March 31–April 7, 2008 — We headed out across the Gulf of Alaska in the early afternoon of Monday, March 31. I had dinner ready in the calm waters of Neva Strait on the way to the Salisbury Sound exit point into the gulf.
Once we were outside we started baiting the halibut gear. Since the boat was bucking into a fair amount of swell, it was an awfully twitchy ride back in the baithouse. I wasn’t into that, so I decided to bait my gear on the hatch cover, and I had a very peaceful time of it, enjoying not being whipped around by the Discovery’s twitchy roll.
We arrived at the halibut grounds on the evening of Wednesday, April 2, and set out one string of halibut gear. In the early hours of Thursday, April 3, still covered in darkness, we set two blackcod strings, then finished up by setting two halibut strings just after first light. We went right into hauling the halibut string with the long soak, then followed right up with the two we set at first light. We had about 12,000 pounds of flat ones, and were done really early, like 6 p.m.
I was hoping to haul a string of blackcod gear, but the bait was still too frozen to cut up so we wouldn’t be able to bait while we hauled. We waited until morning, which I’m sure was the plan the whole time. We started hauling at 3:00 on the morning of Friday, April 4.
Blackcod fishing was good, with close to 5,000 pounds our first string. But as we hauled, George ushered in a big debate on whether we should quit fishing because of the weather. I think George just wanted to go into Seward so we could go up to the bar on Saturday night. In any event, as we baited our second string of the day, the wind started to breeze up, and the tides were running strong, plus for some strange reason the last two strings brought us very few fish.
Result: George got his wish; we stopped baiting and just hauled back the two remaining strings for a total of around 8,000 pounds of blackcod for our abbreviated three-string trip. It was just as well we did stop because had we kept fishing another day we would have had a stiff north wind in our face and had a really shitty run into Seward, so maybe there is something to George’s ominous weather predictions.
We got into Seward at 3 a.m. on Saturday, April 5. I woke up to help tie the boat up, and then stayed up until 7 a.m. writing on my computer. I jumped into bed to make it look like I had slept because these guys already think my sleep schedule is totally out of whack, and woke up with the rest of the guys around 7:30 (I actually pulled off a 20-minute power snooze).
We baited our gear on Saturday, then delivered on Sunday morning, April 6. We started baiting on Monday with plans of taking ice on Tuesday afternoon and then leaving for fishing Tuesday night. We were supposedly in no rush to get out fishing because the tides were very strong, and we wanted to wait until they slacked off a bit.
But on Monday, April 7, just as we were baiting up our last skates, we got notice that the RBS plant wanted to give us ice right away. When this happened, I knew we were going to be gone soon, because with all the gear baited and the ice aboard, there was no way we were going to hang around town doing nothing.
Once we reached the RBS dock to get ice, I had only time to get groceries and we were outta there, looking to come back to Seward with a full trip of blackcod in the hatch.
TO BE CONTINUED…