by Tia (Deckhand) on June 30th, 2012

Rock 'n roll, baby! We left the harbor at 5 am, commenting to each other that the weather looked like it was going to be perfect for drift net fishing: blowing south-west, partly cloudy, not raining! It was a little choppy heading out of the harbor. As we passed the bluffs around Anchor Point, the seas started to pick up. About 6:30 am, we approached the area we would start fishing. The swells increased to six and eight feet. The F/V Night's Edge is a really solid boat and rides so well even in rough seas. Despite the rolling (and staggering) around, I felt really secure. 

When the seas are rough, it does present some challenges to drift net fishing. Captain Wes let us know that we probably wouldn't be able to tow on the net as much; the swells put too much stress on the net, allowing fish to escape the meshes. Also, the wind really pushes the boat around and you need to be downwind of the net so as to not get blown over the corks.  This is my second season fishing and I really enjoy different fishing circumstances because it provides opportunities to learn how to work in different situations.

At 7 am, we set the net. Everyone (except Captain Wes) was just a little on edge! Regardless of the weather conditions, safety is always the first priority. We worked to transfer shaved ice to the fish hold while trying not to fall in the hold. Normally simple tasks were more of an adventure due to the extreme conditions. We ran the net to check for fish but could see very little due to whitecaps and choppy water. The first set was decent, about 30 fish. Our third set was the best of the day, over 80 fish. It's still early in the season so we were pretty jazzed about that. Then...

The level-winder, a hydraulic contraption that helps guide and distribute the net evenly along the reel quit working. Apparently, some part of the chain that moves it back and forth broke and would require some welding to fix. It wasn't something we could fix on the boat. So...deckhand Reni stepped in and took over pushing and pulling the net back and forth. A level-winder is a luxury, not everyone uses one. Just makes things a little easier and it's one of those things you don't realize how much you appreciate until it's not working!

As the tide started to slack, Captain Wes kept teasing me by saying the swells were laying down. Of course, they didn't! It was well after noon before we noticed an improvement in the weather. Despite everything, fishing was going really well. We set the net and picked fish for several more hours, enjoying the settling seas. Around 5 pm, we moved more east and started to set the net. About one shackle into the set, Captain Wes hollered to stop. One of the two engines on the boat was making a horrendous knocking noise and then it just quit. He tried turning it over and it sluggishly started. We sat on the single shackle for another fifteen minutes while Captain Wes checked things out.

The verdict was to pull up the net and head for port. We'd be running on a single engine with nearly 2,000 pounds of fish on board...it would be slow going! We made for Homer Boat Harbor at about 8 knots (half speed in our case), pushing through the continuing swells. It took longer than normal and we finished fishing two hours earlier than everyone else but manage to catch several times the average. Not too shabby!

Next adventure...did we get the boat fixed in time for the next opener on Monday, July 2nd? Stay tuned...


Posted on June 26th, 2012

First day of fishing!

We chose to fish on the 25th of June which was, technically, the 2nd opener of the season. We left the harbor at 5 am sharp, excited to see what we would find in the Cook Inlet for the early part of the season. The fish we catch in this part of the season are usually very bright, however, not numerous. Our smaller catches from this part of the season are hand-bled and iced and sold to a small seafood company in Homer. Additionally, this season, we will start direct marketing our beautiful salmon to the public. These fish are handle with amazing care and will be the finest wild Alaskan salmon you can purchase.

The conditions as we left Kachemak Bay for Cook Inlet were perfect for fishing: overcast with a slight southwest wind. Seas were about two feet for the trip out. We passed scads of otters and then hit a section of the bay that was filled with long pieces of kelp and seaweed as well as drifting logs and other debris. We got a long piece of kelp wrapped around one of the props and had to put it in reverse briefly which cleared it right out. The period for fishing opens at 7 am and we reached the fishing area about 6:30 am and were ready for our first set at 6:58! We let the net go at 7 am sharp!
Understanding the tides and knowing how the fish react to tides and conditions is imperative to successful drift net fishing. Captain Wes doesn't need any practice! He reads the water like a book, finding places to set which take best advantage of the conditions and circumstances. He has his favorite spots and draws on his many years experience to make the best of each set. But I can't divulge any secrets here! Knowledge of the best spots and practices is highly guarded information!
Of course, we were very excited when the fish first hit the net. Bobbing corks and splashing fins are always cause for celebration. There was a bit of whooping and hollering as we ran the net to check our progress. After a little soak, we pulled the net and...23 fish our first set! A great start to the 2012 season! Most were sockeye but there were also one or two chum salmon (also called "dogs"). All of us were amazed at the size of some of the sockeye (red) salmon; there were some big reds in our net. Wes said the variety of size showing at this point in the season was indicative of an upcoming strong run this summer. We are all hoping that is the case!
We fished the rest of the day through a slight drizzle. Combined with an temp around 50, it made for a damp and chilling day. Despite the rain, the seas were nearly flat calm during the slack tide and only started to swell slightly as the tide ebbed. We drifted down towards the line for our last set and completed the day with 112 fish and no "water-hauls" (we caught fish in every set). Overall, that made us feel pretty good about our first day! We had some technical difficulties with one of the hydraulic pumps but other than that, everything went very smoothly. Here's to the 2012 fishing season!


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