A Long While

It’s been a long while since I last saw Tom and Cate’s two daughters, Frances and Maggie. Eighteen years long, to be exact. And, to be honest, I didn’t really know what sort of email response, if any, I’d get from the kid I remembered only as being the ‘demanding’ five year old who, when asked by the camp nanny why Donald Duck wasn’t wearing pants instantly replied simply, “Because he’s free balling.”

That was my first hint these youngins were a bit further ahead of the curve than I was at that age.

Now, so many years later, I had questions. Questions regarding their perceptions of the process of their being dragged away for so many summers fishing and being cooped up with mom and dad and a steady roll call of virtual strangers in Pilot Point, Alaska. Were their memories generally positive or do they now run in the opposite direction at the mere sight of the targeted species’ orange flesh covered in plastic on a grocery store shelves? Hell, did Frances even remember me?

Regarding that last question, I was pleased to learn the answer was yes. As for the rest, something told me I already knew the answers.

But, even so, with so much modern day hoopla revolving around guarding against putting even the slightest chink in a young child’s fragile psyche, I figured checking in with the Bursch kids couldn’t hurt. Let them speak for themselves.

So, here, from the windswept and muddy banks of the Ugashik River Frances, Bursch does just that while younger sister Maggie has her say via a four minute Youtube video coming soon.

In both cases, I think it safe to say the kid’s are definitely alright.

I only hope Kaia can say the same in the years to come.


JWK: What are your earliest recollections from fish camp?

Frances: That’s hard to tell as it all blends together but probably some dinner or birthday party where the cabin was packed with people. Also, I remember my parents or crew bringing me tiny flounders in a bucket to water to play with.

JWK: Do you look forward to fishing and have you ever missed a season?

Frances: I both look forward to and dread going fishing. I look forward to it because I have a strong connection to the place and I see old friends. I appreciate the uniqueness of making a living off of a sustainable fishery and I dread it because it’s very hard work and between relationships with family and crew/coworkers, it can be emotionally very draining. Last year was the first year I didn’t come fishing. I had just graduated college and was moving to Colorado and I thought I would try something else. I’m glad I did, but I’m back again now.

JWK: In school were there other fishing families? Did you get lots of questions about how you spent your summers?

Frances: In Homer there were some other families and kids involved with fishing. I don’t remember answering too many questions in school although a lot of people thought ‘fish camp’ was like a summer camp, which I didn’t like because it’s far from it. My two best friends from home, who I have had since I was 6 or 7, grew up in similar fishing families so maybe we relate on a different level because of that.

JWK: As a young kid, what was your favorite part of fish camp and has that changed as you’ve gotten older?

Frances: When I was young it wasn’t so much about fishing but about running wild on the beach. I think I liked the freedom of getting to play outside all the time with just my sister and our imaginations. I also remember it was fun to have relationships with the crew. Often they were younger than my parents and people I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. As a kid, it was fun to have adult friends. This part I still like a lot. You are forced to live and work with people you don’t know. Though it’s frustrating at times this is mostly a great thing.

JWK: Have you ever wished you weren’t going fishing?

Frances: Absolutely. I hated it in middle and high school. I felt like I was missing out on my friends’ summers at home and didn’t like the work or my parents. HA! I ended up trying a different kind of fishing with another family, which I liked a lot more and then I began working for my parents again when I was a little more mature. That being said, I have had the choice of whether or not to go for the last 7 or 8 years and I have come all but one.

JWK: If you could change one aspect of fish camp, what would it be?

Frances: I would change the stress and anxiety that comes with fishing, especially for those who own fishing businesses like my mom, dad and sister. It is the only long period of time we spend as a family anymore and it is definitely no all collaboration and teamwork. It can be really hard to get a long in those conditions.


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