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“The minute I got off the plane, it
felt like home,” she says. “There was a
small-town feel; this community sur-
rounded by mountains and water seemed
comparable to the plentiful corn fields
and lakes of Illinois.”
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska,
but it’s fairly isolated, with a small com-
munity of about 32,000, where the only
way in/out is by boat or plane.
“In certain ways, it’s similar to
Galesburg where I grew up, except up here
people have boats before they have cars.
It’s a big boating and fishing community,”
Martin says. “I always loved the ocean;
Juneau gave me a shot at a new career.”
That career began with the only per-
son she knew in Juneau, a good friend
whose family fished three or four times a
week, mostly sportfishing, but occasion-
ally some commercial trolling for salmon.
Martin joined them to voraciously learn
the finer points of Alaska fishing.
“I spent my first summer up here
on the weekends with them on their
boat, salmon and halibut fishing. My
first weekend out fishing with them, my
friend pulled up a 115-pound halibut; it
was almost as big as me,” she says. “I was
ecstatic. From that point on I was really
hooked on fishing in Alaska.”
She earned a job as a deckhand on a
charter fishing boat and was out on the
water more or less every day, learning how
to charter fish. Wanting to be a captain,
she earned her captain’s license at The
Captain School in Cape Coral, Florida.
After several years of working for
other charter companies, Martin pur-
chased a 17-year-old, 30-foot Lee Shore
Marine aluminum sport fishing boat
with a cabin. After a refit over the winter
and a new name, Alaskan C Shel, Martin
began running her own boat this summer.
Martin’s 49th Fathoms Charters will
focus on halibut- and salmon-fishing
trips, but is also available for whale-watching tours. She hired a backup
captain, local veteran fisherman Toni
Wisner, and plans to run with an all-female crew.
“In this industry men are the majority, so for some women just being given
an opportunity is half the battle,” says
the young business owner. “My goal is
to create a welcoming work environment
for women who would like to break into
this industry. It’s physically and mentally
demanding but very rewarding.”
To succeed in the male-dominated world of
running a charter boat, Capt. Shelby has
to ensure her clients go home with a smile
and some fish, like this halibut.