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NAKNEK, ALASKA – Well, another National Union of Friendly Americans (NUFA) Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fitness and fishing season is coming to a close. In Naknek, Alaska, NUFA personal fitness trainers Patchy Fog and Tricky Sands report that most fishermen have reached their weight loss goals after enduring high seas and little sleep for weeks on end, broken by the boredom of fishing closures, only to be brought back to reality by a return to fishing and gale force winds that sheared the tops of the waves clean off.
Yes, we had our “Tain’t a fit night out for man nor beast” fishing periods, and you will too if you look to the high seas for your fitness and health needs.
The Bristol Bay sockeye fishing season has proven to be an effective way to lose weeks of sleep and excess weight when combined with intense bouts of picking fish and pulling nets in rolling seas. Throw in the “calamity a day” that’s bound to happen, such as losing power while you drift aimlessly to shore in the pre-dawn hours with a boat full of iced fish that must be hand tossed into totes and hauled through the tidal mud to a waiting tender that went dry by the time you showed up, and you have a sure-fire method to reach your fitness goals, even if it kills you.
It will be guaranteed that your hands will go through a personal transformation as well, changing from supple, nimble instruments of humanity to brutish, rather primitive tools not quite evolved enough to play a guitar or tie your shoelaces. This season was a bit easier on the hands and body, and the weight loss goals were downgraded from severe to significant as an earliest ever Bristol Bay run was downsized to an estimated 22-25 million fish, and thus the catch per drift boat and set net skiff was somewhat less than anticipated. Still, salmon fishing in Bristol Bay is one of the best exercise regimens on the market today.
With weather reports generally dour to grim as the salmon pour into the Bay, many candidates balk at signing on the dotted line, preferring instead to stick to the gym or a walk around the neighborhood to get their blood pumping. That’s just fine with the dedicated seasonal professionals who man the boats and inhabit the saloons and taverns when the time allows. There are only so many boats and so many spots on board, and the chance to earn a good percentage of the catch while toning your mind and body with rigorous activity in cold, wet seas is cherished by few, enjoyed by even fewer, and taken up with gusto by those who just don’t know any better.
I can tell you from personal experience that when you peer out the fishing shack window into the dusky light of an Naknek night and you see a cold wind spitting across the tundra and whipping the seas into a frenzy as you pull on your still-wet gear, you can’t help but feel sorry for all those people in this world who just never have the chance to be so miserable while earning a living.
There is nothing as refreshing as salt spray in the face as you pull in a net full of fish bound for the dinner table. Ah, the banging of shins on the holds, the pinching of fingers in the roller as the net tangles, and a little salmon slime in the eye for good measure. Ah, to get lost in the fog or find yourself clinging to the engine of the skiff as you try to unwind a drift boat net from your prop in seas of four to six feet. You burn calories just thinking about it.
There is something potentially disorienting about settling in on the deck for a slight nap, tucked in amongst a nest of slush bags and braillers, only to wake up and find your boat in about three or four feet of water as the tide slips out from under you. The foggy crew is soon overboard and getting a very hearty workout frantically burning excess calories urging the boat to deeper waters to escape going dry. The tide can be both your friend and foe, but it often seems the forces of inherent human error cause it to be the foe more often than not.
NUFA trainers Patchy Fog and Tricky Sands have seen it all and are well qualified to give you, the potential professional fisherman, the time of your life. You can rest assured that no matter their years of experience, their sense of tide and wind and the fickle weather of the Alaska Peninsula and the Bering Sea, you won’t miss out on your very own “calamity a day” experience and lose weight in the process.
The NUFA Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fitness and fishing season is endorsed by the Jack LaLane Jumping Jack Foundation, Popeye the Sailor, and your local chapter of the Luddites and Anachronists League of America.
The program is ignored by all major health care companies but is embraced—nay, saluted—by the Camp Shack Health Care and Medical Indemnity Insurance Cooperative, where our lightly trained doctors have always advocated better health through hard labor.