Tom Tatoosh was fuelled by adrenaline as he set on the First Nations food fishery late Tuesday night.
“Things can get very scary,” said the Port Alberni resident.
“The weather can change. Most of all if you look upriver and all of the boats that are coming in. They’re all going to be going at different speeds. Everybody’s going to try to get to their lucky spots,” said Tom.
“It’s exciting,” said Tom’s sister Roxanne Tatoosh.
“It’s our last opening,” she said.
Tom’s son and daughter, who’ve been fishing with him since they learned to walk, were onboard working shoulder to shoulder with their dad. All threw out the first nets fast at the count of 8 p.m., racing to catch all the chinook salmon they could.
Unlike the commercial gillnet fishery, First Nations can’t use mechanics to reel in nets. It’s all elbow grease, pulling by hand, the heavy, soaking, salmon-filled nets into their aluminum boat.
Even after 40 years fishing the river though, Tom marvels he gets to feed his family this way, pulling a livelihood out of the same waters his ancestors did.
“As long as we can keep going,” said Tom.
“As long as nobody gets hurt.”
“What’s not to like about it,” asked Tom’s 23-year-old daughter Lindsey Tatoosh.
“Just being out in nature, and the adrenaline of being out on the water.”
You know we’re all after the same thing is to make a living,” said Tom.
“This is kind of like a behind the scenes thing you know,” said French Creek Seafood buyer Robbie St. Louis.
“What really goes on, on these fisheries you know they’ll fish at 8 o’clock. They gotta go to 2 a.m. so you know all this fish, by the time people wake up and throw their boats in to go sport fishing, we’ll be heading out of the parking lot,” said St. Louis.
And fortunately everyone did leave safely, catching their fill of salmon for another year after a very rewarding night’s work.