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Author Topic: Commercial Fishing  (Read 22238 times)

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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Online 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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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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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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Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #60 on: January 22, 2017, 01:33:48 AM »
Those kings look great skillet. Are you pressure bleeding them?

Thanks wetwoods, I work hard to present the fish in the manner they deserve.  I do not pressure bleed the winter kings with the standard pipette like I do with summer fish.  I just think these winter kings are too delicate and can be easily over pressurized.  I do cut a very tiny notch in the main artery under the kidney and hold my cleaning hose about 2-3" away from it to push blood through the fish for about 30 seconds while I massage it along the lateral line.  It removes a lot of blood that way, and I think it is a much gentler way to accomplish the task.  When we're catching as few fish per day as we do in the winter, I can dedicate all sorts of time to ever-so-slightly raise the quality bar on each fish.
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Offline Houndhunter

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #61 on: January 22, 2017, 02:44:44 AM »
Great thread! I got bit by the AK bug last year and can not wait for work to start back up!

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #62 on: January 23, 2017, 08:08:09 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.
Awesome picture.
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Disclaimer: This my SWAG. Not even an opinion. This is not my version of a 14th hand version of a fairy tale. It is also not the opinion of the Hunt Wa. site, it's owner, or any of the moderators or admins, not even me. Scouts honor. :salute:

Online quadrafire

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #63 on: January 23, 2017, 09:40:24 AM »
I am really looking forward to watching this thread. Be safe my friend.
:yeah:   :tup:

Offline rainshadow1

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #64 on: January 23, 2017, 09:46:54 AM »
Tagging...

I ran my Dad's 47' steel Monk for several years right out of High School. It's up there somewhere now, we sold it to some Native guys somewhere on the south end of Baranof. It's called the Avenger. Was a very good boat.

I grew up commercial fishing. Spent a little time up there, out of Sitka and Wrangell. Mostly down here though.

Looking forward to the pics... although being the family business for generations, I was happy to find another life. Kinda opposite your path! Good luck, be safe, enjoy the freedom! (The freedom in one thing I've never been able to set aside!)

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Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #65 on: January 23, 2017, 11:34:45 AM »
Thanks guys. Getting the boat ready to run south for haulout/yardwork in a few days, lots of busy work.

Here's a couple scenery pics from the winter drag.

Friend's boat under Mt Edgecumbe on a very calm afternoon out on the line.



Pic of my deckhand taking a pic of a great sunrise as we're heading towards Edgecumbe from Symonds bay.  She is pretty tough and a good photog to boot. I'll see if she'll let me use some of the pics she's taken from my boat on here.



And here's a vid of us heading into town from the line in a NE gale.


Winter up here is really beautiful, going to miss it.
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Offline 7mmfan

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #66 on: January 23, 2017, 11:41:22 AM »
That's a ROUGH NE wind. I rarely saw anything like that, just not a common weather config in the summer. I remember one particular storm that came in a little faster than expected one day. I was anchored off the Cape for halibut expecting the weather to pick up about the time we normally headed in. It came in a couple hour's early and went from SW 15-20 and 5' seas to 35-40 and 10' seas inside of an hour. Turning the corner at the Cape and heading in with a quartering sea on my tail was one of my scariest days. We were able to take a breather behind the Bird which was much needed. That trip in took almost 2 hours instead of the normal 40 minutes.
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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #67 on: January 23, 2017, 11:41:40 AM »
Awesome.
Antlered rabbit tastes like chicken


Inuendo, wasn't he an Italian proctoligist?

Disclaimer: This my SWAG. Not even an opinion. This is not my version of a 14th hand version of a fairy tale. It is also not the opinion of the Hunt Wa. site, it's owner, or any of the moderators or admins, not even me. Scouts honor. :salute:

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #68 on: January 23, 2017, 11:54:24 AM »
Yeah, NE doesn't happen often in summer at all, but is much more common in winter.  When it goes NE, it blows.   Usually when a high-pressure system sets up on the B.C. interior and there's a low just offshore.  The "outflow event" can get pretty gnarly on the inside waters, and usually way less intense for us out on the coast.  The day we saw 40 knots out there, Stephens passage blew 60 gust to 70. 
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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #69 on: January 23, 2017, 11:55:53 AM »
Keep the pics and story's coming. I have been sport fishing in Sitka for 20+ years and love walking the docks and talking to the commercial guys. One of them used to be half owner of one of the larger sport fishing lodges in Sitka that we used to frequent. Several of the owners of sport lodges live a double life of commercial fisherman as well as sport-fishing lodge owner. I will be up there again in August looking for you to say hi. I never get tired of running down to Whale bay or up to Khaz to find the bite. I have lost count on how many friends have been fooled by the flamingos in Neva straits or the killer whales chasing the trollers.

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #70 on: January 23, 2017, 12:04:52 PM »
I will be up there again in August looking for you to say hi.

You won't see me around town much in Aug unless the fish are plentiful right outside,, but shoot me a pm when you know the dates you'll be up and I'll keep it in mind.  Always happy to chat for a few mins on the dock if I have them to spare.


I have lost count on how many friends have been fooled by the flamingos in Neva straits or the killer whales chasing the trollers.

 :chuckle:

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Offline Angry Perch

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #71 on: January 24, 2017, 09:11:24 AM »
Dang, looks like I have some reading to keep me occupied tonight!

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #72 on: January 24, 2017, 10:06:46 AM »
I also remember when we came back to Gig Harbor after my trip it was about 2 am and my family was waiting at the dock. My son was almost 5 he said hey daddy. I asked the wife what she was feeding him all summer, he was bigger than when I left. Made me laugh, still does.. Great times. Awesome pictures.

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #73 on: January 24, 2017, 10:19:11 AM »
I also remember when we came back to Gig Harbor after my trip it was about 2 am and my family was waiting at the dock. My son was almost 5 he said hey daddy. I asked the wife what she was feeding him all summer, he was bigger than when I left. Made me laugh, still does. Great times. Awesome pictures.

This resonates with me.  I love the anticipation of coming home after a long season.  Planning on leaving Sitka in two days to start the long slog south.  Eager to see my family and friends again. 



Will get another story or two up before I leave, just depends on how the day goes. 

Next topics - resupply via tenders and... Sharks.
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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #74 on: January 24, 2017, 10:25:53 AM »
I also remember when we came back to Gig Harbor after my trip it was about 2 am and my family was waiting at the dock. My son was almost 5 he said hey daddy. I asked the wife what she was feeding him all summer, he was bigger than when I left. Made me laugh, still does. Great times. Awesome pictures.

This resonates with me.  I love the anticipation of coming home after a long season.  Planning on leaving Sitka in two days to start the long slog south.  Eager to see my family and friends again. 



Will get another story or two up before I leave, just depends on how the day goes. 

Next topics - resupply via tenders and... Sharks.

You going to get that tattoo with your boat in it?  :tup:
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FS: half case of black cloud 12ga ammunition by hunthard
[Today at 07:19:22 AM]


Magpul Pro Rem700 Chassis. by jasnt
[Today at 07:18:36 AM]


New Bird gun help by Bill W
[Today at 07:16:33 AM]


Big blacktail?? by trophyhunt
[Today at 07:07:03 AM]


Cougar down by bearpaw
[Today at 06:55:11 AM]


For Sale- Ascend fishing kayak 600$ by Jermshooter
[Today at 06:43:20 AM]


Madness 10 Scoring page.......NOW to 31 march by wolftrapper
[Today at 06:40:47 AM]


Mamma's and babies by nitroelk
[Today at 05:56:04 AM]


WTB CZ 527 204 by Copperwood
[Today at 04:54:20 AM]


Scouting a new trapline by JakeLand
[Today at 04:16:01 AM]


Marine mammals now taking more salmon than sport and commercial fishing combined by Miles
[Today at 03:51:54 AM]


Protech toolbox by adrenalinepursuit
[Yesterday at 10:57:52 PM]


CNN "Trophy" show by fishnfur
[Yesterday at 10:35:20 PM]


Horn growth by fishnfur
[Yesterday at 10:29:26 PM]


First coyote with my 204 Ruger by nwwanderer
[Yesterday at 10:17:31 PM]


WTS: Garmin Rino 750 Like New by Reidus
[Yesterday at 10:12:06 PM]


OLYMPIA RALLY - 1-12 CAPITOL STEPS by Windwalker
[Yesterday at 10:03:28 PM]


CZ 527 B&C stock and rail $200 by Tracker0721
[Yesterday at 09:33:16 PM]


Venison pot stickers ah lah H20hunter by 7mmfan
[Yesterday at 09:28:55 PM]