Dogged in Hood Canal

It was a six-hour run in my slow boat, from 9 p.m. when I left the tender at Possession Point, to 3 a.m. when I approached the buoy. I was exhausted. I grabbed my bedding from the cold foc’s’le and laid it right out on the cabin floor, which is also the engine cover, because it was so nice and warm. I slept like a rock for three hours, then woke up and ran the Satisfaction out to find a set on the morning of Wednesday, November 7.

There was a very mild breeze coming from the south, but hardly enough to move any fish. I ran out into the middle, but still near the east side of the canal where there were some tide streaks breaking. I set my net and hoped for the best.

After an hour, I hauled it back and got my first taste of the day’s fishing — eight gnarly black dogs (for which they will still happily pay $0.85). My brother Fred was about a mile south of me, and he had 75 fish on his first set, and Art was halfway between Fred and me, and he had around 30 fish.

Both Fred and Art were on the western side of the canal. I moved across and up to the next point, and got in close to the spit. The current was slack so I hardly moved. I pretty much stayed in this spot for the whole day, making the same set, just waiting out this calm, slow opening. My biggest set of the three I made in this spot was 15 fish, so I moved out toward the middle for the last set. As I ran, I saw schools if fish finning at the surface of the calm water. I couldn’t set on them because there were other nets in the water, but it was refreshing to see some sign of life in Hood Canal.

I set nearby, and waited for the darkness to fall. As I waited I saw more schools of finners in several different spots — some I could catch, and some I could not. I figured this was my chance to make a day out this fishing trip. I ran my net a couple times to chase in whatever fish may be laying along side, then after darkness had fallen I started hauling for the outstanding set of FOUR fish! I was pissed off and fed up with Hood Canal. We fished again the next day, but at this point I had no interest in it.

I ran to the bight north of Hazel point where the tenders were anchored, and saw a display I had never seen before in Puget Sound; five different tenders, all with boats lined up waiting to deliver. The significance was that these boats were different from the run-down, makeshift fleet of boats that used to sneak around at night eking out their expenses on Puget Sound — these were all top-notch fishing machines, mostly retired or shipped-down Bristol Bay boats, or boats that came north from the San Francisco herring fishery. They all had at least two guys aboard to clear the net, and 15 to 20 feet of space from the roller to the reel to do so. It was no wonder the fish were caught so quickly in the Seattle area — the fleet has stepped up its efficiency by 1,000 percent.

I delivered my 45 fish, and although my attitude was in the shithole and I shouldn’t have bothered trying (because attitude really does make the difference), I anchored up and decided to at least stay until the morning set.

I pulled off the hook at daybreak and headed north (the direction of home) until I found an opening. The thing about it was that I had to keep going and going, because there were so many boats that I couldn’t find a set! I ran about three miles before I finally found a spot tight against the Bangor Sub Base buoys with the patrol boat giving me the hairy eyeball.

As I said, I shouldn’t have bothered with my set. I had three fish, and that gave me a good reason to get the hell out of there. At least I had nice weather for the run home.

Of course, there were guys with a couple hundred fish the first day, and probably the same on the second. But for some reason my head wasn’t into the game and the stars weren’t aligned in my favor, so there were none for me. Unless I change my attitude about the long runs and all the new hardware in the fishery, I should stay close to Seattle and not worry about making all the openings in the Puget Sound.


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