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.

November 13-17, 2005 — The end of the season was fast approaching and I still didn't have a net I was satisfied with. I kept sending out feelers for a net, and over the girls' fish-selling weekend I contacted Bruno, a longtime fisherman friend of mine from Tacoma, who agreed to sell me his old fall net.

The net was exactly what I was after: 180 meshes deep, a full 300 fathoms long with sections of multi-strand and sections of mono, with no antiquated Super-Crystal. And I knew his net would do me right because of all the positive energy it held from being built and maintained by such a good-karma guy as Bruno.

My plan was to leave for fishing on the last ferry on Tuesday, November 15, and make a few sets starting early the next morning off of Skiff Point. I would still be close to the terminal, so I could run the boat back in, zip down to Tacoma, and grab the net from Bruno. From there I would slip over to Johnny's Seafood and grab some ice and fish bags, then zip back up to the terminal, load the net onto my boat, and then fish Wednesday night to Thursday morning. The best part of my plan was that Tuesday was my birthday, so I was guaranteed to catch a few.

I caught the late ferry off of the island because the whole family went out to dinner in celebration of my birthday. It was a lot of fun and worth missing the big set to spend that time with my family. I made it out onto the fishing grounds by 3 a.m. on Wednesday, November 16, which was perfect timing to make a few early morning sets. The big anticipation was the coinciding timing of the slack water and the morning change of light; I was certain to load up on this one.

My first set, which I made when the tide was still pushing in, was a skunk. This didn't faze me — it was pitch black so my net may have been somewhat visible from the phosphorescent "fire" in the water, plus the fish were spotty. The current was barely creeping in and my net was lying perfectly during my second set, and I picked up a little sooner than I normally would have because I wanted to give myself time to pick the fish and still be in position to set for the slack water/change-of-light set. I couldn't believe it when I picked up another skunk.

A SKUNK! Once again, as I had many times before during this season, I blamed the poor fishing on my net, even with the two new pieces in it I fished for the first time last week. Thank God I was just hours away from getting a new one! My third set was perfect: right off the point, high-water slack, all through the entire change-of-light periodÉ and once again, unbelievably, I got ANOTHER SKUNK! Three skunks in a row, with perfect conditions! And I'm hearing guys on the radio catching 30s and 40s. Shit. I had enough of this crap. And I could just hear myself telling my old pal Bruno, "Sorry, I cannot give you any fish to thank you for the great deal on my net because I DIDN'T CATCH ANY! How embarrassing! And what a CRAPPY birthday present from the FISH GODS!

Empty handed, I high-tailed it to the locks, full speed. I didn't slow down until I was approaching the locks, and when I did I noticed the boat was handling sort of sluggish. I looked back behind me and saw that I was dragging about 20 fathoms of net behind me! I must have forgotten to bring my buoy-ball in, and the drag from when I was running pulled it off the drum until the net back-lashed and stopped it from setting (good thing it did!).

After I retrieved my net, I shot up to the terminal and backed into the net-loading spot at the net yard. I was ahead of schedule so I pulled the net off, cursing it all the while. That task completed, I zipped down to Tacoma to lay eyes on my new net. I apologized to Bruno for my inability to catch him any fish and told him how excited I was to fish his net because I knew it would catch fish.

I made tracks back up to the terminal and wasted no time loading my new net onto the Satisfaction. I was running out of time to make the start of the opening, so I scooted down the channel to the locks, waited patiently for my passage through, then bumped up the throttle as I ran out of the channel by Shilshoal Marina and onto the fishing grounds.

I had decided I was done with searching out the perfect set. I was just going to run to the nearest practical set, which was just north of Shilshoal Marina at Meadow Point. I ran that direction until the clock said it was time to set, found my position, and slapped it out with the boat hanging downwind.

The result of this evening's fishing was the complete opposite of what I had experienced for most of the season. I had 40 fish my first set while everyone around me had 20. Next I had 30 fish while everyone had 15. Set number three brought me 15 fish when everybody else was in single digits. I didn't run anywhere; I just picked it up and slapped it out again in the same spot. Guys ran over by me to set, which was fine with me, because I knew it was my net rather than my location that was catching all these fish. My final set was for 30 fish, which ended one of my most productive, and certainly the most effortless nights of fishing all season.

This was also the last night of the season, which I didn't know at the time, because the state decided after that week's fishing that the season would end. It was a pretty frustrating season, but it ended on a great note, and I had something to look forward to next season: catching lots of fish with Bruno's old net.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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