Two fishermen friends in Alaska come into conflict over the stealing of fish and vigilante enforcement.
In Alaska salmon spawn in the spring. Fisherman Jim Kimmerlee (Henry Fonda) tells Tyler Dawson (George Raft) that he got a cannery. Jim warns Russian Red Skain (Akim Tamiroff) to stay away from his fish-trap. Tyler gives Jim a knife. Nicky Duval (Dorothy Lamour) hits Tyler with a fish for having run out. Newspaperman Windy Turlon (John Barrymore) is surprised to find his daughter Dian Turlon (Louise Platt) has returned from college. She greets her childhood friends Tyler and Jim, who asks her to the dance. Jim has the seal Slicker scare Dian. Tyler bets Jim he will take Dian to the dance. Windy gets Dian to dance with Jim. Tyler dances with Nicky. Windy and the more concise Jackson (Lynne Overman) warn Red about stealing fish. Tyler got a schooner, and Red wants to be his partner. Tyler lends Jim his boat and walks home with Nicky, who doesn't want Tyler in jail.
Icebergs are used to preserve fish; singing causes avalanches, and one boat is damaged. Jim sees that Tyler has stolen fish and warns him he is on the other side. Red steals fish and leaves two men, who are caught. Jim sees that one of them is Dimitri (Vladimir Sokoloff). Jim and the vigilantes take their two dead bodies to Red, and Jim finds Tyler there.
On Jim's birthday Red tells Tyler they can rob three traps and leave. Jim, Dian, and Windy celebrate without Tyler. Men say that three traps were cut loose. Windy says Red will rob the other three traps. Jim learns that his friend Lefty was killed. Jim sends Dian to tell Nicky to keep Tyler home. Tyler packs to leave and says that Nicky stole too. Nicky goes on Tyler's boat and floods it. Tyler tries to plug it but can't and takes a better boat. Red steals fish, and Tyler joins him. Two boats arrive with Jim and Windy. Tyler shoots a big gun, and they fight. Jim shoots Tyler.
Nicky tells Jim that Tyler got away and gives him a present from Tyler. Jim tells Nicky that he shot Tyler. Jim finds Tyler. While a doctor tries to operate, Nicky tells Tyler that Jim shot him. Dian tells Jim to let the law punish Red. Jim finds Red in the bar and ignores him. Red threatens Jim and leaves. Dian argues with Nicky that Jim should leave. Tyler asks Nicky to get Red, who comes in, followed by Jim. Tyler insists that Jim get out but tells Nicky that Jim is his heir. Jim tells Dian that he is going after Red. Nicky tells Dian that Red must have taken Tyler. On a boat Nicky and Dian warn Jim that Tyler is on Red's boat. Tyler locks Red in the cabin and avoids Jim's boat. Tyler steers Red's boat into the iceberg avalanche, destroying it. In the final scene Windy says that Tyler redeemed his lost soul.
This drama of men struggling for wealth in a frontier with crude law enforcement shows two friends taking conflicting paths. As in many westerns, the problems caused by men taking the law into their own hands end tragically.