Know your fisherman
My name is Casey Coupchiak. I am the boat owner and permit holder for the fishing vessel K-17. This last 2015 season was my second season with my boat. It’s been an incredible learning experience. I have a family friend, Peter Rudek, who has been fishing Bristol Bay for some years and got into drift fishing in Cook Inlet when he was 9 years old, teaching me to run the boat. It’s my favorite time of year, being out there on the water, sleeping on the boat, eating granola bars, and chugging caffeinated drinks, all summer to take in all the beauty Bristol Bay has to offer.
How did you get into fishing?
My dad’s side of the family is from Bristol Bay, Togiak to be exact. I inherited the permit I have from my late grandfather, who had been fishing Bristol Bay waters for decades. Back when they had sailboats. I have been fishing since I was a teenager, I am now 24. My first experience fishing was when I was nine years old at my aunt’s set net site in Togiak. I actually was not fond of it, she made me pick the entire net myself. Haha, lets just say I have a respect for setnetters BUT I would not trade a drift boat for it.
First Fish – What do you do with it? (Kiss it? Throw it back? Eat it?)
The first fish that comes over the roller is picked and the whole crew kisses it. With pictures, of course.
What do you do on the 4th of July? Is it a blur of fishing? Do you mark it anyway?
Fourth of July is a fun day, it usually involves fishing! My younger brother, 14, and younger cousin, 13, usually shoot off fireworks from the deck of our boats.
What makes you return to fishing each season?
My mom has a boat, my uncle has a boat, and I have a boat. It’s sort of a family affair for us. It is an amazing experience with family, and friends, it brings us together even though the screaming and yelling from stressful situations that happen on the back deck.
What does being a "commercial fisherman" mean to you?
I am incredibly proud of being a commercial fisherman, mainly because I am a 24 year old woman. It’s not the “norm” to see women out in the Bay working on fishing vessels, but we are slowly bringing those numbers up and I am ecstatic to be apart of it and hopefully get more strong-willed, hard-working women out there!
What is your favorite part of the fishing season?
My favorite part of fishing Bristol Bay is the countless days watching the sunrise and set throughout the summer, the salty breeze, the thought of delivering such a beautiful specimen to people around the world’s plates, and most importantly the people that become family for the 5-6 weeks while out on the water. It’s the thought knowing that at the end of the season, good or bad, crummy price but good numbers of fish, that I will be here again next spring/summer to do it all again!
What do you want the people who buy/eat your fish to know?
I would love for the people buying our salmon to know that hard work is put into each and every fish caught by the fisherman out there. We are doing it for a living, but mostly to see the satisfaction on potential customer’s faces when they take a bite of WILD sockeye salmon.