The first time I traveled to Bristol Bay to commercial salmon fish, I was fifteen years old. I was fifteen and TERRIFIED of fish. That’s right: I am a commercial salmon fisher and have an irrational fear of fish. But I was invited to be “crew-in-training” for Popsie and was officially offered a spot at the table. All I had to do was face my fear. Thank goodness I fish with my family because my very first tide was with my step-mom, Sarah. Imagine – teenage Erin jumping and squealing in the ocean any time salmon hit our net. It took me maybe twenty minutes to finally gain the courage to TOUCH a fish – let alone pick it from the net. Sarah was kind, patient, and encouraging. And because of that, I was able to eventually face my fear of fish.
There are many family owned businesses, but The Popsie Fish Company is special. For one, we’re all commercial salmon fishermen. Second, we spend an average of 6-8 weeks every summer isolated on a beach with very little influence from the outside world: no internet, no news, no social media. And yet we ALL survive – no matter how stir crazy we might get! Third, everyone in our family is involved – grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts & uncles. We all take responsibility, pride, and ownership for Popsie Fish Company because we all work hard to make sure Popsie is what it is – a family company that provides you the best possible and highest quality fish from fisher to fork.
I wouldn’t choose to fish with any other crew. Fishing with family is hard work and involves lots of teasing, some drama & the occasional bumping of heads. But it’s also so much fun –laughing in rafts, sharing margarita and pizza Fridays, card games around the dinner table, bonfires, difficult work, stormy seas and pushing ourselves to our physical and mental limits…all together as family. Put any family on an isolated beach in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness for eight weeks each summer and you are bound to hit some bumps in the road. And we do – we are no exception. Sometimes we fight, we say insensitive comments when we’re tired from fishing two tides a day, and we need some quiet alone time away from everyone else. But what makes Popsie so special is that our family handles these bumps so forgivingly. We understand each other’s boundaries. We are comfortable with one another. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And because of this – working and fishing together, united and as one, almost feels effortless at times.
I’ve grown up feeling empowered by what my own two hands and mind could do when put to the test; the persistence, dedication, and exhaustion that it takes to be a commercial fisher has given me strength and independence. I doubt that fishing with another crew would have made me into the woman I am today.
For most of the year, our family is spread out all over the place: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, and even Ireland, but fishing gives us a reason to unite every summer; to make memories and work hard and fish salmon. Popsie connects us with one another, with other fishers and with our customers – like YOU!
Written by: Erin Washer