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Working Apart, That's Life for Our Favorite Fishing Couple Right Now

It's different boats, different nets, and different salmon for Nelly and Michael this week.

nelly hand tying off boat in harbor
Photography by: Camrin Dengel
Nelly tying up the Pelican in Cordova's harbor.

Salmon are pulsing through Alaska right now, swimming strong through ocean currents and powerfully making their way up twisting rivers and pristine, wild watersheds. They are the lifeblood of my hometown, the coastal community of Cordova, and they bring vitality to small towns dotted far and wide across Alaska’s rugged shore. All summer long I’ve been getting stories and reports from friends working on boats in Bristol Bay in western Alaska all the way down to the waterways of southeast Alaska. The harvest is on. These places thrive this time of year, defined by hard work and the beautiful fish that bring us our livelihood and sense of community.

 

Meet Our Very Favorite Salmon Fishermen -- Nelly and Michael Hand
drifters fish netting
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Fishing among the fleet of gillnetters in Prince William Sound.

Community in Alaska runs strong on and off the water. In the harbor, struggling with a problem on the engine or pulling the net off the boat to be mended, there’s always an extra hand. Friends or other fishermen stop to check on you, offering a few minutes to help you lift something or bringing the answers you were looking for on how to fix a project. 

drifter's fish boat
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Catch up: the Pelican ties up with a friend's boat the Keta. For the month of July, Nelly's been fishing on the Pelican while Michael's been aboard the Keta.

Out on the water, we’ve been in a handful of pretty scary situations but each time, the boats fishing around us would haul in their net as fast as they could and come to our aid. Commercial fishing is incredibly competitive, but the sense of community is deep and durable.

 

orion boat drifters fish
Photography by: Drifters Fish
The Orion, Nelly's family boat. She grew up fishing on this boat with her dad, and now her little brother has taken over as captain.

Next week I’m headed to work on my family’s boat the Orion, joining my brothers to harvest pink salmon for the month of August. Michael has joined a friend on a similar boat called the Keta. We’ll both be out there, navigating the inlets and coves of Prince William Sound for the next couple of weeks. We’ll be a part of the seine boat fishery, using a bigger net and different methods to catch pink salmon. These boats take a crew of 4 to 5 people, each person taking a different role of stacking each end of the net on the back deck or running the small skiff that pulls the net off the boat. The boats scattered throughout Prince William Sound are all independent small businesses, families or friends working together day in and day out, making the most of every opportunity we have to go fishing and bring good fish to your table.

 

drifters fish boat
Photography by: Drifters Fish
Michael and his crew roll a big bag of pink salmon aboard the Keta. 

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

 

 

Watch how to make the most delicious, easy salmon and zucchini dinner -- no pan required, the fish cooks in a parchment package in the oven.

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