How to Stay Sane as a Female Deckhand in Alaska
As one of very few women working in Alaska salmon country, I learned how to gut a fish and swallow its heart. But an even harder trick was navigating the torrential sea of masculinity.
Photos courtesy Rachel Cassandra
Here’s how to clean a salmon: Flip it on its back in a v-shaped metal tray. Pull the feathery red gills tight, and cut them out. Slice your knife through the anal vent and up the belly. Grab the mess of guts and pull it taut, slicing the connective tissue along both sides of the collar. Rip them out. If you don’t want the seagulls to follow you, slice the air bladder so it doesn’t float. Toss the guts out of the side of the boat. Slice the kidney membrane in one smooth line. Grab a spoon, the same kind you use to eat cereal. Scoop out the kidneys, scraping out the last gelatinous pieces from the now-dry spine. Sometimes the fish’s heart dangles in its throat, its connective tissue oddly tenacious. It might still be beating in the hollow body. To become a real fisher, you have to eat it whole — feeling the pulsing flesh travel down your throat, the salt prickling your salivary glands.
After a week and a half of fishing in Alaska, this is what I do.
I am he…