Q&A With Alaska Fish Wars Captain Wes Humbyrd

Captain Wes Humbyrd is one of the toughest stars of Alaska Fish Wars. He has been fishing Alaska for 48 years. He first came up to gill net salmon in 1966 and in 1971 moved up and stayed. You name it and he’s fished it. He has fished for Dungeness and king crab, trawled for shrimp, and is an avid sport fisherman. Fishing in Alaska has changed a lot since Wes first started, but it is probably safe to say that Wes hasn’t changed much at all. He may be 70, but he’s still out-fishing the young guys.

Tell me about a typical day gill netting salmon.

We leave the dock at 5AM. It’s 40 miles to the fishing grounds, but my boat can do 25 knots so we are usually out there before anyone else. Opening is at 7 a.m. and goes until 7 p.m. You hope to land on the fish and I pretty much have a good idea where those fish will be.

If we have real nasty weather, it’s extremely dangerous. Salmon fishing has been named one of the most dangerous occupations in Alaska. Also, my boat burns $800 to $1,000 in fuel a day. That’s why I’m so aggressive on the show. I push the crew and myself almost to an extreme sometimes, but we get ‘er done, that’s what we do.

Sounds like crazy hours and hard work. Aren’t you slowing down?

I turned 70 in august. I can’t get around on the boat like I used. As you get older the body gives up, but the brain doesn’t. (laughs) The brain still tells me how to catch the fish though and I let the crew do the hard stuff. We know that you have to get it done and you get at it. You just make sure you have the right people to help you. You have to be willing to do it. Most fishermen have the drive or they wouldn’t get it done.

My daughter wants me to retire. I think about it, I talk about it, but I just can’t do it. If guys were out fishing and I was sitting on the beach, it would drive me crazy. I want to be out there with them. Alaska is where I want to be in the summer and I love it.

How much longer do you think you can keep at it?

That is a real good question. If my health stays good and if we get more fishing time back, I figure I can give it three or four more years. The goal is not to fish past 75.  After that, I would like to have a 5th wheel in Lake Havasu and fish striper and bass, and just enjoy the weather.

Your vessel has got to be one of the most important aspects of success. Tell me about Night’s Edge.

I like the fact that it’s fast. I don’t like that it burns so much fuel, but it’s big, has 700 horsepower and needs the fuel. It will pack 15 to 18,000 pounds of fish, but if I get up over 15, it takes waves of the bow and gets a little scary.

It’s a very comfortable boat, though. It has a shower and everything. It’s like a house; you could live on it if you wanted. I wouldn’t be afraid to fish in 15-foot seas in it – and sometimes we have to. If we don’t go out on the days that are open, we don’t catch fish.

The Night's Edge
The Night’s Edge

What is the biggest fish you’ve ever caught?

Salmon? I really don’t want to say. Then people would want to know where I caught it. (laughs) I’m an avid sport fisherman and I guess the biggest fish is a 150 pound halibut on a sport line. I just love catching fish; it’s fun. We like eating them too. They’re good for you. That’s what is keeping me healthy at my age, eating salmon and moose meat.

Most memorable fish you’ve ever caught?

Probably when I set my net out and had 1,100 pounds in it. That was when I almost sunk the boat last season. It was a great payday and really exciting. That day there, I think we had a $25,000 day.

What has fishing taught you about life?

Fishing has taught me that if you want to make it in the world, you better be aggressive and bust your butt.  It has taught me to work hard and take care of your family. And respect Mother Nature. If you don’t respect her, she’ll take you. She will put you out of business or take your life. Don’t fool with her.

 

Wes Humbyrd is one of a kind. May he keep fishing for many years! The fishermen and women of Alaska Fish Wars are truly made of stern stuff. Want to see them in action? Tune in Mondays at 10PM et/pt to catch new episodes of Alaska Fish Wars only on Nat Geo WILD.

Comments

  1. Jodi
    Alaska
    February 10, 2014, 5:57 pm

    Dad, I know you love fishing and it is what keeps you young and active. You bring a wonderful healthy product to market – Wild Alaskan Salmon, and you have taught me the same work ethic and to enjoy the great outdoors and respect Mother Nature. Thank you for that! May the 2014 season bring lots of Kenai River Wild Salmon to your net. Dad, your the best, Love you!

  2. Josh
    February 17, 2014, 11:27 pm

    Drifting is a joke compared to set netting in the inlet. If you want a show film that. Way more interesting and intense.

  3. Josh
    February 17, 2014, 11:31 pm

    Contact me NAT GEO WILD if you want a good show

  4. Martin
    Vancouver
    February 20, 2014, 7:39 pm

    Hey Nat Geo

    Tone down the friggen background music, its so loud and distracting. Is the content so boring you need to pump it up so much with such an annoying track?

    Maybe you should watch Deadliest Catch to watch how its done.

  5. John Jensen
    Wakefield, Rhode Island
    March 20, 2014, 7:18 pm

    Wes – Damn time has treated you well. It does my heart good to see you still out kicking butt. Can’t believe its been more than 40 years since you and jodi moved in next door. Fishing is no joke now, but it sure as hell was no joke then–but with you around it was always fun.

    Damn, I can’t complain about getting old and hurting when you are still fishing. Keep at it! I hope our paths cross again in this life. Watching you makes (almost) want to fish again. I miss ya coach.

  6. Marsha young
    van, tx
    March 22, 2014, 8:51 pm

    My husband and I like this show but are VERY VERY UPSET about the language, to the point of not watching again. If the language must continue, at least have the courtesy of bleeping out all the offensive language. I’m sure GOD would appreciate it, too!

  7. Michael Nolan
    Georgia
    April 6, 2014, 12:56 pm

    The language is inappropriate. I can see an occasional word here or there, but the unending stream of gratuitous profanity makes this _not_ a family friendly show.

  8. JJ
    April 28, 2014, 7:20 pm

    They’re fishermen butth0les…..they swear. God would appreciate it too? So stupid…..

  9. Bill Dugas
    Oakridge, OR
    June 3, 2014, 11:44 pm

    Hey, Wes, not sure if you’ll see this, or if you remember me, but we worked together on the green chain at Harbor Plywood and deer hunted together about 1965 in Aberdeen–I just ran across you on Fish Wars tonight, called my brother & he turned on the show and agreed, yup, it’s you. Thought about you now & then for years, always wondered what became of you–If you want , shoot me an e-mail & we can catch up–

  10. Anthony J. Caronia
    Monterey, California
    June 4, 2014, 12:00 am

    As a seasoned Captain in Bristol Bay and other areas of Alaska I find the operator of the F/V Leading Edge to be a terrible Captain in the was he fishes and treats his crew…..It’s just unbelievable, a read disservice to NatGeo.

  11. Jerry
    league city tx.
    September 6, 2014, 5:11 pm

    What an idiot .change your depend and stop blaming your crew wes .you act so much like a dumbass I can’t watch the show

  12. Jim
    CT
    September 12, 2014, 7:37 am

    Theses canned questions kill me.
    What’s your favorite color?
    If you were any kind of fish what would you be?
    Do you use insoles in your XTRATUFs?

    Gilbert Grosvenor would have at least talked about the boats

    length , beam, HP, diesel gas, manufacturer?
    Come’on guys watch some of the car shows ? Whats the demographic here?
    Thumb through “National Fisherman” I’m sure all you captains do

  13. Jon Simpson
    December 29, 2014, 6:10 pm

    I would knock Wes out for talking to me the way he does his crew. You have to respect your crew, they are the ones making money for you you arrogant ass. My 5 year old will never watch you yell again.

  14. Bonnie Lewis
    ohio
    December 31, 2014, 12:29 am

    Wes, of the Nights Edge has one of the filthiest mouths I have ever heard. Pick another captain to follow next year. I loved the show, but was disgusted be his language.

  15. Tim Spiker
    Boise Idaho
    January 11, 2015, 5:20 pm

    Wes, I love the show. I’m a certified aluminum welder and river boat builder. I have been at it for over 30 years. What brand of boat is the Nights Edge? And is there a demand for good aluminum welders in Alaska? I hope you can find the time to reply. If not, I understand. Best regards, Tim.

  16. Ryse
    American Southwest
    May 1, 2015, 6:53 pm

    Wes, I really dislike your “God damn” this, and “God Damn” that profanity that spews from your mouth every episode, but I really hate the way you treat your crew. I’m surprised Nat Geo tolerates it. You are lucky you haven’t crossed the wrong guy yet cause you’d be picking teeth outta your ass. Please watch the profanity, especially when it comes to God, and start treating your crew like human beings and not your slaves.

  17. Albert Ginn.
    May 8, 2015, 12:36 pm

    Most people don’t like hearing the G. D. word every 2 minutes. If you can’t tone it down you will probably loose a lot of your viewers.