Fishing...not Catching

by Tia (Deckhand) on July 10th, 2012

Good morning, Cook Inlet!

We left the harbor earlier than normal, meeting at the boat at 4 AM. Commerical drift net fishing on the 9th was restricted to the "corridor," a narrow swath of water running from the point off Ninilchik up to the point off the Kasilof (pronounced "Kah-see-loff") and Kenai rivers. We would have to run farther to reach these fishing grounds. The use of the corridor is dictated by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's management plan for the salmon fisheries in Cook Inlet. By restricting commercial fishing to the corridor, certain numbers of salmon are allowed to pass through the middle of the inlet and return to the rivers and lakes to spawn, ensuring healthy numbers of returning fish in future years.

There is contention between the ADFG, commercial fishermen, and sport fisherman over the management of the fisheries. Salmon management in Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) is one of the more complex fishery systems anywhere in the world. With mixed stocks of salmon (kings, reds, silvers, pinks, chums) returning to multiple watersheds throughout the Inlet, multiple user groups, including guided and unguided sport anglers, personal use, set net and dip netters, subsistence users, commercial drift gillnet and set gillnet fishermen, all contend for fish in a fully allocated system of interconnected fishery management plans.

Read an article about the projected salmon run for 2012.
Read ADFG 2012 Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Outlook and Management Plan.

Because of the number of boats fishing a smaller area, we were prepared to battle it out for each set. We were surrounded by other boats with similar intentions of setting nearest the line. We set the net in anticipation, hoping that the run had truly hit the upper Cook Inlet. It was evident, after we pulled the net in for two fish, that the run was not yet present in the corridor. Two additional sets netted us seven additional red salmon. At that point in the morning (8:30 AM), the flood was over. If the fish isn't there on the flood, they won't be there on the ebb in good numbers. Captain Wes decided to return to port instead of scratching away the day for low numbers of fish.
Drift net boats on the horizon in Cook Inlet, waiting to set in the "expanded corridor."
Reni relaxing on the reel. Despite the slow day, we were relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful, calm weather!
We remain optimistic for the season despite the slow day. There were several factors not in our favor for this opener: short period of flooding tide, restricting fishing area, and the run being late. We made a detour to the west of the inlet (Area 1) to look for signs of fish. To our delight, we spotted numerous "jumpers." This is the area we will fish on Thursday. Everyone is geared up for a full day of fishing.
Captain Wes, who has salmon blood in his veins, leads us on the hunt.
Common murres take flight as we motor to Area 1 to scout for fish.
How to spot a "rip": Look for changes in water color, activity. In this picture, you can see the choppier, darker water to the left. This is the "rip". We spotted jumper around this area.
Another image of the rip in Area 1 where we spotted jumpers.
View from the flying bridge. The Alaska state flag is on the left. "Eight stars of gold on a field of blue..."
Large bed of floating seaweed and kelp. These are a pain to get caught in the net and can wreak havoc if caught in a prop. They tend to get pushed into "rips" where the water is moving more quickly.
The F/V Night's Edge wheelhouse and gear on board. The level-wind, (the aluminum bar in front of the reel, has been fixed and returned to the boat. Hurray! We are all ready for the season to get into full swing!

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