Stuart Skogmo’s three years of experience working the back decks of salmon gillnetters in Alaska’s Bristol Bay are but a slice of a life that began in the tiny salmon village of Ekuk, when he was just 6 years old. Skogmo, 38, came north each summer with his father who worked as a cannery foreman at the Wards Cove Packing plant there for years.

“My first job was picking up dead fish from the beach,” he says. The seafood plant was the site of frequent inspections, and Skogmo was responsible for keeping the cannery immaculate in terms of cleanliness. But his devotion to the fishing industry didn’t end there: Skogmo found himself working among various beach gangs at other seafood plants around the bay until a hiatus of eight years found him serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

After that, his heartstrings tugged him back to the bay. He and his wife, Serafima Malygina, make their home in Spokane, Wash., in the off-season. She usually comes north with him each year to work in the canneries, but this year’s covid twist changed their plans.

This year, he landed a job aboard the Miss Gladys in Naknek.

“I love watching the fish hit the net,” says Skogmo. “I like the brotherhood on a boat.”

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

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