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.

April 15-16, 2006 — Finally, on the morning of Saturday, April 15, the boat sailed out to go fishing. The forecast was for northwest 30 knots, so we would have it on our tail as we ran out to the grounds, then it called for a one-day break in the weather, on which we could catch the remainder of our blackcod.

We had only 13,000+ pounds to catch, so if all went well, this would be a short trip. The biggest concern seemed to be the possibility of a strong current associated with the minus tides, which could wreak havoc in hauling the gear in the deep waters of the blackcod ground.

The run out was a dream as the wind had died down to a gentle breeze, but there was still a big swell on our stern leftover from whatever torrent was brewing in our absence. We set three 25-skate blackcod strings starting at 10 p.m. and finished until about midnight. We started in at 6 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 16.

The nice weather was holding for us, and the swell had died down significantly. We cut up a string's worth of herring to bait while we hauled, grabbed the buoy line, and started hauling gear. I was hauling, and there wasn't ANY tide. In fact, I just kept the boat in neutral for most of the time; so much for the concern about strong tides!

We had close to 4,500 pounds of blackcod on the first string, which was about one-third of our remaining quota. We stopped baiting because, with fishing like this, we weren't going to need to set any more gear. Our next string had close to 5,000 pounds of nice big fish.

During our last string, Arnie on the Evening Star swung by us to take our picture, and the whale that had been following him latched onto our gear and picked us pretty clean for the second half of the string. We had been whale-free up until that moment, and we wound up with only 3,500 pounds after the whale took his share. We finished hauling by 6 p.m., and cleaning up the boat was a total breeze... because it never had a chance to get dirty!

We hauled all of our gear in only 12 hours, since we never reset any gear. If you count the soak time on the gear, we were done in 20 hours. And the weather co-operated so well it was unbelievable; just as we hauled the last buoy line aboard, the wind picked up to 25 knots, right on our stern quarter, so we had a great ride in!

TO BE CONTINUED...

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