Certainly no high school guidance counselor could have predicted Sam Bain’s path. The 34-year-old from North Carolina began commercial fishing 11 years ago in Alaska. During his first season he gillnetted for sockeye out of Dillingham, and for the last 10 years he’s been traveling to Bristol Bay each summer to setnet salmon.
He wanted fishing to be more than a summer job, but he didn’t see much of a future beyond crewing in Alaska, where the cost of boats and permits can be prohibitive. That’s why he began running his own 25-footer to pot for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound’s small fishery three years ago.
I just finished writing about the day I spent with him for National Fisherman‘s March issue. What struck me as most compelling about his story was his dedication to building a future for himself on the water near his home of Port Townsend, Wash.
As a writer, I didn’t have a career path laid out for me to follow either. But I know what’s important to me, and so does Sam. He values his work as a fisherman as well as sustaining the resource and environment that surrounds and supports him.
This is no gold-rush fishery like the ones you see on TV. The waters are calm and though there’s a short peak after the Oct. 1 opening, the price falls as the season progresses (mostly because of other areas opening and fluctuating overseas markets).
But the resource is sustainable, and Sam’s overhead doesn’t usually exceed the cost of filling up his 100-gallon fuel tank every third day and $150 a day in bait. Even with the slowdown, he can keep going until the season closes on April 15.
That’s the point. This isn’t a quick get-rich gig. It’s a job. It’s a home. It’s a life.
You can read more about Sam’s life on the water in the March issue of National Fisherman, which will be out in the beginning of February.