East Side Setnetters
The commercial fishermen that make up the East Side Setnet Fishery are a disparate, hardened crew. A pair of brown Xtratuf boots, a salty, fish stained hoodie, farmer’s tan, and a cigarette resting precariously between the lips is the unofficial uniform. Showers are few and far between, and clothes are washed when the smell of the cleanest of the dirty shirts is no longer bearable. Rusty pickups and mud-caked four wheelers are the most common means of getting around. And the work, done in all weather conditions day and night, is physical and dangerous, but that is precisely the appeal.
In 1981, commercial fishermen Rob Williams hitchhiked over 4,000 miles from his hometown of Plattsburgh, New York to Kasilof, Alaska where he eventually purchased land and started a set gillnet fishing operation on the Kenai Peninsula, roughly four miles south of the Kasilof River. 38 years later, Williams is still in the game, and feels privileged to have spent his summers in a profession that allows him to be immersed in nature and in tune with a resource that is vital to the state's economy and the livelihoods of many of its residents.
During the 2018 salmon season, Rob was kind enough to let me stay at his fish camp for 10 days and document the hard work he and his crew put in each summer.