With millions of salmon returning to spawn annually – including some larger than my four-year-old child – Alaska is a bucket-list destination for many anglers, so it came as no surprise when a Hollywood film company called to request shooting an episode of a new show for the Travel Channel at our summer fishcamp.
There is no shortage of reality shows about Alaska right now, but a few sincerely and accurately depict our unique way of life. The producers of this pilot, as the name implies, wanted to showcase “True Alaska,” and even hired a host who is an Inupiaq Eskimo, born and raised here.
Alaskans are, by the state’s constitution, allowed access to a share of its natural resources. What this means is that in addition to being able to catch salmon via the traditional hook-and-line method, for two weeks every summer Alaskans can also partake in “personal use” fishing, which is using either huge, handheld hoop nets (locally called dipnets) with a five-foot diameter, or, as we do, use set-gillnets, which are 60-foot-long nets that hang, like a curtain, suspended in the water under a line of floating corks.
On a slow day we may only pull in six or seven fish after fishing a six-hour tide, but on a good day we can, and have, pulled in more than 100 salmon. Under personal-use guidelines, each head of household is allowed to keep 25 salmon, plus 10 for each additional member of the family. The idea is to provide Alaskans a means for self sufficiency and cheaper groceries in a land where a gallon of milk is $5.
Since we can only (only being a subjective term here) keep 45 for our household, we tend to fish with several other families who don’t own a set-net and the associated pulleys and gear, turning the time at our fishcamp into a two week tailgate party/barbecue/camping trip and sharing access to this amazing resource. Since this is truly what life in Alaska is all about, we decided to take part in the filming.
Living in a place where the sun shines nearly 24 hours while we’re fishing, I had my Karma Fishing hat on during much of the filming. I was happy to share it with the viewers because I believe in the same goal as Karma Fishing: that the ocean and the planet need people to be better stewards if we are to ensure species like salmon are to continue to swim, spawn, and survive in the future.
Joseph Robertia lives in Kasilof, AK. with his wife and daughter. When not fishing in summer or mushing rescued sled dogs in winter, Joseph writes for a living. His first book, Life with Forty Dogs, was recently published by Alaska Northwest Books and is available through Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Forty-Dogs-Misadventures-Retirees/dp/1943328919