Fort Smith man living the dream and providing for his family in Alaska commercial fishing industry
By Dennis McCaslin
How often have you sat on your couch watching reality television and saw a job that you thought might be a fun and exciting way to make a living?
How many people act on their impulse and find themselves on a commercial fishing boat off the coast of Naknek, Alaska within two months of telling their spouse they thought they had found their dream job?
Twenty-six year-old Fort Smith resident Travis Knack and his wife Jennifer are both fans of the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" and were watching the show earlier this year when Travis commented he thought working on a commercial boat might be a good way to make some money.
The second time Travis mentioned the possibility, Jennifer told him she would support his dream, and the couple got on the internet and started researching job opportunities in the commercial fishing industry.
On June 26, Travis stepped ont0 the deck of the Aldebaran, one of the boats in the fleet of the Trident Seafoods company as a deckhand on the salmon tendering boat anchored off the coast of Alaska.
"Fishing in Alaska has been a dream of min since I was a young kid I grew up watching the 'Deadliest Catch':, Travis said. "I would always tell my dad one day I'll be up there doing that work."
"Jennifer and I were watching the show one night a few months ago and I told her if I ever get the opportunity to go up there and go fish, I'm going to take it," said Travis. "She thought I was crazy. And it wasn't a week or two went by and I saw an ad on Facebook for deckhands needed on a fishing boat in Alaska so I called them. They got me up here about a month after I called."
He was hired as soon as he passed his drug test and physical. Once that happened he flew out two days later.
Travis was born in Cleveland but his family moved to Twentynine Palms, California when he was just three months old. He later moved to Nebraska and shuffled back and forth between there and California
"I got mixed up with the wrong type of people and started falling off the deep end, and I didn't like it," Travis said. "I asked my aunt if I could possibly come live with her in Barling and in June of 2016 I moved down here."
After other stops in other states before finally coming back to Arkansas and meeting Jennifer in 2019 and putting himself through barber college, Travis said he tied the knot with the "love of my life" in September 202o.
Just a little over nine months later, the newlyweds are dealing with separation issues in order to build a better future for themselves. With a blended family of four children, Jennifer is holding down the fort while Travis sends home the salmon-smelling bacon.
"It's extremely hard not having him home with us, " said Jennifer. "But knowing he is sacrificing for our family makes it all worth it."
As a deckhand with no experience, the daily pay rate is $180 a day. The potential big payoff comes six weeks after the salmon fishing season ends in early September when he gets a check for his share of the profits from the catch.
"We put 250,000 pounds of fish on the boat today (June 6), and we have days when we have done over 300,000 pounds," said Travis. "We had one day where the fish didn't run the way the fishermen thought and they only brought us 2,900 pounds. It's just like you see on television."
F0r now, Travis is living his dream over 3200 miles away from Fort Smith. Jennifer says it's too early to tell if she is all in on him making a lifetime career out of the industry.
"It was his dream, and I support him living his dream, " said Jennifer. "We have discussed the potential of this becoming a career for him, but we are taking it one day at a time to make sure the money is worth the sacrifice of (him) not being home."
For now, social media is their lifeline to communicate with each other.
On July 1, Jennifer tagged Travis in a Facebook post:
"It's been a full week since you have been on your boat. On one end it doesn't feel like very long and on the other it seems like months...I'm missing you every day and waiting for your contract to finish. I cant wait to have my hubby back home and safe. Have a great day baby and I'm sending you lots of love from back home!"
"I love you so much, baby, and I can't wait to be home with you also. I'm so ready for it but I know that me being up here is helping us so much. I wouldn't be able to do this without all the support you and everyone has given me. I miss everyone like crazy."
Travis summed up the distance between them with a message to Today in Fort Smith this afternoon.
"Hopefully, when you talked to Jennifer she told you she's misses me a lot," wrote Travis . " I miss my wife and the kids everyday."