With the help of Ampro Shipyard in Weems, Va., Omega Protein in Reedville is busy getting its menhaden fishing fleet ready for Virginia’s 2021 menhaden fishing season. The season opened in May.

Omega recently announced it’s cutting back on its Chesapeake Bay fishing fleet, as six boats will be fishing this season. Last year, the firm had seven menhaden steamers working Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Tideland, one of the largest and oldest vessels in the fleet, will leave the fishing end of the business. It will remain in the fleet, however, as a carry-away boat. The 218-foot Tideland was launched in 1966. “She has caught a jag of fish in her lifetime,” said Omega’s Reedville Vessels Manager Harvey Hamm.

Tideland will require only a minor conversion to switch from fishing boat to carry-away boat. It will require installation of new pumps, modification of the hydraulic system and some new stainless steel piping.

The work will be done with the boat in-water at the Omega Reedville plant by way of a partnership between the Ampro work force and Omega’s boat maintenance crew. “We rely on Ampro to do a lot of our work,” said Hamm. “When we have a need we can count on them coming to our place to jump in and take care of the problem.”

The F/V Calcasieu Pass is at the Ampro Yard in Weems. It’s there for upgrades to fish screens and to the refrigeration system. The yard is also replacing black iron piping with stainless steel pipe and rusted out ladder steps. “We are just trying to bring her back to life,” said Hamm. “If we take care of small problems at the start of seasons, it helps to eliminate larger problems in the future.”

Omega’s F/V Fleeton was at the Ampro yard before the Calcasieu Pass arrived. Ampro installed several new bridge wing doors, modified some of the hydraulics and replaced iron piping with stainless steel.

Over in Heathsville, Va., Chesapeake Bay pound net fisherman Fred Jett of Ophelia, Va., had his wooden pound skiff glassed at Cockrell’s Marine Railway.

Built by George Butler of Reedville in 2000, the 23' 8" outboard-powered wooden skiff has been worked hard in the Potomac River pound net fishery, and it took a major overhaul to get her back on the waves. The old paint, inside and out, was power washed off with a 7,500-psi sprayer. And the outside was completely covered with two layers of DBM 1808 Knytex Biaxial matt and woven.

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Larry Chowning is a writer for the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna, Va., a regular contributor to National Fisherman, and the author of numerous books.

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