Written by Jen Finn
Innovative Virginia menhaden seiner is more than the sum of its parts
By Larry Chowning
Change is part of every fishery, and Jimmy Kellum is an agent of change when it comes to Chesapeake Bay menhaden. Kellum, who operates Kellum Maritime, a snapper-rig menhaden fishing company in Weems, Va., recently cut apart two 40' x 11' aluminum menhaden purse-net boats. From the pieces, he built the 40' x 18' In-seine, a first of its kind on Chesapeake Bay.
After a season of fishing the In-seine, Kellum says, "we had a nice year and caught a lot of fish. We didn't make a lot of money because the price of fuel and the cost of doing business is going off the charts." Despite the odds, a major reason Kellum was able to have a decent year was his new purse boat.
He is always thinking along the lines of improving on what he already has. When it came to his purse boat, Kellum knew what had to be improved. Above all else he wanted a boat with a self-bailing cockpit; after that it was more room, more speed and a boat that would be safer for the five-man crew hauling the nets aboard.
The self-bailing cockpit was inspired by problems with jellyfish, which Chesapeake watermen call water gulls or jellies. "Lots of things have changed in the last 30 years of fishing," Kellum says. "We used to have sea nettles. Now we don't have as many sea nettles, but we have had an explosion of water gulls. They are a real hindrance because jellies come in with the net and are hard to pump out. [They lie] in the net and in the boat, and the boat gets real heavy and is hard to tow.
"Before, we were running three or four bilge pumps to get the jelly out of the boat. With the In-seine, we were looking to get a more stable boat, and the self-bailing cockpit [is a way] to get rid of the jelly."
To build the In-seine, Kellum obtained two used purse boats from Omega Protein in Reedville, Va. As opposed to a snapper-rig menhaden fishing operation, where a single purse boat drops a sea anchor overboard to hold one end of the net in place as the boat circles the school of fish, an outfit like Omega Protein uses two purse boats.
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