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Author Topic: Commercial Fishing  (Read 31402 times)

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2017, 10:46:04 PM »
Great pic RB!  I don't recall seeing her around, doesn't mean she's not still working however.  I have mad respect for the low ADFG number boats like your granddads - they are icons in the fleet.

Here's a couple of pics I took on the dock tonight. 

@plugger


I know Gary and his current deckhand Jake.  Great operation, and I hope to someday have quota like that guy does.

Another pic, just for S&G's  @duckslayer89




Thanks for the great technique and wonderful kings, Skillet. You're man's man doing a job not many would do in a place that's full of hazard. Get home safely.
That is some seriously high praise coming from you sir.  It was an honor.

Pman is referencing the troll-caught quality that we are all so proud of in this fleet.  Each fish is brought on board by hand, one at a time, and bled/dressed right away for the highest quality product.  The quick handling and dress technique makes or breaks a delicate fish like a winter king, and Pman's endorsement is the best I could possibly obtain. 

A few pics of what he's talking about -






Last night at Symonds was a little sporty.  The bay is open only to the north, so is a great place to shelter during the SW, W and NW winds we commonly get here in the winter.  Last night, however, was a 20N wind... so it was blowing right down the gut of the anchorage and and there were 2-3 footers.  Just a bit more than allows for sweet dreams.  On top of that, it was snowing when I racked out -



Believe me, I'm not complaining.  I have a Dickinson Pacific diesel stove that has been running nearly non-stop since October that gets the cabin toasty warm.  But setting the hook in that stuff solo can get a little trying when all you want to do is get inside and get warm after a long day of running gear in frigid saltwater spray.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 10:52:21 PM by Skillet »
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #46 on: January 20, 2017, 10:54:54 PM »
Great stuff Skillet!
The Sitka Sound area is gorgeous.  My family have been in the fishing industry in Alaska since Dad started tendering in 1953.  3rd generation is still at it on a 1951 vintage wooden power scow.
I tendered on and off from SE to Bristol Bay and Kodiak.  I miss the trips north each Spring.  The ocean does start calling and I get a huge ache inside.
Heck, I even miss the craziness of Sitka Herring!
Love your pictures.  Keep them coming!

I know the Eigil B.  Seemed like they spent all of May and half of June painting her up at the docks.  Can't even imagine how much more that scow could pack if you took all the paint off  :chuckle:
But they keep her nice, and she's a good working boat.  Moored on the opposite finger of me in Eliason Harbor.  :tup:
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Offline DaveMonti

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2017, 11:16:01 PM »
Great idea Skillet.  I'll be following regularly!

Offline runamuk

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #48 on: January 21, 2017, 06:49:15 AM »
Now those are some beautiful fish.  Wow.
Sent from a deserted island

benchleg

Offline h20hunter

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #49 on: January 21, 2017, 07:34:40 AM »
Now if we only had a way to bring you on as a sponser and get some of this fish on the market....how do you say.....over the rail sales?

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #50 on: January 21, 2017, 09:21:05 AM »
Good morning from Elisdon harbor in Sitka-



Will look into that H20.  I never considered selling directly via HuntWa, figured this crew gets their own meat!  But if people wanted, I'll see what it takes to sell some on here.

Speaking of which - Whitpirate, how much and what kind of fish are you looking for?   The easiest and least expensive would be a type of mixed grade and sized FAS coho next Aug/Sept.  That's around 1000# of headed and gutted frozen fish, all pressure bled.
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Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #51 on: January 21, 2017, 04:32:03 PM »
Those kings look great skillet. Are you pressure bleeding them?

Offline HornHoarder

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #52 on: January 21, 2017, 05:40:34 PM »
Hey bud! Great write up so far. I'll be following your adventure.... Good luck!

Offline plugger

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #53 on: January 21, 2017, 08:09:45 PM »
Sweet, nice to see she is still fishing. New owner from when I fished. Thanks for the pics. Sure brings back some memories.

Offline SemperFidelis97

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #54 on: January 21, 2017, 09:28:28 PM »
I am really enjoying this thread. Stay safe up there.

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Offline Whitpirate

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #55 on: January 21, 2017, 11:11:36 PM »
Good morning from Elisdon harbor in Sitka-



Will look into that H20.  I never considered selling directly via HuntWa, figured this crew gets their own meat!  But if people wanted, I'll see what it takes to sell some on here.

Speaking of which - Whitpirate, how much and what kind of fish are you looking for?   The easiest and least expensive would be a type of mixed grade and sized FAS coho next Aug/Sept.  That's around 1000# of headed and gutted frozen fish, all pressure bled.


Let's play the PM game and let me buy you a beer during the down time.  I'm pretty sure we could get 1000# sold here on Hunt-WA and I've got a few groups too.  Also interested personally in some halibut but not at huge volumes.

Offline Duckslayer89

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #56 on: January 21, 2017, 11:27:40 PM »
I'll try to get some more pics skillet. Here's right before we left one year

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #57 on: January 22, 2017, 12:24:17 AM »
Finally found a block of time to sit down and write up some answers to q’s.  Keep in mind this is just from my perspective – a troller working out of Sitka.  There are lots of commercial fishing jobs in AK, and some other guys might have different answers to the same questions.  If someone has those differing answers, please feel free to share!

Boss300 – that scariest moment story is being mulled over.  I want to take the time to write that one up right, so it might be a bit.  But it’s coming, I promise.  And it being a “new to the Fairweather Grounds” story, I think it will be worth the wait.

Skyvalhunter asked me about the economics of fishing.  There are so many factors to it.  I will try to answer your q’s as clearly as I can.


“Is it profitable for you?”

In a word – yes.  That needs to be qualified, however.  Fish prices have been good this year, and look good for next year - but were in the tank last year.  Timing is everything. Crew will always do well if they get on a fishy boat - owners will not.  My fixed costs are daunting (annual boat payment, insurances of three kinds, moorage, annual haulout, etc.), and I live in fear of the $4/gal diesel coming to a pump near me.  I change oil & filters on my main every 300 hours, and if I have to buy oil up here that is a $270 project.  Fish taxes are onerous (we pay those to the state of AK to support hatcheries).  Crew always walks off the boat with a fat check – owners rarely know if it was a profitable season until the next one starts.  Especially if you’re in the freezer troller (FAS) game – you are producing a superior quality product that is good for 18 months minimum, but you may not get paid for those fish until the broker moves them up to 12 months later.  Commercial fishing represents a huge financial risk for the permit holder/boat owner.  In the end, I hope to make enough money to reinvest in the boat, top off my 1400 gallons worth of diesel tankage and have a go at another season.  That, to me, is profitable enough until I pay the boat off and I can divert a pile of cash back into savings.  But during these first 5 years, I would about guarantee a deckhand that spends the three four prime months with me on the boat will make more taxable income than I will…


“Meaning, for the amount of hours spent working/fishing is it justifiable ?”

Oh, haha… hell no.  I’d do much better in the short run slapping a paper hat on my head and asking if you want fries with that.  I would never dare to calculate my take-home vs hours worked.  I’m sure I would be violating minimum wage standards in the extreme.  But, as I’ve mentioned before – this is a passion for which I hope to make just enough to keep going.  Eventually, I expect to be able to start catching up on the neglect my 401K is getting now, but it will be lean until I get this boat paid off.
There are many fisherman that make very good money, but almost to a man they are original or secondary quota IFQ holders.  That is when they rationalized the fisheries and awarded a guaranteed percentage of the Total Allowable Catch of halibut (and to a slightly different degree black cod) to people with historically comparable catch rates.  It helps to think of the old Norwegian halibut schooner owners like Amway’s Diamond Dozen.  They are just going to make a pile of cash every year, no matter what.  I couldn’t afford to buy a meaningful block of halibut quota, so a-trollin’ I go…


How many people are on your crew?

I run solo for the winter and spring king season, excepting the occasional local or friend that wants to come out for a short 2-3 day trip.  For dinglebar ling cod, I like to have a crew on.  The work can get heavy at times, the wx can be rough.  For summer king opener, I take 1 or 2, depending on what I’m thinking the season will bring and who I have in the pipeline to crew.  Always looking for ambitious young folks who are confident and mentally tough enough to deal with this life.  One thing I will say is we have fun on the boat - music blasting on deck when appropriate, impromptu trap shooting competitions out of the pit, some general goofiness to relieve the pressure and grind. 

Here's a pic of one of my crew from last summer - "Mad Mike".  Clearly, his skipper needed to find some fish...



Mission accomplished-




*A word on crewing on a boat in AK – if you want the Deadliest Catch experience, keep heading north and get to Dutch.  That’s not what we do here in SE (Southeast Alaska).  Our game is a long slow grind, and it is a mental game above all else.  I’ve come to believe that commercial fishing in AK is one of the last places where a man can go to find out who he really is.  He just has to be prepared to accept what he finds out about himself… the ocean is a heartless bitch and will level the playing field, judging not on brawn or bravado, faking or fronting.  She doesn’t care how many people a man has fooled into thinking he’s tougher than them, or how many he’s bested in fisticuffs.  She only awards her tolerance to our existence on a quality we all possess to varying degrees, which I think of as “grit.”   Some men of huge stature melt after being offshore for a few days; some that we wouldn’t think twice about taking lunch money from summon an internal strength that shines bright and proud in this environment.  Our overly-protective, safety-first, Nerfy-soft world doesn’t often allow a man the opportunity to test his grit anymore.  Commercial fishing is one of those few professions that allow for that self-examination through one of the most mentally and physically challenging, and most intrinsically rewarding experiences, you can subject yourself to.  I believe if you survive a year of commercial fishing in AK on any boat, you are part of a very exclusive club and have likely earned the respect of every man who wishes he could find a way to challenge himself to that degree. I don't want to disrespect our Marines by suggesting they are in the same ballpark, but of the marines I have known all have the same quality - mental toughness and grit.  I have to think that the same qualities that make good marine would lend themselves to making a good commercial fisherman. IT would probably just be a much better life choice to be a jarhead than a deckhand...

Ok, off that soapbox…

Is that many boats fishing this time of year? 
The winter season started out in fair wx on Oct 11 with roughly 100 boats fishing the winter line.  That is our boundary line drawn roughly between Cape Edgecumbe and Biorka Island.  90% of those boats were fishing the Edgecumbe drag, about 3 miles in length.  That is a crowd, and one you have to be very mindful of fishing in.  Lots of boats in a small area means you have to trust other guys a lot, and they need to have faith in you.   I’ve been fishing around most of these guys for most of the summer, so I know how they fish.  And they know my game.  So we can usually figure it out on the go.  There are some standard navigational rules particular to our fleet – “starboard pole to the beach” has right of way.  This is NOT a Coast Guard regulation, but something the fleet has adopted to deal with fishing situations that the CG never conceived of.  I think it works well, and I put a lot of faith in everybody’s adherence to it.  At the end of the day, however, my ship is my responsibility, and I always have a side-eye on the boats I’m fishing around.  No going to my insurance pool and saying “I had starboard to the beach, but you all need to pay up because the CG rules say I was in the wrong.”  It is ultimately my own responsibility to keep my boat out of other boats’ space.


Do you sell to a broker or to restaurants…

There are different ways of going to market with your fish.  The easiest is to sell to a shoreside processor.  You start out the season by getting ice from them, which is no small thing.  Most processors will load it on your boat for free with the understanding that you’ll sell them back the fish you kept cold with it.  If I was to sell fish to only restaurants, I’d be buying my ice from the processors at anywhere from $100-150/ton.  I like to put 6 tons on my boat to start the king season, so that could add up.  You go out, fish, and unload at their facility.  Most of the time they will direct deposit for you or cut you a check the next day.  The shoreside processors also contract with tenders to pick up fish off of you out on the grounds to save you the long runs back to town just to offload.  In some cases, there is a “tender  tax,” meaning you get a lower price to cover the costs of the tender contract.  Most of the time, the price on the grounds is the same as if you offloaded at the plant, and you can get resupplied in nearly every way via the tenders.  Food, fuel, water, bait.  Some have laundry and showers you can use too.  All have little treats they give the fisherman – fresh baked cookies, ice cream sandwiches, etc.  One tender I sold to brought fresh veggies out to hand out to the fisherman.  You have no idea how good crispy romaine lettuce, or a fresh bright red tomato, tastes out on the grounds…

*Tender contracting by the processors incentivizes the fleet to stay out there and fish – which is the smart move for us as well, since the season is very short.  Every day off can cost thousands in revenue, and there are no make-up days.  If you lose a day’s revenue, it’s gone.  A guy has to think long and hard about a mental health day for the crew and what it will cost the boat (and the crew, too) by going to town and tying up for the night.  And good luck getting a sober crew together early the next morning… and make sure you check the foc’s’le for stow-away bar flies before you leave the dock!


The second, as a freezer boat, is to produce your FAS product and ship it south for sale through brokerages.  There can be some direct sales of FAS product too, but the sheer volume means you need to have a full-time guy with his finger on the pulse of the market to sell your fish over the course of the year for you.  He isn’t volunteering, of course – so that is an expense as well.  This is an easy way to move volume, but you get a lower return for a premium product using this channel.

The third is to go to market directly yourself.  This is very rewarding and seductive since you’re “cutting out the middle man,” but I’ve discovered a lot of fisherman don’t understand that they become the middleman in this scenario.  In the lower volume, higher value fisheries like winter kings, I enjoy selling my fish to high-end restaurants – but ONLY through a distributor that has the contacts, sales staff and cash flow to do the business with me.  I truly value a strong partner in the distribution chain – since I want to focus on fishing instead of collecting money from a dozen restaurants a week.  That is just not a good use of my time.  In using this model, I leave some value on the table for the distributor to earn through their efforts.  I feel it is a bargain for both sides if the marketing efforts of both parties works towards highlighting the distributor’s relationship with the boat, the exclusivity of the high-value catch and the direct connection the distributor enables between the boat and the chef.  Trust is key, and it is a true joy to know your fish are being represented as a work of art to chefs across the country that also value the quality, story and connection. 
« Last Edit: January 22, 2017, 12:36:18 AM by Skillet »
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #58 on: January 22, 2017, 12:39:14 AM »
I'll try to get some more pics skillet. Here's right before we left one year

Love that pic man.  She looks Bristol-

Just saw Dave this morning, he's back up here and ready to gear up for some black cod.   Winter kings are just not going well enough to hold that highliner's interest!
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #59 on: January 22, 2017, 12:48:00 AM »
Good morning from Elisdon harbor in Sitka-



Will look into that H20.  I never considered selling directly via HuntWa, figured this crew gets their own meat!  But if people wanted, I'll see what it takes to sell some on here.

Speaking of which - Whitpirate, how much and what kind of fish are you looking for?   The easiest and least expensive would be a type of mixed grade and sized FAS coho next Aug/Sept.  That's around 1000# of headed and gutted frozen fish, all pressure bled.


Let's play the PM game and let me buy you a beer during the down time.  I'm pretty sure we could get 1000# sold here on Hunt-WA and I've got a few groups too.  Also interested personally in some halibut but not at huge volumes.

Roger - let me make sure I'm square with Dale and check out the nuances of legally selling FAS fish in Washington that way first.  Might be some hoops to jump through, but happy to do it if there's a channel to move some fish.  I've been seriously considering doing a "community supported fisherman" program along the same lines as a CSA that you get a basket of local kale, carrots and such in... just to put a bug in your ear :chuckle:
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

 

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