KNOW YOUR FISHERMAN
How do you describe the Bristol Bay waters & fishery to those who’ve never been?
Bristol Bay is a murky mix of nature’s beauty and rawness. A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde environment, really. The never-ending pink, orange, and red sunrises and sunsets which paint the water and sky alike are beautiful. The multiple hues of the ocean from silty brown to green and blue as well as the fresh salty air are difficult to describe. Then Bristol Bay flips. Grey waters reflecting stormy skies, vicious winds, and violent waves take the place of the sun, stars, and calm waters. I wish I could say I encounter more Jekyll than Hyde while bobbing about in Bristol Bay but that would be lying. The weather is generally rather miserable. The fishing hours are dreadfully long. Yet, despite all this, I will say that I never feel more alive than when out in nature’s worst.
Who do you typically fish with? Tell us about your crew.
Meet the AAAs. My crew is composed of Aspen, my partner, her sister Autumn, and my friend Abby. An all-female badass crew! Nobody works harder, picks fish faster, or makes me smile quite like my amazing deck crew. Aspen is the motivator, the deck boss. Autumn is the first to start dancing, and the first to the net when salmon come over the reel. Abby is the grinder. She’ll never complain, never ask for a break.
Do you have any unique fishing traditions that you do during the season?
I have a few fishing traditions. Definitely gotta honor the first salmon that pops into our boat…unless it’s a flounder. By filleting, cooking it up, and thoroughly enjoying each and every bite we honor both the salmon and God that allow us to continue fishing. We also have special poundage drinks. Specialty beers, champagne, and cocktails are brought out when we reach 50k, 100k, 150k, and if we reach 200k then I buy the crew tickets to Mexico.
What has fishing in Bristol Bay taught you?
Bristol Bay has taught me that I can survive pretty much anything. Nothing like fishing through 50 knot winds, 10 foot waves, and blinding rain to convince one of their capabilities.
What has fishing in Bristol Bay meant to you and/or your family, what has it provided in terms of past, present, or future opportunities?
Fishing in Bristol Bay has been a meeting place for family, financial security, and a time to unplug from our wild world for generations. My grandpa, Jack, began the cycle of Vantrease Bristol Bay fisherman in a sailboat. Since then cousins, aunts, uncles, and close friends travel from around the country to meet in Bristol Bay. In an ever divided world, salmon continues to bring us together. Bristol Bay is also a unique space to disconnect from the world. Most of the summer I do not have internet access. No repetitive depressing news cycles, no Instagram, no emails, no Netflix, just me, the rolling waves, and my thoughts. In this way, Bristol Bay can be a powerful time to recenter oneself after dealing with all the noise of our current interconnected world.
Why should people choose Bristol Bay sockeye salmon? If you are going to eat salmon, it has got to be Bristol Bay. When you choose a Bristol Bay salmon product off the shelves you are taking part in history. You are supporting one of the last stable natural salmon runs in the world. The whole world! Furthermore, feel at peace knowing that within a Bristol Bay salmon there are no chemical additives, no genetic engineering, and no antibiotics. When you enjoy a delicious morsel of wild sockeye salmon you are consuming proteins, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids all naturally developed at sea.
What is your favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon?
Smoked salmon is simply the best. Coat a fillet in a brine of brown sugar, dry mustard, salt, pepper, dried celery, garlic, dried onion, and a pinch of cayenne. Smoke it over little alder rounds. Mmmmmm so good.