Gearing Up For Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay, Alaska is home to the most iconic salmon runs in the world and to one of the largest commercial fishing fleets. The men and women visiting Bristol Bay for the first time have all heard the stories of bountiful salmon, remote shorelines, primitive ports, and a life dictated by tides, weather, and hopefully a hell of a lot of fish in the net.
One fisherman who has spent the last 13 years working in Bristol Bay is Martha Ohlsen. We connected with Martha to ask what gear/items she brings to keep herself safe, entertained, and comfortable during the endless summer days working on the water.
There are some creature comforts you don’t want to live without, your favorite insulated coffee mug, on-the-water snacks (trail mix, protein bars, beef jerky), and a good digital book. Those go a long way into keeping your mind at ease, and let’s be honest; nothing is better than escaping to a good book while rocking on the water. Make sure that the coffee cup base fits in a roll of duct tape and you are riding comfy on the rolling seas of western Alaska.
Sometimes things just need to play double duty. Electrical tape can serve as part first aid, part gear repair, part line splicing assistant, and... part electrical tape. Hair ties can do the same thing. Need to organize some zip ties, hang up your picking hook, or tie up your hair? This goes for the weather in Bristol Bay as well. Layering is paramount to staying comfortable in a place that can be 80 degrees and sunny and the very next day be 40 degrees and pouring rain. And those arctic winds are not helping the situation at all. Our Grundies and Maris have been a staple in Bristol Bay since the inception of the lines. Sweatpants like the Dillingham that are hydrophobic and still super comfy (and look good), a sun shirt, hoodie, and jacket should all be along for the ride. Throw in the wool socks, sunglasses, hat, and beanie, and you are good to go!
There is no way around it; foul weather gear is part of life in Bristol Bay. You’ll live in a pair of bibs and deck boots for most of the season. However, some days your demands are going to be different. We recommend having a set of heavy-duty gear like the Herkules Bibs and Brigg Jacket or Sedna Bib and Jacket for Women and a set of breathable gear like the Fullshare Bib and Jacket for men or the Pieces Bib and Jacket for women (Yes, that’s a drop seat, next level).
We recommend those personal and toiletry bags be well stocked, too, like Wet Wipes, Advil, Sunscreen, and other comfort/personal items you don’t want to live without.
Bristol Bay is a place that has a storied history, amazing natural resources, and with a bit of luck, a future of passionate fishermen and adventures who will visit it for many generations. Good luck with your season; hopefully, this will help you a bit!