Salty Girl of the Month: Corey Wheeler Forrest, Rhode Island Fisherman

 

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

 

meet Corey wheeler Forrest, a Rhode Island fisherman.

Our Salty Girl for the month, Corey Wheeler Forrest, holds a particularly special place in my heart -- she and I were born and raised in the same small town in New England -- Little Compton, RI. I remember seeing Corey and her family working their trap site from the deck of my own family’s boats as we headed out for the day, or mending their gear in their big grassy field on the way to check the surf.  As a third generation fisherman, Corey’s connection to the sea is in her blood; a tradition she began passing on to her two kids from the time they were babies. Her family’s unique style of fishing has been around for ages but their sites are some of the few still operating this incredibly passive and sustainable way of catching fish. Even though Corey must balance a lot of roles every day (fisherman, mother, daughter, wife, business owner), the grounding and sense of self that she derives from the sea and this way of life is unmistakable. We hope you are as inspired by Corey’s story as much as we are, and be sure to check out her beautiful and entertaining Instagram account @fishandforrest.

Tell us a little about yourself and your business.

I'm a married, mother of two, third generation commercial trap fisherman. I fish and handle/sell all the fish for my family's two floating fish trap companies and my brother's day-boat. "Trapping" is a unique fishery to Rhode Island, only a few of us still fish this way and it's been around for hundreds of years. It's a really cool, sustainable and passive fishery.  We are licensed to set in the same spots every year off the coast of Little Compton and Newport.  If the fish come to us we catch them, if they don't, we don't. The floating fish traps are like a giant Aquarium, held in place by 26 500-900 lb anchors, where fish are funneled into the "head" of the trap where they can't escape. Everything is alive so anything we can't keep is thrown right back into the water to swim away. It's really labor and equipment intensive, which is probably why not too many people still do this. As my dad says, "if it were easy, everyone would do it."

Who first got you hooked on the sea?

My family. I think it's just embedded in me. Growing up there were fishy work clothes hanging in the hall, a beat up pick-up truck in the driveway, fishing gear in the back yard. We didn't have a swing set, we made forts out of lobster pots. Our conversations always revolved around working the sea, and it still does.

What does a "normal" day in your life look like?  

I'm up by 4am. Coffee, sunscreen, organize myself. I check my emails and texts. It's pretty normal to already have texts from my buyers at the Fulton Fish Market. I'm at the dock around 5:30 am. We leave the dock at 6am, haul 1 to 3 traps (some years we've set more traps), we're usually back at the dock 9-11am where we sort, ice, box and ship fish. My brother hops on his 42 foot gillnetter as soon as we get in and hauls his sets. So I handle all his fish as well. I sell to wholesale markets from Toronto to South Carolina. The Fulton Fish Market gets the fish that night and I've heard stories about my fish still being alive in the box. I'm usually home by 4pm but I also have state required fish reports that I do at home. It's all-consuming mentally and physically and it's definitely hard to find balance at home this time of year. It's gotten easier as the kids, Finn 14 and Isley 10, have gotten older, and more independent; it's a team effort with my husband for sure (he's not in the fishing industry). When they were young I brought them to work with me. While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it.  

 
"While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it. " - Corey Forrest

"While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it. " - Corey Forrest

 

What has been the greatest lesson you've learned from the ocean and what lessons do you want your daughter to learn from the ocean?

We are all EQUAL on the ocean and the ocean does not discriminate...

The ocean can be welcoming and serene, unpredictable and exploding, poetic and playful, and also break and crush you. (James Joyce called the sea "scrotumtightening")! The ocean doesn't give a SHIT about your gender,  how tough you think you are, where you come from, your college degree, family name, socioeconomic class, what God you worship, where you shop or the kind of car you drive. The ocean is a powerful teacher when you realize you are not in control; you get to know yourself pretty well - mind, body, heart, and soul when you are  simply existing, adapting, and keeping afloat.

 I nearly got crushed falling overboard between two boats on a big seas day... it happened about 20 years ago; it plays slow motion in my mind though it was probably seconds before I was hauled back onboard by a dozen hands. Our Captain at the time (who undoubtedly had doubts about a woman being onboard), legendary trap fisherman and the famous "kissing sailor",  George Mendonsa, said to me, "did your boots fill up with water?...[yes]  NOW you're a real fisherman."

 
 

Who has been an inspiration to you in your life and why?

Definitely my dad. He just turned 70, looks 40 and acts 14. His enthusiasm and passion for everything is contagious and borderline manic. And I definitely couldn't do what I do without him. He pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself.  

 
"[My dad] pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself." - Corey Forrest 

"[My dad] pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself." - Corey Forrest 

 

When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time on the water, what do you see? 

Weirdly, my favorite time on the water is probably when I've been the most scared: falling overboard or a squall with hurricane force winds, bolts of lightning. Being enveloped and feeling absolutely helpless and insignificant in all her strength and beauty is really humbling and puts things into perspective.  

What does being a Salty Girl mean to you?  

Feeling the pull of the sea and never being able to stay away, like being homesick.

 
 

Favorite sea quote?  

It's very hard to choose but : "Fish," he said softly, aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead." Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!

Salty Girl of the Month: Nelly Hand, Drifters Fish

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

It’s hard not to fall totally in love with Nelly, her husband, their salmon business (Drifters Fish), and their sweet VW van. From a day of hard work on the water, to marketing their catch directly to businesses around the country, to preparing some really gorgeous meals, Nelly makes balancing all of these seemingly disparate tasks look effortless. Like so many of our Salty Girls, life on the ocean runs in her family. After growing up spending summers fishing, it made sense that she’d one day forge out on her own.  Nelly and her husband, Michael, belong to a generation of fishermen who know the power of a good story and are finding ways to share their story with salmon lovers around the country; bringing people together over good food and stories of wild places. The work they do and the way in which they share their craft with the world is exactly why it’s important that fishing--our final pursuit of wild food--maintains its vital place in the culture and history of our country.

Check out their absolutely beautiful Instagram account @DriftersFish.

Nelly Hand, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: Who first got you hooked on the sea?
NH: My family. I started fishing with my dad on our family boat the Orion. My brothers and I were the crew and every summer we worked with dad fishing for pink salmon in Prince William Sound, Alaska. There are so many reasons why I love living and working on the water. I love the lifestyle of commercial fishing and the community it creates. I love working with my hands and even though the work is physically and mentally draining, whenever I catch my breath and look around - the mountains and the place we get to work is just incredible.

SG: When you’re not on the ocean, what are you doing?
NH: I spend time building Drifters Fish, a business my husband Michael and I created to sell our catch direct. During the winter I work distributing our frozen and smoked wild salmon around Western Washington. In the summer, I’m working on our little gillnet boat harvesting wild salmon and shipping the fish direct to restaurants across the US. When I’m not working on Drifters Fish, I try to get outside, hiking or harvesting wild food, as often as I can.

Drifters Fish, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: What has it been like to see Drifters become a reality?
NH: It has been so exciting and a lot of hard work to see Drifters Fish become a reality. I’ve loved the challenge of developing a business and the opportunity to creatively share about our livelihood and Alaska’s incredible seafood. We launched Drifters Fish in 2014 with the intention of creating a business to sell our catch direct from the fisherman to the consumer. Michael and I had both been involved with commercial fishing several years prior to launching Drifters and both had the shared enthusiasm of being more involved with the fish we were catching. We started sharing fish with friends and neighbors and then with further interest from more folks, we started to grow. We now run a Community Supported Fishery in Western Washington as well as ship fresh, wild salmon in the summer season direct to restaurants.

SG: When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time on the water, what do you see?
NH: Mid-June and Michael and I are in the busiest part of our fishing season. The days are getting so long in Alaska and we’re fishing around the clock for sockeye salmon. It’s eleven thirty at night and the sun is still glowing in the sky and the mountains are lit up. As tired as we are, I love this time of year and the rhythm we’ve settled into of working together out on the water and the daylight that seems to last forever.

Nelly Hand, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: What does a healthy ocean look like to you?
NH: Oceans provide the world with an incredible bounty and resource for healthy, wild protein. A healthy ocean is one being harvested respectfully and with care to protect and restore the valuable surrounding ecosystem. We all can work together towards a healthy ocean by supporting local, American small scale fisheries that practice sustainable harvesting.  

SG: What do you never leave home without?
NH: A moleskin notebook. These books are my every day. Grocery lists, business notes for Drifters Fish, recipes to make on the boat, and a place to press all those roadside wildflowers.  

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!

Salty Girl of the Month: Kimi Werner, professional freediving spearfisherwoman

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Justin Turkowski

Kimi Werner // Photo by Justin Turkowski

From champion freediver, to ambassador for ocean conservation, and certified chef, we can’t help but be inspired by Kimi Werner. Her connection to the ocean stems from her family’s deep-rooted ties to harvesting their sustenance from the sea. Growing up off the grid in Maui, Kimi would tag along with her dad as he dove for their dinners. The ability to see first hand the process of harvesting food from the sea and preparing it to feed family led to a lifelong passion for cooking. Kimi’s passion to hunt to feed those she loves is still a major part of her relationship with the ocean.

You might assume that an ocean huntress who swims with great whites and has national titles in freediving could be pretty intimidating. But Kimi is approachable and humble--she shares openly her fears about her time underwater and how that fear is what makes her feel alive. As one of two women featured in Keith Malloy’s new documentary, FISHPEOPLE, we learn about Kimi’s ability to use her talents as a diver (including holding her breath for as long as 5 minutes!) to be as connected as possible to the ecosystem that sustains her.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Check out the tour schedule to find a FISHPEOPLE premier near you!

Kimi Werner // Photo by Sarah Wilcox

Kimi Werner // Photo by Sarah Wilcox

SG: Who first got you hooked on the sea?
KW: My dad first got me hooked on the sea.  He started taking me fishing and spearfishing when I was five years old.

SG: When you’re not in the ocean, what are you doing?
KW: When I’m not in the ocean, I’m often preparing food.  I love to cook and have a degree in culinary arts.  I grow a garden and am constantly preparing my harvest whether, vegetables or fish into a meal to share with others.

SG: When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time in the water, what do you see?
KW: So many favorite moments get blurred into one.  I basically just see a thriving beautiful ecosystem, I see baitfish and reef fish and all of the predators at the top of the food chain.  I can feel the thrill of seeing giant trevally, yellowfin tuna and all sorts of sharks and whales.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Ryan McInnis

Kimi Werner // Photo by Ryan McInnis

SG: What does a healthy ocean look like to you?
KW: A healthy ocean in my mind starts with a healthy reef.  It’s full of color and has a variety of healthy coral species and seaweeds.  It has a variety of fish from the baitfish to the big predators and it’s action packed.

SG: What’s your favorite seafood recipe?
KW: Ceviche is always delicious, healthy and refreshing.  I just cut fresh boneless, skinless fish meat into small cubes and season with sea salt.  I add cilantro and lime and orange juice, which cooks the fish with it’s citric acids.  I add chopped onion, chopped and seeded tomatoes and cucumbers and celery.  Add hot sauce if you want it spicy or add coconut milk to make it into the Tahitian dish, poison cru.

SG: What do you never leave home without?
KW: I’m almost always carrying small soft yeti cooler with me.  It really means a lot to me to be able to share my catch with those who will appreciate it and to keep it as fresh as possible, so I rarely leave home without a cooler.  I also try to always bring a reusable bottle for water, and a utensil kit in my purse to avoid single use plastics.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Perrin James

Kimi Werner // Photo by Perrin James

SG: What fish do you get most excited about catching?
KW: It really depends on what I want to eat.  I love hunting dogtooth tuna and yellowfin tuna but when it comes to reef fish, I get excited about mu and uku (jobfish).  But really, for me hunting is about eating.  So if I’m craving small fry fish, I get really excited to swim out and poke a few for dinner.  Harvesting from the source gets me excited, period.

SG: What does being a Salty Girl mean to you?
KW: It means that salt feels good on our skins, even when we’re crackled and weathered and in need of a good shower.  It feels good because while we were getting salty, we washed away the facades that can lead us astray.  We know who we are and what makes us happy and we chose to honor that every time we get in the ocean.

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!