JOHN EACH, f/V SHADOW
BRISTOL BAY FISHERMAN FOR 12 YEARS
How do you describe a day in your life when the fish are running in Bristol Bay?
It's magical. Masses of fish are returning to the home river they were born in. You can see schools of fish swarming and running together. Oftentimes they are jumping up and out of the water, which is something that allows us to identify schools and productive places to fish. When we are fishing it is very fast paced. The net gets set very quickly and we pick the fish out of the net as fast as we can. We want to get the net back in the water as quick as possible. From the nets fish are carefully put into fish holds and chilled.
Fishing in Bristol Bay is tough work. What brings you back each fishing season?
The people are what keep me coming back. I love the the early part of the season. Boat yard time; getting the boat ready for the season, working on projects, sharing stories with the other folks in the yard, anticipating the fish arrival. The work. There is something very special about getting splashed with salt water and being tired. It’s a timeless job and often times feels holy.
What characteristics of BRISTOL BAY SOCKEYE SALMON SET IT APART?
The color. Bristol Bay salmon are eating a wild diet of plankton- it's similar to the uniqueness of grass-fed beef. An animal on its traditional diet tastes fuller and is more nutrient-rich. Also the Bristol Bay fish is a wild-run fishery. They are not penned up and released into the ocean.
How do you describe the Bristol Bay waters & fishery to those who’ve never been?
It's a very unique landscape. A lot of it is tundra, with gorgeous mountain ranges and volcanic peaks. It's a very shallow part of the Bering Sea so the water has very strong winds.
What has fishing in Bristol Bay taught you?
Bristol Bay has taught me a great deal. I’ve learned about the importance of protecting our waters, rivers, and ocean. With a well-maintained fishery, we can sustain an incredible ecosystem that provides one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Bristol Bay has also taught me the reward of hard work. Leaving the season tired and sore leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment.
Do you have any unique fishing traditions that you do during the season?
The crew kisses the first fish caught of the season. I am also an avid letter writer and have been since I started fishing. Sending and receiving mail aboard the boat is a timeless and precious thing.
What is your favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon?
At home I love to skin a fillet and char in cast iron for 2 minutes each side and then place the cast iron in the oven for 5 minutes. It's a quick and flavorful way to prepare it.