Matt 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.
February 13-15, 2008 — It was mid-February before I moved the Satisfaction to its summer resting place, out of the water in La Conner, Wash. I chose to put it in Maritime Ed's yard, so he could install a bow thruster tube in the spring. I have all the mechanical parts ready to go, and I could put those in anytime I get a chance.
I left San Juan Island on the 6 p.m. ferry on Wednesday, February 13. I had a bunch of Alaska-prep errands to do in Seattle before I ran the Satisfaction up to La Conner. I started my errands that night, crashed on the Satisfaction, then had a full day of land lubbin' nonsense on Valentine's Day (I guess I AM married to my boat!). My last task of my long day was meeting Fawn John at his house around 9 p.m. He needed to be in possession of my truck in the morning so he could drive it up to his jobsite on Camano Island, then pick me up in La Conner some time in the morning.
John drove me to Fishermen's Terminal and dropped me off at my boat. Even though we kept our bullshit session in check, it was 11 p.m. before the Satisfaction left the dock. I was held up by the Ballard Locks, and it wasn't until midnight that I was heading up Puget Sound, steaming for La Conner.
It is a long run from Seattle to La Conner, especially when you leave at bedtime. I never bothered calculating the miles, but I was painfully aware of the time it took to travel them. I ran, and ran, and ran, and became more and more tired with each passing hour. I ate dark chocolate, and then crunchy chips to rattle my brain awake. I stuck my head out the window into the cool night air. I stood up like a horse as I drove, figuring if I fell asleep while standing, the fall to the floor would most certainly wake me.
I didn't have to worry about falling asleep as I ran up Swinomish slough. Just like the last time I was here, it was moonless transit on a minus tide as I ran past the jetty around 5 a.m., February 15. It was pitch dark, and I couldn't help but think that if it were in the summer months, the sky would be alight with the dawn. But all I had were the range lights to guide me, which worked just fine, but it is so unnerving to travel through that shallow channel at low water in the dark.
I was tied to the dock by 6 a.m. and hit the rack immediately — just another 25-hour day in the life of a fisherman. I took in four hours of power snooze before I was awakened around 10 a.m. by the yard guys pushing my boat into position in the arms of the travel-lift dock.
It wasn't long after my haul-out that Fawn John had come to pick me up. I squared up with the bill and then grabbed Maritime Ed to look at the bow thruster tube installation project. It looked like a neat and clean job, with no cutting of any floorboard or bunk; just cut the hole, glass in the tube, and I'll put the mechanics into place when I get a chance.
As John drove me back to his jobsite on Camano Island, we held our long-awaited planning session regarding his going to Bristol Bay this summer. Next I checked out his high-end landscaping handy-work at his client's shoreside home, then finally I headed back to San Juan Island. It was a Friday, so the 5:05 ferry was full, but that was fine with me since I was so sleep-deprived I just slept in the driver's seat of my truck until they boarded me on the 6 p.m. boat.
I was now officially done with my Puget Sound salmon chores for the season. And just in time — because the whole merry-go-round begins again on March 10-ish when I leave to go longlining on the Discovery.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Saturday, November 17, 2007 — I was all tucked in on the Satisfaction after the Fish Expo socializing session by close to 2 a.m. on Saturday. This may seem like a reasonable hour (or not), but the fact was I had to be up at 4 a.m. to start my drive north from Shilshole Bay Marina to the Anacortes ferry landing to catch the 6:10 a.m. ferry to San Juan Island. Fortunately, I wasn't drinking because I had to drive, so I didn't have a hangover to prevent me from making my ferry.
Friday, November 16, 2007 — I made it to the expo by 11 a.m. on Friday, and realized I was actually pretty prepared for Bristol Bay this season. Instead I had some thorough BS sessions with my fellow fishermen, and at the end of the day I headed out with Crosby, who I had met up with at the expo.
November 11-16, 2007 — At the rate the gillnet fleet were catching, it looked like this would be the last week of the season. The week of November 11-16 offered no fishing in the Seattle area, but still had fishing in Hood Canal, which I had sworn off, and Everett, which was still in my realm if there were fish to catch.
November 6-8, 2007 — I had a very peaceful run from Possession Head to Hood Canal through the night of Tuesday, November 6. It was a flat calm night and the tide was mostly in my favor, but I had a long way to go. I could have stopped near the Hood Canal floating bridge and kept my run to only four hours, but every time I fish near the bridge it seems I catch less than my share. So I kept running for two more hours, down past Seabeck Bay and around Hood Point, to where I found a nice mooring buoy to hang onto for the night.
Our night's sleep amounted to less than two hours on the morning of Tuesday, November 6, 2007, but Dave and I were up for the challenge of our day ahead. It was flat calm, which is never good for fishing, but we were ready to catch what we could. We set our second set off the beach, less than a mile north of the Clinton ferry landing. On this first set, I took the time to untangle the colossal twist Fawn John put into my net when he got web in the wheel on the Halloween opening. So although we had only 30 fish that set, it wasn't a total waste of time in the grand scheme of things.
November 5-6, 2007 — Because the gillnet fleet had done so well in Seattle the previous week, and because a few purse seiners who have pull with the fish managers are just a bunch of whiners, the Seattle area was closed to gillnetters for the remainder of the season so the purse seiners could catch up. Still open to the gillnet fleet was Hood Canal and Everett, and I planned on fishing those areas the week of November 4-9.
October 30-31, 2007 — The week of fishing from October 28 to November 2 was scheduled for three days out of the Seattle area on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, and three days in Hood Canal and Everett as well, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. My biggest concern for this week was not deciding between fishing the Seattle area and Hood Canal, but rather in making certain I could make it home in time for trick-or-treating with my kids on Wednesday evening, a.k.a. HALLOWEEN!
October 29-31, 2007 — The thing I learned from these better nights of fishing with the Satisfaction is that my hatch design was not performing to expectation and was in need of improvement. When I put fish in the side bins the fiberglass bin boards flex just enough so the boards containing the forward side of the brailer pop out and let the fish spill into the forward bin. Then I have a problem because I don't have a piece of plywood across the bottom like I do the hatch that is housing the fish in the brailer. This creates a huge void under the plywood alongside the stringer, into which fish readily disappear into the abyss.
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