S: FISHING ALASKA 2008-2010
FC: ALASKA The Early Years and 2008 to 2010
1: The Early Years to 2010 | This book is dedicated with love to my amazing, loving & unbelievably brave husband Jason, and to my sweet and just a little bit crazy dad who started it all! Love, Jena
2: And so it begins...
3: Kent Roberts started fishing in 1962 on a beach site for Keith Furman. He worked for the main peak of the sockeye salmon run on the Kenai River. He returned to Alaska in 1965 in a VW Bug with his wife Karen & daughter Dana with $ .50 in his pocket. He worked in a grocery store in Soldotna. He then moved to Seward & ran a propane truck for Petrolane. When he was there he heard on the radio in 1965 that there was a huge run in Bristol Bay and all of the canneries were plugged. He decided it would be a great idea to become a fisherman in Bristol Bay. He chose to build his own boat, even having absolutely no boat building experience. He went to the American Fork, UT library and looked at some books on boat building. He got a loan & went to work. He drew each rib on the cement floor of the old turkey plant. He started with the keel & built up from there. Then he covered it with 3/4" plywood, about a million screws and then covered it in fiberglass. He put a used marine Chrysler Crown engine in it. Soon the "Karen Anny" was ready for her maiden voyage! He took the frame out from under the house trailer he was living in and loaded it on. He blew out every tire on the way to Seattle & shipped her via Alaska Steam Ship Co. to Bristol Bay by Naknek. When he arrived in June of 1966 he could not find a market for his fish. He finally found John Wilkinson with Bering Sea Processors. He agreed to take his fish if he would run the Cat & weld for him when he wasn't fishing. His first opening he got a ticket for fishing over the line. He had to pay $400. They were in two bad storms that year. The first storm was over 70 miles per hour. They tried to go over the waves toward the Naknek River for safety, but the prop & the rudder were too small to make it up over the crest of the wave. So, they had to follow the trough of the waves & ended up at Johnson Hill. Both Kent & Dale tried to calm the waves by the power of the Priesthood, which they held, but the seas took their own time. One beautiful, sunny day he was going out to fish & Dale Greening was lying out on the engine lid & there was a big explosion. The cooling expansion tank had heated up too hot & blown. Right before it blew Dale said he heard a voice that said, "Get up and go to the back of the boat." Then he heard it again. So, he got up & went to the back of the boat. The lid he was laying on blew out into the ocean. Kent thought that the boat had been blown in half and he ran out looking for his life preserver. It was a close call but they got everything working again. Then they went in to deliver their fish in the river at the scow (tender) & they had 1,000 pounds of fish. When Dale stepped from the boat to the scow he fell in & was sucked under the boat by the swift current. Kent hurried to turn off the engine so he didn't get him in the prop. Luckily he managed to hang on to the rope & they were able to pull him back on board. He said he'd had enough & decided to go home. Kent was left alone to finish out the season. One day he was on the beach trying to get the boat ready to go back out. Along came a young man from Kodiak who asked Kent for a job. Kent hired him & they headed out. The weather was a little overcast & they set the net out by Johnson Hill. A huge storm came up with winds over 100 miles per hour. The engine got wet because the lid was gone & it wouldn't start. They tried to pull the net in but it was so tight that you couldn't even move it without engine power. They were forced to ride out the storm. Kent prayed off & on for eighteen hours that they were in the storm. Luckily the net held the boat into the waves. Many calls came across the radio asking for help. They could not call for help because they didn't have anyone that they fished with. Towards the end of the storm the boat was half full of water. They used five gallon buckets to remove the water as they could. The young man from Kodiak told Kent that they should say a prayer. Kent asked him to pray and he said that he hadn't prayed for seven years. He said a nice prayer & Kent had a calm feeling throughout the whole storm. He also made many promises to Heavenly Father if he would get him out of it. Finally they got close to "Dead Man Sands" & the net broke loose. The waves then began to hit the side of the boat & throw it. Then the boat would upright itself. The young man wanted to jump overboard & swim for shore. Kent finally had to yell at him & told him he would surely drown if he did. So he stayed in the boat. The water began to get shallower & Kent threw out the anchor & it finally grabbed & safely held the boat into the waves. Kent put out a white distress flag so that someone would help them. The young man got some food, Kent's rifle & headed down the beach. Kent saw him a week later & his fishing days were over. The next day a pilot landed by the boat & took Kent back to Naknek. Upon return he discovered that many of the fisherman thought that he had perished at sea. Fourteen boats & seven people lost their lives in that storm. After two attempts Kent was able to salvage the boat & get back to Naknek. He caught only about 2,000 fish & he was paid $ .80 per fish. He headed for home unable to pay his boat loan at the bank & with his tail between his legs. Why he ever returned will forever be a mystery!
4: Back in the DAY! | Jena & I were married in April of 1994. We spent our first summer together in Naknek, AK. Jena worked at Red Salmon Cannery & I worked for my father-in-law Kent on the Sea Dog. Kent Captained the Arctic Wind. Nathan Roberts was Captain of the Sea Dog & the crew was myself, Trent Call & Chad Call. It was a great experience & it instilled in me a love for fishing on the Bering Sea. | This was the year of "Bozo the Brad." He has had a lot of crazy hairdo's over the years but this one tops them all!
5: Here is a map of Bristol Bay. We generally fish in the Naknek-Kvichak District. Kent loves to go to Ugashik at the end of the season & he has had years where it has really paid off for him & Brad. We also try out Egegik every few years. Just to test the waters. It is a madhouse there because they have so many boats in such a small area.
6: Lynn & I spotted some humpback whales when we were out fishing in the skiff. One surfaced a few feet from us. It was AMAZING! | I fished for herring in Togiak, AK. in 1995 & 1996 with Kent. It was a great learning experience. I was the skiff man and it was my job to tow the net out around the school of fish. We were not very successful but that is why they call it fishing, not catching! My brother-in-law Lynn Ethington was part of the crew in 1996 and we had a blast. | Herring Fishing in Togiak Bay
7: In 1995 when I went up to Togiak with Kent we went to see Sam Egli. Sam is a long time friend of Kent's & he bought the first cabin that Kent built in Naknek near Leader Creek. Sam is also the Branch President in Naknek. He told us that he had been having problems with his 206 Cessna. He said that every time he got to a certain elevation the engine would cut out & he thought he had it fixed. He asked if we wanted to go for a test flight & we hopped in. We were flying along & it was beautiful when all of the sudden the engine stalled! We started spinning toward the ground & I began to see my life flash before my eyes! I was absolutely terrified! We were getting closer & closer to the ground when all of the sudden the engine started up & Sam pulled the plane out of the spin. He & Kent started laughing uncontrollably & I realized pretty quick that the joke was on me! | Sam & his wife Glenda own Egli Air Haul & they also run the town fireworks stand. Jena used to babysit for them in the summers until she started working at the cannery.
8: Katmai is one of our favorite places to visit at the end of the season. We can get there by plane or boat and it is worth the trip. It is known worldwide for its abundance of bears. | KATMAI National Park
9: We had a great time. We went to Katmai and we fished at Paul's Creek and caught some big King's. We also traveled up the Branch River on our drift boats. Memories were made that will last a lifetime and my grandpa said it was the trip of his dreams! | I was fortunate enough in 1995 to have my dad, Theron Wood and my grandpa, Ray Mayhew come up at the end of the season.
10: I bought the "Think or Thwim" from Ralph Ertz in 2008. He had fished with Kent for 30 years & was ready to retire from fishing. I bought the boat for $60,000 & the permit for another $60,000. The boat had not been fished for 4 years & it took about $40,000 to get everything running & functional again. The boat was a 1985 Rozema with Volvo twin diesel engines. | There's nothing like biting off more than
11: you can chew, and then chewing anyway. | Mark Burnett
12: Captain: Woody Crew: Ryan Wood, J.T. Austin & Travis Lambert Market: Baywatch Seafoods Vessel: Think or Thwim | 2008 "The Season From HELL!"
13: Welcome to your first year as captain. Now hurry and learn how in the world it is supposed to be done... | I didn't know that I would need to be a Master Diesel Mechanic in order to be a FISHERMAN? Good thing I had my camera so that I could show pictures to the LFS guys. | TO DO LIST *Repair Old Electrical *Figure Out Gear *Get Boat Running? *Cut Out Bunk *Redo Bin System for Slush *Learn How to Work on Diesel Engines? What the... | I hired Travis out of Spanish Fork and he served in the Military. One day, when we were in the boatyard, he asked me what sea level we were at. I told him probably about 10 feet. He went home a few days after we arrived and he never even made it into the water. Said he'd pay me back though, ha, ha.!
14: My very first opener I caught 1,600 pounds. I also was rammed by another boat. We had a fuel leak and lost a lot of fuel because of crossover issues. Had bad fuel in reserve tanks. Hydraulic System in disrepair and has several leaks. Steering System leaks. It's all part of the journey... | "Let's Do This"
15: Ryan was only able to stay for a few short weeks. I really could have used him the whole season. | J.T. was great. He had fished for a few years with Brad & Kent and he was a huge asset. | I spent a lot of my time learning from other fishermen. | "I AM NOT AFRAID TO LEARN THE HARD WAY." | Being a first time Captain, I had a very difficult time finding a market. So I was finally signed on to Baywatch Seafoods. I would later live to regret this decision. | Baywatch had several issues throughout the season. The biggest being that I had to miss 5-6 fishing periods during peak fishing. They had refrigeration problems.
16: Okay, so I got the net in the wheel a couple of times. Oh, and maybe the brailers too. My bad!. | Shay Warren helped me out for a few days. We got stuck on a sandbar and after we were dry we saw that had we gone to either side we would have gotten off. At this point you have to laugh. | We had to replace our main hydraulic line. Also had problems with my alternator and I lost my radio & electrical. Oh, and did I mention that Brad & Kent decided to go to Ugashik to fish, and I couldn't go because my cannery didn't have a tender available there. | We drug anchor all the way across the bay. When we went over another boats net we told them that their net came up and grabbed our anchor and pulled it down. The Captain said he had never seen that in all his 30 years of fishing. Go figure?
17: I was caught in a terrible storm one night. My GPS was only working up on my fly bridge. I had to follow the lights of the boats and ride the storm for several hours to make it to safety in the river. | "There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm." | When returning back to put up the boat at the end of the season, I discovered that I had been kicked out of Leader Creek's boatyard for accidentally ramming one of their boats earlier in the season...and that's not even the cherry on top! | You show me a fisherman, and I'll show you a man who believes in God.
18: The Final Tally... Pounds Caught: 52,000 Price: $ .60 per pound Baywatch didn't pay me the full amount and in the end they still owed us $13,800 at the end of 2009. | The Fish Tale! | Oh yeah, just one more little thing... JENA'S PREGNANT!!
19: Next Year Can't Be Any Worse RIGHT?
20: Captain: Woody Crew: Quin Kohler & Tyler Genz Market: Snopac Seafoods Vessel: Think or Thwim | 2009 "The Learning Curve"
21: Tyler was from North Pole, Alaska and Quin married my niece Tana. They were an awesome crew! We worked hard and had lots of laughs! | If at first you don't succeed. Try, try again. | Joey at LFS put in a lot of hours on my boat. I had the hydraulic system completely revamped. We also redid the table, put in a new stereo system, and pacer pump. | Maddy 13, Brody 4, Emmye 7, Audrey 12, Lauren 10 & Bronson 3 months. | Well, this year I left one more child at home. Bronson ended up being a huge blessing in our family. I can't imagine life without him.
22: THE CURSE OF THE NET IN THE WHEEL! | We went into the water three times. Tyler and I both cut our fingers in the exact same place trying to get the web out!
23: No, it is not "Organized Chaos". It is just... | CHAOS!
24: The Time Bandit was a tender for Trident Seafoods. We bought diesel fuel & ice cream from them while fishing in Ugashik! | The Discovery Channel has a popular show called Deadliest Catch that is based on crab fishing in the Bering Sea. During salmon season we deliver to many of the same crab boats that are in the show.
25: Snopac & Trident were plugged with salmon & so they told us that they could not let any of us fish. Baywatch offered to buy my fish because they were in need. Due to the fact that they didn't pay their fisherman from 2008, including me, they didn't have many boats fishing for them. They promised to pay me for my past fish along with the fish I delivered this season. I was happy because I was able to fish & I caught 5,000 pounds in one set. Needless to say I didn't get paid for all of my fish. It was worth a try! | We got into a huge water fight with Brad & Kent while we were fishing. Dean Call was going crazy & we had a new pacer pump so we were hosing them. Brad joined in & Kent tried to get away. Kent slammed it in reverse & bashed right into Brad & put a big 12" gash in the back of the Sea Dog! GOOD TIMES! | Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn. ~Chuck Clark
26: "Oh God, thy sea is so great, | On the 4th of July I had a lot of fish on board & I got the web in the wheel. I called Kent to come and try to pull it out. He did, and when I began to leave he noticed that my boat was listing heavily on the port side. I hurried to deliver my fish and when we looked in the engine room it was full of water and above the batteries! My bilge pumps were not working and WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO SINK! We were hitting bottom as we got into the river and the "Polar Wolf" tugboat let us tie up to him at City Dock. Eric, from Matrix Marine, came down and tried to get the boat running. We had been manually starting & stopping it all season. He found that the problem was with the switches. He checked around Naknek and there were none to be found. He said it would be 5-7 days to have them flown in. I was devastated! This was right during peak fishing. As Eric climbed up the ladder Phil, from the "Polar Wolf", asked me what was wrong. I explained the situation and held out the switches in my hand to show him. He said, "Hey, I have a whole bag of those!" He went inside and returned with a bag of the exact switches. I yelled up to Eric to come back and he had the boat running in a matter of minutes. As he left he said, "You must be living right because you received two miracles. First, you happened to tie up to the only guy in the whole bay with those switches & second, you didn't ruin your engine!" | In the end I found that my packing was leaking and a deck plate. I missed two periods and about 9,000 pounds.
27: I was fishing on the line down by Libbyville on July 11th. I was fishing the ebb and I played it too close to the line. I was drifting toward the tenders and I hit a channel. It sucked me up to the line quick! I ran up top to check the GPS and could see we were going to go over. Just then the troopers came around one of the tenders and nailed me! When they boarded my boat they rammed me and put a dent in my boat. He gave me a ticket foR $3,000. In the end the D.A. reduced it to $1,500 because it was my first offense and then lowered that to $800 because they rammed me. LUCKY! | and my boat is so small." Author Unknown
28: I was really fortunate this year to get on with Snopac Seafoods. They were an amazing company to fish for. After my problems with Baywatch I started to shop around for another market. The day after I committed to Snopac then Trident called me to let me know that they would take me. I was very tempted to switch because Brad & Kent have been with Trident for years. In the end I knew that I had already committed to Snopac. It was a great blessing and although I had to do slush ice & bleeding for my fish, they made it well worth my time. | Jena's family knew the owners of Snopac. The daughter of the owner is Jenna and she used to hang out with Brad & Tara when Jena worked at the cannery. The Lord works in mysterious ways. | A New Market!
29: Time for some down time!
30: The Final Tally... Pounds Caught Snopac: 55,000 Trident: 1,500 Baywatch: 6,800 Total 63,300 Price: $ .70 Slush Bonus: .10 Bled Bonus: .05 Weather: Unbelievably Warm | The Fish Tale! | "Trials teach us what we are, they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of."
31: A weaker man would have given up... See ya next year!
32: Captain: Woody Crew: Tyler Genz & Derek Naccarato Market: Snopac Seafoods Vessel: DRIFT WOOD | 2010 COMBAT FISHING
33: I had Tyler back for a second season. It was nice to have someone who was familiar with the boat and fishing. He suggested that I hire his friend Derek from Cali. Probably not my best decision! | Kent's crew included Colton Long, Ethan Long, & Jody Warren. Brad had Tanner Pugnet & Bryce Dodge for his crew.
34: Fishing, Fishing & Then More Fishing! | The fish & game kept us fishing around the clock this year. We would deliver our fish, clean out our bins & brailers & sleep for and hour or two & head back out! | We added deck mats this year as required by Snopac. We are also still doing slush bags and it is really paying off. We went to Egegik at the beginning of the season and then came right back to Naknek because there were no fish there. | Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it. ~Author Unknown
35: These bunks may not look like much... but to us they are heaven itself! We go through a lot of "Seal Bombs" trying to keep the dumb sea lions off of our net. | One thing we never run out of is salmon to eat! Funny how it doesn't matter how you cook it it is always delicious! No wonder there is such a high demand for it.
36: Who Say's Bumper Boats Are Just For Kids? | This is combat fishing at it's finest. Keep your arms and legs inside the boat at all times! I probably had collisions with at least five boats this year. Brad told me to stop beating my boat. Easy for him to say before he rammed the "Captain Crunch!"
37: When I collided with the Ourik my anchor went through his window. He was trying to cork me at the line and he decided to try to play chicken with me. I laid out first and so I decided to stay my ground. It did end up breaking off my anchor housing. Whoops! | As we tied up to the Sunnyvale we had to put on 120 gallons of fuel. When we pulled off the guys untied the bow before the stern and we swung around & hit the roller on the tender. I had to cut their line & deal with a broken roller. That was just the first time we bent it that season. Later on the bolts snapped & we had a really close call!
38: We fished Libbyville & had a good day & started to head for the South Line & we got stuck on a sandbar. We missed about four hours of fishing while everyone was killing them. When the tide came in we finally made it to the South Line an hour late & made one set that nigh in the dark & caught 3,500 pounds & then lost our hydro's! We had to tie up to a tender because we couldn't put out our anchor & we had to pick our fish all night. | NEVER TOW A FULL NET AGAINST THE WIND! | We were fishing the Kvichak by the "banana trees" & Kent & Brad were getting a lot of hits to the east of us. We ran over there and tried to lay out really fast but we got a BACKLASH! It tore up about a half of a shackle of my net. We laid out the rest & started getting a TON of hits! We got hits for about an hour & a half when we started to drift down onto another boat. I towed my full net against the wind to make it around him & then decided to pick the first shackle. To my surprise my net was ROLLED INTO A TOOTSIE ROLL! To make a long story short we had to take the red knives to the first shackle so I was down to only a shackle & a half to fish with. The amazing part is that we still caught 7,000 pounds in a shackle & a half of gear! | May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it. ~Irish Blessing | My Grandpa Mayhew passed away this summer. Jena called me & we were able to have a conference call with him. I was able to say goodbye & let him know how much he meant to me.
39: Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all. ~Sam Ewing | Derek couldn't stick it out. He said he was working too hard & not getting enough sleep. I should have know that hiring a non-mechanical, chubby kid from California was a mistake. Oh well, chalk it up to lessons learned! Tyler & I finished out the last 10 days without him & we had a blast without him! | Let's get the heck out of here!
40: We only ride in luxury in Naknek. Brad has Dee Long's old Ford. Kent has the Burb & he finally shipped up his Chevy this year. I sent up my little gray four-wheeler last year. At least we have a way to get around, most guys just use their thumb! | The Boatyard and Our Sweet Rides!
41: It was the end of the season & we were putting up our boats. Brad had taken all of the guys to Katmai except for Kent, Jody & myself. We were working on our boats & I climbed down to get a filter out of the truck. As I was walking back I saw Kent climbing onto the ladder from the top of the Sea Dog. It slipped and Kent flew back and fell to the ground. He fell about 10' onto his head & shoulder, knocking him unconscious! I ran to him & he wasn't breathing or moving at all. I thought he was a goner! I yelled to Jody to call an ambulance on channel 16. He didn't breathe for about 2 minutes & I was afraid to move him because we didn't know if he had broken his neck. We were about to start CPR when he finally took a big gasp of air. The paramedics were there within 5 minutes. He started to come around & they rushed him to the clinic. He had a huge hematoma on the back of his head the size of a baseball. They were concerned about bleeding on the brain & decided he should be transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage. | Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't. ~Richard Bach | After we had at the clinic for 2 hours they cleared him for travel to Anchorage. We loaded him in the truck & headed to the boatyard to grab his personal items. Jody said he would go with him so that Brad & I could finish putting the boats up. On the way to the airport we pulled over & gave him a blessing. Kent was pretty out of it & he had a major concussion, so he was asking the same questions over & over & over! He asked me what happened at least 50 times on the way to the airport. Finally we started messing with him! We started telling him that he only caught 15,000 pounds or that he got in a bar fight. He would believe us for a second & then immediately forgot. Brad was informed by the rangers at Katmai that his dad had been in an accident. They wouldn't give him any details & he was terrified! In the end Kent had 3 broken ribs, a major concussion, massive bruising on his head & side of his body & a torn shoulder. They said he was lucky that he was a "burley old dude!" The doctor said it could take up to a year to recuperate. His balance was off & he was in a lot of pain for quite some time. We know that it was a miracle from God that he even survived a fall like that at 71 years old!
42: The Final Tally... Pounds Caught: 83,400 Price: $ .95 Slush Bonus: $ .16 Bled Bonus: $ .05 Weather: Unbelievably Cold | The Fish Tale! | The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan
43: Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job. ~Paul Schullery