Target Species: Dusky rockfish, black rockfish, and Pacific cod
Darius beams over one of his last big harvest of Pacific cod before the fishery collapsed, circa 2013. Photo courtesy of Darius.
Darius Kasprzak was raised and homeschooled in “the bush” (a colloquial term Alaskans use, meaning “off the grid”) on an isolated side of Kodiak Island, a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska which has 13,592 inhabitants total.
For Darius, like many of our fishermen, becoming a fisherman was as much about heritage and tradition as it was about opportunity.
Darius grew up on a remote part of Kodiak Island, where rocky, windswept shores are home to one of the biggest fishing ports in the country--the port of Kodiak, the largest “city” on the island. Commercial fishing is easily the most dominant industry. Chances are if you live on Kodiak, you’re involved with fishing in some way. This was certainly the case with Darius and his family.
Kodiak Island is located in the Gulf of Alaska, 635 miles West of Sitka by air or sea.
Darius realized at an early age that “pretty much the only way to make money” was to fish. So he started working with his dad at gillnet sites for a half share (aka half pay) when he was 14 years old. In Alaska, they call novice fishermen “greenhorns”--but Darius was not a greenhorn for long. By 15, he was bumped up to a full share crewman. By 16, he was working in halibut longline derbies, an old-school “winner take all” type of fishery managed by a 24 or 48-hour time limit, regardless of stormy weather. It was a grueling, hard-nose fishing style.
For the rest of his teenage years when he wasn’t studying, Darius could be found on seiners or long-line boats, working salmon fisheries in the summer, and any other fishery he could the rest of the year. Darius was an avid reader growing up, and decided to go to college to pursue a degree in English. But after several years of college, his ambition shifted to returning to Kodiak to participate in the burgeoning Pacific cod fisheries, crewing on a long list of pot, trawl, and longline vessels.
In 1996, the Gulf of Alaska’s jig fishery opened, and Darius wanted in. The following year, he bought his first vessel, the 28-foot High Tide. In 2004, he upgraded to the 39-foot F/V Malka. He’d also run other jig boats when he had time. In 2010, he purchased the vessel he fishes on to this day, the 46-foot F/V Marona, pictured. A decade ago, his focus was on Pacific cod, a fishery which has had some tumultuous years of late. Now, he’s a member of our Kodiak jig fleet which targets dusky and black rockfish. “I’m pretty conservation-minded and jigging is a very sustainable, artisanal way of fishing. There’s minimal impact on the seafloor plus it allows you to target your fish well.” He’s been a direct Sitka Salmon Shares fisherman since 2017.
I love the independence, and that you can harvest sustainably with artisanal fishing methods, like hand-tended hook & line jigging. We're feeding people high-quality protein, without damage to the environment and with the right fishing methods.
- Darius Kasprzak
Darius' fishing vessel, the 46-foot F/V Marona.Photo taken by Teresa Petersen.
Quick Takes with Darius
What do you love about fishing?
I love the independence and that you can harvest sustainably with artisanal fishing methods like hand-tended hook and line – feeding people high-quality protein without damage to the environment with the right fishing methods like jigging. Breathing fresh air and exercise. Being my own boss.
What’s your typical breakfast/lunch/dinner on the boat?
I eat a lot of eggs over easy on rice and beans, and fish sandwiches.
What’s your favorite seafood dish?
Hard to decide… Winter king salmon baked with olive oil – I keep it pretty easy.
Do you have any pets?
An adopted black boat cat named Bruja.
What’s one thing you want Sitka Salmon Shares members to know?
I appreciate members’ interest in preferring to buy fish that are artisanally harvested with a minimal ecological footprint.
Watch the video below to learn more about Kodiak and the small-boat fleet we've worked to build there, where factory boats rule the seas and artisanal fishermen struggle to compete.