Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fish, Fish Everywhere and Not a One to Catch

















  Remember that saying, water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink? Well it's been kind of like that in the fishing realm here this past few weeks. The troll fleet from Sitka, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Yakutat and other spots around Southeast Alaska have amassed here in anticipation of the June run of Chum Salmon that normally makes there way through Icy Strait on their way to the hatchery from which they came some years back, but so far it's been a dry run. I keep hoping that they'll get discouraged and leave and then the run will show and I and my fellow Hoonah fishermen will clean house, smiling all the way to the bank. So far though, no one is smiling, well, except maybe the eagles. It's really kind of hard to tell if they are or not. They're pretty intent birds. They should be happy though. As you can see, the herring have moved in to the harbor en mass. Every stall has multitudes hanging around, as well as under the ramps that  lead to the floats. They aren't spawning, just hanging out. It was probably a necessary move in order to preserve their lives. For the past few years the Humpback Whales have been congregating in the bay chowing down on them. One whale can engulf hundreds of the little tykes in one fell swoop, and they never stop at one mouthful. When there is a whole pod of whales present Lord knows how much herring is consumed, but it's a lot! I know that a lot of folks really get into watching the whales and sea lions and sea otters, but things are out of balance now. The animal rights groups have raised so much havoc with lawmakers that now all these predators are protected and running amok. Similar to the same types of groups who oppose any logging, they are short sighted, not realizing that what they think is a good thing is to the detriment of the resource. Out west where large swaths of government lands were off limits to logging, there have been terrible wild fires, causing much more damage than if logging had been permitted. I'm not advocating the large scale removal of entire hillsides of trees, but a balanced approach where areas are logged. It's good for the economy and good for the forests. If a fire breaks out it will run out of fuel if it runs into a clear cut area and only part of the forest will suffer instead of losing tens of thousands of acres at once. It's the same with the whales and sea lions and otters. They're nice to see if you're a tourist, but left to their own devices, they'll eat themselves out of house and home.  People who come for a visit don't realize that it can happen, but it can. It wasn't all that long ago, just a few years ago, that when I passed by Point Adolphus on my way to the outside coast, the color video sounder would show feed, probably krill, from the bottom all the way to the top, solid. I would be in thirty fathoms of water, one hundred and eighty feet deep, and it would be hard to tell the bottom from the top because they were so thick. The whales have congregated there for years, but now when I go by, no sign of feed. The whale watch boats are having to go much further to sight any groups of them even though there are more whales now than ever. Eventually nature will thin out the herd. If there's no food, there will be no animals. Personally, I'd like to see hunting of some of these marine mammals so that the herd stays healthy. Of course that will be an uphill battle. Hopefully those in control will come to some degree of common sense and find a balanced approach in dealing with the predator population before it's too late.

Monday, June 9, 2014

UH - OH

















   Hmmm... welllll... it would appear that there was a slight miscalculation on the way to the grid iron the other night. Houston, we have a problem. When I see something like this, I think, there, by the grace of God go I. Anyone who has spent any time on a boat is bound to have an unfortunate incident of some kind or another. A few years ago the guy on the Antares was doing something or other- covering the ice with ice blankets or grabbing coffee or whatever, but in any event, he grounded his boat on Graveyard Island. Fortunately the Antares is a  big fiberglass boat, and it didn't hit all that hard, so the most damage done was to his ego, as every boat going to or from the harbor passed by it, plus all the boats docked at the cold storage. I think I would have gone up forward and to the aft where the name is displayed and covered it with a tarp to try and save a little face. I distinctly recall one morning some years ago when I was charging out of Flynn Cove on my way over to Homeshore when I heard the guy on the Williwaw calling a seine boat that was steaming towards the rocks on Spasski Island. He tried to raise the captain multiple times, with no response. Finally after about five minutes, you heard the captain of the seine boat calling the coast guard declaring that he had run aground on Spasski Island. Unfortunately he fell asleep at the wheel. The boat was able to be salvaged, but I'm not sure about the captains job. I fondly remember using my fourteen foot fiberglass skiff as an icebreaker one February day. I was trying to make way into the logging camp via the bay which was frozen over with what I thought was skim ice. However, as I got further into the bay the ice kept getting thicker. I remember thinking how tough my boat was and was filled with an uncommon sense of good will until I looked down at the front of the boat and saw water pouring into the bow. Needless to say, the prospect of having your boat sink in water that is literally freezing cold can be unnerving at best. I was glad that I had visited the outhouse that morning or there may have been additional issues to deal with. Obviously I made it out OK, and so did the boat, and after a little fiberglass repair job it was almost good as new. However, any thoughts I may have entertained about naming the boat The Invincible quickly became replaced with The Not So Tough- kind of like me.  Nothing like some real life situations to give you a better perspective on your place in the universe. I'm glad to report that the boat in the above pictures was able to be yarded off the bar with the help of the high tide and a rather large loader. Although the boat is spelled differently, Webster's defines the word mirth as gaiety or jollity, especially when accompanied by laughter. I would imagine when the captain felt the boat ground to a halt on that bar, there wasn't much laughter going on. At times like those, Pucker Factor might be a more appropriate boat name.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Clown Ship

















   I was heading out fishing this morning when I noticed that some of the whale watch boats were already leaving with their passengers. I looked down towards the cannery where the ships have been anchoring and saw nothing, although there were some lightering boats running to the cannery from around the corner. When I got around the bend myself, I could see that for whatever reason the captain decided to anchor on the other side of cannery point. There has been quite a large amount of conflict over the cruise ship dock and it's location. Icy Strait Point wants it built on their property, using state money, and the city says no they can't for that very reason. Unfortunately, one of the city council members has been pushing the ISP location, even though there is a conflict of interest and it has really divided the city. What a pain. I assume the captain docked where he did to make a point, I don't know, but in any event it was a nuisance to try and troll around him tonight when I was coming in. This particular ship is the Norwegian Sun, part of the Norwegian Cruise Line. I don't know why they take a perfectly good ship and paint this ridiculous design on it. It's so out of character for the location. Here we have this beautiful location, with the clean, clear water and mountains and woods and here comes this ship looking like a pimp on a holiday. It's kind of like inviting a clown to your wedding- it just seems out of place. As my old friend Uncle Bill would say, " That looks like a scab on a Polar Bear's behind!" I couldn't agree more.