On the waterfront

Published on Thu, Nov 13, 2003
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On the waterfront

by Jan Hrutfiord

Local fishing is definitely influenced by the weather, and the weather in October was more difficult than usual. High winds, low temperatures, heavy rains, dense fog, we had them all. Those who could get out for crab during the last month found the quantities of crab to be on the low side, but there were some very large crab to help make up for the lack of numbers.

Local draggers were also affected by weather, but did get out for fishing. Then, we had salmon fishing out of Blaine harbor. There were about five seiners fishing for chum (dog) salmon in local waters, and doing surprisingly well for this local fishery, which has not had chum openings here for most of the past ten years. They are still fishing out of Blaine, mainly at Point Roberts, this week. Other salmon fishing for chum is in the south Puget Sound area.

One of our local boats met its end two weeks ago, while going to the south Puget Sound fishery. The Martle went down, reportedly due to high winds or waves, leaving the captain Ed Einarsson and crew scrambling into their seine skiff to rescue themselves. All got off safely.

What is a seine skiff? This sturdy, open skiff is literally a tug boat of the fishing fleet. Usually made of steel, the flat bottomed, wide, approximately 20 foot long stubby ugly duckling of a boat is used to pull the seine net out and away from the seine boat, circling around with the net and pulling the end back to the seiner. The engine is usually a heavy duty diesel, and is manned by one crew member who has to keep in contact with his boat (sometimes by walkie-talkies, sometimes by hand signals) to make sure the net is pulled in the right directions, hopefully enclosing a school of salmon which can then be pursed up and brought onto the boat.

In times of trouble, this skiff can be used to literally tug the seine boat home if there�s a net caught in the wheel, or the engine dies, for instance. Or, if disaster strikes and the seiner goes down, this is the escape hatch for the fishermen to get to shore. Many more fishermen than the Martle crew credit their seine skiff for their rescue.

The federal government has held a buy-back of Washington state off-shore dragger licenses, and several local draggers have sold their licenses in this buy-back. This means that all licenses held by that boat have to be sold, and the boat, while not being bought in this buy-back, must never be used for fishing or fishing related industries again. These limited entry licenses will never be used again, either, thus reducing the number of boats fishing in Washington waters. I�ll have more on which boats have been included in the buy-back at a later time.

There are large numbers of ducks and geese in the area now, here for the winter. If you come down to the harbor, you�ll see hundreds of pintails, mallards, and dunlin along Caine Creek at the east end of the Marine Park. I�ve watched many loons, both in the harbor and off the end of Marine Drive, as well as large quantities of other ducks and geese.

Last week there were brant and Canada geese in flocks along Birch Bay, and no doubt also in Drayton Harbor. Get out your binoculars, and go �hunting� for these beautiful birds. We are so lucky to have the huge quantities and varieties of birds here. Others have to travel long distances to see what we have on our �doorstep.�

Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, and your table is graced by a big bird, not of the seabird variety.