Salmon Sisters 2015 Fishing Essentials
This gear list is based off of our commercial fishing experience gillnetting in Area M on the Alaska Peninsula, Seining in Prince William Sound and longlining from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor.
If you have helpful hints or ideas specific to your fishing area please add a comment to this post. We would love to hear from you! Tag #aksalmonsisters with your packing or boat photos too!
Before you go, if you have a little extra wiggle room in your budget we recommend purchasing a durable, water-proof duffle bag (possibly with back-pack straps) large enough to safety and efficiently carry your gear. It will last you seasons and can be drug down the dock, tossed into a bush plane and keep your valuable possessions dry. We use our bags as a personal closet/organizer all summer.
XTRATUF Boots: Yes, we’ve all had a poorly made pair from Xtratuf’s recent batches, but many retail locations honor a one year guarantee on the boots they sell, so bring your defective pair in with a receipt to exchange. When purchasing a pair of boots also purchase a pair of felt insoles that will keep your feet dry and warm throughout the day. Remember to pull the liners out at night to dry and roll your boots down. When we’re out West longlining in the fall when they weather gets colder we also wear Bama Socks — they’re incredible for keeping you feet toasty and dry by sucking up the excess sweat and condensation from your boots.
Grunden’s: We’ve been wearing the thick Herkules bottoms in classic orange paired with a Gage top. Personally we like the lightweight Gage hoodies for better mobility, flexibility and little protection. Also, they have a little patch of soft fabric to protect were the zipper rubs against your face and they fit well over base layers and baseball hats. Make sure the Velcro on the wrists works well and can synch tightly over your gloves or look for a jacket with Neoprene cuffs. If your jacket doesn’t have Neoprene cuffs we suggest grabbing a few pairs of wristers, they will soak up excess water and eliminate chafing.
On a closure? Turn your pants inside out and soak them in diluted bleach. You will get an extra few seasons out of a pair of bottoms by eliminating the mildew and fish blood/gut bacteria that grows in the pants' inner lining. We found, while seining in PWS last summer, Red Ledge jackets were super lightweight and water-proof enough to withstand stacking gear.
Sunglasses: We recently jumped on the sunglasses train. After years of squinting with tired eyes from the constant glare, we laid down the bigger bucks for a pair of polarized glasses. It has been worth the investment and have been great for general eye protection from spray or debris, and helps us see schools of fish more clearly in the water.
Headwear: It is the absolute worst to have tendrils of hair escape and become a constant annoyance while you're working. Our current strategy: hair tucked into a pony, bun or braid with a E'klaar thick sport headband to keep everything secure. We also wear baseball hats or our sweatshirt hoods up under our raingear hood for a little extra warmth. Browse E'klaar or SKIDA headwear online, we can promise their headbands and hats will save you the annoyance of tucking hair away. Trust us…wet gloves don’t do the trick and pushing your hair back with a knife never works that well either.
Gloves: You need extra pairs. Turn them inside out to dry when they're not in use and rotate pairs. We use blue rubber gloves with a pair of cotton liners to longline. Thinner orange are great for seining and gillnetting to have a better feel for the web.
Longline: purchase a knife belt or make your own with a serrated Victorinox, sheath, and strap from an old pair of Grunden’s bottoms.
Goal: To stay dry and warm! Change often, even if it seems like an insurmountable task to unzip your jacket with your wet gloves to change out of your raingear. Your attitude will experience a vast improvement once you have a fresh, dry layer on, new gloves or a dry coat.
Feet: Take care of your feet. Seriously. Have a second pair of crocs/slides/sandals that are breathable to wear around the boat when not on deck, or when using a tender’s or cannery's shower. Show up on the boat with multiple pairs of non-cotton socks like Darn Tough or Smart Wool. Change them often. Use foot powder/Tinactin/Lamasil to avoid athlete's foot most of the season.
The goal is to have few rotating outfits where you can stay constantly dry and warm. We’re on the boat from June 1 until October 1 and only bring three to four pairs of pants. Have at least one extra raincoat you can rotate out of between sets.
Pants: A pair of Carhartts or Carhartt overalls for boat work, outdoor projects, and staying generally warm. Polar Fleece Sweatpants or some sort of wind-resistant or non-cotton workout pants to wear under raingear. Spandex or long-underwear type leggings to wear under sweatpants or workout pants for another layer when cold. Pants that fit seamlessly into socks and do not bunch in your boots, leaving skin exposed are key. If you’re a total badass, you will wear Grunden’s pants with knee-pads built in.
Tops: Multiple long sleeve, non-cotton workout shirts to rotate though; Make sure the arms are long enough and comfortable. A nano-puff down layer or wind resistant layer to wear under raingear when the weather is bad. I have a vest I wear which adds a layer to my core but doesn’t limit the movement of arms. Sweatshirts with long enough arms and a good hood.
Here's a tip: tuck your sweatshirt into your pants. No, this is not a look to repeat in town, but it does the trick in eliminating cold air or clammy raingear touching your back or midrift (the worst!).
Have a pair of old running shoes for walking around town. When we're feeling super sporty, we bring a pair of nice “town jeans” with clean coat or hoodie to dawn on land days.
Note: We almost always forget and then regret not packing a swimsuit or shorts. Most towns have a rec center or workout facilities that are open to the public and can be a fun way to break the routine of fishing. It's also nice to have shorts to wear on a run or hike through town.
You may think this list is a little excessive or extensive, but it’s all necessary. You're responsible for keeping yourselves alive and well-cared for this season and getting on board with all the necessary tools will up your outcome of survival and happiness.
Make sure your boat has a survival suit (immersion suit) ready for you to use that has been well maintained, dry, and with a well-lubricated zipper. Many folks keep a set of plastic bags at the bottom of their suit to slip over their boots to get their suit on more quickly. Bring your own lifejacket — there are some super slim options that wrap around your head and inflate when hitting the water and LFS also has new Neoprene vests that seem to work well. Use lifejackets on trips to shore in smaller boats than you're used to, or set-netting in Bristol Bay where these are essential.
Make sure you're captain does a monthly safety drill. Learn your tasks illustrated on the station bill. Know how to take the boat out of gear, put a mark on the plotter where someone has gone overboard, and perform a MAYDAY call at the very least.
Get your BASIC CPR / FIRST AID certification through Red Cross.
Explore GCI or other local carrier options for a cheap phone. Even around the Aleutians or in Bristol Bay there are cheap and effective cell phone plan options.
Leave a detailed voicemail greeting explaining that you’re out fishing and in limited contact for the summer. Possibly give information on who to contact in an emergency situation.
Set up your bills to auto-pay and schedule automatic credit card payments.
Bring a few stamped envelopes and paper. Maybe during the season you will need to pay a bill or write a loved one, it can be darn hard to find a stamp from a tender on the Bering Sea.
Free time: Learn something new. A good book, cross-word puzzle, or board game like Settlers of Catan can raise spirits during a closure after all the boat projects are finished.
Sign up for a premium Spotify account. This allows you to make extensive playlists that you can sync to listen offline on your phone, iPod or computer. This is a life-changer. You will be the most popular person on board with an extensive music collection to play on and off deck.
Find a buddy who has a huge movie/TV show collection and transfer them to an external hard drive. You need to download an app onto your computer to change the format to be compatible for your TV screen, and purchase the appropriate HDMI cables.
Podcasts/books on tape: these will save your sanity on multi-day boat trips. Stick one on in the galley and the crew's spirits will be lifted in no time.
Like to read? Bring a mini library of books. Or a stack of outdated magazines. You can barter with them for other desired goods from fellow fishing boats or tenders.
Activities: We’re bringing a trendy SUP and kayaks this season, a hammock, and a Vitamix for smoothies.
Resources: Alaska Sea Grant has great publications on everything from net-mending to identifying Rockfish species. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has great amounts of information on Alaska’s sustainable fishing practices and recipes.
Remember to save you receipts, you can write all of your gear expenses off!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Every week we share the stories of Alaskan makers and young fishermen on our social media channels. This project has given us a deeper appreciation for the community who work on Alaska waters and those who work to create Alaska goods. Everyday we learn from new people who inspires us to be better fishermen and create more beautiful things. Enjoy the following stories from a few of the Alaskan fishermen and makers we've learned from. Stay tuned for more wonderful stories this summer!
Thank you Vogue and the amazing Evgenia Arbugaeva for capturing this community of hard-working women that we hold in such high esteem. What a day for this diverse group of strong and independent women to have a moment of recognition. We feel incredibly to lucky to be able to use our Salmon Sisters audience to highlight our larger community and Alaska’s commercial fisheries.
This year, we traveled to Astoria, Oregon to attend the annual FisherPoets Gathering, a celebration of the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose and song. FisherPoets has attracted storytellers and their many fans since 1998. We dare say it was one of the highlights of our winter.