Veteran Nushagak drifter, greenhorn daughter have best season ever

Jul 24, 2017

Longtime Bristol Bay fisherman Hector Sanchez of f/v El Nayar hauled in more salmon than ever this year, and it was his daughter Toni Sanchez's first year as a crew member.

Hector and Toni Sanchez of F/V El Nayar
Credit Nick Ciolino/KDLG

Work on a commercial fishing boat can test the temperaments of those on board. Skippers often demand intensive labor from their crew, for long hours without sleep and little food, and not everyone takes to the job. Pre-existing relationships between captain and crew can often be strained when on the water, and sometimes crewmembers will quit mid-season. KDLG’s Nick Ciolino spoke with one experienced fisherman and his greenhorn daughter, who got along well this summer, fishing the Nushagak’s record run.

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT: Like many others, the fishing vessel El Nayar recorded its biggest catch ever this year fishing in the Nushagak District, hauling in more than two hundred thousand pounds on the season.

The skipper of the El Nayar is Hector Sanchez.

 “Best season ever—excellent season. A lot of fish everywhere; never on limits. We worked for Trident. It worked out great this year. They pulled through.”

Sanchez is a 30-plus year fisherman who has built several boats and also goes crabbing in the winter. He knows as well as anyone there is no guarantee the fishing will continue to be this good in years to come, but to his newest crew member the record catch is only an introduction to fishing.

Toni: “Toni Sanchez, Deckhand on the El Nayar”

Hector: “This is my youngest daughter. I’ve brought my son and older daughter. They’ve all fished with me before, and now they’re doing something else. SHE wants to come back.”

The younger Sanchez says she feels fortunate to have hit it big her first season, but adds her dad has helped to put the catch in perspective.

“I just lucked out. It was awesome. I didn’t expect to have such a good first year, but like I said, I’ll definitely come back. He said that there’s many years that won’t be like this, so you just got to enjoy it while it’s happening.”

Sanchez came in this year with no experience at all. She had previously worked at a landscape supply store back in Washington. Her dad was very impressed and proud of his greenhorn crew.

“She did excellent this year. For her first year I was concerned, but after the first day, I could see she was going to do it. She did just fine.”

Both Hector and Toni Sanchez say they got along this summer—both professionally and as family. Hector says he tries to treat Toni as just another deckhand, but cannot help but grant some preferential treatment to his youngest daughter.

Hector: “There is some preference, there is, but she is still a deckhand.”

Nick: “Well I see you’ve got her scrubbing the fish hold today.”

Hector: “Well she needs to do that. That’s part of the job.”

Toni: “I don’t mind.”

Last week Sanchez said there was still a lot of fish to be caught, but added that he and his crew were tired and will call it quits so as to not set the bar too high for next season. Hector plans to fish for crab in the off season and spend some time in Mexico. Toni says she is returning to her job at the landscape supply store this fall.

Contact KDLG fisheries reporter Nick Ciolino at or 907-842-5281