Luke Williams wasn’t afraid to enter his favorite Southeast Alaska fisheries from the ground up. Williams, 38, lives in Haines and has been no stranger to gillnetting for salmon and Dungeness crabbing since he worked on his dad’s boat as a kid. In his later life, Williams fished permits that he leased for salmon and Dungeness.

Now, he’s back but as an owner. He purchased a Dungeness permit four years ago, and has been pulling his 75 pots with a 19-foot skiff from late summer to November. Fishing crab has apparently been lucrative enough for Williams that he recently purchased a 32-foot Snowball gillnetter.

“You can make fairly good money fishing, if you do it right,” says Williams. “Then you have winters to relax.”

Williams’ definition of relaxation includes gutting boats to their bare hulls and renovating them into solid, comfortable fishing platforms. He installed decks, a house and fish holds on the skiff in time for the Dungeness season last summer. His labor of love this past winter included ripping out the decks and removing the house of the gillnetter so that it looks like a giant skiff.

As of March he had begun fitting the 32-foot Enterprise with new decks and a new house constructed with closed-cell foam and fiberglass. He’s also adding support structure below deck to accommodate a heavy gillnet reel.

“I love boats in general,” says Williams. “And I really like building boats. Boats are like cars to some people, except you can travel with them, live on them — and they make you money.”

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

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