Malcolm Vance of Egegik, Alaska, returned to defend his title of Fisherman of the Year in the ultimate test of fishing skills at Pacific Marine Expo on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Emcees Jerry Fraser, publisher of National Fisherman, and Sean Dwyer, captain of the Bering Sea crabber Brenna A., led contestants through three heats, each measuring participants’ dexterity in key fishing skills: the ability to put a rim-racked net back together in a flash, quickly and accurately tie a series of knots while blindfolded (you never know when you’ll find yourself in a bind on a moonless night), and splice a line.
Vance, a Bristol Bay gillnetter, took the net-mending race with a time of 1 minute four seconds. Vance wasn't done there. He also took the knot-tying contest in just 17.8 seconds.
Rick Tanaka, who fishes on a 58-foot seiner out of Port Hardy, B.C., was the quickest contestant in the line-splicing heat, completing the task in 29.8 seconds.
The winner of each heat gets a crisp $100 in their pocket and the opportunity to take on the other winners in a final test: donning a survival suit in record time. The fisherman who can get the suit on first — zipped up with the face flap closed — wins the title, another $100, bragging rights and more.
Unfortunately, Tanaka and his runner-up had to leave the show before the final test — so two stand-ins were included in the survival suit race.
In the end, Meghan Gervais, a Bristol Bay gillnetter, took the Fisherman of the Year title, donning her survival suit in just 29.58 seconds — well under the one-minute mark that safety experts recommend for commercial fishermen.
This year's competitors were some of the quickest we've seen, so if you think you can take the title next year, start practicing!