Sunday, August 16, 2015

I think our boats hate us




















  Way back in 1990, I had the genius idea that if I had a bigger boat, I would catch more fish, which for any fisherman, is the ultimate goal. I still had a bunch of kids at home at the time, and could only afford a wooden boat, which I knew would be a lot of work. However, the Bonnie J had a fairly new Isuzu diesel engine in it, and the boat looked sound enough, and the price was right, so I procured a loan and low and behold, I was the owner of a wooden troller. Twenty five years later, I hate to think of the money I've poured into the old gal. Just recently I was hauled out of the water for four months getting some planks replaced on the port side. Lord knows how much that's going to cost. I haven't gotten the bill for the labor yet, and I'm kind of afraid to see it. By the time I finally launched the boat (for the second time) the king salmon season was over. Cohos hadn't really started in yet, and the only thing biting was humpies, which were worth only 25 cents a pound. At least they didn't have to be cleaned. With all the competition for the halibut now, I thought I had better go get my quota before it got too much later in the year. They start to move into deeper water as the season progresses, and the weather only gets worse as fall nears. I took a couple of friends out with me to fish for the halibut. We went up into the bay and had just started to make the first set. We put out about thirty hooks of the 150 or so we were going to set when the hydraulic motor started leaking. I couldn't continue on like that, so we cut the set short and ran back in to town, about an hour and a half away. Seven hundred and some dollars later, I had a new motor. I saw my friend Jeff from the F/V Bifrost and told him about the motor. He got a disgusted look on his face and swore. Then he said, "I think our boats hate us Tom!" He might be on to something there. He spent the last fall having his engine rebuilt, as well as having planks, deck work and I don't know what all else done. It was an enormous amount of money to spend on the boat though, and when it comes time to sell, he'll most certainly only receive a fraction of what he spent for it. The thing is, he'll probably be like most boat owners and gladly take what is offered. Like the saying goes, the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it.  Lord knows I've had more than my share of boat fun this year. First it was the hydraulic motor. Then the chain that controls the long line drum had to be replaced. Then the engine overheated on the way in from halibut fishing. The thermostat that I just replaced a year or two before gave up  the ghost. Then the other day I was on my way out to pick another halibut set. It was foggy, so I figured I'd turn on the radar. Well, it wouldn't come on. No power. SOOOOOO.... I replaced the fuse. Now I had power, but there was a message on the radar screen that said - no heading pulse, no bearing pulse. I got out the manual that came with the radar and did what it said to do when that happened, but to no avail, so I guess I'll contact the fix it shop tomorrow and go from there. I'm going to have to get another job just to afford my fishing habit. I'm beginning to think that Jeff may have been right- our boats do hate us; and after all we've done for them too. Go figure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Help Me, I've Been Humpy'd






















 It's sunny and windy today, two weather events that I don't care for very much when I'm out trying to fish. They actually go hand in hand. Most sunny days around here are accompanied by the wind. It makes for a miserable day out on the water. On the one hand, if there wasn't any wind, the heat would be almost unbearable. On the other, the wind makes it so difficult to control the boat,and it almost always gets lumpy and very uncomfortable. Sooooo, I took care of some projects on the boat and I'm working on getting some stuff done around the house so that maybe tomorrow I can go out and catch a fish or two. What you see in the pictures above are almost all Pink salmon, or Humpbacks, or as they are so affectionately known by the fishermen, Humpies. They are the smallest of the salmon, averaging around three and a half pounds more or less. This year the processors are only paying a quarter a pound for them, so a lot of them aren't even worth a dollar each. It's really kind of depressing to have to deal with them for so little money. The upside is, if there is one, is that this year is a record year for them. You can catch as many as you can hold in a day, or as many as you want to catch. They just keep on biting. On the one hand, it's kind of nice, with a fish on almost every hook, you're making money. The bad part is, you have to do the same amount of work as if you were catching something worth six or eight times as much. Humpies are a really squirrely fish. From the moment they bite they are fighting tooth and nail to get off the line. When they come aboard they flap about violently and almost always sling blood everywhere. If you have twenty or more flopping around at once, it looks like a war zone. You have to spend  half your time just hosing off the deck or the blood will dry on it and make a hell of a mess. Fortunately the cold storage is buying the fish in the round, meaning we don't have to clean them. That's nice. However, because I needed some to sell for sport fishing bait as Tom's Halibaits, those that we caught one day had to be cleaned. I think we had 175 of the bloody little buggers, which meant they all had to be gilled and gutted. What fun! Fortunately my daughter Jen is one of the maybe handful of people in the whole world who like to clean fish. She really gets into it. I have no idea what is so great about cleaning a bunch of Humpies, but I"m glad she likes doing it. It really simplifies my life. I enjoy the catching part of fishing and she enjoys the cleaning part, so we make a good pair. I went out by myself on Saturday and in half a day I think I ended up with around 700 plus pounds of Pinks. If I had gotten there early and spent the whole day I'm sure I could have easily doubled my score, however, the slush bags that I use were temporarily out of commission and I had to resort to using the half totes, which don't hold very much. Oh well. I'm hoping that the Humpie run will gradually subside and the cohos will come in to replace them. As it is, any other fish in the area doesn't stand a chance to grab the bait. Too much competition.  It would be like living in China at a Chow Mein Noodle factory. God forbid you should stand in the way at lunch time. Anyway, I'll just keep grinding away and hope for the best. About the time I have a day when I go out and don't catch anything, I'll long for the days when I couldn't keep the Humpies off my line.