Another fishing day - we set at 7 AM, picked up by 2:30. Today put us over 6000 lbs. The idea popped into my head today that the season will be 4 days late. Nothing scientific about that - just the knowledge that it's darned cold and the water is darned cold and it feels late. We discovered the almost miraculous polypropylene glove liners 10 years ago or so (even when our hands are wet, the glove liners keep them warm - and I have Reynaud's Syndrome) and until this season, it has been 10 years since my fingers have stung from the cold. It's cold.
Fishing picked up a little bit today, but still, it wasn't enough to stay out for throughout the tide. When we came in between the set and the flood pick, I found the power converter that Maeve brought back from King Salmon and yippee!! Internet again!!
We planned to go out 1 1/2 hours before the tide turned, but actually only had about 30 minutes - partly because we were slow in getting out, but largely because the tide book was wrong again. This is a problem - we depend on the tide book and it's usually pretty accurate - to about 15 minutes. Except this year, it's been off by more than an hour. Today, the tide turned almost
an hour before we expected. We can feel it when it starts to turn - the net stops swinging north - the direction of the incoming tide - and begins to swing south, the direction that the water goes when it runs out. During that transition, it's called "slack water." There's a "high slack" and a "low slack," when the tide is changing direction. We are most acquainted with high slack, when the nets really does become slack.
Since it wasn't a particularly busy tide, Roger had a chance to work on the power pack in the New Boat - and I had a chance to learn a little about it. It runs, but then it stops. The initial diagnosis was water in the carburetor. I learned how to check the fuel filter, drain the fuel bowl, and then remove the bowl and blow carburetor cleaner up there to unblock the jet (?). That helped a little, but it died again anyway. Roger and Jeff began to suspect a sparkplug problem. They swapped the sparkplug off the powerpack in the Bathtub (I wouldn't let them take it from the Ambi) and... that seemed to fix it. When the crew went into town later, they found a whole box of powerpack sparkplugs in the net locker. Yay! Maybe by tomorrow, all the equipment will be working. And I'm happy to say that it doesn't seem so much like a magic box to me anymore. Maybe I can learn about equipment.
David has been concerned for some time that the stern of the New Boat is riding too low and he suspected water in one of the air pockets. I've thought it was just all the equipment back in that corner - the powerpack and the roller are on the same side, and there is a Pacer pump over there as well. But it felt lumbering to him. So today while we were in there trying to learn from Roger, I saw a black disc in the front of the air pocket - it would be there to cover the hole through which the outboard controls are installed and run to the console. I asked if the disc could be removed. David saw that it unscrews and... water came pouring out. Many many pounds and gallons of water poured out and he pumped out the rest. That New Boat is almost frisky the way it bounces around in the water now.
Even though we delivered the high water pick and again as we picked the ebb, there were still 25 fish or so at the end that we all carried in. David brought us in as far as he could in the Ambi and we jumped out with salmon in hand (like in the old days - though then we usually carried three fish per hand, and all the way from the outside site) Sarah got this shot. In Naknek parlance, we are "packing fish."
The crew, led by David, decided to tackle the home pack now. Often, we leave it to the end of the season and that's a pretty stressful experience. Today isn't the day I would have picked for that, but they had the energy, so they went in with probably 25 or 30 reds (sockeye) and 4 or 5 kings (it was a good day for kings) and they processed for our homepack. Sarah was a faithful photographer. The Montana crew created a fillet line while the coastal part of the crew (David, Sarah, and Jeff from the west coast, Evan and Roger from the east coast) bagged and sealed the salmon. I'm usually on the fillet line so I've never really paid much attention to the effort involved in the sealing process. But when I've done it all myself, I've noticed that it takes about twice as long as I expect because of my limited perspective. Sealing it takes time - probably about as much time as filleting it.
Then, after sealing all the fish up, we have to spread them about the freezer so they will freeze quickly (we learned the hard way that they don't freeze fast enough if we just pile them up). But during the heat of the home pack part of the season, when we spread them around the freezer, we inconvenience others who use the freezer. Plus, there is the little problem of people taking our homepack home with them. So here is Chris, laying out fish in a place he hopes is both out of the way and out of sight.
We go again in the morning - 8 AM, in 9 feet of water (at the low water mark). That probably means too much water for us to push set. However, the current shouldn't be too swift - it'll be coming in from a 6' hold up to an 18' high. With 12 hours to cover that ground, it won't be moving as fast as usual. So if it is a deep water set, unless the wind is blowing hard, it shouldn't be too stressful. We'll know in the morning. Meanwhile, this is what we have tonight, with the late-breaking news that an aerial survey by Fish and Game has detected 600,000 salmon in the Kvichak river. That is great news for many reasons. And one thing it means is that the Kvichak river will be open to drift fishermen, spreading the fleet out a little bit. A little less pressure on us...