Mid-to-Late August 2007 — With the boat pretty much ready to go, I still needed to load my net before I could go fishing. The net I had fished the previous couple of seasons was still lying on the dock, all covered up and ready to go, just as I left it. It had just a few holes that needed attention, but could easily be fished and would do a fine job. But I was convinced that net was 100 fathoms short, and I wanted to be sure I was fishing a full net for sockeye. I had a list of people waiting to buy my fish, and I wanted to make sure I had enough for my public.
Instead of hanging a new piece of net to tack onto the end my existing net, I looked around during the off-season and found a sockeye net that belonged to another fisherman who was willing to part with it for $2,000. I knew the guy well, and I knew he caught many fish in his day, and figured he would hang a decent-fishing net. The net was hardly used and was a full 300 fathoms and came with some unhung web thrown in as a bonus. The cost of hanging 100 fathoms of net would be about $2,000, and then I would have all the work in hanging it; I figured I couldn't go wrong with this deal.
But like most good deals, there was a hang-up. The net was in Hoquiam, Wash., which is about a five-hour drive from the Anacortes ferry landing. I will do anything to avoid driving five hours — 10 hours round trip — for any reason. I knew there was a way to get that net up to Friday Harbor without my spending two days driving across Washington state.
I reached into my bag of tricks and came up with a convoluted solution that I was pretty certain would work, and here's how it went: There's this guy Nick who fishes in Bristol Bay and lives in Tacoma. Nick has a bowpicker and plans on fishing for sockeye this summer. Unfortunately for Nick he has only 100 fathoms of outdated gear to fish. Fortunately, I would have an extra 200 fathoms of nice high-tech monofilament net that he could fish IF he drives down to Hoquiam (just a two-hour drive for him) and picks up my net! Once he has my net, he could load it onto his boat, run up to the San Juan Islands for the sockeye opening, then we could swap nets by laying them each out in the water, and I could haul back the net he brought up for me, and he could use my other net for the rest of the season!
My plan was pure brilliance! The problem was it required a viable sockeye fishery so it would be worth Nick's while to come up and fish. This was actually a bit of a long shot because the sockeye return to the Fraser River was so low the run managers were telling us the chance of an opening was very slim. So, betting on this slim chance of an opening, Nick made the voyage to Hoquiam, trucked my net back to Tacoma, loaded it onto his bowpicker, and was ready to go when the word was given.
Unfortunately, the only word given was that we could fish for pink salmon ONLY — we would have to "release" any sockeye we caught. This, of course, was of no interest to Nick, and by the time this was announced he was more interested in getting my sockeye net off his boat so he could go catch some silvers in Port Gamble Bay.
So I had to drive down to Tacoma to pick up my net. This definitely beat driving all the way down to Hoquiam, but still missed the mark of the overall goal of my whole scheme — to get that net from Hoquiam and onto my boat without having to leave San Juan Island. I came close, but was thwarted by the lack of fish we Americans were allowed to harvest from this international run of sockeye salmon returning to Canada's mighty River Fraser.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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