Ryan Horwath jigs for cod and rockfish out of Kodiak. He and his father moved to Kodiak in 2003 to take the reins of his uncle’s fishing business. Ryan is a member of the Alaska Jig Association and an advocate for sustainable fisheries. Ryan was recently appointed to AMCC’s board of directors.
What is your connection to the ocean, coastal Alaska, or the fishing industry?
Ryan jigging for Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska
Growing up in Rochester, NY, I had an elusive uncle who would occasionally show up and describe the harsh winters and stories of adventure in Alaska. One year in the middle of a blizzard he showed up with a box full of king crab. After a night of the adults stuffing themselves with the delicacy, he proceeded to build an igloo on our front lawn informing me, “These are our houses in Alaska.” I was intrigued. After a tragic diving accident in 2003, I was the only one of four siblings who had ever fished with him—or even stepped foot in Alaska—and I was asked to help settle the estate. My father and I both left our lives in the Lower 48 with dreams of independence and freedom. Thirteen years later, I’m the weird uncle in Alaska, jigging for cod and rockfish.
How did you first get involved with AMCC and why you decided to become a member of AMCC?
A longtime friend and mentor, Darius Kasprzak, encouraged me to join the Alaska Jig Association. Darius helped spread my uncle’s ashes in Kalsin Bay, where I jigged up my first codfish. AMCC shares similar ideals as the Alaska Jig Association, and seemed like a natural fit.
What are the strongest connections between you and AMCC?
Our commitment to sustainable resource development and harvesting.
What do you see as the number one issue facing Alaska’s fishing industry? And how can AMCC help?
I see the privatization of public resources as the greatest threat to the industry and free market. While jobs and access to the fisheries continue to shrink, the distribution of wealth goes into fewer and fewer hands. AMCC is working to keep opportunities in the industry open for generations to come.
Ryan fishing with his father
What kind of fishing do you like to do?
My favorite kind of fishing is jigging. The freedom to explore and low impact of jig fishing on the resource and the environment make it an ideal way to harvest species which have been historically over-fished. Slow catch rates present opportunities for direct marketing while adding value to fish that are usually a low ex-vessel price.
Do you have a favorite fishing story?
One day while longlining on the F/V Miss Lori for cod—on Friday the 13th during a full moon—the skipper stopped the hauler and called all of us to the rail. Thinking we had a large skate or some other creature on the line they needed help bringing aboard, I grabbed a gaff and glanced down to see what the commotion was about. Bill Harrington, the skipper, pointed to the horizon. I saw what looked like a nuclear bomb going off. The ash from Mount Augustine volcano erupting had reached the upper jet stream and started spreading, giving it the appearance of a mushroom cloud. Knowing what was happening almost 100 miles away and realizing the magnitude of the events that were unfolding before us put into perspective something that is often lost in other occupations. Our place on this earth is not guaranteed and there are forces at work beyond our control. But if we can learn to work with these larger unknowns, and accept that we know so little in regard to the bigger picture, we might be able to keep our place at the table and still have enough to go around.