Brad Ridgeway uses the water to relax and connect with his community
Brad Ridgeway schedules his workweek in a way that maximizes his time on the water.
During the summer months, the 49-year-old Renton resident works four 10-hour shifts as a systems and applications administrator at Boeing’s Bellevue Eastgate facility. He often fishes the other three days, either off the coast or on Puget Sound. Fishing is a passion he got hooked on as a kid in Bakersfield, California. Today, he crabs and fishes for king and Chinook salmon, albacore tuna, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish.
“I’ve always been compelled to fish. It’s totally relaxing and challenging, and it’s a total decompression and stress reliever for me,” Ridgeway said. “I could have a super bad week or two, and I get out on the water, and I immediately forget all about it. It puts me in a happy place for a few days.”
That’s not to say Ridgeway doesn’t enjoy his job. He does, and he has worked there for nearly 16 years.
“I like Boeing and what I do, but I still need a break from it. I’m lucky to work somewhere where I have managers and a company that really promote a good balance of life and work,” Ridgeway said.
“They’re flexible in allowing me to do the things I like to do, and they are tremendously supportive of the community service work I do through my club.”
Ridgeway’s club is the Renton chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers. He has been the club’s president for six years, during which time he has helped preserve fisheries and fishing rights, promoted conservation, and supported local communities through programs like Cast for Kids and Salmon for Soldiers. Ridgeway also serves as secretary of the Puget Sound Anglers state board.
“When I joined Puget Sound Anglers, I quickly realized it was more than just a bunch of people swapping fishing stories,” Ridgeway said. “It was this huge community of the most giving individuals I had ever met, all working together on behalf of others. I’m proud to be a member of PSA, and truly honored to be one of its leaders.”
Ridgeway loves fishing offshore with fellow club members or other friends. One of his favorite spring trips was to La Push in May, a four-day excursion that included three straight days of fishing. The trip took Ridgeway roughly 28 miles offshore to fish for halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. Because it was early in the season and the weather was somewhat unpredictable, the group used a 21-foot vessel, a more seaworthy boat than Ridgeway’s 17-foot skiff. Ridgeway enjoyed the camaraderie of being on the water with friends — and, yes, telling fish stories at night over beers — and doing it all over again the next day.
“The offshore community is a tight-knit community,” Ridgeway said. “We’re all really good friends, and anybody would do anything for you if you were in trouble.”
Ridgeway said there are other special qualities of being offshore that he enjoys.
“When you reach that point where you hit the warm water, you know it. No longer is the water murky green. It’s beautiful blue, and the sea life has changed,” he said. “There are whales, dolphins, and sharks, and there are crazy warm-water fish that we just don’t see, like sunfish and strange jellyfish. It’s a different world.”
One of Ridgeway’s favorite targets is tuna. Prime season starts at the end of August, when Ridgeway and three buddies take a 22-foot Hewescraft Ocean Pro named Reel Nice out to the coast. There, they follow temperature charts to predict where they’ll find their albacore.
“This year is kind of exciting,” Ridgeway said. “El Niño currents are pushing warmer water closer to shore, so tuna might be very close to the Washington coast this summer.”
The crew waits until the tuna get within 50 miles of the coast and then lures the fish to the surface to catch them. They usually set their fish quota at 20 to make the best use of fuel and to balance the boat’s weight capacity with gas, ice, tuna, live bait, and the fishermen. When they’re done, the group cans its own tuna to use throughout the winter.
“We love fish, and we eat fish a lot,” Ridgeway said. “Nothing goes to waste.”
Salmon fishing is Ridgeway’s favorite. He likes fishing for king salmon, in particular, because they are generally bigger and great fighters. Ridgeway loves the challenge.
“They aren’t as easy to catch. There are fewer of them, and they’re (more finicky). It’s the prize of the salmon fisherman,” he said.
For Ridgeway, fishing is more than a sport. It’s a way of life and one he plans to continue for many years. When he was a kid, an older man told Ridgeway that for every day he fished, he’d live a day longer.
“I should live a long time,” Ridgeway said. “I’m infatuated with fishing.”