The Salmon Way | National Fisherman

I found myself walking through Mexico City with a large square book under my arm, The Salmon Way: An Alaskan State of Mind, by Amy Gulick. The cover photo catches the eye of the people in this urban setting – an Alaskan brown bear eating a chum salmon, surrounded by the swift waters of a river.

In the evening I read the book to my son, in the early morning I read it to myself. It makes me drop everything and go to Alaska.

I met Amy Gulick in Seattle where she was selling her book at the Pacific Marine Expo and when I went around to talk to her about a review she was gone, already sold out. It came as no surprise. Through convincing pictures and prose, The Salmon Way captures the connections that the five species of Pacific salmon have with all of Alaska.

Gulick begins her book with an insight into the important commercial salmon fishery, including interviews with Eric Jordan, a salmon fisherman from the Southeast, and a chapter entitled ‘Red Fever’ covering the red fever gillnet fishery in Bristol Bay. But the book focuses more on connections than crop counts.

From her images to her interviews, Gulick gets personal and intimate with people, fish, and wildlife. Close-up views of salmon eyes, from eggs to the rotting carcass of a drained adult, show these salmon are more than just flesh, they are creatures with souls that transcend Alaska.

Again and again the human voices, locals and newcomers, speak of tradition and a spiritual connection between man and fish. Michelle Ravenmoon, who has returned to her family’s home on Iliamna Lake, shares old tales of what her people call the salmon in spring: “We say look at us, we’re starving, we’re eating plants, please come home and feed us.”

Gulick includes all salmon users in her book, including sport fishermen and the local guides who take their clients out on the huge trout in the rivers that feed Bristol Bay while protecting them from bears. Newcomers to Alaska also have their place, such as a photo of a woman carrying her baby on her back while dipping net salmon for personal use.

The five species of salmon—king, dog, silver, red, and humpy, also known as chinook, chum, coho, sockeye, and pink—touch the lives of almost every Alaskan in some way. The nutrients that the fish bring from the sea feed the state’s ecosystem. As Gulick states, “the salmon are in the trees,” fertilized by the excrement of bears and all wild animals that feed on salmon.

Gulick leaves no stone unturned in their exploration The Salmon Way, who often talks about sharing food. Her book shares food for the heart and mind – an important understanding of the human connection to the wild sources of what we eat and the traditions we build on those connections and pass them on to our children.

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