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.

March 19-21, 2007 — While we were running out to the grounds on our first Sitka trip I broached the topic, to Mike and the rest of the guys, of donating the low-priced rockfish to Fish for Teeth. It was received with skepticism, mostly because it was coming from me. I always have some complex scheme up my sleeve that is usually so confusing when I explain it to them that they often think I am up to something.

I think what helped my credibility in this instance was the fact that Fish for Teeth has a board of directors consisting of two dentists, another fisherman, and a gal who works at the county health department. With all those outside people involved, my crazy plan must have seemed more believable, so the guys agreed to throw the rockers into the pot to support the cause.

While we were fishing on Tuesday, March 20, I was all excited whenever those low-priced rockers came aboard. Even when there was a big, depressing dry spell of halibut, my spirits were held high by these rockers coming aboard. "It's for the children!" I would exclaim, and intensely stand at the roller in anticipation of the next two-bit rockfish to show itself.

We unloaded our fish at 10 the next morning at the Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka. SPC provided off-loaders, which is always a bonus. I talked to the people in the office about my Fish for Teeth program, and my desire for them to fillet and freeze some of our rockfish. They said as long as they weren't busy processing other fish species, like herring, they would be happy to handle our rockers.

We had only 5,000 pounds of halibut on our abbreviated trip, but that was enough to bring in around 1,600 pounds of donate-able rockfish. Because of the way a rockfish is put together, there is very little flesh recovery; in fact, the fillet is less than 25 percent of the fish's original weight.

I was shocked at that lousy recovery rate, and the guy at the plant told me the Japanese end-user of this product eats these rockers whole, which would effectively give a 100 percent recovery rate after they eat the brains and eyeballs, etc. "They throw them on the grill, and start eating!" the guy told me. I kind of think they might be more inclined to boil the things, but it makes no difference — we were filleting to raise money to fix kids' teeth.

Fortunately there was no herring being caught by the purse seine fleet that was clogging up all of Sitka's dock space; the fish were still a few days away. This meant SPC had time to dress the rockers, which they did by the end of the next day, netting Fish for Teeth 315 pounds of rockfish fillets.

This should give the children a reason to smile.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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