Friday, May 25, 2012

What do fish prices and anvils have in common?

With three openers under our belts the fishing season here is starting off with a bang.  The first opener, which was 12 hours, the fleet caught 155,000 sockeye salmon verses an anticipated
32, 000 according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and the price was pretty high at $4.00 a pound!  Not as many kings as anticipated were caught, 1,100 verses an anticipated of 2,100, but at $6.50 a pound, we’ll take it!  The sonar is clicking away steady, counting fish up stream that are returning home.   The cumulative count, as of May 23rd is more-less on track at 17,184 with an anticipated count of 18,418 fish. 

Tender and gillnetters out on the fishing grounds

Monday’s opener turned out to be a good one, too, except for the fact that the price dropped like an anvil in a Road Runner Cartoon.  But the weather was nice and there were a few fish around.  The fleet caught 219,000 reds.  That is huge!  The anticipated catch was 94,000 reds.  1,300 kings were caught verses an anticipated of 3,455. The price is still shaking out and there are a few discrepancies between canneries, like one offering $3.10 a pound for sockeye and the other offering $1.75.  That’s a big price difference.  We’re still waiting to see if the low ballers are going to come up on price or how on that. 

Tender out on the fishing grounds

I just got in from another 12-hour opener, our third of the season.  It started out pretty sloppy out there, not much wind but tide running against the current, seemingly both against the wind.  Just made it lumpy.  My guts took a beating when we ran.  Nothing too bad, but you certainly couldn’t make Eggs Benedict.   That’s how I gauge how bad the weather is out there.  Is it a peanut butter and jelly day or can I make an actual sandwich?  Can I fry an egg or will it end up paper thin and the complete diameter of the pan?  Crepes are probably a good thing to cook out there on a snotty day, the thinner the better, right?  I was working on a tender one summer and tried to bake a cake.  For some reason or another, we had a port list.  And the cake, you guessed it.  Lemon list cake.  One side was about a half in high and the other was 3.  Anyway, I digress. Like I said, I'm writing this after the fishing opener.  I'm still rocking.

The price dropped again for reds (sockeye) to $1.30 a pound! I think that's lower than it went last year and this is only the 3rd period!  Wouch!  That is what I heard anyhow maybe it will come up.  But I’m curious.  What are you guys paying a pound at the store?  And where?  Do tell!

Rain-gear blowout.  I thought I felt a draft....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Copper River's first opener of 2012

Copper River Salmon Opener #1, 2012.  Cordova Alaska

After much anticipation and lots of excitement, the Copper River opened yesterday!  TV cameras, salmon buyers, chefs, and foodies alike were all a buzz about town wait for the first fish of the season to arrive.   My buddy Lyle and his son were interviewed on KTUU News out of Juneau.  You can check it out here:,0,4033003.story

I just came in last night from fishing.   We fished 12 hours from 7AM to 7 PM Thursday, May 17th out on the Copper River near Cordova, Alaska.  We ran out to the grounds on Wednesday, the day before, the opener, with equal parts enthusiasm and anxiety.  Wondering where this fish will be.  Wondering if we are starting in the right spot.  Wondering where that west wind will blow the fish.  Wondering how much the channels have changed and if track lines on the GPS are still good or will run you dry.  Wondering what kind of price we will get this season.   Wondering how much ice is flowing out of the Copper.  And wondering if we’ll load up on either fish or ice, but hoping fish. 

on the pick, waiting for the opener

boats chatting the night before the opener

Yesterday morning at 7 AM when it opened, it was total pea soup.  It was so foggy I could hardly see the far end of the net.  I guess it was kind of nice though in a way,  couldn’t see all the boats that were right next to us, so it was almost like having the set all to ourselves.   But once the fog lifted, we could see that it seemed like the whole fleet was there!  Anyway, we scrapped up a few then decided to head out and look for more fish.

morning fog

It was a relatively nice day on the Flats.  It started a bit lumpy, the current running against the wind but once the tide changed, it laid down and wasn’t too bad.  The sun was out the whole time, which makes for a beautiful backdrop in which to pick fish. 

Sheridan Glacier

Fishing the color change

The price was announced on the VHF radio early in the morning.  It started around 2 or 3 bucks a pound for sockeye and 6 bucks for kings and inched its way up, though out the day in 15 cent increments to 4 and 6.50 bucks a pound.  A great price that won’t last long enough.   With a price like that, even a little bit of fish adds up and everyone get to put a little coin in their pockets. 

I also managed to scrape up a few photos to share with you all.  I hope you enjoy.  

the fleet running out to the grounds from Cordova

tenders buying fish at Whitshed

boats running in after the opener (at 10 PM!)

iced sockeyes on the dock

boat delivering to Ocean Beauty

otter near the T-dock, hoping for a fish to go over

Friday, May 11, 2012

I drove through the Yukon and all I got was this lousy metal shard in my tire

Metal shard in my tire

 Lucky for me, I stopped and got it fixed before I had a flat tire in the middle of the Yukon in the middle of the near blizzard I was driving in.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Yukon, near the AK border, May 7, 2012

Fishing season is upon us!  It starts next week actually, we got a 12 hour opener May 17th for the Copper River.  Fish on!  The fish buzz is in the air as we all gear up for yet another season.

It was time to make my way back up to Alaska after visiting family in Ohio.  I packed up the car and headed north.  Well, west first, around Chicago then north. 

I entered Canada from North Dakota, drove across the plains with their lovely old wooden grain elevators and their old farm equipment turned into statues and endless fields.  And, of course, their larger than life statues of Paul Bunyan and a disturbingly large beaver statue about 25 feet tall.

Once I hit Edmonton, the road goes more north again and skirts the mountains.  The landscape become more rustic along with the buildings.

Camp ground in Fort Nelson where it costs $37.00 to pitch a tent.  Showers are extra.

Who knew they even allowed guns in Canada

Rustic justice. 
 I also saw a picture of a revolver that said "we don't call 911". 

 Soon, if you are not shot first, you are passing more wildlife of the roads than cars.

Stone Sheep in BC & Yukon

Caribou, aka Boo

Stone sheep 


Wild bison littered along the highway



Little black bear in the Yukon

More boo outside my window

In between dodging wild animals on the road, snow storms and metal shards, I did get to enjoy some local R&R at Liard Hot Springs in BC and local sign post forests like this one outside of Whitehorse.

Sign Post Forest of the Yukon

Liard Hot Springs

Some of the drive was just breath-taking, like this lake the just disappears into the mountains and the road, that goes right through it.


After 4000 miles and about 8 straight days of driving, I made it to Alaska.  Ah, it was good to be home where there are glaciers along the side of the road.  And planes parked at rest stops, also along side of the road.  How did it get there?

plane parked on turn-out along the Glenn Highway

Matanuska glacier
Tune in next week to hear all about the Copper River's first opener of the season.

Until then, eat fish, live longer.

Friday, May 4, 2012

When a fisherman loses her mother

As some of you may know I have some sad news.  After a year long battle with a rare form of kidney cancer, my mom, Jeanne Pickett passed away.   I was blessed with being able to be by her side, holding her hand, along with my sister, as she passed.  This was a blessing to me because I feared I would be out fishing and not have a chance to say goodbye.  Needless to say, this was a hard storm to weather.  I turned to poetry to express my emotions.  I wrote this for last week for the service.  Its called:

One Single Tear

I will miss you mom,
I always looked up to you.
You were my first role model
and always knew what to do.

You taught me to be brave
to follow my heart.
To  carry my own weight
and always do my part.

You taught my to be strong,
to do what is right
to always soldier on
and that sometimes, you have to fight.

You always were a fighter
a strong woman through and through
but there was just one battle
that was too much, even for you.

We got to hold your hand
when death came it was clear
that you weren't ready to go
when you shed that single tear.

But your struggle is over
it was hard to let you go.
You are in a better place now,
that much, I now.

So its goodbye for now 
but don't be surprised
when we meet again
east of the sunrise.

In loving memory of 
Jeanne F Pickett

November 27, 1938

Laid to rest

April 21, 2012