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Q: What inspired you to join a fishing crew?

 After graduating from Michigan State, I started working on a Salmon Conservation for a non-profit in Alaska. During my outreach work in Anchorage, and Southeast Alaska, I was inspired by the strong relationship between Salmon and the fishing community. Almost everyone you talk to in the community has some type of connection to Salmon fishing. Those communities really rely on the Salmon that are caught for their own sustainability to feed their families through the winter. I loved that. That is what made me really want to get my hands dirty.

 I went to school for Women’s Studies and Social work, and I saw the connection with how Alaska relies so much on community and family. I was doing advocacy work for other issues, it was very relatable. There is a lot of connection between feminism and fishing, especially being on an all-female crew. The Scow we worked on is historically female operated for 32 years. The women rely on Salmon to feed their families for generations and generations.

 

 Q: What exactly is the Shoreline Scow?

The Scow is like a floating house boat and is also called a barge. So that means, the scow is like a middle man for fishermen. The fishermen go on big fishing trips and their boats are full of fish and they need to off load and fill up on ice to start again. Trips can go up to 4 or 5 days at most. The scow is anchored right by the coast about 10 miles out of Pelican, Alaska. Instead of spending an entire day going into town to unload, the fisherman can off load it right there. The big boat for off-loading from the scow is called a tender. There is a tiny little grocery store for fishermen and a laundry machine. The scow is run by three women every season. There is another fish buying station that is in town, my business partner Keith owns and operates both of these. The one in town is also all female crew. If you go anywhere in Southeast Alaska and ask about the scow girls, they will be like those are some touch chicks! We handled over 400,000 pounds of fish last season. We sort the fish by size and species and then ice the fish in layers to keep them cool and fresh. The next time they are taken out of ice, they are cut and vacuumed sealed to be frozen. All of our fish are 5 days old when frozen and vacuumed sealed.

 

Q: How long have you been fishing in Alaska?

 I am pretty new at this actually; last season was my first season. This year I am going to be bouncing between town and the scow, but mostly based in town. Turns out it is hard to run a business when you are on the ocean in the middle of nowhere. I hope to still be on the scow a few days and go on a couple fishing trips. But Joe my business partner and fisherman, he is second generation fisherman and his son is my age. He has been doing it his whole life. Anybody will tell you that Joe is one of the most respected fishermen out there.

 

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Q: Explain a bit, what you do?

 What is unique about our fish being troll caught is that they are all caught with hook and line. Trolling boats go walking speed almost, so it is slowly dragging all of these lines and pulling the fish up one by one with a gaff hook. What is special about that is our fish are cleaned immediately once they are pulled aboard. A lot of boats with nets will take them into a plant at the end of the day to be cleaned. The fish are also pressure bled, which means all of the blood is flushed out of their system, this takes extra time for fisherman and not everyone does it. It takes 30 seconds per fish and keeps them fresher for freezing. This increases the quality of fish.

 

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Q: What is daily life like?

There is no time to do anything but work. Ya know, someone asked me there other day, what are your days off? I thought, what did they just ask me? When the Salmon are running, you are working for them. There are times on the scow when we were icing fish at 4am and I would lay in my bunk and the sun would rise. We are trained to wake up to the sound of a diesel engine and we would run downstairs to tie up the fish. We would wake up to a line of boats to off load and work for another twenty-four hours. It is so challenging and you have to worry about things like ordering your groceries when you are out on the water. There are a lot of thinking ahead, like keeping your cooler stocked with ice that you do not think about when you are downstairs working all the time. The scow is 30 yards from shore and we have to build our own water line that goes to a fresh water creek. If it is ever storming the water line will break and we go out to fix it. Day to day you wake up wondering when you will sleep next.

 

Q: How did you meet your crew?

I met my business partners Keith and Joe through some of the conservation work I was doing in Juno. Like I said, he knows everything about fishing and was incredible with helping me learn more about the actual process of fishing. I used to bartend in Juno and met Keith through an open mic night that is really well known in Southeast Alaska. They are musicians, so they would come a play every week. I heard that Keith owned this scow that was all female scow, and when I met him I asked if he as hiring. As far as the actual crew on the scow, the other crew member is my best friend from college. She studied Fisheries and Wild life at Michigan State. We were intrigued with how fisherman think and feel to the campaigns we worked on.

 

Q: What is one thing you miss most about living in Michigan?

I miss my parents and family, Alaska is so far away and no one is ever just casually just stopping through. I miss produce. I miss fruits and vegetables. You don’t get that up there. In Pelican, there is not even a store. Everything has to be brought in on a carrier train, that comes once a month. Or flown in by float plane. It is so challenging to get anything fresh, and we you do it spoils in a day or two. The other day I really wanted a pop, I haven’t had a pop in so long. So, I skipped in to town, and I went into a little tiny convenience store and nowhere had it. It is a different world there, no to have anything on demand.

 

Q: What is the local, Michigan tie in?

When we were looking at starting the business, we were looking at a map and I realized Michigan would be great for this. A lot of the stores here do not have the option for Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon, especially no King or Coho Salmon. I was really disappointed in the quality of Salmon I was seeing. I really wanted my family and friends back here to have access to quality, Wild Caught Alaska Salmon. Ann Arbor and Detroit are really food conscious, and a lot of people want to know where their Salmon is coming from. I want people to know exactly where it came from and they will know that it passed through my hands.

 

Q: What do you have in mind for the future?

I want to up the standards of quality for Alaskan Salmon. We want to be a provider for folks of quality Salmon.

 

Q: On the water, what do you do for free time?

The guys are both musicians. I was so amazed last summer, because we would have months were our fingers and arms were so swollen. We tried to pour coffee in the morning and struggled to grab the coffee mug. I couldn’t understand how people could keep up with playing a musical instrument.

 

Q: What are your daily challenges while out on the water?

The biggest challenge for me is to keep motivation high and to keep your energy high. When the Salmon are running you just keep going, you just have to keep going. That is the hardest part, when it comes down to it in the season, you are not thinking about the people back home, you are just thinking about what is in front of you. Keeping up is a huge struggle.

 

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Q: What are the benefits of wild salmon?

Salmon is really high in Omeg-3s, especially King Salmon with the highest oil content. People are catching on to the news about Farm Salmon and people are drawn to Alaskan Salmon and knowing that it is wild. There are not many places where Salmon are still wild anymore. Wild Salmon in the Atlantic are basically extinct. Alaska is the last place where Salmon naturally thrive.

 

Q: What is your favorite wine to drink with salmon?

When you are transporting stuff out to Pelican, if we do it by skip it is hard to take glass bottles out. My dad prefers any type of white wine with Salmon.

 

Q: What is your favorite way to prepare salmon for the summer?

I really like to bake it. I have found that is just the easiest, you throw it in the oven and a little bit of garlic, lemon pepper, and olive oil. I can eat Salmon with nothing on it and love it, I don’t really like to mask the flavor. My dad does a recipe that is my favorite and I can’t live up to it, maple syrup glaze with soy sauce in it. I can never make it as good as him.