Know your Fisherman:
Grace is powered by adventure. She’s been commercial fishing for 11 years and has driftnetted in Bristol Bay for four years on the Carinna Z.
“I’m brought back to Bristol Bay each year because of the amazing community of diverse people who come together every year to rejoice in the Bristol Bay salmon run.”
Why did you get into fishing?
I started fishing because I was intrigued by the adventure. I wanted to see the places other fishermen spoke of and learn the skills they had.
What makes you return to Bristol Bay each fishing season?
I’m brought back to Bristol Bay each year because of the amazing community of diverse people who come together every year to rejoice in the Bristol Bay salmon run. I return every year because of the remarkable, delicious Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.
What makes Bristol Bay sockeye salmon unique?
Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is quite simply delicious. I could eat it fresh every day on the boat and still want more. Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is distinctive because of the very personal way it is harvested. Every fish is handpicked from the net on a small vessel by a crew that works for a percentage of the catch. In this way, every person on the boat is depending on each fish for their livelihood and must handle it with the respect it deserves.
When you close your eyes and think about being on the water in Bristol Bay, what do you see?
When I close my eyes I see the lights of the hundreds of boats fishing around us during a night opener. With so many small boats fishing in the dark it looks like a floating city appeared while the sun set.
Do you have any unique fishing traditions that you do during the season?
Every season we drive the boat from Kodiak Island to Bristol Bay and back. Along the way we visit amazingly beautiful, remote places that I would never have the chance to see otherwise. Whether we are swimming in hot springs at Port Moller or watching walruses off Cape Seniavin the trip is always an adventure.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who was considering becoming a commercial fisherman?
Learn to tie a bowline and clove hitch. Learn to mend web. Be prepared for hard work outdoors, but also for periods of inactivity in a small cabin, learn to be okay with both. Go for it! It will be an experience to remember.
Whom do you typically fish with? Tell us about your crew.
When people would ask our captain why he hired women he would say, “Because they work twice as hard and complain half as much.” Our Captain Dave makes the crew feel like we are all in this together. When we are picking fish or delivering he is right beside us working just as hard and getting just as messy. I’ve been lucky to have fished with some of my best friends on the backdeck which makes the slow drift and dream sets much more bearable.
What’s it like Commercial Fishing in Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay is like summer camp for adults. Everyone is leaving their homes and other jobs to celebrate summer and catch fish. We may be teachers, engineers, or crab fishermen during the winter, but for a few weeks in the summer we are all Bristol Bay fishermen.
What has fishing in Bristol Bay taught you?
Fishing in Bristol Bay has taught me independence and hard work. It taught me to push myself and step outside my comfort zone.
What is your favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon?
My favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is freshly filleted and barbecued on the backdeck with Cajun seasoning and lemon juice, preferably on a hot, sunny afternoon. My favorite way to prepare canned Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is in a spicy thai curry - perfect to warm up when fishing on a cold, rainy day.
"Bristol Bay is like summer camp for adults. Everyone is leaving their homes and other jobs to celebrate summer and catch fish."
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience as a Bristol Bay fisherman?
I am not currently commercial fishing in Bristol Bay but I am still returning to Bristol Bay to catch salmon with the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute. I am monitoring sockeye smolt on the Kvichak River and driftnetting for the Port Moller Test Fishery. These projects have given me insight into just how far and long a salmon has to travel to develop into the delicious adult fish we harvest, as well as how complex the sustainable management of this resource can be.
Our responsibility to keep Bristol Bay a sustainable salmon fishery doesn’t begin and end when the fish hit our nets - it includes advocating for responsible land development and using our voice to speak up and protect our livelihood.