Today I was able to attend an event in Naknek at Dolly’s Hall that was meant for all who participate in the Bristol Bay fishery. This year marked the 14th year that Fred Anderson has organized the “Fishermen’s Send-Off,” Blessing and Potluck for Naknek based fishermen. Many individuals, small businesses and major processors contributed safety gear and miscellaneous items to be raffled amongst the attendees who packed the hall. Food items were graciously shared and donated from community members and business owners as well, to include smoked fish and specially baked items from cannery cookhouses.
A minister opened by talking about the bowl of water that he was holding and how it symbolized the importance of clean water and how it carries the blessings of salmon that we hope for and pursue. He then had a young man read the passage from the New Testament of the Bible where Jesus appeared to the men who were to become his disciples after they had been fishing without results. He asked them to cast their net to the right side of their boat and their nets were then so filled with fish that they were not able to pull the net into their boat. After a prayer the minister returned to the water that he started with and shared the blessing and protection it represented by spreading it around the room with a pine bough.
For good measure a safety representative followed the symbolic and spiritual with tangible measures that we as fishermen can take to protect ourselves from the hazards of the sea. The raffling of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) was a fitting follow-up. It was then time for attendees to enjoy the potluck feast and bring together the proceedings of the afternoon amongst each other. Sharing with the community of Naknek in this way as we embark upon another season is a blessing unto itself.