Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fishing for Fatties or Flatties or Fat Flatties












  Last week I went out with my number one crew hand Adam, and in what turned out to be a very wise decision on my part, a lady friend who owns the F/V Talache. I was having a heck of a time finding a second crew hand, when the idea occurred to me to ask Barbie if she would like to go.She jumped at the chance and I was so glad I asked  her. She was the perfect addition to the crew. The trip, as often is the case, didn't start off so well. I hooked up the long line drum and when I turned on the hydraulics, the motor that I had purchased just three years ago started puking hydraulic fluid like a college kid after an all night bender. What a hassle! The only person in town who works on hydraulics was out of town on vacation-go figure. Soooo..... I had to send the motor over to Juneau and order a new one, for a mere $775.00. We hadn't even set the first hook and I was already in the hole. Anyway, the second day I got the new motor hooked up and we made a set in Adam's hot spot. Two weeks earlier he had set 20 hooks for a subsistence set and caught about 200 pounds, including a hundred pounder. So, of course we thought we'd set ten times the amount of hooks and get the whole quota in one fell swoop. Of course things being what they are, we went out the next day and for the first 75 hooks or so, we didn't catch a thing. Pretty depressing to say the least. We reset in three different places and went home. The next day when we pulled the gear we ended up with almost a thousand pounds total, but still needed about 400 pounds, so we ran up the bay and hoped for the best. I anchored the boat in sixteen fathoms of water and we waited for a few hours while the bait soaked. I entertained myself by killing horse flies by washing them off the deck with a washdown hose. I think I killed about fifty or so. Adam decided to try jigging up a halibut with his pole. After about 30 minutes he got bored and climbed up on top of the hay rack to soak in some rays. About fifteen minutes later he yelled "FISH ON!" I thought he was joking, but he wasn't.  He ended up pulling up a thirty pound flatfish, so it was a good way to start our trip up there. After the baits had soaked for about three hours, we went out to pull the gear. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the state was prospecting for king crab, so there was about six or eight crab pots with big orange bouys right in the area where I wanted to set. I had to lay a set in an area that I was unfamiliar with.  I was afraid that we wouldn't catch any fish at all, but as it was we ended up shaking three or four fish in an effort to keep from going over the quota limit. If that happens, you lose the extra poundage you caught, you have to pay a fine, and they reduce your quota by that amount next year. Of course when we finally got in to the cold storage and got the final weight, I discovered that I was under weight by about 100 pounds, so the fish we shook would have just about been right. Ah well. There seems to be a fair amount of halibut this year, so there's a chance I can get the rest of my quota while I troll for salmon. All in all it was a pretty good opening. I made a few bucks and enjoyed the company of my friends. We'll see what next year brings. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fishing for Dogs







Obviously this post isn't about the four legged kind of dog we all know and mostly love. I say mostly because my neighbor has decided to dog sit for a friend of theirs whose dog is unruly and loves to stick his big mouth out the window and bark-for hours on end. I so wish I could live on my own private little estate away from unruly dogs, neighbors and other riff-raff. However, I digress. This post is about fishing for chum, or dog salmon as they're known. It's about the only game in town right now. The king season is closing tonight, and it has been poor, and so far the humpies and cohos haven't shown, even out on the ocean. I'm not sure what to make of it. The upside of such poor fishing is that the price to the fishermen is good. The downside is that there are few fish, and the consumer is going to pay a lot more.The second picture shows the difference between ocean bright chum, and one that is ready for the creek. The closer they get to fresh water, the more pronounced the purple and green stripes on their bodies becomes. They are tremendous fighters, and are a lot of fun to catch, but they can be a challenge. For one, you have to troll R E A L L Y slow for them, like one to one and half knots. They seem to prefer a smaller hoochie since they are primarily plankton eaters, although I've caught them on bait before, and just the other day I caught four or five on a spoon that I was running for kings. I caught some really big ones this year, several over fourteen or fifteen pounds, and my friend Kevin said he caught one that weighed 24 pounds on his hand held scale. I was landing one the other day that I thought was going to tear my arm from the socket. It was like being attached to a paint mixer- holy crow! In the third picture you can see the canine teeth that the males develop as they get near the fresh water. All the better to fight over females I guess. I don't know if that's why they're called dog salmon or if it's because they're  the primary food that the mushers feed their dogs up north. Fortunately the cold storage is buying these fish in the round, which means we don't have to clean them, and of course with the guts and gills intact, they weigh more. Just land them, bleed them and toss them in the slush. The eggs of dog salmon are the largest of all the salmon and are desired by the Japanese, although I don't think that the younger folks have the same desire as their elders. Too much Western influence I guess. Anyway, if you're out fishing, keep your hooks sharp and your lines in the water. If you're not fishing, then I guess I feel sorry for you.