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Author Topic: Commercial Fishing  (Read 80491 times)

Offline jvt

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #675 on: September 17, 2020, 08:32:16 AM »
it wasn't uncommon to do that in kodiak. not for moose but deer and goats. i seen 14 deer hanging in the crab tank one year.

Offline JimmyHoffa

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #676 on: September 18, 2020, 09:15:13 PM »
Hopefully you get into some good hunting this year to distract from the salmon fishing.  I heard from others up there that only a few in their group even tried to fish and bailed early.  Said if they tried to sell their boats and gear right now, they'd only get about half of what they paid a couple years ago.  They're kind of worried that so much of the fish this year was frozen for when the restaurants reopen next year (guess?), that when they get fishing again the prices will be too low due to the frozen stock.

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #677 on: November 12, 2020, 09:24:50 PM »
Well fellas, it's been a while.  Sitting here after a long season, Glenlivet 12 yr in a tumbler, reflecting on the year.  Got a few stories to tell, pics and vids to share. 

I think I'll start with a little snapshot into life here in Sitka.  It's such a great place to live - I heard there was some kind of bad cold you all had to deal with this year?  :chuckle: But, it didn't really affect us much up here - especially those of us who live and work out on the water.  Tourism took a huge hit, prices for fish were in the toilet.  But life on the drag was just the same as it has been for the last few years, and I'll bet the same as the last 100 years.  The fish didn't know what was going on, they just kept swimming towards us. Oh, sure, we had rules to follow like everybody else, and the bureaucrats didn't miss their opportunity to make me fill out a few more reams of paperwork, but even so - I never felt more sure about my decision to get the heck out of Washington than I did this summer.

Case in point - we have a "free bench" at the top of the dock in Sitka.  You don't throw anything away that could possibly be reused here  - garbage is insanely expensive (it's all barged down to a landfill in Eastern Wa), and getting anything new up here always has the "remote island tax" attached to it.  So, anything that has even a bit of life left in it gets offered up for a new home.  I've seen some crazy stuff on the free bench, and put a lot of stuff on it myself.

But even though this free bench offering wasn't fishing related, it was interesting enough I had to stop and take a pic.  Anybody going marten trapping this winter?  Here's a good start.
KABOOM Count - 1

"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #678 on: November 12, 2020, 09:43:10 PM »
I left the season off after the dinglebar fishery on the fairweather grounds, and from that point on it was all about getting ready for the big king salmon derby on July 1.  We had a summer troll king allocation of 148,000 kings total, we had caught about 28,000 king between Oct 1 and June 30th, leaving 120,000 fish to go.  They try and spit the harvest 70/30 between first kings and second king season, so we were given the green light to go fishing on July 1 and catch roughly 84,000 kings. 

Time to check and re-check everything, tie up fresh gear, listen to and spread dock-talk rumors about where the fish are and where they're going to be, etc.  It was an interesting year, since there was virtually zero charter effort prior to the season. Covid shut it all down, so our normal sources of information  about where the fish were, what they were feeding on, how deep, etc., was non-existent.  It was going to be a Hail Mary for all of us to some degree.

This year, I really cut down the number of boats I shared real info with.  We call this our "code group", or "coding partners." There was a group of three of us that got really serious about coordinating our efforts to find fish and get on them fast.  I figure that three hard-chargers working together can cover a good part of the grounds.  Four would be better, but we couldn't find a guy that worked on the level we wanted to work that we could trust 100% to keep his mouth shut.  So we decided to work with three.

One guy started out on the Fairweather Grounds, I started at Cape Cross, and other guy started at Cape Edgecumbe.  It's always smart to have a guy at Edge, since that seems to be the most consistent producing spot on the entire coast year-over-year.  It's kind of funny, we burn hundreds of gallons of fuel running over hundreds of miles of coast looking for bait and kings, run ourselves into near-exhaustion right before the biggest troll opener of the year, and a guy in a little 30' boat can leave Sitka the morning of the opener, drop his gear in at the Cape, and kick all our asses.  It happens every year  :chuckle:
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #679 on: November 12, 2020, 09:51:45 PM »
So my pard on the Fairweather Grounds was saying it looked good, not great.  There were a bunch of boats out there two days before the season checking it out, then the day before they all disappeared.   :dunno:  Weather was going to be just ok, SE 20 for July 1 and 2nd . That's enough to get your attention out there, but not nearly bad enough to drive the bigger boats off. 

(For Fairweather Grounds weather stories, check back earlier in this thread).

I was seeing good bait and hearing of some good sport fishing catches at Cape Cross, so after checking the water 30 miles north and south over a couple of days, I settled in on the 50 fa drag at Cape Cross.

Our pard down at Edgecumbe sent the following message: "Bait everywhere, whales everywhere. No charter boats. Gonna be good here!"

Normally, I avoid Edge like the plague simply because of traffic.  But with the charter fleet on the beach, it sounded like it might be the spot this year...
KABOOM Count - 1

"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #680 on: November 12, 2020, 10:03:04 PM »
Day 1 dawns at 3:30 am, and we settle in to the grind.  Crew is excited, I'm hopeful.  We start catching a few right away, 5 or so per run of the gear.  The thing that was noteworthy, though was the pinks.  They were so thick, hitting everything, includting giant spoons half their size.  :dunno:  It was hard to get the gear down without having those buggers covering the hooks.  A king doesn't have a chance to get caught if the pink grabs the hootchie on the way down.

The morning report from the Fairweather Grounds was not good.  My pard wasn't on them, and by noon he decided he was going to run to Cape Cross overnight.  It's about a 50 mile run in from the East Bank of the grounds to where I am, and with only 4 hours of darkness per night at this point he was going to have to sacrifice some fishing time to make the move.

It was not fantastic fishing for kings that day, and my numbers weren't good enough I thought he should leave.  But, it's his boat.  Everybody seemed to get about the same amount where I was, and I got just enough for me to stay put and give it another day.  Time is limited, since we have a large fleet and only 84,000 fish to catch, so staying put on average fishing is a gamble.  You lose fishing time traveling to your backup spots, so you better make it back with that much better fishing when you get there...
KABOOM Count - 1

"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #681 on: November 12, 2020, 10:09:45 PM »
Of course, my pard at Edgecumbe beat us all the first day.  They always do, that place is just a fish factory. But he said there was a very large number of boats there, and that can kill good fishing really fast.  His numbers weren't good enough for me to run there, since I knew they would fall off significantly on day 2 and beyond.

I drifted that night and got a nap, awakened to increasing wind and fewer boats.  Many folks were running south to the big Edgecumbe bite. Good, I thought.  With fewer boats at Cape Cross, I might get a few more days of fishing here.

I ended up finishing day 2 with a few less than I got on day 1, but the evening bite was non-existent.  My pard was saying "I came off the Grounds for this??"  Haha, ya, I told ya...  That lack of evening bite is an indicator of the biomass moving, though, so I started making plans to chase fish.  Edgecumbe had fallen on its face on Day 2, so I decided not to go there.  We were hearing about some boats picking up fish out at the Grounds on day 2, from the same spots my buddy just left. 

We made a plan - he would run back out there overnight, I would stay at Cross and see what the morning gave up, but move north of Cape Spencer if it was slower than I liked.
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #682 on: November 12, 2020, 10:23:07 PM »
It was slower than I liked.

I only had 6 kings by 9 am, that wasn't going to get it done.  Weather was getting worse, so at 10 we stacked the gear and I put it on my stern, steaming towards Icy Point north of Cape Spencer.  Got there early afternoon, dropped in for a couple of hours, and only got one fish.  That ain't gonna work. 

My buddy got back out the the Grounds late that morning and landed on fish. He was catching pretty good, and thought I should just burn the rest of the day and charge out.  I had a tip that there was a bit going on another 45 miles northwest of me on what we call the "Inner Bank" of the Fairweather Grounds.  It is much closer to shore, between Yakutat and Lituya Bay.  I decided to troll my way up and run when it got dark.  Only got 5 more kings the rest of day 3, for a miserable total of 11 fish. 

Day 4 dawns and I'm on the inner bank.  There's a few boats around, but they had cleared out.  That's what you get for trying to catch radio fish, I suppose.  One thing I was catching was halibut - every dang hook that even got close to the bottom.  Nothing big, just a bunch of 10-20#'ers covering up my gear.

My buddy says he's catching pretty good back out on the East Bank, and I should charge out there.  Pride has a bit of a say in this, though, and I was so far out in the wilderness at that point I was going to take a few long shots to see if I could make them pay.

I moved out from the Inner Bank to a bank we call the Hambone, for a half-doz fish.  Not good.  Hail Mary time.  I could either head back down towards the growing fleet on the East Bank, or I could go for glory and try the West Bank of the Grounds.

The West Bank is out there.  I dinglebar fished it in May, but it's not known to be a great king salmon producer.  But there is one spot I've always wanted to try, and this king season is shaping up to be mediocre at best... so I turn to starboard and charge West.  I arrive at my chosen spot in the evening right before it gets dark and drop the gear in.  Instantly get hit, 4 fish in a few minutes.  Bait in the water looks good, I can see some kings feeding down there.  I think we're on something.  There are no boats on my 12 mile radius radar, we're totally alone out here. I plan my drift to end up where I want to at 3 am and catch a quick nap.
KABOOM Count - 1

"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Caseyd

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #683 on: November 12, 2020, 10:30:55 PM »
Keep it coming  :)

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #684 on: November 12, 2020, 10:31:18 PM »
Day 5, West Bank of the Fairweather Grounds.

It was glorious.  Best day of king fishing I've ever had.  No boats around, kings were on a steady bite and stayed in the spot I found them in, weather was perfect. 

I actually didn't get on them really good until about 10am.  It was scratchy in the morning until tide change, and I was having a problem with big lingcod and halibut.  But once I zeroed in on them, it was all we could do to keep up with cleaning and freezing the carcasses when they were on a hot bite. Set a new boat record for kings in a day.  Nice sized fish too, bigger than the average we'd seen so far.  I was 45 miles farther out than my pard, who was putting together another decent day on the East Bank, but when I started sharing numbers with him he was tempted to run.  At noon, however, the announcement came over the VHF that the season would close at midnight that night.  Son of a biscuit.  I could use another day out here on these fish!

At any rate, we stacked the gear at 11:50 PM and still had kings biting.  It was an amazing experience, and one I'll never forget.

A few pics to illustrate.
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #685 on: November 12, 2020, 10:36:23 PM »
I forgot to add a short video of Scott landing a fish at Cape Cross.  Fairweather Range in the background.

Man, I'm so lucky to be able to do this for a living...

Time to freshen up the Glenlivet as well  :chuckle:

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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #686 on: November 12, 2020, 10:57:13 PM »
At midnight, all the gear was on the boat and we were tired.  I really wish I had another day out there, I feel like I could have crushed it.  Putting biting kings to bed like that so late in the evening has always meant great fishing the next morning.   But, the powers that be figured we had gotten to our 84K fish, so the party was over. 

After charging so hard for 5 fishing days, and the few days of scouting before that ,Scott and I were ready for a break. I also needed to spend some time glazing up the fish, and that's hard to do on a boat running at speed in the ocean.  So instead of starting towards town that night, I set a course for Lituya Bay.  A little slice of Heaven on Earth, on the ocean side of Glacier Bay National Park.  You should not cross the narrow bar to enter it on an ebb, so I checked my tide charts and it looked like I would be forced to take a few hour nap between here and there.  Double bonus! 

We showed up right at the beginning of the flood late morning and crossed over pretty easy.  It can be a terrifying bar to cross in bad conditions, so I was grateful.  I made a deal with Scott - we could put the skiff in and explore after we got glazing done.

No pics of glazing, but we have some pics of an afternoon of fun in Lituya Bay.  This is the site of the largest known wave in history - a 1700+ foot tsumami that rocked the bay in 1958.  It was a landslide-caused wave that killed two fishermen who were anchored in there, wiped trees off the mountainsides 1700 feet up the hill, and completely changed the landscape in there.  Fascinating stuff, check it out here -


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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #687 on: November 12, 2020, 11:06:36 PM »
Our experience was much tamer, but exciting anyway.  Glazednup the fish, then took the skiff and went in.  Scott ripped it around for some fun for a while, then we went to shore to check out the glaciers.  Started out trying to get to the Lituya Glacier on the north shore, but was blocked by the melt water river that ran fully across its face.  So we ran across to the south side, where the North Crillion Glacier is.  Pretty humbling place, makes a human feel pretty insignificant.  Ice caves, wolf and bear tracks on the sandy parts of the rubble, boulders falling off the top at a regular interval. Something is always moving, making noise, rocks falling, etc.  If you look close you can see me reaching up to touch the ice in the bottom of the pic, for scale.

Also, the ice is different than cube ice.  It has prisms in it, I suppose due to the immense pressure it was subjected to for thousands of years.  You can just see on in the pic below.
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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #688 on: November 12, 2020, 11:13:38 PM »
Better view of the ice prisms-


A panoramic video of the glacier and surrounding area.

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"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

Offline Skillet

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Re: Commercial Fishing
« Reply #689 on: November 12, 2020, 11:53:49 PM »
With first kings in the books, it was time to turn the focus towards coho.  The problem was, they weren't anywhere to be focused on.  Catch rates up and down the coast were dismal. We all knew they would show up any day now... but they didn't.  By the end of July, boats were tied up in town for days and weeks on end, mine included.  We'd chat with guys up and down the coast, and it was the same story. I just couldn't find enough fish to justify the fuel burn. Overall, the coho troll season was the worst since the late 80's, and the second worst since they kept coho numbers.
I did have a tiny bit of halibut quota left to catch, however, so instead of moping around and finding ways to keep the deckhand out of the P bar, Scott and I jumped on a friend's boat and fished my halibut along with some he needed to catch.  He needed crew, so it worked out great.

We ran up to Area 3A, north of Cape Spencer and dropped the gear in.  Man, we landed on them.  It was a little ridiculous, actually, and we were not able to keep up with the cleaning and icing very well.  When you start stacking fish on deck like that, quality can suffer.  I explained my reservations and that I didn't want to grab the second string until we cleaned and iced the first, but it wasn't my boat and we hauled the second set anyway...

This was a pretty hard thing for me to deal with, fellas.  I take great pride in the quality of my fish, and I felt that these fish weren't going to be the quality I wanted to represent.  So I decided to sell my portion of the catch along with the rest of the catch to the processor in Sitka for peanuts, leaving me with no more halibut of my own to sell this winter.  But I just couldn't do it to my customers.  A processor friend of mine in Pelican understood my situation and offered to sell me some of his small-boat fleet's catch to help me get by, and I'm grateful for that.  It's not my fish, but it's a quality product from small boats I know and a processor I trust.  That's still better than 99% of the halibut out there!

Here's a few pics from the halibut trip-
KABOOM Count - 1

"The ocean is calling, and I must go."

 


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