Written by Jen Finn
All Season — Back in 2002 when the salmon price was really in the toilet (only 20 cents less than it is now!), I bought another permit at a fire-sale price. That permit was in my wife Maureen's name for a few years, but she had to stay home with our 3-year-old, Lucy, and I wanted to take advantage of the regulation that allows one boat to fish an extra 50 fathoms of gillnet (for a total of 200 fathoms on board) if there are two permit holders on the boat.
So over the winter of 2007-08, Maureen permanently transferred her permit to my 12-year-old daughter, Madeline. This took a bit of doing, including notarized letters from two non-family members verifying she had been fishing with me for the two prior seasons, and a letter from Maureen, Madeline and me all explaining why we want to put the permit into Madeline's name. The reason was simple: she wanted to go fishing as my D (double) permit holder.
The plan was to bring her along starting at the peak, and going until the end of the season. Since she was coming up midseason, Bruce, the Chaperone, who accompanied her last year at the end of the season, agreed to come up with her again, provided he could come aboard my boat and take in some of the real fishing action (last year's post-season sampler wasn't enough for him, I suppose).
When Maddy and Bruce arrived, the run was building at a rapid rate. They hitched a ride from Nornak out to the fishing grounds with another fisherman, and joined us on the Sunlight III midopening. I fished that period with 150 fathoms of net, then grabbed another 50-fathom net I had stashed on a tender. I was skeptical about whether the extra net would actually bring more fish aboard, considering it takes extra time to haul the extra gear, but I found it did catch more provided I was mindful of when to start picking.
Madeline's job was simply to be on the boat. Aside from that, she could do whatever she wanted. She was only 12 years old, and weighed only 80 pounds, so I didn't really want her all over the deck. It turns out one of her favorite pastimes was sleeping, and she did it on an odd schedule. When we grogged ourselves up and got ready for the next opening, Madeline jumped into the now-available bunks and started snoozing.
She slept through all the action of the flood, and then got up for the dilly-dally ebb fishing. I was afraid she might think fishing was boring, but she insisted she was having a great time (I think she just liked having complete control over her own time). The problem with this arrangement was she was wide awake during our sleep time on the closures, and she sometimes buzzed around the cabin, driving us bananas.
One time toward the end of the season, the weather was shitty and the fishing was slow. I was sure Madeline was getting tired of all the rolling around so I arranged a play date with the guy on one of the tenders who had his 11-year-old daughter with him. The weather was really nasty, and it was quite a maneuver dropping her off on the tender, which was anchored up on the Johnson Hill line.
After she was safely aboard the tender (along with the extra 50 fathoms of gear, of course), I headed out and made a few sets. It was kind of weird, just dropping her off like a brailer of fish and then leaving to go fishing. I knew the next destination for that tender was King Cove and then off to a different region of Alaska to service some other fishery, and I wondered what would happen if I had some crazy mechanical breakdown or something like that? How would I get Madeline back on my boat? I operated much more cautiously than usual while I was fishing, and picked her up a few hours later, after the weather had calmed.
The whole deal worked out great having Madeline aboard, and we plan on doing it again next year!
TO BE CONTINUED...
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