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 30-April 8, 2006 — We left Sitka around 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 30. The run across the gulf started out flat calm, but soon developed into the familiar Discovery roll. Luckily the swell was on our stern quarter so we weren't bucking; but it was still a pain being tossed around the bait house when we were baiting up our halibut gear.

The plan was to start with 40 halibut skates, with hopes of catching half our halibut quota on the first trip, then shift our focus on blackcod, and then wrap it up with the remainder of the halibut for the run south. So we baited up the 40 halibut skates on the run across, but I kept asking when we were going to bait up the blackcod gear. The response seemed to be that I was asking silly questions, and I could never figure out why — if we had caught lots of halibut, everybody would be on deck dressing, and no one would be baiting any gear. So I didn't see what was so silly about wanting to bait blackcod, but it's not my decision so I just went along with the program.

We reached the halibut grounds at around 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, and we set one 12-skate string in deeper water, with 300 fathoms of buoy line on each end of the string. After day break on the morning of Sunday, April 2, we set another string of 12 skates, then right into hauling the first halibut string we set, which had pretty good fish — around 7,000 pounds!

We were all happy with that, so Roald, who was concerned there might not be too much in this spot, slapped out another 10-skate string. The strings varied between 4,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds. The weather was a bit rolly, but we didn't care. We hauled five halibut stings total and left the halibut grounds on the morning of Sunday, April 2, and ran 40 miles northwest to Roald's selected blackcod spot.

The weather on the run to the blackcod grounds was pretty shitty. We were taking it on the side and were rolling all over the place. The biggest bummer of the whole deal was that we had no blackcod gear baited, and it was an all-out bait-o-rama, which really sucked because of the weather and the rolling around. My eyes get squirmy when I spend too much time in the Discovery's bait house when it is rolling around like it was.

When we finally reached the grounds, we had just over one string's worth of gear baited. There was another boat fishing in Roald's spot, so he had to run a few miles farther to open ground. We were close to two full strings baited when we arrived at the spot, so we set them a bit short, with 22 skates in each string. We set in the late evening of Monday, April 3.

We started right in on baiting the final string the next morning, Tuesday, April 4. We rose at 5 a.m. and had that final string in the water by 9 a.m. We only managed to haul two strings on the first day of blackcod fishing, one for 2,000 pounds and the other for 4,000 pounds. The next day we baited and reset the first string, then spooled in the remaining three strings. We were finished by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5 and hauled a total of six strings in two days.

We arrived in Seward on Thursday, April 6, but didn't deliver until 8 a.m. on Friday. Everything went as smooth as silk. Resurrection Bay Seafoods provides offloaders, so we baited gear as the fish was being pulled off our boat. We baited most of the gear that day, then took ice and bait the following morning on Saturday, April 8. We finished baiting the gear as we ran through the scenic waters of Resurrection Bay on a flat calm spring morning, headed out to make our second blackcod trip in gulf.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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