Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Goin' salmon fishing in Bristol Bay

What day is it anyhow?

Well, it must be either Tuesday or Friday because fishing just closed on the Copper River Flats after a 24-hour period.  It’s been tricky the past few weeks trying to figure out what day it is because commercial fishing was closed for 2 weeks while fish & game waited for the escapement numbers to go up, which they did.  Fish have been coming into the river like gangbusters the past few days, exceeding escapement by the tens of thousands.

At least when the fleet is fishing 2 openers a week I can guess a few of the days.  If guys are heading out to fish, its either Wednesday or Sunday.  If they are out fishing, its either Monday or Thursday.  If they just got back, its either Tuesday or Friday.  Saturday is always a crapshoot.   I almost ripped my arm off the other day trying to deposit a check at the bank on a Saturday.   I could have sworn it was a weekday, I mean, five out of seven days a week are, right?  That’s pretty good odds.  But when I pulled on that locked door, well, I figured it out on the second tug.

Being that we here in Alaska and are approaching the solstice, we have near 24 hours of daylight.  So guessing the time gets tricky, too.  I see the time on bank clock downtown and have to wonder if its 10:30 am or pm.  I don’t wear a watch. Besides, the watch I do own is an old school Swiss Army dial style, so that wouldn’t help anyhow.

Nonetheless, I do actually know what today is, I don’t know the date but I know it’s the day I drive my car on the ferry to Whittier, about a three and half hour ferry ride across Prince William Sound.  From there, I drive through the Whittier tunnel that goes 2.2 miles under the mountain.  I drive about an hour and half to Anchorage where I catch about an hour flight to King Salmon, Alaska.  From there, it’s a short 11 mile cab ride to Naknek, where my next job awaits.  A fishing vessel called the Fischer.  After we launch, it’s about a 4 hour run to Egegik, the river where we’ll be commercially fishing for sockeye salmon for the next five weeks.  Being that fishing has been my way of life for almost 20 years now, these kinds of commutes never even dawn on me.  But as my Dad pointed out to me when I called him from the ferry terminal this morning to tell him I’ll be out of contact until the end of July, he frankly stated, “that’s more transportation than I’ve ever taken for a job”.  Probably so.

Until then, good fishin’ and I’ll catch ya on the flip side. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Screwy start to the season

It's been a crazy start to the season.  The season opened with 50 knots of wind and 15 foot seas.  A lot of guys sat it out and I don't blame them.  I got to go out on the second opener.  The weather was about as nice as it gets out there.  I even got photos to prove it.  The third opener was cancelled because not enough fish were going up the river.  The fourth was epic with over 500,000 fish caught. That's a record amount for a 12 hour period.  We have yet to have a fifth opener, it was closed Thursday and will be closed again tomorrow.  Its stand by to stand by for now with daily announcements.  Fish are starting heading up the river now, but Fish and Game wants to see a few more click by the counter before they let us take a whack at them.  I just hope they don't make us wait too long and we miss them!

There are photos form last Monday's commercial opener.  Enjoy!

Gillnet reel

boats in the harbor

f/v Black Bird

sunset on the anchor

sunset in the Grass Island anchorage

the net off, filing with fish (hopefully)

f/v Star Thrower