We arrived on the halibut ground around 9 a.m. on Monday, April 16, which was perfect timing to lay out a few blackcod strings on the halibut grounds. We had 40,000 pounds of halibut to catch, and I had never been so happy to set blackcod gear. My only hope was they would bring in big fish to demonstrate that the smaller hooks on blackcod gear really can catch the bigger halibut.
The first string was in the water for only four hours before we started to haul. That was more than enough time for it to fill up with fish, because that first string brought aboard around 5,000 pounds of nice, big halibut. Most of the fish were in the 20- to 40-pound range, with lots of 40- to 60-pounders as well. That is a good thing, because those bigger fish get a bigger price. The next string was even better, with close to 7,000 pounds. Again, the fish were big and fat, and they were caught on the humble little hooks of the blackcod gear.
The good fishing kept up even when we switched back to regular old halibut gear, although the catch did slow down to around 4,000 or 5,000 pounds per string, which is still great fishing. We caught our quota in a total of eight strings, which had us taking bait off the hooks of around 20 pre-baited halibut skates that we didn’t need to set, as we ran across the Gulf of Alaska for home.
The highlight of the trip home was the phone calls Mike made when he was searching for a market for our fish in Bellingham. Things started out good with a price of $5.10 for 20- to 40-pound fish, which was astronomical. But things got better when we settled out at a price of $5.30 for 20- to 40-pounders, and an unbelievable price of $5.50 for 40- to 60-pound fish.
I couldn’t believe it. Just the week before we received “only” $3.95 for the 20- to 40-pounders, which was still a great price, but was a full dollar less. The fact that we are running the fish south is usually good for a 50-cent bump from the Alaska dock price, but how the price jumped the extra 70 cents in just a few days is beyond me; but I didn’t really care. Before last year my ultimate price dream was to be paid $4 per pound for halibut, and now we were going to receive probably a $5.35 average price on our load!
The trip south was the same as always with weather threats from the VHF weather radio, and the long, boring stretches of marine highway. We did run into a bit of a buck through Georgia Strait on the final leg of the journey, but it smoothed out after a few hours.
Through it all, that price kept us pinching ourselves to be sure we weren’t dreaming.
TO BE CONTINUED…