A commercial longline reached down deep into the soul of Michelle Rittenhouse and hooked her on fishing for life.
Perhaps it was baited with the beauty of Alaska's Kodiak Island. Maybe she was lured by the independence and freedom of being her own boss. Or perhaps she’s enamored by the challenge of hauling in a big catch.
"Fishing has been ingrained in me since I was a kid," she says. "When I was a teenager, fishing became my identity. There is no doubt in my mind — this is what I love doing."
Rittenhouse's fishing career started at age seven, when she and her sister worked alongside their mother, Shawna, during school breaks. "Fishing is embedded in the family," says Rittenhouse. "My mom has been commercial fishing for 40 years, and my grandpa has been fishing for the same amount of time, if not a little more."
After years together jigging for cod, longlining for halibut, and seining for salmon, Rittenhouse took the plunge and purchased her grandfather’s boat, the Pamela Dawn.
But after many working years — plus a five-year stint where it sat unused — the 1974 Pamela Dawn needed a major makeover. "There was a lot of work to do," Rittenhouse says, looking back on the project. "The first year, my grandpa and I spent months getting the boat back into shape. We built the main boom for seining and did a lot of fiberglass work."
The old engine was a 6-cylinder, dual-exhaust manifold that Rittenhouse claimed was cursed. "At first, I thought about rebuilding the engine, but I didn’t want to go through that trouble and still have an engine with a reputation for breaking down all of the time. I needed something reliable."
Then Rittenhouse's grandpa gave her some practical advice: "He said if the boat ever got repowered, he would go with a John Deere engine."
Rittenhouse made a call to her John Deere marine dealer and set the wheels in motion to repower the 42-foot vessel with a 225-hp PowerTech™ 4045AFM85 marine engine.
The engine's benefits were immediately realized — its compact size allows Rittenhouse to move around in the engine compartment for the first time; it cut her fuel costs in half; and it delivers speed and performance, even when loaded down with fish.
"It’s a powerful little engine," says Rittenhouse. "There are plenty of situations when you need more power and speed, and it’s nice to have that option — which I definitely do with this engine."
With her grandfather’s boat restored to its former glory, Rittenhouse can again focus on carrying on her family’s fishing legacy.
He said if the boat ever got repowered, he would go with a John Deere engine.