Onthe Waterfront

Published on Thu, May 25, 2006 by an Hrutfiord

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On the Waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

This is the time of year when the commercial boats are gearing up and getting ready for the summer salmon season in Alaskan waters.
You can tell the difference between Washington salmon seine boats and Alaska seiners by the type of net pulling gear aboard the boat.

The local boats that fish in Washington waters are almost all equipped with a drum seine, which is a very large spool – approximately six to 10 feet high – mounted on the stern of the boat, and the net is pulled out of the water and wound up on the drum, very much like thread wound on a spool.

For fishing in Alaska, a drum seine is not allowed for our local boats. Instead, there is a Power Block, a large pulley hanging on a boom from the mast, which is run by hydraulics to pull the net out of the water, through the block and then the net is piled up on the deck of the boat.
This takes more work to use than a drum, and the net is not neatly rolled up like the drum seine boat.

Last Monday I walked around the harbor, visiting different boats and crews that were getting ready to go to Alaska.

The Farewell left Blaine about noon Monday, heading for Prince William Sound, and was to meet up with the Yankee Boy out of Bellingham, as the two boats are under contract to fish for chum (dog) salmon for a hatchery.

They are to catch chum salmon which will be stripped of their eggs and milt to be used for the next generation of chum salmon coming from that hatchery, located in a small bay off Prince William Sound. They will probably be fishing for the next two months.

The St. Zita and the Destiny, both Marco boats, will be heading north about Thursday of this week, to fish in Prince William sound, with Valdez being the nearest port for them to go into.

They will mostly sell their catch to salmon tenders, which buy from the boats on the salmon grounds.

They will be fishing for sockeye, chum and pinks, and will be gone about three months.

The Madre Dolorosa and the Arctic will probably be heading north the end of June, to fish for salmon in southeast Alaska. That season goes on for several months into the fall.

Those fishers who go to Bristol Bay will be heading north from early June until the third week or so of June, for a six week season ending mid-July for sockeye, and later if they stay to fish coho.

The season there opens when the ice clears out and sockeye start running into the rivers.

When the fisheries department feels enough sockeye have entered the rivers to ensure adequate spawning, the season will open for fishing.
This is a gillnet fishery, and most of the boats are kept in Bristol Bay, stored by the various salmon canneries between seasons, as these are relatively small boats, and it is a long and dangerous journey to get there.

I talked with the owner of the Westling, a very big barge-like steel boat which was a salmon tender until the license was sold in a buy-back.
Now the Westling is not allowed to have fish aboard, similar to the draggers which sold their licenses several years ago, so the plan is to make a tour boat out of it, with cabins built onto the deck for living quarters, and the galley area will be extended to make a larger dining area and lounge for the guests to use.

It is planned to take it to Craig Alaska for refitting, and then go wherever boats can get to for tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Alaska.

There are many different fishing licenses for Alaska, and each boat goes wherever they have a license to fish. So, even if they are all fishing for salmon, they will be separated by the type of license they have.

We wish all our local boats good fishing, and we’ll be happy to see them back here at the end of their fishing seasons.