BD: Where do you live?
Mereidi Liebner: I have a storage unit and post office box in Girdwood, AK and if I’m around enough I sleep here too. I travel a lot but Girdwood is my home although I was born in a small village on Kodiak Island and grew up in Soldotna (on the Kenai Peninsula).
BD: What do you do for a living?
Mereidi Liebner: I have two jobs at the moment; one is a Contract Captain on boats less than 100ft and mainly in AK for commercial construction work or charter fishing. The other is a deckhand on a tugboat.
BD: What are your other hobbies?
Mereidi Liebner: I’m a competitive trail runner as well as expert skier. I am very active when I’m on land. Biking, kite surfing, surfing, kayaking, hunting and rock climbing to name a few. I also enjoy knitting, dog sitting and coaching running/skiing for high school age kids.
BD: I see you did a bear hunt, can you tell us the story?
Mereidi Liebner: My bear hunt was kind of funny. I shot it on LaTouche Island, in Prince William Sound, AK. It’s my Rainbow bear. We arrived to help a friend build a cabin, and a girlfriend and I attempted a deer hunt, which ended due to heavy fog. The next morning was opening day bear season, something I really hadn’t considered much but had a permit for. After spotting 9 bear on the beach by breakfast, we all decided to go for it (there were 5 of us). We all split up, my friend’s deckhand and I set out to check an area I thought might be good. I was with this big strong guy; someone who I assumed had hunted before. As we walked up a knoll, I spotted a bear superhighway. A foot-wide track in the moss littered with a variety of bear scats. About five minutes into following the trail, he said to me “so, are we like really going to see a bear around here? (Mind you he was dressed in his fly fishing equip only, not intending on hunting at all, no firearm). It was then that he stated that he’d never seen anyone shoot anything before, only helped clean the animals afterward. He had total blind trust in me, and apparently my marksmanship. (Something I felt a tad less confident in). I explained the trail and where we were going.
About 30 min later we reached a high point looking out over a massive valley with sparse trees and a glorious rainbow appeared from the ocean into the fog on the hills.
I suggested we sit and take some photos as I began to glass the hillside. Not two minutes later a 230-pound black bear came sprinting up the hill towards us. He didn’t see us but was escaping something. He ended up stopping, 30m away, directly beneath the picturesque rainbow scene. I quietly put down my camera, picked up my rifle, had my friend lean into me and I fired. The bear dropped instantly. Took the shot just below the jawbone and straight up into the skull. That was that. He turned to me and said, “Well, so that’s how u do it, and they say hunting is hard”. Whallah, Rainbow Bear. It had great meat too. With a belly full of blueberries, it made the best bear bacon I’ve ever had.
BD: Who or what got you into fishing?
Mereidi Liebner: As a kid, my parents had a sailboat in which I lived on a few months of the year. Growing up in Soldotna, AK, on the Kenai River, a pretty popular fishing destination, there are many fishing lodges there. At 16 I started at one of the lodges, inside. That lasted a few days before I asked to be a deckhand on one of their boats in the ocean water of Cook Inlet. I was the only woman “girl” at the time in that area in 1996 on the water, so they gave me a “trial” go. I loved it and they saw that I was talented so I stuck with it. The guys I worked with were all great guys, fish guiding in the summer, hunt guiding in the fall, and ski bums in the winter. A lifestyle I wanted, and live to this day.
BD: How long have you been fishing?
Mereidi Liebner: I fished as a kid with my family on the sailboat but became a professional in 1996 as a deckhand and as a captain/guide in 2002.
BD: What types of fishing have you done and where?
Mereidi Liebner: I fished in the surf fishing for trout and bottom fishing jack-up rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, catfish fished in Kansas, River fly fished (salmon/trout) all over the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon) In the Sea of Cortez I fished for marlin, sailfish, and tuna. I’ve fished brown and rainbow trout in New Zealand on a fly trolled for pike and salmon in the Great Lakes and fished for tarpon and barracuda in St. Maarten. One of my contract jobs even took me on a research vessel in Antarctica where we caught fish for science research there. And of course Alaska, I’ve fished too many places in this state to count. My most recent “fun fishing” has been shrimping via kayak in Prince William Sound. I had knee surgery and had too much energy to sit, so I thought it was the right time to try the combination to kill my boredom, it was a good decision (tasty too!).
BD: What is your favorite kind of fishing so far?
Mereidi Liebner: That’s a tough question to answer but I might say that trout fishing in NZ is tied with trolling for king salmon in Alaskan saltwater. Although, I enjoy any type of fishing, anywhere.
BD: What are some future goals or plans pertaining to fishing?
Mereidi Liebner: I’d like to work more with governing bodies in the AK or the US to help with the sustainability of our fishing stocks. As an avid fisherman for more than half of my life I feel that I could help develop a better system where good systems seem to be lacking. I’ve been eyeing the commercial salmon fishing industry for some time, but with fishing stocks how they are now, I’ve refrained from entering that industry just yet. I’m a conservative gambler so-to-speak. However, I do have many fishing goals aside. I’d love to deep-sea fish the northwest coast of Australia, catch a king salmon in southern Patagonia and land a decent brown in NZ (where I’m headed to next month).
BD: What aspect of fishing do you like the most?
Mereidi Liebner: I must say though, that I love hunt involved in fishing. As primarily an ocean guide, the fish move around a lot and being skilled at catching a variety of species is a mental game that I absolutely adore. The thought process that goes into where, why, and when and then trying it out is my favorite thing. On the other hand, I like the skill and peace that comes with fly fishing, the relaxation of being in a river or the surf with a rod in my hand, and the fact that I have so much to more to learn (I definitely consider myself a novice with a fly rod).
BD: Tell us some of your proudest moments in fishing.
Mereidi Liebner: In 2006 I made the papers nationally (and few international papers too), while running my own fishing business it was definitely a high point in my life. This link brings you to the article if you are curious. While I don’t like the spotlight, a little recognition is nice.
BD: What other “aspects of you” would you like to portray?
Mereidi Liebner: I’d say that guiding, in general, makes me happy and is something that I‘m quite proud of. To have the opportunity to spend the day with people and teach them about fish and how to fish, and to give them a good catch is one of the best parts of my life. I don’t feel I have a competitive nature with guiding other than holding my own against the boys and being a good role model for younger women.
I aim to be a standout person in my profession and always enjoy doing my best, and with the fickle nature of fishing, it keeps you humble.