49 Voices: Shane Baldwin of St. Paul

Shane Baldwin of St. Paul (Photo by Laura Kraegel, KUCB – Unalaska)

This week we’re hearing from Shane Baldwin in St. Paul. Baldwin makes his living as a halibut fisherman.

BALDWIN: 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. I was an onshore baiter for about five years, six years, baiting hooks for the fishermen so they could set their gear. Then, whenever I turned 18, after I graduated, I go on a boat and I’ve been fishing ever since. I’ve been 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. So 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.” It’s definitely nice to be able to fish for family, 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 O always wanted to be 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 wanna work hard. It’s not gonna be easy. There’s nothing easy about it. The fish don’t just just jump into the boart, and the line doesn’t lay itself. So it’s tough work, but after a couple years it becomes easy because you find once you get over everything and you get seasoned a little, you fuind 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. But it’s a fun way too 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.

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Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. (laura@kucb.org / 907.581.6700)