National Fisherman


Salmon sabbatical

Father and son make a break for Bristol Bay as an old-timer and a first-timer

By Charlie Ess

We're standing near the skiff at the edge of an expansive mud flat. It's low tide, moments away from the season's first commercial salmon opener in Alaska's Bristol Bay Ugashik District. My quadriceps burn, and there's a sharp kink in muscles between my shoulders. We've just finished dragging the better half of a 50-fathom salmon gillnet from our skiff through the muck and have it tied off to a screw anchor that's been twisted six feet into the Earth. The other end of the net lies neatly piled in the stern of the skiff and tied to a 66-pound Bruce anchor.

We wait for the season to open. Though I've never fished Ugashik before, I find a haunting familiarity in the smell of wet lines, the mewling gulls, the fog burning off the sandy beach beyond.
"Let's go," says skipper Parker Sorenson, who's come back for his second season.

At the moment of the opener, we push the skiff offshore and into the gray water ahead. We all jump in over the gunwales when we reach enough depth to run the outboard. I drop it from tilt position, grab the starter cord, and the three-cylinder Yamaha roars to life. I twist the throttle up on the tiller handle. The 22-foot aluminum skiff surges into the waves and gillnet corks clank out over the fairleads. We finish making the set, toss out the anchor and chain. I lean against the gunwale and watch with reverence as the corkline comes tight against the flooding tide. The sound of water bubbling through the corks drives chills up and down my spine and tears at a part of me that has lain dormant since my wife, Cheryl, and I worked her setnet site at Ikatan, near False Pass, some 300 miles south of where I stand now.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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