Monday, April 19, 2010

Halibut Fishing

This past weekend I took my sons out to pursue my halibut quota. I usually don't fish for them this early in the year- finding them can be a little spotty and the weather is still a bit gnarly at times, but I guess the same thing can be said about the fishing and the weather whenever you go out. Anyway, both boys like to long line and since I needed the money I decided to go. In order to get a more accurate idea of the process, for anyone who might be reading this and may be unfamiliar with commercial halibut fishing, you need to look at the bottom picture first. It shows the boat under the ice chute at the cold storage dock. The guys are directing the ice into the bins which will be covered with thin foam ice blankets to try to keep it from melting too fast. In order to keep the fish fresh we have to have an ample supply of ice. My fish hold can carry six tons of ice/fish. Of course I've never caught that much fish in one trip, but it would sure be fun to try. The next picture (from the bottom) shows them cutting up some grey cod for bait. We had actually caught this cod fish on this trip using either some frozen squid or salmon. I was fortunate enought to catch enough grey cod, or Pacific cod to rebait my hooks. Halibut like cod fish so it's pretty good bait. Its tough and stays on the hooks well- much better than herring, although it doesn't have the scent that herring has. Still, I would prefer to use it when it's available. In the third picture we're setting hooks. I'm not sure how many I have any more. Every trip you lose some gear. Either they don't get snapped on good when you're setting or they get knocked off the back of the boat or the gangions get chafed on rocks or coral and have to be replaced. I think I have between three and four hundred hooks, which sounds like a lot to someone who may not be in the business, but it's a relatively small number of hooks. I don't really need more right now. The commercial fleet is on a quota that has been reduced by some sixty two percent I believe in the past five years, at a time when the commercial sport charter fleet was exceeding their allowable catch by forty percent or so. Finally, after things got so bad, the government decided to limit the number of charter boats. In Sitka alone there are over four hundred charter boats and in the little town of Gustavus, at the entrance to Glacier Bay there are I don't know how many lodges. I watched one day as four charter boats from there pulled up to the airplane float in Hoonah last year and unloaded either forty six or fifty six boxes of fish. These are seventy pound waxed fish boxes filled with fillets. It gives a new meaning to "sport fishing". Anyway, hopefully some of the abuses will be dealt with by the new ruling from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Of course like most government agencies, they didn't act until the damage was done. Oh well, better late than never. The top picture shows some of our catch. For several days of fishing we ended up with a net weight of about 681 pounds- a little less than half my quota, so it wasn't great fishing, but it wasn't bad either for this time of year. We were fortunate enough to have a few nice fish too- 161 lbs, 111 lbs, and 91lbs were the largest, so all in all it was a good trip. The best part was being able to spend time with the boys again doing something we all enjoy.

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