Lyle Wilder

How did you get started fishing?

We’ve been a flying and fishing family in Alaska since the ‘40s, when my grandfather homesteaded here. My mom grew up set-netting salmon on Bristol Bay, and my dad got into the air taxi business the same time he started out as a commercial fisherman, and he taught me how to do both when I was a teenager. Now he and I operate Lake & Peninsula Airlines together, and I also fish for salmon in Bristol Bay. So I’m really carrying on the family heritage.

Who do you fish with?

I got married in December 2008 and my wife, Heidi, is my crew, along with one other guy on our 32-foot boat, Maggie. Heidi’s from Montana—landlocked—and she was a firefighter so I’m pretty honored that she traded in firefighting for fishing with me. And it’s just amazing how well we get along, out for two or three weeks at a time in a small boat. But we traveled together all over the world for eight months after the first season, so I guess we can probably do anything together.

What do you like best about fishing?

It really fits in well with the Alaska mentality: being an individualist, being your own boss, long hard days of work with a paycheck at the end.

What’s the sustainability situation in Bristol Bay?

Alaska Fish & Game has done such a wonderful job. It’s an amazingly productive fishery. I’m also on the board of the Iliamna Advisory Committee, which is always watching the fishery and making recommendations for what makes sense every season. Alaskan natives have been watching out for the resource for thousands of years so we also have that history to rely upon. And I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Subsistence Fisheries Board for Alaska after this season. Subsistence issues are really important for all of rural Alaska.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to fish commercially?

Get a mentor. Find an old guy to follow around. That’s the way it’s worked in our family for three generations.

Getting There