Know your Fisherman:
Reba comes from a family of fishermen. She is the captain of the F/V Cloud 9 and is going on her 14th year of fishing in Bristol Bay.
“The fish and the people are what keep me coming back. The people I’ve met in Bristol Bay are some of the best people I’ve ever gotten to know.”
How Did you get into fishing?
Growing up, my parents fished halibut, cod, herring, and salmon. When I got old enough, I started fishing salmon with them. I couldn’t ask for a better place to have spent my summers growing up. So many of my favorite memories are from those summers spent fishing with my family and friends. There’s nothing that I’d like more than to raise my future children fishing and really hope that the waters of Bristol Bay stay pristine so this salmon run continues for many more years.
What makes you return to Bristol Bay each fishing season?
The fish and the people are what keep me coming back. The people I’ve met in Bristol Bay are some of the best people I’ve ever gotten to know. Every year when I fly out there it’s like a big family reunion. And then of course the salmon keep me coming back. There’s nothing quite like seeing that first jumper or the first fish hit your net. It really is the best thing in the world.
"There’s nothing that I’d like more than to raise my future children fishing and really hope that the waters of Bristol Bay stay pristine so this salmon run continues for many more years."
What’s special about Bristol Bay salmon?
One of the things that I think is so amazing about Bristol Bay is that it’s completely wild. No hatcheries - just pristine environment and good management. The amount of fish that find their way back each year continues to blow me away. And largely, the fishermen catching those fish have so much pride in what they do and respect for the resource. I feel really proud to be part of this fishery.
Whom do you typically fish with? Tell us about your crew.
Growing up, I always fished with different variations of my family - my Dad was the captain and then some combination of my mom, sister, brother, sister-in-law and I were crew. Spending time with family on our little boat in Bristol Bay is one of the things that made me love the fishery so much. Now that I have my own boat, my crew has been a mix of my family and friends from home. Last summer I convinced my mom to come out of retirement to fish with me and that was really awesome having her back out in the Bay rocking it on the back deck.
What’s it like Commercial Fishing in Bristol Bay?
The Bristol Bay fishery is wild in every sense of the word. The fishermen pour into the region with a crazy intensity. Everyone is rushing to get their boats ready and in the water. Once you’re in the water, it’s wild because fishermen are setting their nets in front of each other as fast as they can and jockeying for the best set. But, the true wild part is that wall of fish that comes into the district in June or July. There’s nothing quite like seeing jumpers as far as the eye can see, all swimming back to the rivers they were born in.
Do you have any unique fishing traditions that you do during the season?
We kiss the first fish we catch and throw it back.
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 am flooded with memories: I see the crewmembers before me that taught me how to pick, how to drive, how to be a good fisherman. I see the net reeling off the back deck. I see walrus bobbing behind the boat. I see stormy seas and a hundred shades of Ugashik gray. I see boats squatting on the way to the tender. I see my family laughing and working hard. I see my future and what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What is your favorite way to prepare Bristol Bay sockeye salmon?
It’s a tie between making salmon poke and having salmon in sushi rolls.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who was considering becoming a commercial fisherman?
Make sure you’re not fishing just for the money. If you love being out on the water and get stoked when you see fish jumping and hitting the net, commercial fishing will be the best “job” in the world.