When Allison Demmert talks about the fishing roots in her in family, it just keeps going.
Her dad, she says, grew up in Craig, Alaska, where he still runs the F/V Chirikof, a 58-foot seiner originally run by her grandfather. Her grandfather and his four brothers grew up seining and trolling in Klawok, Alaska, where in the 1940s they built the F/V Billy & I, a boat that was in the family until it was decommissioned a few years ago.
”My family is Alaska native, and fishing has been a way of life as long back as anyone can trace. But as far as commercial seining and trolling with the state of Alaska, it goes back as far as fishing has been regulated, I guess,” says Demmert, 31.
Although it runs deep for her, fishing was not a foregone conclusion for Demmert. She grew up like any kid, going to school in Edmonds, a small city on Puget Sound just north of Seattle where the Chirikof now winters. While she spent summers in Alaska, it was not until she went to college that Demmert saw fishing as a potential job and lifestyle for herself.
“It started as a college thing, but I developed a love for it. I got my degree in sociology and tried some different jobs over the years. I always kept coming back to fishing,” she says.
Demmert, however, is not satisfied with falling back on her deep fishing lineage. Now with 12 seasons as a deckhand under her belt, Demmert knows her way around the boat, but feels like she lacks holistic knowledge of the engine room, calling herself a “good assistant” to the skipper. To solidify her knowledge, she will spend next year at the Seattle Maritime Academy getting a marine engineering certificate, a program she hopes will fill some gaps in her mechanical knowledge and prepare her to take over her own boat. It would put her in a rarified class of just a handful of female seining skippers in Southeast Alaska.
“My grandma would run my grandpa’s troller when he got sick or something… but skippering a seiner, I guess it would be a first,” she says.
National Fisherman’s “Who we are” briefly profiles fishermen from fisheries around the United States.