Summer fishing breathes life into Alaska town

EMMONAK — At the Yukon River’s fish central, the warning on the door to the buzzing office of the big boss, whom everyone calls “Jack,” says “Danger. Earache Area.”

It’s the nerve center for Kwikpak Fisheries — a small dockside processor with an outsized role in a region where jobs are scarce, the salmon are ultra-rich, and a unique commercial dipnet fishery provides early season jobs and money.

Kwikpak operations manager Jack Schultheis is buying summer chums from, as he put it, the only commercial dipnet operation “in the world.” It’s a novel setup intended to help rebuild crashed king salmon runs, but still allow fishing.

During scheduled dipnet openings, residents with commercial permits from Emmonak and nearby Southwestern Alaska villages head out in open skiffs.

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About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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