"I became kind of obsessed right from the beginning,” says Meghan Gervais of her introduction to commercial fishing. She arrived in Alaska in 1999 at 20 years old, simply because her brother needed a ride from their childhood home in Montana. She spent most of that first summer working odd jobs until those led her to the docks in Valdez, then aboard a seiner in Prince William Sound.
She never looked back. “When I came to Alaska, I found my home,” she says.
Gervais embodies Alaska’s family fishing culture. She got that first job after dropping her brother’s name to a skipper. Tim, her husband and business partner, is a Bristol Bay captain himself. They met when she worked on a tender and he crewed a boat for a summer that delivered to her. She bought the SeaKing in 2009, fished it for two years, leased it out when she was busy being a young mom (although on the water as much as possible) and has been back on it as full-time skipper since 2015.
Today, Gervais takes her oldest son, Gus, aboard with her as crew, and she even had her middle daughter, Ruby, aboard her husband’s boat, the Dreamboat, as a newborn during their 2011 season.
“I loved it from the beginning, but I didn’t know how I fit into it... and then I found Bristol Bay,” she says, where she realized that flying into Dillingham each May felt both necessary and natural, that she needed to be there each summer — “on the flybridge, right between the ocean and the sky.”
It’s been 18 years since Gervais came to Alaska, and she says she plans on fishing for the next 20 or 30 years, at least.
“Bristol Bay is pretty special — that you can do that and do other stuff,” she says, like raising a family in Homer, Alaska.
Gervais is a big proponent of young people, especially young women, taking the leap into the fishery if “you know in your heart that it’s what you want to do.” She spoke of the focus and perspective her kids bring to her operation, reminding her of why she’s there and how she wants to go about doing this often stressful work. Because as she puts it, “If you’re not enjoying it, you’re missing something.”