Cory Pearson is a Port Hardy based cod fisherman. She and her partner Mike own and operate the FV Swell Dancer. We caught up with her recently and talked about her taking the jump into fishing full-time.
BCYFN- Let’s start with where you’re from and how did you start fishing?
CP- I’m from Port Hardy, born and raised. I lived in Nanaimo for three years but moved back to Hardy.
I knew I wanted to fish after working at a fish plant and thinking that it would be so cool. People told me that as a woman, I shouldn’t be doing that, that I might get on a boat with some creep. I didn’t really know anyone who fished so I kind of put it on the backburner but it was always in my mind. I met Mike in Winter Harbour while I was doing creel surveys. He was tuna fishing then and I ended up going live quilly fishing with him. I did three trips and got a town job as an insurance agent though I knew I really wanted us to do our own thing and have our own schedule.
We found the boat for $10,000 and spent two years fixing it up from scratch. It wasn’t the greatest boat but the engine was good. We spent all our time and energy fixing our boat for two and a half years and last year we started fishing it ourselves.
I was still working my town job, I would go out anytime I could. It was a big, scary decision to quit my town job, I spent a few months humming and hawing whether or not to quit. I went in one day, quit, and the next day went out fishing. It was meant to be, we had a great trip and all the trips have been great since then.
I took the jump to live the life I wanted to live on my own terms, and I’m figuring it out on my own. I’m out there to prove people wrong when they thought I was making a mistake quitting my secure town job to follow this dream. Every day is filled with happiness and I have no regrets.
BCYFN- What keeps drawing you back to fishing, what makes it so amazing?
CP- The freedom you feel and having no cell service. When you’re out there, you don’t think about any bad things. You think about everything you’re appreciative for, such as having a working toilet at home. I feel thankful every day to be outside breathing clean air and catching beautiful fish.
BCYFN- Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were starting out that you would tell yourself now?
CP- Don’t ever be hard on yourself because you’re human and humans need time to learn. Say thanks to yourself and to the world every day for letting you do this job - I’m not religious but it’s a blessing.
BCYFN- What would you say is most rewarding about fishing? Or the best lesson you’ve taken from your work?
CP- Being able to listen to your gut. You have to do things for yourself. You can’t always depend on anyone for anything, you have to figure out to do something on your own. Becoming more confident in myself as a person and as a worker and as a co-owner. Every trip I learn something new.
To be in an industry that isn’t really known. This is what I do because it makes me happy, it makes me feel empowered. It’s a really good community of people, everyone is super supportive, it’s great to have something in common with a group of people.
BCYFN- What are the most challenging moments out on the water?
CP- When you get restless. I want to go do this or that and you kind of have an argument with yourself about what you really need because you’ve shown yourself that you don’t need it. Being with the same person or the same people for however long, you learn patience. Being with people in such a small space can be a challenge, including when it’s your spouse. But when you get in from a trip and deliver it erases all the bad stuff.
BCYFN- What would you tell someone looking to get into the industry?
CP- Just do it! Find a boat and go do it! Rip off the worry or fear like a bandaid, it’s one of the most regarding careers ever. People pay thousands of dollars to see what we see every day. It’s going to be really hard work and you won’t have a very good sleep pattern but it will be so rewarding.
BCYFN- What is your vision of the future?
CP- I would like to see more young fishermen get into it and have it not be so hard to get into. I want it not to feel like you’re being punished for just going fishing or wanting to go fishing. I would love to see owner operator - I would like to see people who work so hard not get ripped off. Everything is so expensive in terms of acquiring licenses or boats, I would just love to see more people get into it.
BCYFN- Most importantly, what’s your favourite meal when you’re out fishing?
CP- Dinner! My favourite dinner are my hamburgers that I make from scratch and a big salad and some sidekicks.
BCYFN- Thanks for sharing Cory! Good luck and stay safe out there this winter!