Onthe waterfront

Published on Thu, Oct 4, 2007 by Jan Hrutfiord

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On the waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

The boats began leaving the harbor before dawn on the morning of October 1, the opening day of commercial crab fishing for all citizens fishers.

They were loaded with crab pots ready to put them out at the proper time in the morning, each boatload going to the favorite spot of the crab license holder.

Some boats were larger draggers and seiners, which were hired to take the entire quota of pots in one trip. Other boats were the smaller crab or gillnet boats, and were prepared to make several trips to take out all the pots for the fishers. The pots were baited with fresh or frozen fish, and then thrown out in a “string” of pots, several strings to each license holder, who was hoping that he guessed right in where to put his pots to get the best crabbing available.

After the pots were in place, the fishermen returned to start pulling their pots, emptying them into “sorting tables” where the keepers were placed in totes or barrels, and the smalls, females, and other types of crab or sea life were thrown back into the water.

The emptied pots would then be rebaited and thrown back into the water. Each fisherman’s pots are marked with buoys, each painted with the individual colors chosen by that fisher, and identifying numbers painted on each buoy.

The Treaty Indian fishers had several 30-hour openings in the month before the October 1 opening, with reported slow fishing results. Sport crabbers also were able to put out pots Wednesday through Saturday each week from mid August until last weekend. Their buoy markers were painted red and white, with identifying names and numbers on each buoy.

Each sport fisher was allowed two pots, and five “keeper” crabs per day of the season were allowed. They also reported fewer legal, “keeper” crabs available this year.

The commercial crabbers hope that this will be a good season in our local waters. For many, this is their big money making fishing endeavor, and if the crab catch is low, or the prices are low, it makes for a hard winter for those fishermen.

The crab buyers at the Blaine Harbor docks are ready and waiting for crab to come in. They have buyers lined up for most of the product, much of which is shipped live to California.

The salmon season was poor – no sockeye were allowed for local fishers this year. This was a “pink” year, the small pink or humpback salmon were here but the price is low for pinks and many fishers have trouble making the fuel and gear payments on such low return.

It has been reported that the silver or Coho run in Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound waters is pretty good. Hopefully, the fishers will be able to make a living wage with these fish.