Ryland Bell chases powder days across the globe by winter and salmon throughout Southeast Alaska by summer, getting paid for both.
Bell, 34, runs the 38-foot F/V Keta out of Elfin Cove in Southeast Alaska, where he trolls for king and silver salmon from June to September, the source of fresh salmon to many restaurants across the United States. He also longlines for halibut, and notes killer whales eating off his hooks has been an increasing issue in recent years.
Bell grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, but now has a winter home base in Tahoe City, Calif., outside Squaw Valley, where he’s sponsored by Jones Snowboards and Patagonia, among others.
“Fishing pays the bills,” Bells said in a stark assessment of his two careers. “As a snowboarder, [fishing] is the best job I could have: You bust ass to work an entire year’s worth of hours in a few months and get the winter off.”
For Bell, fishing is family business. Both his parents own commercial salmon trollers in Elfin Cove, a tiny hamlet on just south of Glacier Bay National Park with a year-round population of 20.
He bought the Keta when he was 25 after a dozen years of fishing for his parents and friends. In summer months, he works under the steep snow-covered mountains of Southeast Alaska, facing sleep deprivation and battered hands thinking of winter glory.
Two winters ago, Bell traveled to Russia to make ski films outside Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. This past winter he spent time in the Swiss Alps while being shot for a Warren Miller ski film production.
“I grew up under the Fairweather Mountains,” Bell said. “And now right where I fish I can look up and spot two lines that I’ve shredded.”