For the past two years, my sister and I have made our way to Seattle for the Marine Pacific Fish Expo. We've been lucky to know great organizations like AMCC and Alaska Sea Grant that have let us set up in a corner of their booths to spread the salmon love and sell Salmon Sisters gear. If you've been to Fish Expo before, you have an idea of how many fisher folk are united in one giant space, talking the talk, walking the isles to find a new part for their boat, or new technology for their net, or a floaty keychain, or a hoodie to bring home to their kids. Amongst the middle-aged salty gentlemen, one charming and soft-spoken young woman introduced herself to us, and we were hooked. Meet Nelly, adventurer, artist, fisherwoman, traveler, driver of a Volkswagon Westfalia, and owner of Drifters Fish, a direct-marketing company that feeds wild seafood to the world! We've followed Nelly's ventures over the years, and couldn't be more excited to have her in our quiver of AK Wild Women. Nelly writes more about her life as a fisherwoman, food producer, and adventurer, below.
"I grew up in a fishing family where I would work together with my brothers and dad on a seine boat every summer in Prince William Sound, Alaska. I loved the adventure of working on the water and exploring the bays and beaches of the beautiful Sound on the days we had off.
Now I spend my summers fishing with my husband Michael on our 31-foot gillnet boat called the Pelican. I love the commercial fishing lifestyle for the opportunity it gives us to work together and also adventure together in the off season. We spend most of our summer days drifting out on the water picking salmon out of the net scheming and dreaming up our next winter adventure. Five years ago, we bought a Volkswagen Westfalia. We’ve had some great adventures driving up and down the Alaska Highway, rambling down dirt roads in the Pacific Northwest, and taking coastal highways all the way to the southern point of Baja.
There is something so exciting though after a long winter of adventuring when the fishing season creeps up just around the corner. The anticipation for that first fish sets our whole community of Cordova just buzzing, the harbor rumbling with the sound of diesel engines firing up.
The most exciting aspect of commercial fishing for me is that we get to go out and work on the water to harvest wild salmon that feeds people. I love that we get to be a part of feeding people a sustainable, wild and healthy food. I was so inspired by this that Michael and I created Drifters Fish. We started this business to offer a connection for folks interested in a direct source for wild Copper River salmon. I love this creative process of sharing our story and wild salmon harvest, it makes life as a commercial fisherman a whole new wild adventure."
Check out Nelly and Michael's website: http://www.driftersfish.com/, and follow them on Instagram @driftersfish.
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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.