Written by Jen Finn
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.
A friend of mine who understands the logic of the Frasier River Panel said that even when there are fish in abundance, if there are just a few fish present from a river that has been designated a "stock of concern" then they shut it down so we won't catch those particular fish.
Even if I wanted to make those openings I would have had a tough time because I stored the Satisfaction in LaConner, with the thought of reconfiguring the deck. My net reel is permanently mounted in the back deck, and there's only a pitiful three-feet to pick fish between my net reel and the stern roller. I want to move it to a slider so it could be secured above the hatch when fishing, and pushed back toward the stern when it was time to deliver. This would give me 10 feet of fish picking space, which would allow me to pick lots of fish very quickly.
I didn't actually do those improvements, so they remain on the wish-list, but I did have the guys at the yard install a bow thruster tube (I will install the thruster myself). With a bow thruster I can simply thrust myself out of the tight jams I get into out there fishing by myself in the middle of the night.
With no sockeye fishing and my boat in LaConner, the only fishing boat at my disposal was my 18-foot crab skiff, the Lady Ruth, which I tried unsuccessfully to sell the year before. Since the craft wouldn't disappear from my life, I decided it could be easily transformed into a crude, open-to-elements, hand-hauling gillnetter that would be perfect for the Samish Bay king, and Bellingham Bay silver fisheries that happen in August and September.
I fished Samish Bay the year before on the Satisfaction with a borrowed 150-mesh net, and I swore I would never go back to that shit-hole. It took me three hours to get there, and during that night's fishing I caught what seemed like 500,000 crab and 100 metric tons of eel grass. I was up all night long picking crab from that damned net, enduring an endless pincher-torture as I fought to free those ungrateful bastards. The nice thing about catching all those crab was it made pitching the tons of eelgrass overboard seem like a cakewalk.
The three-hour, sleep deprived, 8-knot put-put back to Friday Harbor the next morning was spent damning the existence of that miserable fishery, and I vowed never to return to Samish Bay in a slow boat with a deep net. But now, with the prospect of the summer lapsing without any fishing, the idea of converting my underutilized crab skiff, the Lady Ruth, into a small, open, fish-in-the-shallows-while-I-haul-it-by-hand gillnetter sounded like a great idea.
A return to Samish in a fast boat with a shallow net that would not catch so much crab and eelgrass would trump all the horrid aspects of my previous experience. The nauseating 3-hour run would become a one-hour thrill ride, and what a "neener" it would be to be able to catch fish in the shallows and avoid all those crab. The drawback about the whole proposal is that there is no shelter on the Lady Ruth, and I would spend all night exposed to whatever elements God decides to lash upon me... all for the sake of strangling a few king salmon.
I was up for the challenge... it sounded like fun to me!
TO BE CONTINUED...
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