“As a deckhand, all I had to worry about was waking up, working hard, catching fish. That’s about it.”
That’s what Kyle Lee, who spent a gillnet season with a college buddy on the Copper River Flats in Alaska, says because it sounded so much fun. He fished a few 24 hour openers and said to himself, âThis is amazing! Can you do this for a living? It was such a beautiful day. I had so much fun catching fish.
After graduating from college, he weighed his options to come back next season.
âI can either take this job or fish in one of the most beautiful places on this planet,â Lee said. âI decided to look into it and get into commercial fishing. I thought I could always find a corporate job somewhere, but commercial fishing was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
He found a bundle of gillnet, got a loan from the State of Alaska, and bought. Looking back, he probably should have teamed up a little longer, but he knew what he wanted – to be a commercial fisherman. âThe perspective of a deckhand is completely different from that of a captain. “
He started direct marketing his first season. These days, Lee is focusing on his direct-to-consumer business, Alaskan Salmon (aksalmonco.com). When visiting Lower 48, Lee said, âI would run to buy salmon and I was like, ‘What is this? It is nothing like the Alaskan salmon we catch. Yet it was labeled Alaskan salmon.
Lee’s parents own two restaurants in Anchorage, Chop Sticks and Thai Garden. So he grew up in the food industry, knowing the importance of good quality ingredients while learning the ins and outs of being a small business owner from his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. . From the moment he bought, Lee started reaching out to restaurants for direct marketing, and has been doing so ever since.
Although recent seasons on the Copper River Plains have been meager, Lee is optimistic about the fishing, noting that the 2021 season is going better than last year.
âIf I weren’t an optimist, I don’t think I would be a fisherman. Lee also finds that since covid more and more people are trying seafood at home after so many restaurants have closed. âIf you had the same business before covid started,â he adds, âyou’re not doing it well. “