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Victoria Vaske goes on Alaskan adventure

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

(Photo)
(photo contributed) Victoria Vaske shows off one of her first catches with a fellow angler during her summer stay in Seward, Alaska.
What do a 300 pound halibut, a moose, and a killer whale have in common?

Well, first off they all can be found in Seward, Alaska and secondly, they all are neighbors to Alaska's newest resident Victoria Vaske.

This past school year ended for Victoria like any other college student's -- final exams were stressed over and grades were handed out.

(Photo)
Victoria Vaske shows off one of her first catches with a fellow angler during her summer stay in Seward, Alaska.
But when asked what her summer plans were she had no idea she would be heading over 3,000 miles to Alaska for the entire summer.

Victoria is the daughter of Dave and Ruth Vaske and graduated from Gehlen Catholic in 2008.

She is currently attending Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD.

(Photo)
Victoria Vaske holds her first halibut which weighed in at 60 pounds. Halibut can reach up to 300 pounds off the Alaskan coast. J-Dock, the company Victoria works for, plays host to the Alaskan Halibut Derby where many fish weigh at least 200 pounds or more.
Victoria's adventure began when her mom suggested she try and find a job at a national park.

Ruth is no stranger to leaving home for the summer. While growing up she worked for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The Vaske family took a vacation to Anchorage, Alaska during the end of May hoping to find a summer getaway for their eldest daughter.

After a week of sight-seeing and relaxation they would all return -- minus one.

"I fell in love and didn't want to leave," Victoria said.

While waiting on a dock in Seward they found themselves talking with a man from Sioux City.

After explaining Victoria's situation, the man told her to walk into J-Dock Seafood Company and apply for a position.

She was hired that same day.

J-Dock provides fishing boats and does all the processing necessary for any fish caught out on the boats. The company filets, flash freezes, and ships the prized catches wherever they need to go.

"At first I had no idea what I was doing," she said.

Victoria struggles with her new job soon became routine after working at J-Dock for a month.

"Now I can do pretty much everything," she said with a laugh.

She has not only mastered the art of fish processing, but has also become an avid angler herself, with her biggest halibut weighing around 60 pounds.

"Reeling in a fish that big is a lot of work." she said.

She went out one afternoon and after awhile had that sinking feeling that she wouldn't be catching anything that day, she said.

Then one of rugged men on the boat pointed behind her and said "Turn around."

"I looked behind me and my pole was dancing," she said.

Toward the end of the long struggle with her arms aching she thought it was only a log, she said.

"I was so surprised when I saw that white belly come up to the top of the water," Victoria said.

It is illegal for the captain of the charter boat to help anyone reel in their fish so Victoria has the sole claim to her victory over the hefty halibut.

Catching giant fish isn't the only joy when sailing off the coast, she said.

The Alaskan scenery adds to the experience.

"It's so gorgeous," she said, "On cloudy days you can't really see the mountains and on other days they almost magically reveal themselves," she said. "They seem so close but when in reality are so far away."

She has also become accustomed to seeing Alaska's famed moose as well.

The first time she encountered one of Bullwinkle's relatives was with her family. They pulled over on the side of the road to take a few pictures.

That was when she was on vacation. Now she says, "you get so annoyed when tourists slow down or stop completely on the road."

She has become one of the locals.

"A major shock was how it's light for so long and how friendly the people are. They all smile at you as if you're an old friend," she said.

Living with mountains being a part of the skyline has altered some of her perceptions too.

"Out here we are in nature's domain, instead of nature being in ours," Victoria said.

When asked if she has felt homesick yet she replied "I've been so busy and so happy that homesickness hasn't even popped into my head."

She did notice the difference in the price of an Iowa favorite.

"They were selling corn for $1.29 an ear," she said, "and I thought that was ridiculous."

The mere month in Alaska has already taught her so much, she said.

"I've learned that I'm not made of glass," she said. "I never thought I would be handling fish guts without getting sick or going out and reeling in monstrous fish."

She even looks the part of a rustic Alaskan native in her big boots and rain-slickers, very different from the shorts and flip flops needed for an Iowa summer.

Vaske still has much of the summer left to add to her Alaskan adventure, especially with the upcoming Seward Halibut Derby taking place.

Making the decision to actually stay and work in Alaska was one of the most difficult.

"My mom really pushed me to do this. At first I was scared and didn't think I had in it me," she said, "I'm so glad she did and that it all worked out they way it did."

Everyone should take a risk someday and use all of the opportunities given to them, she said.

"The world can seem so huge when you are just sitting in your room," she said.



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