On the Waterfront

Published on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 by Jan Hrutfiord

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Commercial crab season opens this week, on October 1.  The crab pots have been arriving at the harbor, fish plant crab buyers have been stacking up totes and arranging for delivery of crab to their markets, crab bait is arriving to be placed into the bait jars inside the crab pots, this is now the busiest time of the year for Blaine fishers.

Sport crabbers season is finished, and their pots are now out of the water. Treaty Indian fishers had two short openings this month, and now they are ready to start fishing during the all citizen commercial season. The sport fishers and Treaty Indian fishers have already caught a large amount of crab, but October will be the best fishing time for amounts of crab caught. Most of these crab will be sold on the live market, with shipping in totes with water and air circulation to keep the crab alive as they go to California, Seattle, and further markets to the east and to the far west.

The salmon season is still going for gillnetters, but the reports I’ve gotten is that the fishing is not great. The Alaska season was spotty, good in places and bad in other traditionally good areas. It’s harder all the time to make a decent living commercial fishing. The fishers have to be able to follow different seasons and be able to take advantage of new markets as they open up.

Last week I saw a trailer loaded with what looked like small plastic barrels, with holes drilled around the sides and entrance ports also around the sides. As this was something new to me, I asked the men who were pulling the trailer with their truck what type of pots they had. The answer: Eel pots! They were about to start fishing for eels in the San Juans, which is a new market for fishers. Eels are very popular with Asian markets, and also used in sushi.

This brought to my mind a scene I witnessed many years ago in Shanghai, China. My husband and I were on a train that in Shanghai, and we were watching the busy crowds of people crowding onto the trains, when one man’s plastic bag he was carrying broke, and what looked like hundreds of snakes fell out onto the sidewalk. The man and others quickly tried to gather up these wriggling creatures. We asked the translator what they were and he told us they were eels. So, moral is, if you have a bag of eels, be sure the bag is strong enough to keep them captive!