Know your Fisherman:
Fishing runs in the family for Kelly, whose been following in his father’s footsteps as a commercial fisherman and captain of the F/V Honey Badger.
"It's an ultra marathon except there's no set course, starting or ending time. The fish set the course and the length of the race each year. It takes a lot of pre-season training, both technical and endurance."
How long have you been fishing?
Since I was 7 years old. I’m nearly 40 now.
How did you get into commercial fishing?
My father is a fisherman.
Whom do you fish with?
Fishing for me has always been a family business. I worked for my dad until I was out of high school and then bought my own boat. When my younger brother was a teenager he started working for me. Many years later I upgraded vessels and sold him my old boat. Now I don't have any blood relatives aboard but working in tight quarters for long hours in sometimes dangerous situations creates a bonding; my crew feel like family. We joke, play, and work hard together to make a successful season.
What makes you return to Bristol Bay each fishing season?
Simple - the fish.
What is your favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon?
It's hard to beat fresh out of the water and onto the grill. I've learned when we are out fishing to try to cook more than we can eat at one sitting because left overs are essential for salmon waffles.
How do you describe the Bristol Bay waters & fishery to those who’ve never been?
It's hard to describe. It's an ultra marathon except there's no set course, starting or ending time. The fish set the course and the length of the race each year. It takes a lot of pre-season training, both technical and endurance. Experience is key, knowing when to sprint, when to rest, and when to play it cool and when to push it to the max. It can be incredible rewarding when you come in with the biggest load of fish and super disappointing when you are the low boat.
What has fishing in Bristol Bay taught you?
Fishing has provided me with all that I have in my life. It has taught me how to work hard, work with other people as a team, how to run a business, how to cook, to work on engines, electronics, plumbing, carpentry, fiberglass, welding, and most importantly it has taught me that I must always continue to learn.
What characteristics of the salmon product make it distinctive?
Bristol Bay is unique; it's home of the last pristine major salmon habitat left in the world. We are fortunate that because of its remote location we haven't yet spoiled this fragile environment. Sockeye salmon are especially sensitive to habitat conditions; both the State of Alaska and the fishermen are devoted to protecting this amazing resource and the environment that is required to support it. Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is one of best sustainable proteins available. It's free of all pollutants, and full of nutrients. It's abundant, affordable and sustainable. It also drives a huge industry. It's really a win-win-win situation.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who was considering becoming a commercial fisherman?
The workday sometimes turns into consecutive days and before long you can't remember how many days you've been awake or when you last had a proper meal; every part of your body is screaming for rest, your mind tricks you into thinking it's okay to close your eyes but you have a job to do, the season will come to an end. Not tonight or tomorrow but, when it does will you be able to rest with your head held proud? Right now you have a job to do and if you're a fisherman, you'll find the strength to do it.