From Bellingham to the Fishing Grounds

My first stop was Albertson’s store up the hill from the Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham. I bought the items not found at Costco, like sauces, ice cream, and frozen blueberries. Then I headed down to Bellingham Cold Storage and met up with the Discovery as it was just pulling in after its run over from Port Townsend. I loaded the groceries into the freezer then waited until morning to finish my grocery shopping at Costco.

On the morning of Thursday, March 6, Mike borrowed my truck around 9 a.m. to go to breakfast with Roald, so I couldn’t meet Brett at Costco at 10 a.m. like we planned. In fact, I didn’t get there until around 11 a.m. After loading all the groceries on the boat and stashing my truck in the extended parking lot at the Port of Bellingham, we let go the lines around 5 p.m.

The weather was fabulous all the way up, but it was DARK at night because we were traveling with a new moon. We arrived in Ketchikan on Sunday afternoon, March 8.

Everything was closed — I couldn’t even buy cough drops. I had some kind of illness — it turned out to be just a cold, but I thought it was going to be the chicken pox because my daughter Madeline came down with them shortly before I left. With no reason to linger in Ketchikan, we continued steaming on to Petersburg where we took ice on the morning of Monday, March 9.

Since we were fully loaded with ice, bait, and groceries, we headed directly out to the fishing grounds. As we traveled through Frederick Sound, we were boarded by the Coast Guard. We kept traveling and baiting as they conducted the boarding, so it didn’t cost us any time. As expected, they gave us a list of things that had to be taken care of in short order, otherwise Mike would have to pay a fine.

We headed through Salisbury Sound, out into the Gulf of Alaska, and started fishing Tuesday, March 10. We decided to set blackcod gear for the halibut, which we fished for the first day.

I am all for this idea, as I think we should set our halibut gear on the dock and never bring it aboard again. It is harder to bait, we run only 30 percent of the hooks for the same distance traveled (the hooks are spaced every 6 feet instead of every 42 inches), and it takes away a guy from the deck because it has to be hand-coiled (old-school stuff) instead of dropping into a tub like the blackcod gear.

Thankfully, the blackcod gear proved just as effective, as did the old halibut gear, even better since there were two guys baiting faster-to-bait gear. We hauled only two strings of 14 skates and wound up with around 3,000-pounds total, which wasn’t all that great considering the amount of hooks we ran. But it was the same as we ever caught with the halibut gear.

Blackcod fishing was good. We had 5,000 pounds the first string and 8,000 pounds the second, third, and forth strings. The last string was only 5,000 pounds, but it had only a four-hour soak.

Our trip was cut short on Thursday, March 13, when George brought news of an ominous weather forecast. (I think he really wanted to head up to the P-bar for a drink on Friday night.) We were done completely with our first trip after only five blackcod strings and two halibut strings. We caught about half the halibut quota, and most of the blackcod quota.


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