How a family stays connected during Alaska's fishing season

How a family stays connected during Alaska’s fishing season

Guest Post by Diana Rae Riedel

May 16 is the fishing opener in the Copper River District of Alaska, where 1.6 million sockeye salmon are projected for the 2016 harvest. Alaska’s limited permit system guarantees income for generations of families, including Diana Riedel and her husband Kenny. Customers of Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA)  participant Copper Valley Telecom, Diana shared how important communications service is for her family.

My grandfather Ray was a commercial fisherman here in Prince William Sound, as was his father before him. I also have a long ancestry of fishermen with my Aleut and Eyak and Athabascan indigenous heritage. I grew up commercial fishing with my father, Steve, and my husband Kenny grew up with the same lifestyle, gillnetting and seining with his father, John.

We are greatly anticipating the first opener.

It is an exciting time with all the boats heading out and our first chance at fresh salmon and greatly needed income. We live in Cordova year-round and commercial fishing makes up 3/4 of our income.

We both recently got new Samsung S7 smartphones from Copper Valley Wireless and we love them. They are our only means of communicating while Kenny is out fishing. It definitely makes it easier to be apart for most of the summer when you are able to have a few moments to catch up or share pictures and updates on the kids, Kiley age 10 and Elora, 20 months.

Cordova/Prince William Sound area
Cordova/Prince William Sound area

Kenny fishes on his 33-foot bowpicker the “Elora Rae.” At first, the fishing openers are 12 hours, but as the salmon run comes in stronger they can be extended to 24 and then 48 hours of continuous fishing. Kenny uses apps on his smartphone everyday for information on weather, tides and wind speed and direction. Of course he streams Pandora and Amazon for music too.

Communication can save your boat or your life out on the flats in the Gulf of Alaska.

This is where a major river system, the Copper River, meets the ocean. There are sand bars, huge tides and massive swells to pay attention to. The weather can be severe with high winds, storms and currents.

Me and the kids on the back of the elora rae
Me and the kids on the back of the Elora Rae

It is terrifying to be home during a huge storm and watch the coast guard helicopter fly over – you pray it’s not your family, friends or neighbors. If you don't get a call or text that lets you know everyone is okay you worry constantly.

Although Kenny mainly fishes alone, he is part of a coded radio group that includes his brother, his father, and a handful of fishermen. With the extended cell service on the flats, Kenny is able to text and call this group and receive fishing reports.  

The cell service also helps Kenny to text the tenders (the boats picking up your fish and taking them to town). If he were to radio (where everyone can hear his call to the tenders) other boats would immediately come over and crowd him out of his fishing area.

My smartphone is a lifeline to my small business.

When we get an occasional break from fishing in the summer we love to head out to our cabin on Hinchinbrook Island. During these breaks, I use my smartphone to stay in touch with my clients for my Dineega Furs business through texting, calls, and email. It is really nice to go out and be on vacation but still be able to turn my phone on and not lose any business.

Hopefully, with the baby being a little older this summer, I will be able to make it out fishing again this season. In the meantime, Kenny and I will stay in touch.


Enjoying family time on Hinchinbrook Island

Kenny, Diana, Kiley & Elora Reidel

Cordova, Alaska

Kenny is a commercial fisherman. Diana is the owner of Dineega Furs, a small business specializing in fur art and clothing.

Smartphone of Choice:
Samsung Galaxy S7

Wireless Service:
Copper Valley Wireless