Salmon Life: Fish and Family

Written and published for Salmon Love, Salmon Life. Photography by Ash Adams. 

Lexi Fish Hackett has fish in her blood in more ways than one. Until recently, her last name has simply been “Fish,” which she says is merely a coincidence. Her dad, however, who hitchhiked his way up to Southeast Alaska in the ‘70s to try his luck at fishing, believes the name is more destiny than coincidence. Either way, fish runs through her veins.

Lexi grew up on boats and in gear-supply stores, eating fish, processing fish, and writing fish tickets aboard her father’s salmon tender. Before taking root in Sitka, her family lived in small communities scattered across the region. Their boat served as a second home, with Lexi building forts in the pilot house and spending hours badgering her father’s crew with questions and pleas to play I-Spy while they baited gear.

While she describes that crew as the “epitome of rugged Alaskan fishermen,” when the sea would start to shake, even they were sent down on deck. Immune to seasickness, she first earned her stripes in the midst of these storms. With bouncing blonde curls, a young, wide-eyed Lexi embraced the swells, whipping up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed the crew.

Later, at the impressionable age of fifteen and when many high school freshmen were spending their summers daydreaming or flipping burgers, Lexi joined that same fishing crew as a paid deckhand. “I remember vividly how hard it was, physically and mentally. My hands would cramp, and at the end of a set, I remember feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to use my hands again, ever,” says Lexi.

Quitting, however, wasn’t an option. “Fishing and being around that level of intense dedication and teamwork has definitely shaped my character. It’s those experiences, fishing that year, and every year since, that have given me a solid work ethic across all aspects of my life.”

FISH + FAMILY

That unwavering work ethic has certainly paid off. Today, Lexi and her husband, Adam Hackett, own their own salmon troller and are building a successful family business. Aboard F/V Myriad, Lexi bounces her own blonde and beautiful daughter Isla in a backpack while cleaning king and coho salmon with precision and care for their clients at Fish + Family Seafoods, Lexi and Adam’s startup company.

Fish + Family Seafoods line-catches, processes and markets artisan quality wild Alaskan salmon direct to markets in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, you can find their salmon at Etta’s in Seattle as well at Deschutes Brewery in Portland and Bend, Oregon.

Recently, Lexi and Adam traded in their ice troller for a freezer troller, a transition that allows the couple to fully process each salmon at sea. “On a freezer troller, the process is incredibly meticulous. We like it a lot, because we feel that each fish deserves that level of attention; they deserve to be treated with respect, cleaned with care, and delivered with love to chefs who are going to share it with families who will have an amazing experience.” Lexi and Adam’s ultimate goal is to market all of their commercial catch to chefs and retailers who share their adoration and respect for top-quality salmon.

FAMILY AND THE FUTURE

Not all of the salmon the family lands is sold commercially. They donate salmon to Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, an initiative Lexi helped start that puts local fish on the lunch trays of Sitka’s schoolchildren every week.

The couple’s catch is also reserved for feeding baby Isla’s voracious Alaskan appetite. “Isla loves salmon. She loves roe. She eats salmon skin. She loves berries and seaweed. Pretty much anything wild – she’ll eat it,” says Lexi.

As Isla grows, it becomes clear that like her mother, she shares an early affinity for boat life. “ Isla has never been seasick and as she gets older we participate more in all aspects of fishing. She loves to be on deck, watching everything with such curiosity, playing with fishing gear or salmon eggs, or flying in her swing,” says Lexi.

The family looks proudly toward the future and counts their blessings. “While it can be hard to balance everything, I try to stay in the present moment and enjoy everything we have to be grateful for, which is a lot. We are able to work in nature harvesting a wild resource, which is really rare globally and a special opportunity. Being together as a family in the summer keeps us grounded, and we try to respect that. We are working hard to continue creating opportunities for ourselves and for our community long into the future.”

In Alaska, many of us share a passion for the king of fish with Lexi and her family. Salmon feed and support our families, and serve as a timeless foundation for our rich fishing culture. Each year, we see-off family and friends or we hop aboard fishing vessels and small skiffs ourselves to pull salmon from our waters. Commercial fishermen, like Lexi and Adam, stand as proud ambassadors for this tradition and lifestyle by sharing a top-quality product that feeds families across the world. At the end of those tiresome days, when a fresh fillet hits our own family’s dinner plate, we Alaskans toast our salmon life.

The Salmon Project gives voice to Alaskans’ deep relationships with salmon to ensure that Alaskans’ lives will always be salmon lives. We share the stories of Alaskans’ salmon connections, and bring Alaskans together to co-create a positive vision for Alaska’s salmon future. Learn more at salmonlife.org.