You can feel the change in the air. It is a bit crisper. The days are getting shorter. We are losing five minutes of daylight every day. Sunset and sunrise are now during normal waking hours. There is actual darkness to the nights. Actual darkness still in the morning. Northern lights have been spotted. And then there’s the weather. That is usually a good indicator that is FISH WRESTLING SEASON! Otherwise known as silver season.
Yes folks, it’s officially official. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) started its silver management on Monday. They are no longer managing the escapement of reds (sockeyes) they have already come and gone, done their thing. They are managing for silvers now. Typically, silver season starts with one 24 hour opener a week then as the fish come in and the ADF&G get their escapement goals, it will open for 24 hours twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. Also typically, Mother Nature schedules blows and snotty weather for those two days. Looking out my window, She must have thought there was an opener today.
Monday’s opener was the standard 24 hours. Typical to silver season the forecast was for SE 30 and rain. However, it turned out to be not that snotty and eventually, even, a nice day. The scuttlebutt is that the fish are small and not too many of them, yet. When I asked Hammer if he went out, he smirked and confessed “I didn’t go. And I didn’t feel good about it until everyone got back”. The fish haven’t really shown up yet, but are on their way.
Silvers are fun to wrestle, I mean catch. The average silver weighs 8-12 lbs but can get up to about 15 lbs. Most guys fish inside the barrier islands and this kind of fishing is done by making “fliers” or short sets with the tides. Since the sets don’t soak very long, the fish are, more often than not, still quite alive. And fight. Hence the commencement of the wrestling matches. In addition to short sets, the water is pretty shallow, too. So, instead of your net laying straight down in the water, its laying on the bottom and gets all accordion like. Fish become real tangled. And wiggle. A lot. A fisherman’s job is to tussle them out of the net. And mind the teeth. I usually forget this part but am reminded quite quickly. Reds don’t have teeth like silvers. I mean, they have teeth, but just in front, like a horse. Kings and silvers have little razors evenly spread though their whole mouth. With reds, sticking your finger in the fishes mouth to clear the web is mostly a good idea. Not so with silvers.
There is a natural loll between the run of reds and silvers. This year, it seems like it was a long one, about three or four weeks. I like to take this time to mend all my aches and pains caused from picking reds. Sore hands, carpel tunnel, achy wrists and knuckles, those shooting pains the run up your arm, hands going numb at night. I almost shit the bed one night when I rolled over and felt a strange hand laying next to me. I grabbed it and felt it before opening my eyes. Only then did I discover it was my own hand, completely numb.
A few weeks off and these complaints tend to mend themselves. But fish wrestling season always brings something new for me, tennis elbow. I don’t know why, but I get it every year. I used to just bust out the Bengay. But I find as I get older, I no longer like to make an olfactory announcement of my ailments. My new thing that I’m trying is to take an old wool knee sock, cut off at the foot, and pull it up my arm. It makes a nice warm sleeve and seems to help, so far.
Another reason I like silver season it that the fleet is smaller. Most guys who don’t live in Cordova go home. Less boats, bigger slice of the pie. But my favorite thing about silver season is the light at the end of the tunnel. It means the season is winding down and going to come to an end. Something I start to think would never happen.