Thursday, August 11, 2011
The Fleet's In
It's been an incredible year for anglers in Northern Southeast Alaska this year. The pinks came in numbers I can't remember seeing before. It will be interesting to hear what the final tally was- well into the millions. It's quite a contrast to last year when it was really difficult to even catch a Humpy ( Pink Salmon). These pictures are primarily of the seine fleet. They've come from all over the state and even from Washington and California to tap into the resource. Usually I wouldn't be so happy to see so many seiners fishing the local waters, but the Humpies were so prolific that it was almost impossible to catch any of the other salmon that trollers target. Humpies have a voracious appetite and it's not unusual to have forty hooks in the water at once with Humpies on thirty of them. They are the smallest of the Pacific salmon and they're totally squirrely. Once they come aboard they flop and thrash and spray blood and scales all over the boat. The buyers pay less for them as well, so unless the processors will purchase them in the round (bled but not gilled or gutted) most trollers shake them off to make room for the money fish. For the seine fleet though, they are the bread and butter. Though they are small, tens of thousands of pounds can be seined up in one set, making for a pretty lucrative payday. My grandson Kristian is working on a seine boat down in Petersburg. Fortunately the boat he's on is considered to be a highliner and it sounds like he chose a good year to go fishing.
I haven't seen this many seine boats here in Hoonah for many years. Shortly before we moved here some bureaucratic agency, Fish and Game, or the feds or someone decided to close the Inian Islands to seine fishing. I can't complain about that personally, I don't doubt that more fish have made it to the inside where I fish because of that decision. However, the once large seine fleet that made Hoonah it's home gradually shrank until there are only about four local seiners here, so it's kind of cool to see so many docked out front again. I've spoken to some of the old timers who said that prior to the closure of the Inian Islands, there used to be hundreds of seine boats tied up to the floats and anchored in the bay. As you can imagine, the fuel docks, stores, restaurants,the bar and liquor store all did a booming business. Even now there is a sense of excitement that accompanies the arrival of the fleet and the local shops look forward to the commerce. We all know that winter is on the way, and much like the bears, now is the time to put on the extra padding in preparation for the lean winter months. I don't suppose we'll ever see the heydays of years gone by, but for now it's nice to see some part of the economy doing well. Welcome to Hoonah guys.