While it’s every fisherman’s wish that a boat meets his or her catching needs, the Alsek serves Jess and Caleb Robbins beyond that and suits them in their endeavors of catching and freezing their salmon, shrimp, lingcod and other species onboard for distribution to end markets in Idaho.

“Distribution to end markets” in Robbins-speak means that the couple does it themselves, with curbside deliveries during the covid regime and by other means when social distancing protocols return to pre-pandemic conditions. Consumers in the western states have come to associate their branding, Fairweather Fish Co., with a high-quality product, and business has been nothing short of brisk in the past three years.

Though the boat was built in 1979 and has fished under various names before the Robbinses acquired it in 2016, the Alsek carries the name of the river and salmon set gillnet area where Caleb cut his teeth on commercial fishing a couple of decades ago. Part of his indoctrination to fishing back then involved self-marketing.

“I grew up working farmers’ markets as a kid,” says Caleb, 29, adding that salesmanship had been ingrained in him from his grandfather, who still fishes and self-markets salmon from the remote area near Yakutat.

As for Jess and Caleb, they began marketing their troll-caught coho salmon fresh at the start of their venture. But when spending precious time at shoreside facilities to process and ship their fish-crimped harvest opportunities out on the water, they revised the strategy in their business model.

“Shipping out fresh didn’t pencil out for us,” says Caleb.

With that revelation, they retrofitted the Alsek with an Integrated Marine Systems freezer and began freezing their catch at sea.

“It’s nice when the fishing is heavy or the weather is snotty,” says Jess of the Alsek’s size, packing capacity and seaworthiness. “It’s just a great boat for us.”

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Charlie Ess is the North Pacific Bureau Chief for National Fisherman.

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