Hood Canal is Not My Pal

I arrived at the second green light, just north of Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base, around 7:30 a.m., a little late, but still early enough to load my boat with chum salmon. I set out in a wide open spot, turned off my radio, set my alarm for to ring in half an hour’s time, and racked out. It was the first sleep I had since I woke up the day before, so I was beat. I cycled through a few of these sneaky-snoozes, knowing I would need this little bit rest for my busy day of picking fish.

A couple hours later I picked up my first set: 10 fish. Something was wrong here, like that number was missing a zero on the end. What about my new net? I should have caught more than 10 fish. I turned on the radio and called around. I was hearing sets for 30 and 40, but no big scores like I had anticipated. I ran farther down into the canal and set outside of the submarine base: seven fish on that set. Still, others had 20s and 30s on their sets, and I had only seven.

I was a bit irritated at this point. First off, the piece of my new net without the corks tied down was blowing the corks through several hangings at a time when I picked it up in the brisk breeze, creating a bunch of holes all along the corkline, and a bunch of work for me later. And the places where the new pieces of net were tied together, but not sewed down the seams, were causing big tangles, especially where the deeper piece joined up with the less-deep piece. And I really thought these new pieces of net would be catching some fish; it’s fine that the fish aren’t thick here, but shouldn’t my new net be catching whatever fish are around? With my new net, shouldn’t I no longer be the low-liner?

At this point I was done with the canal. I once again had made the long run, only to come up short. It pissed me off. I ran up toward the bridge to take in the flood set just to see if anything was coming in, and I landed another single-digit set. I waited no longer; I headed out of Hood Canal, not stopping to deliver my fish, and headed for Kingston.

As I approached Apple Cove Point, just north of Kingston, I flagged down a tender who was traveling north. He said he was headed over to buy fish from the Hood Canal gillnetters, so I told him my experience, which made him think twice of his plans. I asked if I sold him my meager Hood Canal catch would he consider giving me some ice so I could take a few of tonight’s catch home to sell on the island. Amazingly, his price was $0.25, and I told him that was sort of way too low, so he called his buyer. He came back with a price of $0.60 for females, and $0.05 for males. I laughed openly at this, and told him I simply couldn’t sell him my fish based on principle, but if he would still consider helping me out by sluffing me some ice, I would really appreciate it. He agreed, and we did a bit of bullshitting while I shoveled the ice, and I discovered their usual service with the boat is running farm-raised fish from Bainbridge Island to the processing plant in Seattle. At this point I was glad I didn’t further his cause by selling him my fish, and I was especially glad I squeezed some ice out of him to help me market my wild-caught salmon.

I fished in Kingston from Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, November 9, and wound up with around 175 fish. I kept 110 for sale on the island and sold the rest to the tender in Kingston. During the night as I dressed the females, I accidentally dumped a half-full bucket of eggs overboard, thinking they were a bucket of guts. I realized my mistake as the falling eggs passed before my eyes on their way into the sea. They were gone, and I had never been so sick about an accidental toss.

I only had one ice chest full of ice, so I stretched it out by only belly-icing the females, which were the only fish I cleaned (the males sell well whole). I ran back to the terminal and picked the brailer bag full of belly-iced fish out of my hatch and loaded it into the back of my truck. I quickly cleaned up the boat, parked it in my slip, and headed to the cold storage plant in Everett to get some ice and drop off my eggs.

I had a discouraging experience in Hood Canal, and I wasn’t happy with my new net, but the potential of selling my own catch on the island made this whole week seem worthwhile.


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