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49 Voices: Shane Baldwin Of St. Paul

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

This week on 49 Voices, we're hearing from Shane Baldwin in St. Paul.

Baldwin is a commercial fishermen gearing up for halibut season, which starts in June.

TRANSCRIPT: I started baiting and chopping bait onshore when I was a little kid — about nine years old. I've pretty much been in the halibut industry since then. You know, I was an onshore baiter for about five years, six years, baiting hooks for the fishermen so they could set their gear. Then, when I turned 18, after I graduated, I got on a boat and I've been fishing ever since. I'm going on my 11th season now halibut fishing.

The crew I'm on right now — we're actually all related. It just so happened to be that way, but we're all related. It's a pretty close group of guys. They're all good people, so it's usually a good time.

I'm fishing for my great-uncle. His name is Philip Lestenkof. His vessel is called the Niqax, and that's Aleut for "open boat" or "open skiff," I think. It's definitely nice to be able to fish for family and people that you enjoy being around, in a sense.

A lot of times, now that I'm a dad, I think about my baby a lot. And I think about a hot shower and a nice plate of food. But other than that, I'm not too … In the beginning, I always wanted to be home or go home or be on land, but now that I'm a little seasoned, I just know what I have to do and what needs to be done before we can go home. So it's not too big of a deal.

It could be a good way to make a living, if you want to work hard. It's not going to be easy. There's nothing easy about it. The fish don't just jump into the boat, and the line doesn't lay itself. So it's tough work. But after a couple years, it becomes easy because once you get over everything and you get seasoned a little, you find ways to become faster and to make it more enjoyable. You just become used to it. You're used to the pain, and you're used to the grind. It's a fun way to live. It's not really for everybody.

I love it, and there's a lot of people who do love it. If you need to make a living and you need to make some money, then halibut fishing could be there for you.

This interview was produced by Wesley Early of Alaska Public Media. 

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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