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 20-29, 2006 — We reached Sitka in the early hours of Monday, March 20. We had all the halibut gear baited, and we were working on the blackcod gear when Mike met up with us. We worked at a leisurely pace, and by Tuesday afternoon we had taken ice and bait and finished up baiting. We left around 2 p.m. for the anchorage in Salisbury Sound, just inside the fishing grounds.

Wednesday, March 21, met us with a calm, gentle swell. We set our halibut gear in two 15-skate strings and one 20-skate string. We began hauling a few hours later, and our first string brought us a meager 250 pounds of flat ones. But it improved dramatically with 2,000 pounds on the second and nearly 4,000 pounds on the third string. At this rate we would catch our goal of 12,500 pounds of halibut in two days' fishing, which is what he hoped.

We set our blackcod gear out on Thursday, March 23, so it could have a good soak while we were halibut fishing. We fished halibut the rest of that day, then started in on the blackcod the next morning. The calm weather continued for us when we started hauling before daybreak. Happily, the round-fish regime from last year stuck with the program, and we delivered every Southeast sablefish in the round. All we had to do was bleed them. It was so easy, and with the calm weather it almost made the whole thing criminal. The market wanted only two days on layer-iced round fish, so we were limited in our trip length, but the six strings we hauled in that time managed to fill the hatch, so even though we had time to haul another string, we didn't have the room to hold them. By 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, we were heading into Sitka with a loaded Discovery.

This year we were trying out a new market, Seafood Producers Cooperative. They have plants in all the Pacific states, and pay a significantly better price, although we have to wait six months for the "kicker." Our delivery coincided with the first herring opening, so the plant was operating at capacity from purse seiners delivering their catch. We had to offload our own fish, which was alright, because no matter how fast we filled up the bucket, we could never back up the plant; the delivery took just a few hours. We had caught two-thirds of our blackcod quota, and came up 1,700 pounds short of our halibut allotment.

The halibut price, which was $3.75 straight across when we left, had dropped because the nice weather brought a flood of fish onto the docks. The price for our delivery was $3.75 for 40+, $3.25 for 20-40, and only $2.75 for 10-20-pound fish; we averaged around $3.30 a pound for our halibut. I'm not certain what the dock price was for blackcod, but I know it was over $4 a pound for the big ones.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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