Monday, August 4, 2014

The Human Condition


The Fairweather Mountain Range, outside coast
                                                          
Blue green glacial water in Idaho Inlet
  
The point I anchored behind in Idaho Inlet
















   I ran to the outside coast last week. Fishing on the inside has been almost non-existent. Well, at least the fish have been. What good is going fishing if you can't catch any fish? Granted it can be fun or relaxing or whatever you adverb you want to use to describe it, but when you're a commercial fisherman, you need to catch fish. That's the bottom line. Otherwise the adjective used to describe you is poor or perhaps destitute or penniless. Any of those would work. Anyway, I bit the bullet and ran out to the outside coast last week. I had to wait for a weather window. The week before I went out, the weather was terrible- day after day of westerlies. The ocean swells can really build up, and combined with the big tides and all the kelp and assorted other drift that gets caught in the currents, it can be a real challenge to stay on your feet and keep from running in to something, much less catch fish. Of course the guys who were up to the challenge did quite well. Most of them were pulling over 100 cohos a day-that was the poor fishermen. The guys who were good and had a crew hand were doubling that or more. Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to get out there, but was too scared of the weather to go. Well, the winds finally died down so I went out. Unfortunately, not only had the winds slacked off, so had the fishing. The first day, which was really long, I only caught thirty one cohos. My back was killing me, so that I could hardly stand up long enough to clean them, and to make matters worse, the pain meds that I was convinced that I had when I left town were about gone. Wonderful! I was too late to get into Elfin Cove to buy any at the Elfin General Store, so I thought I'd just pick some up at the fish buying scow in Ewe Ledge. I pulled up and though the girls were sympathetic, even offering me whatever prescription drugs they had to alleviate the pain, they were out of the over the counter stuff. Of course. The next morning I ran to "the cove" and stocked up on Ibuprofen and Tylenol, butI lost half the day. When I quit that day I only had ten fish, hardly enough to pay for the fuel and the meds. To make matters worse, I noticed that the bilge pump was coming on about every fifteen minutes, something that can be a little unnerving in a wooden boat, far from land. Sooooo... I pulled the gear and ran through the pass, just beating the tide change. I had just made it through when the wind started blowing out of the west about twenty knots. With the tide running east and the wind blowing west, the waves were starting to get impressive. I hadn't planned on it, but I ended up turning into Idaho Inlet, where three of these pictures were taken. You can see in the second picture how green the water is. Usually that means it's being infiltrated with silt and colder water from the glaciers. Glacier Bay is only a few miles from Idaho Inlet, so it's not all that uncommon to have colder water there. However, the water in Icy Strait, all the way out to Cross Sound was about ten degrees colder than the water out  in the ocean. I guess that's why there are no fish on the inside. One of the whale watch boat captains was speculating on whether the earthquake we had a few weeks ago hadn't stirred up the silt and colder water up in Glacier Bay. Even the whales had departed their usual feeding grounds and were relocating down in Chatham Strait. Anyway, I was feeling sorry for myself for not being where the fish are and called a friend who has a bigger boat and a crew hand and almost always catches more fish than me. I assumed  he was going to say how many cohos he'd caught and how much money he'd made, which of course would really get next to me. As it was though, when I called, Fagan said that he was in five foot seas, he hadn't caught a fish yet and yesterday he had lost about sixty dollars worth of gear, plus about ten fish because of sea lions. I hate to say it, but my attitude improved dramatically when I heard about his troubles. As the old saying goes, misery loves company, and I'm here to testify that truer words were never spoken. It's the human condition.

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