“I Just Really Want to Go Fishing!” Introducing Amanda

Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Alaska, Commercial Fishing, Culture, Hooked Favorites, Sitka, Women in Fishing | 20 comments

I’m a nosy person. My social worker days allowed entry into others’ most private moments, while fishing’s mode of communication, the VHF radio, provides socially acceptable eavesdropping. The Backdoor Café’s elbow-close tables are just as handy for my voyeuristic tendencies.

One crisp March morning, camped at a corner table, I pecked out sentences between bites of peach-raspberry pie. When an earnest voice drifted over, my steel-ringed ears perked up.

“I just really want to go fishing! I know it’s clichéd, but I don’t even care about making any money.” Mentally, I mouthed the next sentence. “I just want the experience.”

Though the sentiment was familiar, the voice was not. With a casual sip of coffee, I glanced down the room. A young woman sat among the morning crew. Alaskan men whose hands are permanently etched with their mediums – motor oil, copper paint, white-laced trails of long gone hooks and blades – these regulars dished advice with indulgent smiles.

“First thing you’ve gotta do is learn to swear,” one said.

Another agreed, “Learn to swear, learn to fish, and learn to shower less.”

Long brown hair swinging forward, she leaned into their words. Teal-accented glasses shielded her eyes, yet excitement shone through body language as she nodded intently.


Back aboard the Nerka, I told Joel about this latest newcomer in the spring flood of dream-driven greenhorns. “I kinda envy her,” I mused. “Growing up in this, always knowing the reality of our business, I’ve never felt that kind of wide-eyed excitement.”

He frowned. “I don’t know about that – I still get awfully excited to go fishing. To me, excitement without knowing what to expect is just anxiety.”

“Yeah… But we know too much to be excited like that, all consumed by the fantasy.” Struggling to put my feeling into words, I cast about for a comparison. “Like kissing. Kissing someone new is crazy-exciting, and kissing someone familiar is a different, quieter kind of exciting.”

My partner of 8 years smiled. “What’s really exciting is kissing someone you know really well, but haven’t seen in a long time. That’s what coming back to Alaska and going fishing is like for me.”


I surreptitiously followed this young woman’s updates for weeks. She held a seat among the morning regulars; her open demeanor and enthusiastic ability to connect with anyone impressed me. One day, a thread of uncertainty wove through her usual optimism. She wondered aloud how she’d know if a skipper was safe.

Her apprehension echoed in my head as I walked back to the boat, a feeling of shirked responsibility tugging at my heels. Dammit…I should’ve reached out to her. Pulling out my phone, I texted one of the fishermen she’d been sitting with.

“Hey dude – the woman who wants so much to go fishing should give me a call. Would you give her my #? Thanks!”

A return message buzzed almost immediately. “Hi tele! Amanda is very excited to give u her number! Here it is: XXX-XXX-XXXX.”


That’s how I met Amanda. Several hours later, she sat in the Nerka’s cabin. Surrounded by the trappings of a foreign world, she studied the lures hanging from the helm and carefully repeated their names. Hoochies. Flashers. Spoons. I could practically see her brain creating a new file, tabbed “Fishing Terms.”

I hate to see an inexperienced young woman to find herself in a bad situation, sure, but my motivation wasn’t so pure. A friend needed a deckhand. Knowing that he prefers female crew, I wanted a better sense of who she was before making any offers. Could she actually be as genuine as she appeared?

Yes. By our visit’s end, I was openly scheming to land Amanda a job with my friend. There’s no telling how someone will handle the sea, sleep deprivation, or isolation, but it was clear that Amanda had the right attitude.

Such a good attitude, in fact, that many other folks jumped to help her in her quest. One morning she approached me with apologetic eyes. “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to help your friend… I got a job.”

Waving aside the apologies, I cheered her good news. She described her role working for a well-reputed captain on a tender – a large vessel that transports catches from the fishing grounds to the processing plant. I gave a thought of thanks for the guardians in our community. Gently cradling her fantasy in experienced hands, they’d placed equal value on her safety and the realization of a dream.

How will reality stack up against the fantasy? Wouldn’t it be fun to hear directly from Amanda on that? She’s agreed to be Hooked’s pen pal over the course of her first fishing season, letting us know how things are going. This makes Amanda our first correspondent, and I’m so delighted that you’ll get to meet her. Stay tuned – I’ll post her first letter on Monday. Meanwhile, please join me in welcoming Amanda to our community and wishing her well this inaugural season!

Have you chased a dream? How did it live up to the reality? What would you like to ask Amanda about her experience?   


  1. Tele, isn’t this a big part of what life is all about … helping others? I’m not surprised you took the action you chose. It will be great fun to hear how Amanda’s work measures up to her dreams. Good on ya!

    • Funny thing about that, Patricia… You were a big inspiration on this one! I so admire the way you use your blog to further the stories of others, and Amanda seemed like a great place to start.

      Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend… After two weeks of heavy cloud ceiling and pervasive damp, it’s a glorious day in Sitka!

  2. I am chasing a dream right now,some time it is hard to stay positive – but this story helps the “smile on”. It is wonderful to see that a person, you, is willing to help Amanda’s dream come alive!

    • Well, I really didn’t have anything to do with bringing Amanda’s dream to life, but am just thrilled to be the venue to share her story with others. If her experience can help others channel that courage and buoyant belief in themselves, that’s a wonderful thing. I suspect she’ll be very moved by hearing her story has had that impact.

      Best wishes on your own dream-chasing, Cindy – keep your head up; I’ll be cheering for you, too.

  3. Great story about Amanda and her infectious enthusiasm. Glad so many are willing to help her and that she landed a job.

    “What’s really exciting is kissing someone you know really well, but haven’t seen in a long time. That’s what coming back to Alaska and going fishing is like for me.” Ah, that line is simply beautiful.

  4. Of course you did…excited to hear what her experience is like.

    • Special spoiler alert: stand by for another social service refugee! Consider Amanda’s letters like a what-could-have-been if you’d decided to stay in Alaska surrounded by black cod heads, instead of globe-trotting. 🙂

  5. I wish Amanda the very best of luck and safe travels! What tender? Tell her Holly on the Amberle is relatively new as well and, if she gets a chance, to say hi.
    Personally, whether on a tender, a seiner, a troller, or gillnetter, I think this is the best way to spend a summer, even if the romanticism has faded.

    • I’m glad you’re here for this one, Holly – of course you can relate to Amanda’s experience! (Welcome back for your second season, btw!) We’re saying she’s on the “Nichawak” – that’s a boat pseudonym in case her captain doesn’t want his business broadcasted, and that she’ll feel more able to be honest if it’s a less-than-great experience. They’re not out of Sitka, and I’m not sure if they’re buying troll salmon – might just be tending for gillnetters. Anyway, if you guys unload to a tender with a female deckhand who’s got the biggest grin you’ve seen, you can probably introduce yourself. 🙂

      Good fishin’ to you, Holly – hope this one treats you as well as last year!

  6. sweet

  7. Wait, really? People (young women) just go to Alaska to fish without any connections or job in place? Where was Amanda sleeping? Reminds me of the tragic movie Wendy and Lucy. Have you seen it, Tele? It’s about a near-homeless woman and her dog. Not that Amanda’s story has anything to do with that, but I’m l’m looking forward to reading it.

    • See, Kari, this is exactly how I get constructive feedback even from your blog comments! Yep, “dock-walking” is the standard… Hop a ferry to a likely fishing community and start walking the docks, stop at every boat that’s got someone on deck, and ask if they need crew. Amanda wasn’t actually in that position – she’d already been living in Sitka for a year on a non-fishing job – but you’ve pointed out that this is a relevant detail for the book. Thanks, buddy!

      I haven’t seen Wendy and Lucy, but I’d probably like it. You know how I am for tragedy… 🙂

  8. awesome addition…welcome amanda!

  9. Thank you so much for the nice comment you left on my blog. It was as you said your first visit there, but your reply was as if you know all my story, as if you really felt the pain I went through. That means a lot to me. Its been more than a week that I stopped writing, but i will hopefully go back to it. My Blog is only 3 months old, but it’s the only place where I can tell my story. much love to you <3

    • There’s tremendous, life-saving power in what you’re doing, Nikky. Your story is so important – it’s your truth, something no one can deny or take away, and I’m sure the words will be waiting, ready to leap onto the page as soon as you’re ready (or compelled) to unleash them again. Until then, many friends – me included – will be standing by, sending good thoughts your way. Be safe and be well, my friend.

      • Thank you so much my friend. Much love <3

  10. Love this entry! What a spirited example of community resiliency!

    • Thought you’d like this, Cedar! 🙂

  11. I will follow your excellent writings as much as possible this summer. I do hope that the guy that told Amanda that the “first thing you’ve gotta do is learn to swear” was being facetious. I know there are a things more distasteful than a woman swearing, however . . . . .

    Have a great summer.
    Ps: Let Amanda know it’s OK to use the word fisherman 🙂

    • That first fellow was being facetious, but this gives me pause… Just realized that all of my adult jobs have been in environments that facilitate my own foul mouth – fishing, truck shop, social work with street kids… 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, George – best wishes to you and your crew for a safe season with good fishin’!


  1. “I am going to work on a fishing boat.” Letters from Amanda, Part 1 « Hooked - [...] friends – Amanda is our special pen pal for the summer, as introduced in this post. I’m grateful to…
  2. A Deckhand’s Challenges, Rewards & Proudest Moments: Letters from Amanda, Part 2 « Hooked - [...] friends – if you’ve been following the story of Amanda, our first-time fisherman guest writer, you may be as…
  3. A Mid-Season Update from the F/V Nerka « Hooked - [...] inbox had one other extremely exciting offering: an update from Amanda! It’s a wonderful glimpse into how the past…
  4. From Greenhorn to Graduate: Celebrating Amanda’s First Fishing Season « Hooked - [...] to catch up on Amanda’s journey. From an April morning when I overheard a young woman  say she wanted…