BD: Where do you live?
Oksana Skolnaja: Currently I live in Girdwood Alaska! I’ve spent the last 5 winters skiing, summers are spent sport fishing on a boat out of Seward, Alaska.
BD: What do you do for work?
Oksana Skolnaja: Originally, as an International Business post-graduate, I worked in media and advertising for a couple years, but then I moved up to Alaska and my whole life changed dramatically. Currently I work as a deckhand with Andy Mezirow on the charter boat, Crackerjack Voyager. During winters, I volunteer a lot of my time teaching adaptive skiing for different ages and abilities. Also, I have been a substitute, teaching science, music, language arts or special education K through 12.
BD: What are your other hobbies?
Oksana Skolnaja: My most favorite hobbies besides fishing are adventure/lifestyle photography, hiking mountains in Alaska, skiing in winter. I just love being outside, recently I got introduced to trout fishing and I loved it, also getting familiar with hunting by starting with wild birds!
BD: Who or what got you into fishing?
Oksana Skolnaja: I remember fishing since I can remember myself, with a very basic little fishing pole catching little tiny fish. I spent summers in the countryside of Ukraine when I was age of six or seven. My uncle was a local “so to speak” commercial fisherman, catching river fish and selling them to the markets in village. Also he was a talented musician. So, I remember, I always asked him to take me fishing with him and he did, he took me on a motorcycle with a sidecar. We fished at the Dnepro River. I just remember how happy I was catching my first fish. So, I remember since I was a little girl, enjoying the process of fishing and not caring so much what I catch.
My uncle passed away a while ago, but I feel his spirit with me while at sea, like he is watching out for me.
BD: How long have you been fishing for a living?
Oksana Skolnaja: I have been fishing for work since summer 2010, I started as a deckhand learning a lot about knots, fishing techniques, and perfecting my filleting skills. It is a quite a short season of fishing, around four to five months, but it goes by so fast because I really enjoy my time on the boat. However it’s not always so glamorous and fun, because of weather, slow fishing, or being tired, but I’m always trying to make the best of my day!
BD: What types of fishing have you done and where?
Oksana Skolnaja: Mainly I have only been fishing in Alaska, saltwater for halibut, salmon and lingcod. Also, fresh water – river trout and salmon fishing. This past summer I did commercial long lining for halibut on CrackerJack Voyager, mini commercial operation with around 500 hooks per set. Watching BD’s fishing forum makes me want to try fishing elsewhere in the U.S. I realize how much more fun fishing there is in other places! I would so definitely love to fish outside of Alaska!
BD: What is your favorite kind of fishing so far?
Oksana Skolnaja: I enjoy saltwater fishing for king salmon and river trout fishing! Also jigging is quite fun, because you get to try different jig tails, and lighter gear.
BD: What are some future goals or plans pertaining to fishing?
Oksana Skolnaja: Currently I am working on my captain’s license, which will help me gain more knowledge as a mariner and open more possibilities. Also my current dream is to go to Kamchatka trout fishing. Since I have excellent Russian language skills I would have no problem communicating with the locals there. I would also love to go to Canada for steelhead fishing and Mexico for some kayak fishing!
BD: Could you list some of your proudest moments in fishing.
Oksana Skolnaja: Filleting a halibut in 31 seconds with halibut cheeks out and clean looking fillets!
Filleting a 211-pound halibut, the Seward Halibut Derby winner 2013.
Catching a salmon shark a couple times was pretty exciting, just seeing how these monsters fight!
Seeing how clients succeed in catching a fish following my instructions and coaching.
Exploring new fishing spots during overnight trips that I haven’t seen before was quite thrilling, realizing that you are the only boat out there… watching sunsets and sunrises in North Gulf coast.
Commercial long lining for halibut was quite a new experience for me. It was physically strenuous but it made me feel better about myself when I succeeded.
Halibut tournaments are quite fun in June!
BD: What aspect of fishing do you like the most?
Oksana Skolnaja: I love being with like-minded people while fishing, sharing the same passion, learning new tricks and techniques for different types of fishing. I believe that different fishing could be uniquely rewarding and it brings great experiences.
For example, what I love about trout fishing mostly is how peaceful and therapeutic it feels, no blood, no bait, just very gentle fish handling. And you get to be alone with nature, just hear the river flowing and casting lines.