Isaksen owns and operates the F/V Heidi of Norway, and is a veteran of more than four decades as a commercial fisherman in the Bay. He decided to answer the call on July 6 when a reporter on Alaska public radio KDLG in Dillingham said the station was looking for someone to deliver the 2 billionth salmon.
So Isaksen delivered a 5.5-pound sockeye salmon to Casey McManus, captain and owner of the F/V Cornelia Marie, who was tendering for Peter Pan Seafoods in the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay.
“It was just fun,” he said.
Word got out a year ago that delivery of the 2 billionth salmon caught in Bristol Bay’s 133-year fishing history was expected in the summer of 2016. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes that since the inception of Bristol Bay’s canned salmon industry in 1884, fishermen had landed 1.99 billion salmon, 93 percent of which were sockeyes.
The catch officially declared to be the 1 billionth salmon was caught on the afternoon of June 28, 1978, also in the Nushagak River district.
Isaksen is the son of Bert Isaksen, who was born in Norway in 1928, and came to America to fish in the 1940s, after the end of World War Two.
“Dad started in the sailboat days,” said Gary Isaksen, who fishes these days with his son, Anders, his older brother Karl, and Dustin Gust, who recently graduated from high school in New Stuyahok, a Bristol Bay village.
The best part of fishing in Bristol Bay, he said, is fishing with his son, his brother, and Gust, who joined the crew a year ago. The Isaksen brothers have been fishing the Bay for over four decades and Anders for the past 14 years.
When he’s not fishing, Gary Isaksen stays busy building scale models of fishing boats, yachts and other vessels, through his company, Isaksen Scale Models, (www.isaksenscalemodels.com).
The family owned business of more than 22 years produces models that range from building prototype interior rooms, that display all furniture and details, to finished detailed exterior models showing all shapes, equipment and features.
The models aren’t just for show. Many builders order models early in the concept and design phase, to provide their client a tangible representation of what the finished product will be, the company said.