The end of this salmon season marked the 60th consecutive year of fishing for Archie Fischer. He is a Bristol Bay native who has seen the commercial fishing industry evolve over the past half a century.
Archie Fischer wrapped up his salmon season at the end of July. He said it was a disappointing run for him.
“Well the Kvichak never hit like it should. We didn’t get any push of fish up the Kvichak at all. So that was a letdown,” he said. “That’s the only place I go is here anymore – I stay right home here.”
But a bad run does not really phase Fischer. He said that for him it is more about the act of fishing, adding that at 72 it is what gives him life.
“I really don’t know how to explain this it’s my life. I got salt water running through veins instead of blood so I gotta come back fishing no matter what,” Fischer said. “I couldn’t imagine me not fishing, it’d be like a cowboy with a broken leg and he can’t ride his horse no more or something like that.”
Fischer was born Christmas day in the old cannery at Graveyard Point, and coincidentally, at 12 years old, the first year he fished, was for that same cannery the last year it was open.
In his 60 years of fishing Fischer has fished commercially for herring, salmon and crab, but he said his favorite is salmon.
His drift boat now, the Tide Rip, is his first fiber glass. Before he had only fished wooden boats. Fischer said he prides himself in never paying more than $15,000 for a boat.
“I just know this all, I don’t need no big boat slamming against a bunch of other idiots. I’m an upriver fisherman and I’ve always been that way all my life,” he said. “So I can fish with a $15,000 boat and make money because I know where the salmon are.”
Fischer said he has seen the commercial fishing industry change over the years. He has been a part of every strike, but there has also been years where he pocketed over $100,000.
He said he likes that quality is becoming a priority. He has iced for years, and is installing an RSW into the Tide Rip this fall.
But, his biggest concern is the Pebble Mine.
“If something breaks loose up there and all them chemicals flow into those two spaces, there will be no more,” he said. “No more Bristol Bay wild salmon.”
He is worried that mining will do so something to ruin the world’s last great sockeye salmon run and this fishery, which he hopes to be a part of as long as he is physically able.
The season just ended, and for many, now is the time to catch some rest and decompress. Fischer said he can hardly wait till next year when he will get back on the water and wet his nets.
“My boats out there right now, outside of my kitchen window, she’s spotless and ready to go,” he said. “Nothing can deter me from fishing. As long as I can I’ll be out there no matter what.”
Till then, Archie Fischer will drift back into his winter routine in Naknek – hunting, trapping and getting ready for next season.