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The Fisherwoman Fishes

by | Jul 17, 2015 | Family | 5 comments

You may know her as Robbi the illustrator, she who stays up late eating chocolate and drawing pictures, but for a few weeks each year, she takes off her street clothes, puts on this hat, and becomes a superhero of sorts. Slayer of Salmon, Scourge of the Tundra. There are are no words that capture it entirely. But you get my meaning.


I have blogged at great length in the past about how the fishing works, and so I will not repeat myself here. But the short story is that Robbi has a permit to fish in the Egegik district. It is a limited-entry system, which means not just anyone can go up there and fish. Robbi got her permit from her parents who bought it from someone else years ago. Robbi also has a site, which is a specific place along the beach where she is permitted to fish. Sites are leased on an annual basis, but as long as one keeps fishing one’s site, it can be kept from year to year.

Here is Robbi’s fishing site. Beautiful, yes?


The kids and I went down to wish her luck. And watch her work.

You’ll see the rope with buoys to the left of the shot and the big orange buoy way out in the water. Robbi fishes using a rope-and-pulley system that is a big square. Two sides of the square are parallel to the shoreline and two are perpendicular. When she fishes, Robbi attaches a 100-yard net to one of the perpendicular ropes and pulls it into the water. The fish swim along and get caught by the gills.


When they do, they jump and splash. Robbi sees the splash and goes out to get them in her little orange raft.


There are, of course, many complicating factors, but that’s the gist of it.


Our primary target is sockeye (or red) salmon. Our nets are gauged to catch sockeye of the appropriate age and size. But occasionally, a king gets snagged in the net and we bring it home. Kings are bigger and their meet is fattier (and richer tasting).


Most of the fish we sell immediately to buyers who drive up and down the beach in large trucks with cranes on the back. But some we bring home for lunch.


And some we fillet to bring home for good eating throughout the winter.


The “home pack,” as it’s called, gets vacuum packed before getting flash frozen.


And there you have it; 40 years of Robbi’s expertise boiled down into a few words and pictures.

Robbi comes home tomorrow. And so ends a week of single parenthood. I have survived it with a little help from Costco and Netflix.

Much more Alaska yet to come. One has time up there to take a lot of pictures.





  1. John Ramsey

    I remember our time up there with fondness, and not just for the fish.

  2. Robbi

    Your fondness for the fish was extraordinary, so I take that as a high compliment, John.

  3. Elizabeth Roth (nickname Sally)

    I lived for a short time in Akiachak AK. I have created 21 framed watercolor paintings and written 21 accompanying fictional poems based on my experiences there with those wonderful people. I am creating a DVD in which, with the help of the video developer and using my own photographs and my own voiceover, the whole experience will be set to musical interludes. Robbie’s fishing reminds me so of some of my joyful times fishing and fish camp times there. Would love to make a book about that experience. Thank you for sharing. Elizabeth Roth

  4. jenifer e e

    Wow, what a fisherwoman awesome person you are, Robbi!

  5. Matthew


    Sounds like a great project. Please send us a link when it’s finished and available!