First place fisherman: Expo crowns a new title holder

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.

Fishermen race to see who can put on a survival suit the fastest.

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.

Meghan Gervais, a Bristol Bay gillnetter, took the Fisherman of the Year title, donning her survival suit in just 29.58 seconds.

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!

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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