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 24-25, 2007 — After Uncle Rich went his merry way, I still had a long, long day of it on Wednesday, October 24, 2007. I had to deliver the salmon roe (eggs) from all the fish we cleaned to the processing plant in south Seattle, and then drive all the way back up to Anacortes so I could catch the 8:25 p.m. ferry to San Juan Island.

I didn't finish cleaning up the boat until close to 4 p.m., and traffic was one big jam. When I finally made it to Seafreeze in south Seattle, the processing plant was running at 150 percent capacity, so it took a long time to get my business done there. By the time I was ready to hit the road, it was close to 6 p.m., and I didn't have enough time to fight through traffic and make that last ferry. So I changed my plans and headed right on down to the Hotel Satisfaction, and slept like a rock until 4 a.m. when I had to get up to make the first ferry home.

I woke up and made my ferry without a hitch, and was at home by 8 a.m. Thursday. This gave me just a brief period of time to relax with the family before I had to be in town selling my fish at 10 a.m. that very morning.

As usual, I was just a few minutes late getting into town to sell fish at Printonyx, the print shop in town across from the post office. Sure enough, there was my public, waiting to buy my fresh fish from me — what a contrast from the Ballard Freeway where I could hardly buy a customer!

I pulled into the parking lot and scrambled to set up shop. I dropped my tailgate, whipped open the lid of the cooler so my customers may gaze upon the beauty of my freshly-caught 100 percent premium quality keta salmon, and then I proceeded to post my signs, ready my fish bags, and don my gloves.

There were about 10 people standing and waiting, and more arriving as I was setting up shop. They were all orderly and cordial, as there were plenty of fish to go around (unlike the near-riot with my 65 pink salmon sell-out). I had a full-sized insulated tote, and two Costco-sized coolers, all stuffed with fish for sale.

I love selling fish because everybody is so happy to buy them. They realize how fortunate they are to be on the receiving end of my efforts to bring these fish back to the island, since it really is so much easier to just sell them to the tender and forget about the locals. But I understand the importance of providing a local resource to the local people.

I also love swapping fish for cash, and there was a lot of that going on that morning. And the most exciting part about it was that since the grounds price was 50 percent higher (up from $0.55 last year to $0.85 this year), I had to raise my price as well; and lo and behold my public bought the fish just as enthusiastically this year at $15 per fish as they did at $10 last year. I prefer to charge just a little and sell a lot, but I had to charge more to justify the extra work of bringing the fish back to the island, and the people understood and happily paid the higher price without complaint.

The first hour was very busy. Shortly after I opened up shop, Maureen arrived with Lucy and the girls. Everyone helped in some way. Madeline handled the money, Sophie entertained Lucy, and Maureen talked the talk to the people. It was a lot of fun.

When things slowed down, Maureen and the girls slinked off to do a few town errands, but would pop back frequently to check on the fish sales. By noon over half the fish were gone, and approaching 3 p.m. I realized I would have to pull aside the fish for the people who couldn't make it today but wanted me to hold fish out for them until tomorrow morning. I sold my very last fish at just after 4:30 p.m., and had more customers arriving as I was pulling down my signs and packing up my truck.

Needless to say, my first San Juan Island chum salmon sales event was a resounding success, and I was looking forward to doing it again soon — provided fishing wasn't so damned good.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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