Well, I suppose it's my own fault that Rich is a fisherman (because of my fishing family).
That’s OK, I’ll take the blame, but Rich gets the credit because he turned out to be a great fisherman.
Rich has two surprising qualities that make a great fisherman: his communication skills and personal attention. In addition to his amazing work ethic, determination, know-how, leadership and technical skills of course.
I know hat you’re thinking - communication? A fisherman? Actually, the boats out there fishing are like a tight knit, semi-dysfunctional family. A large part of fishing is knowing where the fish are, or finding out. The fishermen aren’t just on the radio ALL the time, they have special radio, cell phone, and texting groups that share information and help each other out. Rich is a nice guy, and a good person. He remembers everybody’s name, knows who to call for help and always returns a favor. Rich is a career fisherman; out there for the long haul, building trust and making lasting friendships.
Personal attention is critical in many ways. Careful attention to the handling of the fish makes a huge difference in quality. Handling the fish with care throughout every step takes a lot of personal attention and patience on the part of the fisherman. Another type of personal attention is with others. Rich always says that being a good roommate is the most important thing on a boat. Fishermen are in very close quarters with each other night and day. Being a good roommate means picking up after yourself, doing the dishes right away, helping out before you are asked and having a positive attitude. Sometimes fishing can be like an episode of survivor - be a backstabber, shirker, or a pain, and you’ll get voted off!
Communication and attention are qualities that come naturally to Rich, but he has also had many years to hone the technical skills that make a great fisherman. Rich started fishing in 1996, at the age of 26. He was on a Salmon boat in Bristol Bay that I won’t mention by name. The skipper was old and worn out, and so was the boat; Rich was afraid for his life most of the time on that boat. The next season, he broke in as a greenhorn on my Dad’s boat, the Alrita. The Alrita was a traditional wooden longliner, steeped in history, that fished for Halibut and Black Cod in the Gulf of Alaska. With a tight-knit crew and zero turnover, Rich had to endure being the perpetual greenhorn as well a the captain’s son-in-law. The work was grueling, but Rich dug in and learned the traditional way. He spent 10 years on the Alrita, and became a part-owner, before he struck out on his own.
Later in the season, when the fishing slows down a bit, the deckhand gets to go home, and we bring the family out to help him crew.
After 10 years on the Alrita, Rich was ready to be his own boss. It was a big step for our family - to be in charge of our own schedule. We were excited to have some control over when and how much Rich fished. Maybe he could even make it home for special events…ha ha! (that never happens). We bought a used gillnet boat and named her the Miss CamiLou, after our daughters' middle names (Camille and Louise). Rich has been fishing the Miss CamiLou in the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound for Salmon since 2011. Rich runs the boat with a crew of two: himself and a deckhand, plus our son or nephew every now and then. Later in the season, when the fishing slows down a bit, the deckhand gets to go home, and we bring the family out to help him crew. This yields less fish, but more memories.
Rich isn’t just a fisherman, we are a fishing family. The kids and I are behind him 100%, and we understand that while he hates to be gone, it's something that he loves to do.