Over the next few weeks, we will be running a Q&A series featuring deckhands working on the B.C. coast. Many fish harvesters start their careers this way, working on several boats and in multiple fisheries over the year– this series aims to celebrate their hard work and give a taste of the fishing life.
Jessica Taylor is a deckhand from Sointula. She agreed to talk with the BCYFN a few hours before heading to Knight’s Inlet for the spot prawn fishery. Below is a summary of our conversation.
BCYFN: Do you mind introducing yourself?
Jessica Taylor: Not at all. My name is Jessica Taylor and I’m from Sointula, also known as Malcolm Island. I’m a third-generation fisherman – my grandpa fished, my mum fished, my uncles fished, my dad fished, and my brothers fished. I’ve been commercial fishing for the past six years and went food fishing when I was younger, since my dad is from Alert Bay I was able to go out with them.
BCYFN: Which fisheries do you work in?
JT: Prawn, crab, herring, and salmon with seine and gillnet.
BCYFN: Do you have a favourite?
JT: I’d say salmon fishing in general would be my favorite. My family are gillnetters and my first year fishing was a sockeye year. Even though I come from a gillnetting family, seining salmon is pretty good too. Prawns is also fun - other than it kind of being like Groundhog Day, with the same thing every single day - we go up to Knight’s Inlet and it’s quite nice up there.
BCYFN: When you’re up there, how do you store your prawns?
JT: We freeze them into little kilo boxes and then put the boxes down in the freezer. We’ll be up there for about ten days and then we go to Port McNeil to deliver, and head back again. It’s kind of a grind.
BCYFN: Sounds like it! What are the most challenging moments out on the water?
JT: I think the most challenging moments are when you first get on a new boat and people think “she’s a really small girl and won’t be able to pull her weight.” That’s the challenging part, and then you have to work twice as hard as everybody else to prove yourself – but I always do.
BCYFN: Are you often on new boats?
JT: My first year seining I worked on two different boats. Then I worked on another for prawns and another for halibut. Now I’m with a boat that does all the fisheries. I haven’t been on a new boat for a while, but it can be intimidating with a new crew and new way of doing things.
BCYFN: What would you say are the rewards of being out there, or some of the best lessons you’ve learned?
JT: I think the most rewarding part about being out there - well, other than being on the water with all the views - is just being able to say that I’m proud to be a fisherman and work in multiple fisheries. It’s one of the best jobs I can imagine.
BCYFN: What makes it one of the best jobs?
JT: I can’t really explain, it’s the feeling you get when you leave from the dock, or you’re coming to deliver, or you have a big catch, I’m always soaking it in. It’s this respect you have for fishing and farming, you take pride in it.
BCYFN: Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were starting out that you’d tell yourself now?
JT: I wish I would have known how much I could love it and that I’m never going to get out of it. I don’t see myself having another job, it’s always going to be this.
BCYFN: What would you say is your vision of the future?
JT: Well, ideally more hatcheries and fewer fish farms. The farmed fish bring in a ridiculous amount of sea lice, and I find them a lot on the sockeye. I’ve also caught the odd farmed fish and they’re often deformed and confused.
BCYFN: What’s your favorite meal when you’re out fishing?
JT: Whatever you’ve caught that day makes the best meal! When I first started on prawns, we’d have hot butter and garlic ready to go for the first trap that came up. Or sockeye, you keep the sockeye and cook it for dinner with sugar and soy sauce. And when you’re on herring, spaghetti and meatballs is one of my favorites. Yeah, the catch of the day is the best.
BCYFN: Sounds delicious, maybe we’ll try the prawns in butter this evening! Thanks for your time, and good luck prawning!
JT: Of course. I’m looking forward to getting out there!