A big beige and blue banner hangs over Paul Teall’s booth at the Saturday Fish Market. It promises “Teall Family Seafood,” and that’s what customers get when they visit this stretch of pier between 7 and 11 a.m. A large tank to the left holds live red and brown rock crabs, four big tubs in front display fresh fish, and sometimes here and sometimes there are Parker Teall, 21; August “Auggie” Teall, 11; and, of course, their father, Paul Teall, who never strays too far from the booth’s table.
The younger Tealls are there to work, though Parker points out, “It’s not really work if you enjoy what you’re doing.” Friends stop by, girlfriends stop by, and Mom stops by with Junebug the Pug, who purportedly barks in dog, “I support the fishing industry.”
When a customer stops by, Parker jumps to his feet to answer their questions with comfortable politeness. For Paul, having his kids at the market has been more than just a way to spend time with them and get some extra help — it has also played a huge role in their education. “I always pay the kids for working,” he says. “The kids treat their equipment with respect because they had to earn it.” Auggie, ahead of his peers by at least five years, has almost finished paying off his first vehicle — a one-person skiff with a two-horsepower outboard motor and a fitting moniker, the Chumbucket.
Learning from a young age to fish, converse with elders, and work hard has also helped Parker chase his fishing dreams. He proudly shares that he was the “first greenhorn that made it” through his entire first season of crab fishing in Alaska. That pride is well deserved. Suffice it to say that the Alaskan crab fishery has its own reality TV show on the Discovery Channel called Deadliest Catch. “You’re working as fast as you can … for 18-20 hours every day,” says Parker. And it’s cold — so cold that ice forms on your cap and beard and a bottle of water freezes in fifteen minutes. In six months, Parker got a single day off.
Making a living fishing, even when it’s not Alaskan crab fishing, requires long hours and nights away from home. Paul often starts at 2 or 3 a.m. and is gone ’til dark, or stays out fishing for days at a time. “It is hard — not for me, but for their mom,” Paul admits. Perhaps the hardest thing to live with for those left on land is that fishing can be such an all-consuming passion. “Fishermen are kind of a crazy breed,” Parker’s mother, Nancy, relates. “They fish for a living, and on days off, they go fishing.”
While fishing sometimes separates them, it is also so much of what ties the Tealls together in one tight fisher’s knot. Every school break and every summer week growing up, Parker would go out fishing with his father, and every Saturday he would sell the week’s catch together with his family. Even when fishing takes him far from home, Parker says it’s the time apart that helps him see what he cares about.
“When I come back, I ask, ‘What did I miss?’ And it really puts things in perspective. What you really miss is people.”