Report From the Grounds

Kelly Bennett

The bitter blast of winter, ice on salt water and nets straining with cod — a world few of us will witness.

It’s everyday sight for Newport fisherman Kelly Bennett, who has spent the greater part of the last decade traveling to Alaska to work on Newport trawlers plying the northern waters for pollock, cod and groundfish.

Working aboard the Aleutian Challenger, Bennett is away for up to four months at a time, toiling in a fishery called joint venture, where he — amazingly — doesn’t have to handle fish, except the few that fall out of the net. Instead, the 100-foot trawler out of Seattle scoops the cod and passes the nets off to another, much larger boat.

This past trip, the boat headed so far west across the Bering Sea it ended up 60 miles from Russian waters. Recently, the boat jogged in 50-knot winds and 30-foot seas. It was too rough to fish.

It’s not hard work, Bennett says. But it is a grind.

“It takes two weeks to fill the ship, then we head to town for a day or so,” he said via Facebook Messenger.

Bennett’s goal is to one day operate his own boat out of Newport instead of traveling north to work. He is one of many Newport fishermen bringing in the bounty this time of year from waters off of Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Saint Paul, and beyond.

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