Cook Inlet Bears Her Teeth

by Tia (Deckhand) on July 13th, 2012

I knew it wasn't going to be flat calm, just based on the marine forecast and the wind howling around my house at 3 AM as I left for the harbor. But I was not prepared for the extreme nature of the seas and weather on Thursday. Our trip out of Kachemak Bay (see map below) was pretty decent. Depending on the tides and which way the wind is blowing, it can be perfectly pleasant in Kachemak Bay yet gnarly out in the Inlet.

The seas picked up off of Anchor Point, but not enough to deter us from continuing. We saw a couple boats headed back to port but communications with other boats farther out gave us hope that it was still potentially fishable weather. However, the tide was still ebbing and Captain Wes knows from experience that the seas can really stack up on a flooding tide. This meant the seas would get worse as the day went on. I tried to catch some sleep on the trip out but it was impossible as we were already getting knocked around in the wheelhouse. Cups of coffee, bags, and other items in the cabin were falling to the floor. It was so rough that I was not able to get any decent photos or videos of our trip that day. I wondered if we'd be able to set the net at all.

The first set of the day is always a little nerve-wracking. I always hope that it goes really smoothly and we have a good catch as it sets the mood for the day. Getting the net out in rough seas is challenging. It is harder to maneuver the boat, making it harder to smoothly set the net and put it where it needs to be to most effectively catch fish. The seas were so rough, it wasn't very long before we lost sight of the buoy on the other end. The wind and rain stung our faces. There were no signs that the weather would be letting up anytime soon. If anything, it would get worse as the tide started to flood. We ran the net and couldn't see any sign of fish but we couldn't get very close. The wind gusts were so strong, the boat could be easily blown into the net.

We picked half of the net for 31 fish. A lovely number with lots of fish spread along the net. We were definitely in a good place (can't tell you exactly where as I'm sworn to secrecy!). We set the net back out and ran to the other end to pick. This is called a "yo-yo." The net only catches fish in the water so, if it's evident you are "in the fish," it's better to set the net back in the water to work while you pick the other half. Because of the nature of our special market, we pick our fish when they are fresh in the net. This allows for the fish to bleed better and ensures the highest quality of fillets. We picked the second half of our "yo-yo" for 57 fish. This was good fishing!
We made a second set in the same area as the first set, hoping to continue with good numbers of fish. While we let the net "soak," we saw a couple of hits in the net. This happens when the fish swim hard into the net and are driven up to the surface when they are caught by the gills. It is exciting to see that splashing along the net. At that point, we were pretty excited, whooping and high-fiving each other. We started to pick up the net, hoping to put it back in for another "yo-yo" set. About two shackles in and knee-deep in fish on the deck, Captain Wes assessed our progress. We were pinned between a boat on one side and some seriously massive floating pads of kelp on the other. There was no option but to pick the entire net up and quickly! Given the weather conditions, which were getting worse by the minute, and the proximity of our boat to the other hazards, we picked the net up feverishly. At one point, the swells were so massive that our cork line was jerked high enough to pop out of the guides at the bow. This was not good! The cork line was on the outside of the guide and there was now a hole in the net from the guide. Reni and I wrestled with the cork line, trying to push it back up and over the guide with out creating a larger hole in the net, all the while trying to stay on our feet. We managed it, I think, due to sheer adrenalin; the guide is taller than we are and I can barely reach the top of the guide if I stand on my tiptoes.

There were fish spread along the entire net! The fishing was excellent. We stopped counting and just let the fish stack up on the deck. Our estimate, as we put the fish in the hold, numbered over 100 fish that set. Unfortunately, there were also hundrends of jelly fish, the kind that sting if you come in contact with them. As they came flying across the reel, we were sprayed with water and jelly fish bits. Our faces and eyes were burning! Due to the speed at which we needed to pick up the net, it was impossible to clean the net of all the jelly fish and bits of kelp we were picking up. As we finished picking, several waves broke over the bow. These consisted of serious, solid green water, not just spray. Simply put, the seas were becoming treacherous. It was time to try to find calmer water.

At about 10 AM, Captain Wes made the call to head east for Homer and, if we found calmer seas, we might set the net out again. He said this was some of the most severe weather he'd ever fished in Cook Inlet and our safety is always his first priority. Even if we managed to continue to catch fish in this weather, the weight of any added fish would further compromise the maneuverability of the boat in the rough water. Captain Wes estimated the seas to be about fifteen feet with larger swells at times. The F/V Night's Edge is a solid sea-worthy boat and Captain Wes guided her through the large swells with finesse. As we reached the edge of the area that we are allowed to legally fish, we plunked the net out just to clean out all the jelly fish and bits of kelp. As we picked up the clean net, we noted our first water-haul of the season but I don't think it really counts!


As I sit at my computer this morning, every muscle in my body aches. Not from fishing, but from trying to stay upright on the boat yesterday! I'm grateful to my captain for returning us all home safe and sound. I appreciate his knowledgeable, experience, and respect of the waters we fish on. And, despite feeling bruised and battered, I'm eager for our next trip out and feel confident that I can handle almost any weather now!

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with no tags


Leave a Comment


follow on
follow on
follow on

no categories