Lexi Fish Hackett and her daughter, Isla, on board their boat, the F/V Myriad. Photo by Ash Adams.

Lexi Fish Hackett and her daughter, Isla, on board their boat, the F/V Myriad. Photo by Ash Adams.

CCW: Salmon Life: Fish and Family

Lexi Fish Hackett has fish in her blood in more ways than one. Until recently, her last name was simply “Fish,” which she says is merely a coincidence. Her dad, however, who hitchhiked his way up to Southeast Alaska in the ‘70s to try his luck at fishing, believes the name is more destiny than chance. Either way, fish runs through her veins.

Hackett grew up on boats and in gear-supply stores, eating fish, processing fish, and writing fish tickets aboard her father’s salmon tender. Before taking root in Sitka, her family lived in small communities scattered across the region. Their boat served as a second home, with Hackett building forts in the pilot house and spending hours badgering her father’s crew with questions and pleas to play I-Spy while they baited gear.

Later, at the impressionable age of 15, when many high school freshmen were spending their summers daydreaming or flipping burgers, Hackett joined that same fishing crew as a paid deckhand.

“I remember vividly how hard it was, physically and mentally. My hands would cramp, and at the end of a set, I remember feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to use my hands again, ever,” Hackett said in a recent interview.

Quitting, however, wasn’t an option.

“Fishing and being around that level of intense dedication and teamwork has definitely shaped my character,” she said. “It’s those experiences, fishing that year, and every year since, that have given me a solid work ethic across all aspects of my life.”

That work ethic has paid off. Today, Hackett and her husband, Adam, own their own salmon troller and are building a successful family business. Adam, who also grew up near Sitka, worked as a troll and longline deckhand for 12 years in Southeast before buying his first ice troller, F/V Illahee, in 2010. In 2014, the couple upgraded to a freezer troller, F/V Myriad, a transition that allows them to fully process each salmon at sea.

Aboard the Myriad, Hackett bounces her daughter Isla in a backpack while cleaning king and coho salmon for their clients at Fish + Family Seafoods, the Hacketts’ startup company. Fish + Family Seafoods line-catches, processes and markets wild Alaskan salmon direct to markets in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, you can find their salmon at Etta’s in Seattle as well at Deschutes Brewery in Portland and Bend, Oregon. The Hacketts said their ultimate goal is to market all of their commercial catch to chefs and retailers who share their respect for this important Alaskan resource.

Not all of the salmon the family lands is sold commercially. They donate salmon to Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, an initiative Hackett helped start that puts local fish on the lunch trays of Sitka’s schoolchildren every week.

The couple’s catch is also reserved for feeding baby Isla’s voracious Alaskan appetite.

“Isla loves salmon. She loves roe. She eats salmon skin. She loves berries and seaweed. Pretty much anything wild – she’ll eat it,” Hackett said of her daughter.

As Isla grows, it’s becoming clear that, like her mother, she shares an early affinity for boat life.

“Isla has never been seasick and as she gets older we participate more in all aspects of fishing. She loves to be on deck, watching everything with such curiosity, playing with fishing gear or salmon eggs, or flying in her swing,” Hackett said.

Balancing a family and a startup business can be an arm-full. However, the couple said they are grateful for the opportunity to spend time at sea, doing what they love with the people they love most.

“I try to stay in the present moment and enjoy everything we have to be grateful for — which is a lot,” Hackett said. “We’re able to work in nature harvesting a wild resource, which is really rare globally, and a special opportunity.”

 

•••

 

For more on the Hacketts, visit http://www.fishandfamily.com/

A version of this story also appeared on The Salmon Life, a blog hosted by The Salmon Project, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The group’s stated mission is to “give voice to Alaskans’ deep relationships with salmon to ensure that Alaskans’ lives will always be salmon lives.”

Visit http://salmonlife.org and http://www.salmonproject.org/ for more.

• Bethany Goodrich is a freelance storyteller and the Communications Coordinator for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. SSP is a diverse group of partners dedicated to the cultural, ecological and economic prosperity of Alaska’s rural communities. Visit www.SustainableSoutheast.net.

Lexi Fish Hackett and her daughter, Isla, on the family boat, the F/V Myriad. Photo by Ash Adams

Lexi Fish Hackett and her daughter, Isla, on the family boat, the F/V Myriad. Photo by Ash Adams

The family behind 'Fish + Family' hop aboard their frezzer troller the F/V Myriad, to chase coho and king salmon around Sitka Sound. Photo by Ash Adams.

The family behind ‘Fish + Family’ hop aboard their frezzer troller the F/V Myriad, to chase coho and king salmon around Sitka Sound. Photo by Ash Adams.

THe Hackett family's frezzer troller, the F/V Myriad, Photo by Ash Adams

THe Hackett family’s frezzer troller, the F/V Myriad, Photo by Ash Adams

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