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Please Check My Salmon

Southeast Alaska's waters are home to all five species of salmon, and each summer, sport fishermen from the lower 48 states flock to the area for charter fishing vacations. But when they return home, they don't just bring T-shirts or baseball caps.

Betty Rosenstein, an 86-year-old, retired educator from Los Angeles, has been fishing in Southeast Alaska for nearly two decades. Each summer, she takes her own cooler to bring back a portion of the salmon, halibut and other assorted fish that she catches during three days of fishing.

After her catch has been cleaned, vacuum packed and flash-frozen, it's delivered to the airport for her to take home. She checks all of it. Last summer, she says, that amounted to 81 pounds of fish.

"To have to pay for an extra piece of luggage won't end my fishing days," says Rosenstein, who has fished off the 27-foot boat Sitka Secret for many summers. Although this octogenarian angler said she would be "very annoyed" by the policy when Alaska Airlines implements it July 1, she said it won't stop her from taking all the clothing she needs to keep warm when she's out at sea.

During the summer, Alaska Airlines gets a lot of fish traffic from its airports in Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka. Paul McElroy, a spokesman for the airline, estimates that during the peak season for sport fishing – from late July through August — nearly 200 fishermen fly each day from Ketchikan back to the lower 48 states and transport between 250 and 300 containers of fish in the cargo hold. On average, each container weighs about 50 pounds.

For flights inside Alaska – not originating or terminating in the lower 48 states, Alaska Airlines allows passengers to check up to three bags for free. McElroy says this policy was designed for rural Alaskans who rely on the airline for travel to larger communities within the state for shopping and medical services.

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Joshua Brockman
Joshua Brockman joined NPR in 2008 as a producer for Digital News, covering consumer business and technology for