Friday, June 29, 2012

What fishermen do in their spare time...

pick shrimp pots in PWS

take photos of cool boats

or funny boats

or funny names of boats
they take pictures of starfish

weigh really big red salmon

have sourdough pancakes with fishin' buddies  Leo & Curly

catch some zzz's in public places like park benches in Whittier

make cajun shrimp boil

eat shrimp fajitas with Danny &  Dan

watch other fishermen catch fish

take 4 AM photos of sunrises

document celebrity sitings, the Northwestern from Deadliest Catch

talk on their cell phones

SUP setnet sites

lug toys around

bullshit with each other
get dumped off on rocks to stretch the legs during sets after days on the boat

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prince William Sound

You pickin' me up?  How copy, over?

It's that time of year to go to Prince William Sound.  It has been several years since I fished in the Sound, it is good to be back.  The weather is sunny, the water is calmer and it's simply beautiful over here.  It smells different, too.  That was the first thing I noticed when I stepped out on deck to throw the buoy over for the first set.  The water smells different than the Flats, more bitter or something.  Maybe its all the jelly fish, who knows?

Anyway, we are fishing over 120 hours a week now, the grind has begun.  We fish 48 hours on Mondays then 72 hours on Thursdays.  We have about another month or so of this before fishing wanes.  I'll try to keep up with this blog, but can't promise anything.  Believe it or not, we can get internet out there where there is cell phone coverage, but it is s.l.o.w. And cell coverage is spotty and depends on where we fish.  So if I miss a week or so please forgive me and check back for new posts. 

They say a picture speaks 1000 words.  I'm so tired right now I can't even think of 1000 words so I'll just post some pics.  I hope you likey.  I'm out.

James fishing in the Sound

Yours truly kissing a BIG 9 lb sockeye

Curly, fisherman and sourdough pancake extraordinaire

double rainbow over Guido near midnight

tender Robert S near Mainbay

gillnetter in Coghill

Friday, June 15, 2012

Catch as catch can

Some weeks are more crazy than others during the fishing season and this week is no.....shit, how does that phrase go?  Exception.  This week is no exception.  The grind of fishing has begun, along with that comes sleep deprivation and that 1000 yard stare.  I got both, I'm sure of it and, like I said, the grind has only started.  The worse is yet to come.  I stared at the computer screen for a good 2 minutes before I could remember what I was doing here.  Then I deleted the first 3 or 4 attempts at this week's blog.  Think I better just post some pix and shut up!  So, here goes.

Morning set at Egg Island

The tender anchorage at Egg

my view when we are running

The whistler, marking can at Egg Island.  Doe that can have a permit?

Das net, you can see a fish!


Boat running south

Thea running east.  Go get 'em Thea!

crowded fishing grounds

Hey, its me.   Is it red right return or green right return?

Tenders at Whitsed buying fish

Fishin' the color change

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cost of Fish

I started thinking of what to write about a few days ago when we were getting tossed around the Copper River Flats as it was blowing westerly, which makes for a lumpy ride.  I kicked around a few ideas in my head, jotted down some notes, as I frequently do.   And, as often the case, I started with one idea, then it took a life of its own and turned into something that I didn’t see coming.

What spurred this post was hearing buddy recall his weekend on the VHF radio.  He had gone out to eat at the Reluctant Fisherman, a restaurant here in Cordova, just to enjoy a nice meal.  But half way through his halibut he started getting pissed.

There were a couple of gentlemen at the table next to him lamenting that over the high price of fish, practically insulting fisherman. Typically a bad thing to do in a fishing town, but lucky for them my buddy isn’t the head-butting kind of fisherman.  He just quietly stewed as they went on and on about how expensive fish is, especially, compared to beef. 

I laid in my bunk that evening wondering if you could compare fish to beef.  Yeah, sure, farming is somewhat similar to fishing in that it is seasonal, dependent upon the weather and markets, guys are independently employed and the like.  Farmers, like fishermen, rely on their equipment to make their harvest, but, one difference I thought of at this point is while their ground remains mostly still, ours, the ocean, is ever in constant motion, bucking and surging.

Farming can be dangerous, growing up on one, I know this.  I knew a guy who lost his arm to an auger, another one got smashed when his tractor tipped over on him, my own Dad once kicked a pig and broke his toe (long story).   So yes, there are some similarities with farming and fishing, but still,  I’m not really sure you can compare the cost of beef to salmon. 

In a fisherman’s defense, let me just say a little about our costs.  For starters, if you wanted to buy into the gillnet fishery here on the Copper River, a permit would cost you about $180,000.  A boat would run you, oh, depends what you get, but anywhere from I’d say $75,000 to $150,000 to get a decent starter boat.  $300K + to have one built.  Then you need a net, $5,000 for that.  Hope you don’t need to replace it. Or an engine.  Or a jet or outdrive.  Fuel is around $5.00 a gallon, you need that.  Plus boat insurance, raingear, something to eat, to name a few.

Then there are other costs too, unforeseen costs, like, for example my buddy Dennis, who put a gaff hook through his foot by accidentally stepping on it.  Went right through.  Woke up in the morning, out on the fishing grounds, with that dreaded red line running up your leg, tell tale sign of blood poisoning.  Better get to hospital before that hits your heart. He was out a few fishing periods but is better now.  Though Dennis had another scare last opener when he broke down near the breakers.  The tender Saturn, a beautiful old 80’ wooden boat came to the rescue to tow him out. But somehow, as the towline went out from the Saturn to the Hang Fire, Dennis’ boat, the deckhand on the Saturn got caught in the bight of the line.  She went over with the towrope.  Into the 48 degrees ocean near the breakers.  Lucky for her, it wasn’t still blowing 40 knots at the time.  The wind was clocking around and was blowing about 10 out of the west, with 2-4 foot seas.

Dennis threw her a life ring, but missed.  She was able to reach the towline and walk her self up it, hand over hand.  Ralph, the skipper of the Saturn, ran to the stern to grab her and help her aboard.  He got there, clutched her jacket and yelled at the crew to take the boat out of gear. 

By this point, we heard something was going on and tuned into the VHF channel everyone listens to on the grounds, channel 6.  Just then we heard Dennis scream over the radio “Goddammit, she can’t hang on much longer!”  There was sheer panic in his voice.

Just then, the gal fell back into the water.  Turns out, the crew inadvertently hit the wrong lever and instead of pulling the boat out of gear, push the throttle forward to wide open.  Neither Ralph nor the gal could hold on and she fell back into the water.  She went under a few minutes this time and no one could see her.  She ended up travelling under water under the Hang Fire and popped up about 150 feet away.  Luckily, Dave on the Rocky Point had heard the commotion and started to run over there.   When she came up, he as able to scoop her up out of the water and bring her aboard his boat.  Though I’m sure a little banged up and shaken up, I heard the gal is OK.

So I got to thinking, how do you figure that into the price of fish?

A few weeks ago the tender St. Joseph with a crew of 5 was crossing the Gulf of Alaska coming up from the Seattle area to Cordova to work the season.  In 20-foot seas the boat lost it’s steering and the crew had to abandon ship.   They had made the MAYDAY call with enough time for the Coast Guard chopper to come get them and bring them safely to town.  The boat though, washed up on shore some 80 miles southeast of here and is breaking apart with each wave.  The weather has been too severe to make a safe rescue of the ship.

How do you figure that into the cost of fish?

A few months ago, fellow fisherman and blogger Tele Aadsen who write Hooked ( posted an old article from the Portland Oregonian in one of her blog posts entitled the “the Price of Fish”.  I copied it here for you. 

The Price of Fish

“The deep sea fishing boat ‘Republic’ will never sail out for the tuna again, nor for the salmon – out of Astoria into the green swells from westward. Part of her bow has drifted ashore near Long Beach, and some of the forward deck – and where the hulk of her is, only the sea can tell. Her last port of call was the storm. And the fishermen who sailed her, and looked to her fishing gear, and harvested the sea? Where are they? Perhaps the gulls know, or the cormorants. Only this seems certain – that they and their boat will fish no more.

You walk through the market and glance at the fish stalls heaped with limp silver. Only a day or so ago these fish, most of them, were out where ‘the low sky mates with the sea.’ Now they bear price tags. Even fish, so we say, is high priced. That is true. Fish are high priced – and the least of the price is reckoned in coin.

Men who would rather fish at sea than work ashore sail out on the fishing boats to seek and follow the fish. It is a glad, hard life, and they love it well – but they stake their lives on the catch. It isn’t often that the boats don’t come back to port, for their oil-skinned skippers and crews to shout to their friends on the dock with word of their luck – but sometimes they don’t. The ‘Republic’ was one that didn’t. And how are you going to figure that into the price of a pound of fish?”

Good question, how do you factor men’s lives into the price of fish?

When we were out on this last one, we heard about the tragedy on the Northern Mariner, a boat that was making a long-line trip for halibut out of Cordova.  Among the crew was a young man of 34, Sean Johnson, on board.  I don’t know the whole story,  but sometime during the trip Sean had hit his head.  He complained of a headache and went below to sleep it off in his bunk.  When the crew tried to wake him a few hours later for his wheel watch, he was dead. 

Again, how do you figure that into the price of fish?  

My heart goes out to the friends, family, and loved ones of Sean Johnson and to all of those he left on shore.   The season's over, its time to go home.

Friday, June 1, 2012

All fisherman are liars

East coast fisherman Linda Greenlaw had it right when she stated, “All fisherman are liars.“  I tell you, fishermen are physically incapable of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth, so help us cod. It’s in our DNA. Fisherman does two things.   We lie about the amount of fish we catch, the amount of fish we don’t catch.  We lie about where we caught them and when and how we caught them. We lie about how big it was…or wasn’t. We catch fish and we lie. 

So when asked if this blog is true, true to form, I answered, “as true as any fisherman can tell a tale.”  I stick to that.  Having said that, some names that I use in my blogs have been changed in order to protect the innocent, or the guilty, whichever the case may be.   Being that I’m talking about fisherman, the latter is probably more often the case.  Having said that, I want to revisit my disclaimer, which I wrote when I started this blog a few years ago, which is, as follows.  Here goes: NOT ALL THIS IS TRUE!  In fact, none of it may be true at all.  Or, a little may be true or true-ish. Or, it may have actually happened, but years ago.  You decide.  So, when I poke fun at the skipper or tell a story about a trip, or whatever, I may not be talking about the current trip, or even the current season.  You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?  This blog is for entertainment purposes only and the scuttlebutt is all in good fun.  OK, just needed to clarify since I live in a small town and rumors fly and someone just gave me a pillow that said, “Be nice to me or you’ll end up in my novel”. 

Having said that, I do really fish.  Honest.

In fact, fishing has been pretty good this year on the Copper River so far.  Near record runs have the counter going like crazy.   The count to date is 306,816 fish up the river verses and anticipated 129,500. The next opener is for 48 hours on Thursday, May 31.

The last opener, which was Monday, though a bit slower than the rest, was still pretty good, even if the weather did turn to shit.  East 35.  Rain. .  “A hair parter” according to my buddy Philbert.  The forecast isn’t any nicer for this next one, either.  E 45 seas 13 feet. I ran into my other buddy Lyle and said, “Yeah, did you hear the forecast?  45.”  “45 degrees?”  Asked Lyle.   Valid question being that is been hovering around the mid- 40s for the past few days. “Both.”  I said,  “It is 45 out right now but its supposed to blow 45”.  That’s not going to be much fun.  Its never a good time when the temperature is the same as the wind speed.  A good diet plan though.  It will be too sloppy to cook, might be too sloppy to eat and what you do eat might re-visit ya anyhow.  That South Beach diets got nothing on the Copper River Flats diet.  Between that and the cold weather, the pounds should fall right off.  I know I’ve been freezing my butt off lately, though more figuratively than literally.  45 degrees is colder than I experienced all winter!  I’m not acclimatized being that I spent my winter sailing in Florida.  As a matter of fact it’s colder in this house than it was all winter in Florida.   My emergency Patagonia order arrived just in time.  I had to order a warm vest, ski socks and fleece hoody, then I trotted down to Copper River Fleece ( and picked up another spare fleece hoody just in case to go with my long johns, hat, multiple jackets and liners for my gloves.  I think I’ll get some of those hand warmers, too.   Yes, it is that cold out there.  Between the wind and the rain and the cold fish and the cold ocean. Brrr.  I know it’s been hot around the country and has been in the 90s in Ohio so it probably hard to imagine that we still have snow and did I mention cold? There’s nothing too much worse than picking cold fish with ice-cold hands.  Kind of makes the process a bit more unpleasant.  Honestly.