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We're On Board with These Two Fishermen -- Salmon Fishing Season Starts Today

Meet Nelly and Michael Hand, they're commercial salmon fishermen in Alaska.

Nelly and Michael Hand portrait
Photography by: Kimberley Hasselbrink
Nelly and Michael Hand during salmon fishing season last year.

Our town of Cordova, Alaska is humming with the sounds of diesel engines firing up, big trucks hurrying around the harbor and fishermen catching up with each across the docks. This week holds so much excitement and anticipation here. Today, May 18th, the fleet of 540 fishermen from this tiny coastal community take off for the Gulf of Alaska where we’ll be setting our nets to catch the first wild salmon making their way back to the Copper River. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game carefully monitors our fishery for long term sustainability and have designated the salmon season to start this week with a 12 hour commercial fishing period starting bright and early at 7 am on Thursday.

salmon fishing boat foggy alaska
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Nelly and Michael's boat, the Pelican, being lowered into the water after a winter in dry dock.

Copper River Salmon is hand harvested by a fleet of small commercial boats run by family fishermen and we are so proud to work on the water bringing good fish to your table. My name is Nelly Hand and together with my husband Michael, we operate a 31 foot gill-netting boat called the Pelican. We fish in the waters outside of Cordova, located in beautiful and wild Southcentral Alaska.

person at wheel of boat salmon fishing alaska
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Michael testing the boat's different systems as part of the pre-season maintenance.

This past week we’ve been working our way through projects on the boat in preparation for the start of the season. Engine maintenance, cleaning the fish holds, testing the equipment and loading the net are all on the list. In between oil changes and net mending, Michael and I spend time arranging markets and restaurants to sell our catch direct through our business Drifters Fish. We’ll be shipping our fresh Copper River salmon to restaurants across the country, connecting chefs with traceable, sustainably harvested wild salmon shipped straight off our boat. Our first fish will be shipped directly to the chef at Canlis, a fine-dining destination in Seattle.  

 

Gearing up to start our season has us working around the clock. Being commercial fishermen, our livelihood is unpredictable but rewarding. We can’t wait to put our net in the water this week and see what the season holds.

 

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

driving salmon fishing boat alaska
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Nelly taking the boat out of the harbor for a test drive.
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