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.

August 10-11, 2008 — We sat on set number two for a couple of hours. While it soaked we dressed our two prized king salmon, cleaned up the deck, and then gazed out into the night at our super-low-tech, super-high-visibility net light made from a strap-on LED headlight shining upward into a cut up water bottle.

We pulled the net around 1 a.m. on Monday, August 11. We had two kings and 40 snaky, skin-pissing dogfish, which we tossed slithering back to the sea after the whole net was aboard. At this rate we might catch eight fish by the 7 a.m. closure, but I wasn't holding my breath.

We set out set #3 and cleaned the fish and the deck in short order. It was now 2 a.m. and we were tired. Although I designed a pretty good boat for catching fish, I gave no thought to where we were going to sleep at night, or even find shelter from the elements.

Clearly, any sleeping arrangement involved rain gear. The deck was wet with seawater, and dew from the cold night air. There were no chairs, benches, or cushions — only a couple of ice chests and the big, open front deck.

Bruce opted for the ice chests. He was fortunate enough to scavenge up a blue tarp to use as a blanket and keep off the dew. He was also fortunate, or smart enough rather, to bring extra warm clothes to put on during this period of inactivity through this cold night. I on the other hand was wearing only my sweatpants and a hooded sweat jacket. I knew it was going to be a cold night, but I was so focused on making the opening that I didn't want to burden the operation with an extra bag of clothes just for the sake of comfort.

So there I was, lying on my back in my rain gear on the wet, cold, open deck of a two-bit gillnetter, with not even a blue tarp to protect me from the elements. I convinced myself I was warm in order to catch a bit of sleep, but reality took over when I woke up in convulsive shivers at 3:15 in the morning.

I was freezing. I tried moving around the deck to warm up, but there was simply nowhere to move. I did a few pushups, but that did nothing to warm my feet, which felt like living blocks of ice. I thought about pulling the net aboard just for the sake of it, but I knew Bruce was beat and needed the sleep, so I figured this net could soak a little longer. I was up a creek without a blanket.

Then I remembered the survival suits, which I brought because if ever I might need to use them I'd say the maiden voyage of the Lady Ruth might be a good opportunity. And I was right — and not because we were sinking. These things are designed to be put on fast, and that is exactly what I did. The energy it took to squirm into that thing was enough to warm me up a couple of degrees. Going with this notion, I did a few deep knee bends to get even more blood flowing.

After my heat-generating exercises, that cold deck actually seemed comfortable, because I was now a self-contained, hermetically sealed unit of warmth. I zonked out and fell immediately into some high-power R.E.M. cycles, but again woke up an hour later with freezing foot syndrome.

By now it was 4:30 a.m., and the net had definitely soaked long enough. Bruce was sleeping so soundly I didn't have the heart to wake him, even though we could be getting slugged with dogfish. I ran through another set of warming exercises and hit the deck for more quality R.E.M. cycles, but by this point I was chilled through, and after tossing and turning until 5:15 a.m. I determined it was time to pick up the net.

The final haul brought us 40 more dogfish, and zero king salmon. I was so cold I hauled the net in my survival suit, which looked pretty ridiculous, but I didn't care. What a bitch it was picking those dogfish out in those survival suit gloves! When we were done I was much warmer, but still not warm enough to take the suit off until we were half way through the run home.

Thank God the days warm quickly in August!


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Sunday, August 10, 2008 — The early evening sky hinted of a beautiful sunset as I ran toward the fish splashing in my gillnet as it lay in the shallow waters of Samish Bay. We had just laid out the net at 7 p.m., the start of the first king salmon opening of the season on August 10, 2008, and already there was a fish to pick! Add a comment

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Sunday, August 10, 2008 — Bruce and I drove to Shipyard Cove, the marina just outside of Friday Harbor town, around noon on August 10, 2008. The Samish Bay king salmon opening was to start in just a few hours, at 7 p.m. I hadn't run the Lady Ruth since I put her on the beach a year and a half prior, and I could only hope there were no surprises in the equipment. Fortunately, the only equipment was the engine, because we were hauling this net by hand. Add a comment

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August 1-10, 2008 — Outfitting my redheaded stepchild of a skiff was no small task. I underestimated the job, so I deferred many of the projects until the end, at which time I realized I had better get to work if I wanted to make the opening on August 10, 2008. Add a comment

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August 1-10, 2008 — With a seed of the Samish Bay king fishery already planted in my mind in the spring, I took the windshield off the Lady Ruth in April, then thought about the project every time I drove past the boat as it sat along my driveway. I also ordered up enough web for 200-fathoms of 30-mesh deep king gear, plus an easy-to-hand-haul 30-pound leadline to go along with it. Add a comment

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August 2008 — I returned from Bristol Bay on July 27, 2008. Although there was no sockeye fishery planned for areas 7 and 7a (San Juan Islands), the Frasier River Panel opened it up for a few days in the first week of August. I had no intention of scrambling out to make those openings, since it seems we are allowed to fish only when there are no fish around, which turned out to be the case once again. Add a comment

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July 14-25, 2008 — It was quiet on the Sunlight III after Dave left for bigger and better things, and Bruce had left us a few days before. Now it was just Edward, Anthony, Madeline and me. It was kind of nice for us each to have our own bunk, but we were definitely overstaffed for the amount of fish we were catching, especially when we ground it out to the bitter end. Add a comment

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July 13-25, 2008 — We arrived at Nornak camp to put on our levelwind as the light from the day was fading from the sky on July 13. Our mission was simple and brief — grab the levelwind off the dock, maybe get a few groceries, let the guys take a shower, and then head back out for more fishing. Add a comment

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July 12-13, 2008 — The peak had passed, and the 2008 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run was winding down. Catch limits were gone but not forgotten, and we were fishing longer periods for less fish. Add a comment

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Saturday, July 5, 2008 — I had an excellent year regarding breakdowns this season. Compared to last year, this was a dream. I would ask for such a record every year, but there was one breakdown that cost me fishing time, and my goal is zero. Add a comment

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Page 4 of 16

Inside the Industry

The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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Cummins  announced the opening of a new Alaska service location on Kodiak Island last week that will serve as a service and support location for commercial marine applications.

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