We arrived on the halibut grounds at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10. We set one string of halibut gear, waited for daylight, then set the remaining two strings we had baited for halibut. Unfortunately this first string didn’t catch much fish; Mike figured the sand fleas ate the bait while the halibut were off the bottom at night. Fortunately the next string we hauled, which we set in the daylight, had good fish.
In order to catch the amount of halibut we had hoped, we set out a 12-skate string of blackcod gear on the halibut ground, which has always been an unthinkable option on the Discovery (but one that was very common among other boats, and one I had been suggesting we do for years). Blackcod gear has twice as many hooks as halibut gear, but the hooks are smaller, so it was figured that all the big fish would fall off.
Regardless of those petty concerns, the result was a quick 4,000-pound string of lively halibut, with just three hours of soak time — our best string of the day, and our easiest to haul because we didn’t have to coil as we do with the old-school halibut gear, so we had another guy dressing halibut. I could tell this firsthand example of the virtues of hauling halibut on blackcod gear made a strong, positive impression on the decision-making body of the Discovery (especially because Mike, who usually coils, is the ultimate decision-making body on the boat).
The next day, we went right into hauling blackcod gear on the blackcod grounds, which brought us really good fishing. We caught the remainder of our quota in just five strings, which had us running to town on Thursday evening. We were in Seward by early Friday morning, but we couldn’t deliver until first thing on Saturday, April 14, because Resurrection Bay Seafoods was backed up with deliveries from the many boats that had caught this weather window.
We basically took Friday off since we couldn’t deliver until the next day. I couldn’t figure out why we didn’t bait with our idle time, but it gave Mike and his Norwegian brain-trust time to consider using more blackcod gear on this next trip, which was exclusively halibut, which we would run south to Bellingham.
As far as I could tell, their concern was with losing big fish; we couldn’t accurately judge the performance of the one string we hauled on this last trip because we caught mostly small (10- to 20-pound) fish. Even so, they leaned toward the advantage of leaving town with enough gear baited up to finish the trip without baiting up while fishing. The decision was made to bait up three strings worth of blackcod gear to set on the halibut ground — a revolutionary idea that I had been dreaming of for years.
TO BE CONTINUED…