I am a third generation commercial fishing woman in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I grew up spending my summers in the small village of Egegik where my family is from, fishing and operating a commercial set net site.
Being born and raised in Alaska, sports fishing was always a hobby for me but turned into a passion when I picked up fly fishing about five years ago. I was a collegiate athlete for the University of Alaska Anchorage and when my running career was over I picked up a fly rod. I found fly fishing to be very therapeutic for me and challenging in many ways.
The fall of 2019 was my first season as a sports fishing guide on the Egegik River I grew up commercial fishing on. This year was another record year for Sockeye Salmon throughout the Bristol Bay region and proved the same for silvers as thick black lines of Coho Salmon stacked the shores of the river on their way to Becharof Lake. This summer was unusually warm and people from all over experienced world class fishing for five species of salmon, Arctic Char, and Grayling. On top of the great fishing was the wildlife viewing. The Bristol Bay region is home to many but also serves as a safe haven for long distance travelers. Along with all the bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and small critters I shared space with I was fishing with many species of migratory birds, some rare to be seen. Every creature was enjoying the large masses of salmon bringing life to the region.
Each morning I’d wake up to a roaring sun rise, eat breakfast, and take a group of fly fisherman out fishing. We’d either walk from our camp to take a jet boat to different areas of the river where people could hunt pods of salmon in the river flats, or up to the rapids and the mouth of the lake for more action in the current. We’d return to camp and eat fresh caught Coho Salmon and I’d sit on the tundra covered hills eating plump cranberries while watching the sun finally set late at night. The smell of the tundra reminded me of when I was a little girl growing up out here in rural Alaska, in a village that will always be near and dear to my heart. How grateful I am to a fishery that has sustained my family and myself for all these years and that I can make a living with something that I love and also be able to share that with new visitors to the region.
With the Pebble Mine inching closer to breaking ground in Bristol Bay it’s heartbreaking to imagine this area could change, be gone or completely destroyed in coming years. I only hope that we all continue to stand up and fight for its pristine beauty and a part of Alaska that is so much more than a strong fishery.
Written By: Ivy O'Guinn (Fishe Ambassador)