Functional Fishing

Hi DCF family! Coach Sonja here. You may notice that I’m off the coaching schedule for the summer. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on CrossFit or moved away! Over the next month or so, I will be in Bristol Bay, Alaska, commercial fishing for salmon. This is a long-held tradition in my family, and is a yearly marathon of hard work, little sleep, and lots of functional fitness. Here’s a short glimpse of what my life will be like over the next 6 weeks: 


Although the majority of commercial fishing is done in boats, our family is part of a small community of setnetters, fishermen who operate off of the shore. Setnetters in our fishing district are allowed 300 feet of gillnet per site. My family currently has two fishing sites along Ekuk beach, a 15-mile stretch of sand, rocks, and mud that employs dozens of families during the summer. (While we are all fishing “rivals,” we are quick to help each other out in a pinch, and many of us are shirt-tail relatives going back generations; it’s a bit like the Wild West up there!) My family fishes on the flats, where the tide comes in and out thousands of feet over the mud. We use long ropes (stretching 1,000 feet from the average high-tide line), and a pulley system to pull our nets in and out with trucks. Then we pick the fish out of the nets, throw them into ice water in our truck beds, and drive them 5 miles down the beach to the processing plant, where we deliver our catch. We have two tides per day, and based on how many fish we catch, we work anywhere from 3 hours to 12-plus hours per tide. 


From racking ropes, to chopping firewood, to hauling drinking and washing water up to our cabin, nearly every moment is spent doing some sort of active labor. Even going to the bathroom is a trek to the outhouse (we don’t have electricity or running water.) Needless to say, with this round-the-clock motion, my nutrition needs drastically change, and my normally low-carb diet sees a dramatic increase in fast carbohydrates: hot chocolate, snickers bars, any sort of fast, high carb fuel to get me through the long hours. We usually send non-perishable food items up in boxes before the season begins. It’s expensive and difficult to get fresh fruit or vegetables to our remote fishing site, so canned fruits and vegetables it is! I usually bring up protein powder, some Greens micronutrients (my personal favorite is from FNX fitness), and some other nutrition supplements to help balance my nutrition (I am bringing up a bunch of Fuel For Fire from the box this year!). I am not advocating that this is a healthy diet by any means, but we do what we have to do for this short period of time! And the fresh-from-the-bay wild salmon is SO worth it. 

I often lose some cardiovascular endurance over the summer, but I trade it for grip, core, and shoulder strength. It’s not “comfortable” living, but it’s good hard work, and I never feel so accomplished as when my head hits the pillow at the end of a tide. I think the break from technology, and the full immersion in fresh air and wild living is good for the soul. I will miss you all, but I’ll be back soon, hopefully with another summer of good stories and good fishing under my belt! 

See you at the end of July!