Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hoonah Cold Storage

The sorting table

Ron Juan at the scales

Heading blackcod

Putting the black cod on trays for freezing

Thorny head Rockfish

Small halibut

End of the line

I hope this blog post downloads. I thought of making two separate posts out of it, but I didn't want to break up the process- it might be hard to follow. The top picture shows Bill- I don't know his last name- weighing a load of round Chum salmon, also known as Dog salmon. The person who brought in this load is a hand troller and typically they catch fewer fish than power trollers because they have less gear in the water and they have to manually bring in the lines themselves instead of using hydraulic power. The second picture shows Ron D Williams standing by the two scales used. The hanging scale is used if there are fewer fish. The floor scale is used when there are enough fish to put in a tote and weighed. Ron is a unique character. There used to be several Rons in town, so in order to keep them from being confused he was often referred to as Bushy haired Ron.  He has been known to sport quite an Afro type of haircut. He always calls me Tommy and I call him Ron Juan. I tried to do the pictures in order- and actually they were, but something happened and I 'm not able to change it so the bottom picture should really be the third one. It shows Butch Voeller waiting to weigh some fish or perhaps set the tote on the table for the crew to work on. On this particualar day the F/V Vagabond Queen brought in a load of black cod. The fish aren't cleaned- they are chilled on the boat and brought in whole. The next picture is of the crew heading the black cod and passing them down the line where the guts are taken out and another crew is scraping the blood line and taking any parts left behind out, all the while the fish is being rinsed in fresh water. Next the fish are put in totes of cold water and transferred to trays where they will be taken to a blast freezer. After they've been frozen they are transferred to the glazing room where the trays of fish are knocked loose, dipped in ice water with a corn syrup glaze and packaged in twelve hundred pound cardboard totes, which are then loaded into a freezer van and shipped to Bellingham Washington I believe. And there you have it, from start to finish more or less. One of the totes has some small halibut in it and another one has some Thorny head rockfish or Idiot Rockfish as they are known. I don't know why they're called that- they don't appear to be any more stupid than other rockfish I've seen. There are like a dozen or more different types of rockfish, from the Yellow eye which many people mistakenly refer to as Red Snapper, to China, Rose, Dusky, which most call Black bass and my all time favorite the Quill back rockfish. They have a dorsal fin that is like knitting needles,only sharper. I've been poked more than once and the pain is severe and subject to infection. The rockfish and halibut are what would be considered by catch I suppose. While they weren't targeted, because the captain had some halibut quota, he was able to keep the halibut. These seem pretty small. I think most of the bigger ones are in shallower water now. Guess I'll find out soon. I spoke to one fisherman recently who was on the outside coast fishing for blackcod who said that a group of sperm whales was plaguing them.  They follow the boat and when the men are retrieving the lines from the bottom the whales will start picking the fish off the hooks. As you can imagine, just one whale can put away a lot of fish. Its similar to trolling for salmon and having those idiotic sealions follow your boat and steal salmon right off the line, often times taking expensive gear in the process. Anyway, for anyone interested, there it is in a nutshell- life at the Hoonah Cold Storage. Good times, good times.

Butch Voeller waiting to weigh a tote of fish


  1. I worked 3 days at Hoonah Cold Storage, doing black cod. It only 3 days for me to know that it wasn't for me. I went across the street to the Harbor Lights store and convinced Caroline to give me a job there.

  2. HI Todd- Yeah- I did the cold storage off and on down through the years. It's cold, miserable work- although not as bad as it used to be. They have a hard time finding local help. so they end up hiring Turks or Polish guys. With this economy, I would think they could find someone that would work from this country, but the wages aren't great and you couldn't support a family on what you made.

  3. You managed to do it dad! ;) Hope the fishing is picking up for you! Still waiting on the snail mail to get my book here!

  4. Hi Autumn- yeah the fishing is a little better than it was. Hopefully it will just improve as the season progresses and we'll all actually make a decent go of it. Sorry that the book is taking so long. If it was an advertizement for something or a request for money, you would have gotten it the next day no doubt.

  5. Well of course! I did get it in yesterday and started reading, very good so far! You should have started writing a while back, you're good at it!

  6. Thanks Autumn- I would have started sooner, but I had to do a real job and I didn't have a computer for years. I'm glad you like it so far- perhaps you'll enjoy the whole book- who knows.

  7. ı was workıng three season ı love cold storage

  8. I spent a few years working at the cold storage too. It can be pretty hard work, especially in the cold, damp areas. Thanks for commenting.