George Coval is a long-standing part of this gillnet fishery. He has been home, in Alaska, since the day he arrived from Maine in 1978. As an Alaskan he is proud to work with the vibrancy of this resource state to provide for his family and for other’s who don’t have the opportunity to fish for theirs. “It is about access,” Coval explains, “not everyone has the means to fish for their own we provide the access to a good product.”
The Copper River Fishery maintains with an intact watershed where bounty and wildness remain. The fish that come from this region travel 300 miles from the ocean through rugged terrain and unspoiled icy waters to reach their spawning grounds. The fishermen extend their nets in the flats of the Copper River Delta, just before the salmon make their journey up. The salmon caught from this region are plump, vibrant, and rich in nutrients from the waters they come from, but it is no easy job.
In the twenty years George has been salmon fishing he reminisces about his early days when he was a greenhorn in his own right. The openers are long, the conditions can be rough, and there are many learning curves to overcome. But at the end of the day when you look out at your surroundings, you really can’t beat it. “There are not many occupations you can continue doing to the end, but this is one of them. I learned a lot from the old timers when I first started and I hope to pass that along as I continue to be a part of this fleet.”
This fishery is multi-generational. It is esteemed to be past down to the next because it is the heart of this community. The longevity of the run is vital and while salmon are naturally renewable it is important to help encourage their return through enhancement. The demand for protein is on the rise and it is important to supplement the wild runs through the hatchery program. “It is like ocean ranching,” George explains, “we basically rear, feed and release them and they return according to their natural cycle.” It is the wild west of the west, still wild and still rearing.
Fall has rounded the corner. Boats are being pulled out of the harbor, and projects are being checked off. George reflects on the end of the season, “This is the fun part of the year watching migrations, hunting, and harvesting silvers, it’s when work and play are one in the same.” It’s no wonder this lifestyle becomes something you can come back to year after year.
“Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.”
Posted on 10/17/2014 at 9:02:00 AM