The Beginning Part I: "A Conversation With Lynnette Wright"

Published May 31st, 2023 by Lynnette Wright

Lynnette (Lohse) Wright in her childhood years.I grew up in a fishing family. My dad was a drifter, married to a fisherman’s daughter. Mom’s brothers and brother-in-law all fished. I was out on the boat a few times throughout childhood, but not frequently. It was never something encouraged of me and honestly not until I went along on outings to supervise my much younger little brothers do I really remember being a part of it. Perhaps this was just sexism, or perhaps in retrospect it was also due in big part to the uncertain future of the fisheries in the wake of the Exxon Oil spill. Either way, during my childhood and high school years, fishing was never on the radar as a career choice. Instead, there was never a doubt that I was expected to do well in school, gain scholarships, and go to college. College was my excuse, my ticket out, and I was eager to take that path, leave Alaska, and truly had zero desire or expectation to come back. I was at long-last free!

Fast forward a few years. I finished my degree early (to pinch pennies and maybe to my regret), schemed with my also recent graduate sister for some adventure, and decided to ditch my job as a Domestic Violence Advocate and hit the road on a bike trip to Alaska. Something my sister and I had schemed up years before as a hair-brained adventure and then couldn’t be the wimp that bailed out of…so we did. We timed our trip to skirt the spring season and arrive just in time for the plentiful job opportunities of Alaska summer, catching some snow on the way but reaching our destination broke and optimistic.

Robin and Lynnette on the Alcan (2001)

My Uncle had recently acquired a set-gillnet permit and begged the two of us to work for him, (another aunt and uncle had sites nearby and my much younger brothers had been working for them for years), but he couldn’t talk me into it. I worked summer camps that year, and had more fun playing with kids in Alaska than I remembered having ever before. Nevertheless, fall took me south. I crashed at my oldest sister’s house, did some substitute teaching at her school, took a trip to see a friend overseas, returning to a planned job with Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation in early March with the promise of a set-gillnet job with Uncle to follow.

Lynnette & Neil on their wedding day in Unakwik. Back row from left, Robin, Lynnette, Neil, Tyee, front row from left, Trae, Becky and Teal (2007)

I fell unexpectedly in love. With Alaska, with Prince William Sound, and very tentatively perhaps with my (now) husband. March 3, 2003 was a gorgeous day for a flight; bluebird, snow-covered, and absolutely gorgeous. The people I met and now worked with also loved Alaska, and showed me beauty I had never seen before. My job location opened up recreational activities as an adult that I had never really been able to have growing up. I completed my three month job term with new friends and a muddled mind, uncertain of my direction. I had taken LSAT’s the previous year, had a plan to go to law school, but…the daily grind and city life I had adopted during school didn't have the certain appeal it once had. In Alaska, people took risks, did what they loved, whatever that might be and however that looked. Rat race be damned!

Lynnette with a beautiful king salmonAnd then I went fishing. Life would never be the same. I am not sure I had ever had as much fun or as big of an adrenaline rush as putting tailwalkers in the net created. Working hard physically felt so good, and was so directly rewarding. Those gorgeous fish hanging in the net just waiting for me as I bobbed vulnerably in my tiny skiff on the vast ocean surrounded by an absolutely glorious view changed my world. I felt physically and mentally strong, happily sun and wind-burned, and totally at peace and in love with my watery surroundings. My perspective shifted, I was addicted, and I promised my Uncle I would be back the next season to crew again.


Lynnette Wright

Lynnette Wright is a third generation commercial fisherman, aspiring writer, and full-time mom. She began commercial fishing in 2003 and became a set-gillnet permit holder in the fall of 2010. Along with her husband and growing children, (and other family/crew helpers) she and her family fish a total of three set-gillnet permits in the Eshamy district in Prince William Sound. Two of those sites have been in her family since the 1960’s and the cabin and property from which fish-camp is operated is privately owned by her maternal grandmother and her children, making it a true family heirloom.

Lynnette treasures the strong undercurrent of family that underlies her entire fishing experience. That bridge between past, present and future makes it incredibly special. In addition to that, deep family connection, the excitement of fish in the net, the peace of a quiet moment alone on the vast ocean, sunshine on the beach on a day off, and the freedom and simplicity of life at fish camp is what keeps the whole family coming back, even more than the fish themselves.

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