarded by mighty, silvery salmon. Each fish that flopped on the boat was strikingly bright, with deep blue scales that glittered against the overcast sky. Each fish had a destination as it came out of the water.  A small selection of chefs in Seattle had placed orders with us, and we would be shipping them our fresh catch of Copper River salmon the following day for their weekend customers.

boat controls
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Returning home with the fleet.

We pulled into the harbor that night exhausted but energized by the excitement you could feel in the air as Cordova’s fleet of fishermen was arriving home. This first fishery welcomes the return of summer in Alaska and the wild bounty of salmon that is ahead.

 

Follow Nelly and Michael's fishing season, they'll be sharing their stories with us every Thursday here on marthastewart.com

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