National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

October 30-31, 2007 — The week of fishing from October 28 to November 2 was scheduled for three days out of the Seattle area on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, and three days in Hood Canal and Everett as well, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. My biggest concern for this week was not deciding between fishing the Seattle area and Hood Canal, but rather in making certain I could make it home in time for trick-or-treating with my kids on Wednesday evening, a.k.a. HALLOWEEN!

Fortunately for me I have my friend and fishing associate, Fawn John, who runs my boat one night a week when we are fishing on the three-day schedule out of Seattle, like this week. John was ready and willing to take the helm, and if I was falling behind on my schedule to leave by noonish to make the 2:30 ferry, he could even finish off-loading my fish for me.

But with such a convenient and simple plan, something was bound to go wrong. In this case, it was that we were catching too many fish. During the night of fishing on Tuesday, Uncle Bob, a fisherman closely involved with the fishery politics, was called directly by the head biologist who determines our fishing schedule. He told Bob that our scheduled third night of fishing — Fawn John's night — was going to be rescinded because (the seiners were complaining that) the gillnetters were catching too many fish.

Privy to this advance information, I called Fawn John, who is always juggling a complex schedule, to let him know there was no fishing the next day. But by morning, we heard that the opening was in fact NOT canceled, due in large part to the efforts of our fishermen's association in late-night phone calls with the fisheries managers.

Again, my first call was to Fawn John, to see if there was some chance that he could still run the boat for the Halloween opening, because come hell or high water, I was going to be on San Juan Island that night trick-or-treating with my kids. It turned out that he could make the opening, but this time could arrive with barely enough time to hop on the boat and go. Hence, my guarantee of making the 2:30 ferry had disappeared.

When I pulled into Shilshole Marina at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, October 31, there were already a few boats waiting behind the tender. I took this opportunity to drop Martin off at the fuel dock, and then pumped a few gallons of diesel into the Satisfaction to assure there was enough fuel to make for fishing in Hood Canal or Everett, if I so chose to go later in the week.

When I got back to the tender, there were more boats, and it seems the guys who okayed the plan of my dropping Martin off had forgotten they did so, so I wound up getting in a testosteronal shoving match with another guy who was dead-set on NOT letting me get to the tender. Since I had the power of my Halloween commitment behind me, I won the grudge match.

When I tied to the tender, it was just after 1 p.m. My hope of making the 2:30 ferry was beyond zero, but I had booked myself on the last flight leaving the Anacortes airstrip at 4 p.m. It was tight, but I knew that if I had my boat tied up and was walking off the dock by 2 p.m. I had a great chance of making that flight.

I was a fish-offloading maniac. Luckily I had taken the time to refit my hatches, so the delivery went quickly. To speed up the squaring up of the ticket, I declined to count the money, which was cash in the form of mostly fives, tens, and twenties, with a minimal amount of fifties and hundreds (it would have taken an hour to count all those small bills). I signed the fish ticket, stuffed the money in my socks, and highballed it to the dock, with total disregard to the "NO WAKE" signs broadcasting their request for mariner etiquette. I pulled up to the dock and lashed the boat to the cleats. I shut the boat off, grabbed my stuff, and was headed up the dock by at 2:05 p.m.

I was just ahead of the nasty-traffic bell curve, and made it out of the metropolis in pretty fair time. I made it to Anacortes with enough time to grab some raunchy fast food to curb my appetite against the even more raunchified Halloween candy. When I made it to the airport counter, all I did was give my name and we headed out to board the plane. I had made it.

Back on San Juan Island, the first thing I did was go to the bank and deposit the bundles of dollar bills I had stuffed in my socks. After that I enjoyed a great night of trick-or-treating with my kids, while my boat was knocking on the door of another load of chum salmon with Fawn John at the helm.

After Halloween I took the rest of the week off, forgoing an opportunity to fish Hood Canal Thursday and Friday; I would have had to leave the island immediately after the trick-or-treating festivities, which doesn't count for being home, because although spending special time with the kids is very important, there is more to life than trick-or-treating.

Fawn John did well on Halloween, bringing in around 400 fish. It turns out there were also few fish in Everett on the Thursday after Halloween, with some boats catching over 400 fish. I'm still trying to figure out how to be in two places at once, but until then I'll err on the side of family time.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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