Monday, October 27, 2014

Blast from the past

Its that time of year again where the aches and pains from fishing have finally vanished and nostalgia for the season starts to set in.  Ah, selective memory....a fishermen's best friend.  In my mood of reverie for fishing, I scrapped up an old article I wrote for The Cordova Times, (Prince William Sounds oldest newspaper, established in 1914),  a few years ago and wanted to share it with you.  Apologies if the format is a little funky, its taken right from the paper.  Added bonus is a salmon recipe at the end!  I hope you enjoy.


Custom Built

originally from the Czech republic, Vince Beran has been fishing in Prince William Sound since 1978.

Scuttlebutt and boats 
of the harbor

JEN PICKETT / For The Cordova Times
The Cordova Times | Friday, June 15, 2012 |
F/V Pasak, original and one of a kind
By Jen Pickett 

For The Cordova Times 
Vince Beran doesn’t like to brag, “Its really nothing special, you have to just keep fixing it.”
In most cases, saying something is original and one of a kind is a bit redundant, but not in this case. The Pasak, Vince’s gillnetter is original and one of a kind. 

Originally from Czech Republic, Beran fished for 2 years in Puget Sound before bringing his boat up here and fishing the Copper River in 1978. He fell in love with the fishing exclaiming “It’s an easy live right, you give them fish, they give you money, right?” 

His boat, the Pasak is a 28’ bowpicker built by Vince in 1975. He bought a Uniflight hull then took it from there. He did the deck and cabin himself. He installed a Chevy 454 engine, Mercruiser Outboard Outdrive, and made a stainless steel reel stands. And all three are still the original today. But that’s not all. 

Beran made pretty much everything else, his entire interior of the boat, from the helm station, to his bunk to his oil stove. Yup, made the oil stove out of stainless steel, complete with two carburetors, two separate air intakes (one for when he is running) and a fan to circulate the heat. Most guys buy pre-fabricated boat furniture but not Vince. He even made a crafty little table that folds up out of the way when not in use, a cook station, his bunk, and shelves. He made a shock absorbing helm’s chair out of stainless steel and a big spring.

Pretty much everything onboard the Pasak was built by it’s captain, Vince Beran from fabricating steel parts to it’s custom interior.


I don’t know how many hours I have on the engine,” said Pasak. “You don’t ask me how many hours. I don’t dare to think. I can tell you how many years. Thirty-seven.” 
That’s right, his 37-year-old engine are still buddies with his 37 year old outdrive and 37-year-old reel. 

“For the engine, I try to get the premium parts, especially for the amount of work you spend on it, it pays to get quality.”
But that is not all, he has fabricated a stainless steel heat exchanger, exhaust manifolds, additional air filters and countless gadgets in addition to wiring. And he isn’t afraid to experiment with things like dry exhaust. He figured cars
have it, why not boats? “Dry exhaust, improves it (engine performance) makes it even better but nobody told me the vapor get so hot, you can’t imagine how hot vapor gets from a gas engine.” 
Turns out, the reason boats don’t have dry exhaust is because they don’t go fast enough for the air to cool the engine. You have to give him kudos for trying. But he didn’t let that set back of nearly catching the whole boat and himself on fire stop him, he simply plugged the holes in the stern from the failed experiment with those infamous Wilson tennis balls and moved on. When I asked him if he’s had to replace those he answered, laughing, “not yet, not yet.” I should have known those were still the original ones. 
“I have 1975 outdrive but you do not let mechanic fiddle with it. You set the gears correct, how they are designed. You have to be patient when set the bearings, its really not difficult you just have to be patient.”
Vince took the time to call the manufacturers of the bearings and got the correct spacing for each bearing for his outdrive. 

“You change the oil, maybe take out a seal here or there, and it works. You put oil on everything and zincs on everything,” advises Vince. “And try to make everything easy to repair.” 

Out on deck, he made his reel stand out of, you guessed it, stainless steel. “That’s the original chain from 1975, I put a big chain and large gear and it lasts.” But that’s not all. He fabricated an additional fuel tank one the bow that also aids in dealing with sharks when they get caught up. He mounted a pulley system that is driven by a mini winch mounted on the cabin. He can haul the shark aboard, cut it out of the net, then, the front of the fuel tank, which is angled, acts as a ramp and he can set the net back out, discarding the shark. How many gillnetters can say they can be self- sufficient when it comes to dealing with sharks? I know I wasn’t.
I haven’t even gotten to his truck yet. It’s a 1963 International pick-up truck that he has driven up the ALCAN every year from Washington State for the past 37 years!

“The truck is a masterpiece, I had it since ‘78. I used to tow the boat back and forth, I was dumb, ya know? It has about 700,000 miles on it. Rebuilt only once. The seal of the camshaft went out but the engine by itself never wear out.”
Vince’s equipment has outlasted his fishing career. He sold out last year but the boat, is still for sale. He admits it isn’t beautiful but I think it’s a work of art, for the right person. 

“You have to have personality that likes to fix things,” says Vince Beran, That and “you need constant protection from heaven, nobody is that good.” 

Jen Pickett is a freelance writer and fisherman in Cordova, alaska who also blogs about her fishing adventures at: she can be reached at 


alaska salmon Ciabatta sandwiches
PreP Time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Serves: 4
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 4 ciabatta or hard sandwich rolls
  • 4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz.
    each), fresh, thawed or frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon olive, canola, peanut
    or grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 leaves butter or curly leaf lettuce
  1. In small bowl, blend mayonnaise, lime juice, and celery salt; set aside. Slice sandwich rolls in half; toast or grill and keep warm.
  2. Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Salmon under cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium- high heat. Brush both sides of salmon with oil. Place salmon in heated skillet and cook, uncovered, about 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Shake pan occasionally to keep fish from sticking.
  3. Turn salmon over and season with salt and pepper. Add green onions to bottom of pan. Cover pan tightly and reduce heat to medium. Cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes for frozen salmon OR 3 to 4 minutes for fresh/thawed fish. Cook just until fish is opaque throughout.
  4. Blend cooked onions into mayonnaise mixture; thinly spread mayonnaise onto each cut side of roll. To serve, place a salmon fillet onto each roll bottom. Top salmon with dollop of mayonnaise; add a lettuce leaf and roll top.
Nutrients per serving: 521 calories, 23g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 40% calories from fat, 115mg cholesterol, 37g protein, 41g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 846mg sodium, 115mg calcium and 1000mg omega-3 fatty acids.
Courtesy: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

Get with the times. The Cordova Times.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Real Jobs news-O-matic feature; Not all fishermen are men!

Hey guess what?  I was featured today in News-O-Matic news app for kids!  NOM is a daily interactive news source for younger readers, bringing  current events and world news to their level in a fun and interactive way to encourage staying informed and reading.   Each week NOM features "real jobs", unique jobs from around the country.  This week, I was featured!  How cool is that?  Check it out!

Today's News-O-Matic, Oct 16, 2104

 “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.” Dr. Seuss may have been thinking of 42-year-old Jen Pickett when he wrote this! Pickett works as a commercial fisherwoman in Cordova, Alaska. That means she catches the fish that end up in grocery stores! News-O-Matic (NOM) talked to Pickett (JP) about her job.

Like I was saying, each week NOM features someone with a "real job" that entails a description about what they do for a living.  This week they featured me as a fisherman! I mean, I'm not sure fishing is really a "real job" but whatever, that is beside the point.  Still,   how cool is that that 8-10 year-olds all over America today are learning about commercial fishing in Alaska?  And, not only that, but that women fish in Alaska, too!  I think that is my favorite part. 

NOM: Can girls be as good at fishing as guys? JP: Yes! I think women make great fishermen. There is a saying that you have to work smarter, not harder. And that is true for women. We don’t always have the physical strength to do some of the tasks needed to be done. So we have to figure out a way to still do them by using our brains and not our muscles.

To see the full article you have to download the free app onto your iPad or antroid (sorry, a laptop or computer won't work) which you can do here ( But I know you are all busy or might not own a tablet so I'll try to share with you the main points.  Except my blog doesn't have the same cool feature as their app "read to me" and the whole interview is read out load like a bed time story.

NOM: Do you need special training to fish? 
JP: No. I just learned it by working on other boats for a lot of years.

NOM: When do you go fishing in Alaska? 
JP: Salmon season in Cordova, where I mainly fish, is from May until September.

NOM: Do you ever get grossed out working with fish?  
JP: Not so much anymore. Since Alaskan waters are so cold, we have to wear rubber gloves and raingear to stay dry. So if I get fish blood or slime on myself, it’s just on my raingear. And I just wash it off. 

My second favorite part of the feature is when they talk about thinking about where dinner comes from.  They really helps connect the dots for people that fishermen provide a delicious, nutritious, sustainable food source! 


NOM tries to make each article as interactive as possible.  There are a few buttons to push that lead to different facts, "acts", a short video of me setting my net, a map and photos.  Here are a few more photos in the feature, and school kids all over America today will see Cordova Alaksa on a map!

My on my old boat circa 2000

gillnetting the Copper River Flats, Cordova Alaska

slacking while seining on the Coral out of Petersburg, AK circa 1995

interactive map that tells you how far you are from Cordova, Alaska!

All in all a pretty cool interview and hopefully a good boost for Alaska's fisheries!  I think NOM did a whiz bang job of summing up fishing, but I need to make one teeny, tiny correction.  That lovely blue bowpicker that they claim is me on my boat is not my boat. I wish!! Despite sending them a picture of me and my boat, they posted a picture I took of another boat.  I guess I can't blame them, Jame's boat is much nicer than mine ever was. But I just didn't want anyone thinking I was misleading NOM by claiming to own a nicer boat than I did.  Ok, I think you are pickin' up what I am puttin' down.  I'm out.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Family Fishermen of Wild and Sustainable Copper River/Prince William Sound Salmon

Howdy ho all.  I bet you thought I fell overboard long ago and have since been eaten up by sand fleas and small crabs.  Not the case.  I am alive and well and in Finland.  But, that is a story for another time.

This fishing season was a great one, with so many adventures.  I have loads to tell you!  But where do I start?  I will start with this.  Here is a great little video put on by the Copper River/ Prince William Sound Marketing Association ( titled "Family Fishermen of Wild and Sustainable Copper River/Prince William Sound Salmon".   Personally, I think they did a whiz bang job on this video showcasing Copper River Salmon and fishing in Cordova, Alaska.  But, my opinion has just a little list...I'm in the video!  Ha!  This spring a film crew came to Cordova and shot a bunch of footage.  I didn't really think much of it because I've been filmed by these kinds of crews before, but I'm usually among the footage that gets edited out.  Haha.  So when this video came out a few months later, I didn't think anything of it.  Plus, I was in the Arctic literally about 1000 miles away from Cordova and the Copper River and they were the last thing on my mind. But again, that is another story for another time.   So, the first time I saw this video I didn't know I would be in it, I thought it was just another video.  And, like the geek I am, when I saw myself I was so shocked I yelled "Hey, that's me!" Duh!   Its a little weird to see yourself on the screen, even if it is a laptop screen. At least it is for me.  Maybe someone like Linda Greenlaw would be used to it, but as we all know, I'm not Linda Greenlaw.  And I could only watch this video once because it really is just too weird watching myself.  Do I really sound like that?  And if so, you guys read my blog anyway?  How sweet you all are!  OK, before I get totally freaked out and decide not to even post this at all I'm going to just hit  the publish button and walk away.