We started in at 2 the next morning. We hauled one blackcod string, then ran in and set out a 15-skate halibut string, then ran back to finish up the blackcod gear. Roald felt we needed to bait up one more short string of blackcod gear to make sure we caught our quota, so while we were hauling our second blackcod string, we baited 15 more skates and set them out immediately after we finished hauling.
From here on out there was nothing left to do but haul. We hauled the third blackcod string, then ran in and hauled the halibut string before it got dark, since sand fleas will eat the fish right off the hook if the gear is allowed to sit on the bottom after dark.
The string brought us just the right amount of halibut, then we ran back out to the blackcod grounds to haul our fourth and final blackcod string, which was the one we had set back. When that was aboard we were running for Sitka by 9 p.m.; we completed the second trip, catching more than 20,000 pounds of fish, in less than 19 hours of fishing.
The cannery was still backed up with herring, and there were a bunch of smaller longliners delivering who took advantage of the nice weather. We delivered late in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 29. We were too close for comfort to the legal limit on our halibut quota; 27 pounds under the maximum allowed (10 percent over the target number).
Had we caught one more medium-sized fish or two smalls, we would have been over, and there would have been all kinds of headaches. I have never been through that meat grinder, but judging from the sigh of relief by the guy writing up our landing, it is not a pretty procedure.
So that is all there is to the 2006 Southeast halibut and blackcod season. Now it is off to the Kodiak/Seward/Homer area of the Gulf of Alaska to catch more of the same!
TO BE CONTINUED…