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.
I decided that since I had pretty much a full day off before my next opening, and I wasn't messing around with selling fish on the Ballard Freeway, that I could fix my hatch issues. The plan was to cut out a piece of plywood to fit the bottom of the forward hatches, but more importantly hang an array of hooks in the center bin where I could hang two more brailer bags. The weight of the fish in the center hatch would hold the forward bins in place if I loaded up the side bins. It was a brilliant plant that should put an end to my chaotic hatch situation once and for all.
I bought all the parts I needed in my groggy, sleep-deprived state after I cleaned the boat up on Monday, October 29, then went to bed early and snoozed hard all night. I woke up early on Tuesday and went to work on the hatch and a fair number of other boat issues that had popped up during the previous week of fishing.
I was just rounding the edges of my new plywood hatch bottoms when Martin, my guest crew member for this opening, arrived on the scene. I knew Martin from back in the heyday of the Puget Sound fishery. He fished with a guy who had an old self-righting Coast Guard launch that looked like a submarine, so it was referred to by all as The Yellow Submarine. Martin was a big help in wrapping up my hatch project so we could get out on the fishing grounds on time.
As it was I didn't have time to make it to my regular spot, so I thought I might set a little further north. As I ran out past West Point, I had to swing it wide because of an inbound tugboat. As always my eyes searched the horizon for jumpers, and in the distance, across toward the western side of the sound, I saw a couple jumpers. I headed further out and saw more fish jumping, and pretty much ran straight across to the other side, all the while tracking toward where I was seeing the fish jumping, which was in quite a broad area.
All the while as we ran, Martin and I were talking. Since we are both ADD-ish individuals, we talked about a wide variety of topics, seldom finishing one topic before proceeding to the next.
I nestled myself in the middle of the jumpers, and wound up setting out west of the traffic lane, about even with Skiff Point. Martin couldn't believe how slick my operation was, which was the complete opposite of what he experienced when he was fishing. I put my power roller in reverse, and it pulled the net off the drum as I set, so there was seldom a backlash of leadline wrapping around the reel as we were setting. Martin was accustomed to having to pull the leadline off the reel by hand as the entire length net was set, which is what I had done for so many years as well; it was like a miracle when I first put the power roller on and experienced just how simple setting a gillnet can be.
Since I saw fish jumping, I let this one soak a full three hours. Martin and I talked the whole time, and as we hauled back we brought in close to 200 fish on the first set. Martin was a big help in picking the fish out, since he had years of experience in this exact task. We made another long soaker in the same spot as the first and brought in another 200 fish; again, Martin and I talked the whole time, both as the net was soaking and as we were hauling back.
At 3 a.m. I set out with intentions of another long soak, and also the idea that some sleep would be nice. But with Martin aboard, it is difficult to do anything other than talk, talk, talk. Our third and final set soaked until the early hours of daylight, and although there were not catnaps to be had, we pulled down another 200 fish! I never had an easier, more productive, or more conversation-filled night of fishing in my life, nor had I caught as many fish in one night.
The best part about it was that my new hatch configuration worked great. We put the first fish we caught into the newly installed center hatch brailers, which held the side bins snugly in place so there were no breakaway bin boards, and the whole hatch remained exactly as it was intended. And it off-loaded quite easily, although there was still a bit of a problem because the side brailers were still too large to pull out because the sides of the hatch slant inward toward the center of the boat. So we just pitched a few fish from each side into a brailer we set up in the center hatch, and then the lightened bags pulled out of the side bins no problem.
It was a totally great night out fishing, with non-stop good conversation, and really good fishing to boot!
TO BE CONTINUED...
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