Tuesday, July 26, 2016
It took a little while to accept that all the losses of yesterday mean that we're done fishing. If it were the middle of the season, we'd fix things (well, have them fixed) and replace things and keep going. But at the tail end of the season, I figure it's time to take a hint. But acceptance of that hint can take a few hours. We ended up concerned that sending us out there with only one functional boat felt a little thin for security... plus, what about those ebb fish? When we're going into a season, I often describe it as knowing we're standing on train tracks and knowing that that train is heading toward us and we'll need to deal with it. We don't know what it's carrying, how fast it will be traveling, or from what direction. But we do know it'll run right over us and we'll need to be ready to pick up the pieces. I think we've seen the train this year and it was the wind. Although we've started on our homepack, I didn't have mine yet, so we decided to keep the inside net in and just fish it the old-fashioned way: on foot, putting the fish in the little sleds as we remove them from the net, and pulling them into the beach as they fill. This method of fishing requires a little more precision time-wise. If we are late to the net (and there are fish in it), the seagulls will start pecking at them as they lie on the sand, no longer protected by the water and we may end up with dreaded fish-in-the-mud. If we are too early to the net (and there aren't enough fish in it to keep us busy) we have to wait for the tide to drop to reach the end of it. This morning, as we were going out to pick at 8:30 AM (without a skiff, it's ebb pick only), I looked at the weather and saw that we were in the beginning of the only hours without high winds for days. This is the time to get the New Kid out of the water. We'd have to tow it with the Ambi. After a little bit of thinking about it, we realized that we should just get the Ambi pulled in the same trip. That demolished our plan of anchoring the Ambi out near the outside sites and putting the buoys in it, and then running them in with the tide. Need to come up with another plan. I consulted the tidebook and just looked out at the beach and saw that the New Kid was about to go dry. So I called AGS to see if they could pull us out of the water (yes) and Jeff, Austen, Matt, and I quickly got into our gear, threw ourselves into the skiffs and took off... at a rather stately pace. It's only about five miles between our place and AGS, but it's a long five miles when towing another boat.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
I got up at 5:30 for a 6 AM ebb pick. The wind was howling. The anemometer said 25 MPH ... and we had decided that the 14-16 MPH winds we were expecting were enough of a reason to forego the flood pick in the dark. 25 with higher gusts is quite a challenge. I did what I always do: step into my hard-soled slippers, throw a coat over my fleece jammies, and go look over the cliff. There's the New Kid (check), the Ambi (check). Uh oh - where's the Cockroach - oh, the anchor dragged and it's full of water, but it's there. Sigh. Where is the Bathtub?!? Jeff and I walked along the tideline for a while to recover the stuff from the Bathtub and Cockroach, joined shortly by Patrick. We figured that since so much of the stuff we saw was Bathtub stuff, it must be around here somewhere – probably just underwater. The poor Yamaha! We knew we'd see it as the tide went out further. Jeff and Patrick decided to go back for the Carry because we were finding lots of things - like the 25 fathom net we had replaced on #3, the sleds, brailers, bailers, slush bags, bin boards, assorted lines, totes, and more. We also saw that we weren't the only ones whose skiff had swamped - all we could see was the picking light on the post of the skiff of one of our neighbors. Aieee. Jeff and Patrick returned in the Carry to continue the search with me and told me that they found the Bathtub, in front of the stairs, under water, upside down. The poor Yamaha!
We had two good tides today and it's time for homepack. We decided to pull out 20 off the morning tide - just to get an idea of how long it would take us... and allow us to get some sleep before the next tide. So the Ambi crew pulled out 20... plus a few others we just couldn't resist. And the New Kid crew did the same. So we ended up with something like 50 fish to process. Yikes! When we arrived at AGS to use the processing facilities they set up for their fishermen (thank you!), we found that the Williams family were also working on their homepack. Lucky for us, they are fast! We didn't want to waste time, so we put the fish in slush ice and Inku and I pulled out the big cutting board that sometimes lives in the back of the truck, and went to work right on the tailgate. Matt and Sarah set up our (very heavy!) commercial vacuum sealer in the fiberglass shop, one of the few places that it won't blow the breaker, and we developed a system.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I asked at dinner how long people slept and the answers ranged from 10 hours to 15. We were a tired crew. I went to sleep at 6 PM, setting my alarm for 1 AM when I went out to check on the boats. (All were doing fine.) Then I went back to bed and slept until 7 AM. I understand that Matt went to bed as soon as he came in from the half tide we fished and just slept straight through until we went out today to reset the nets. We pulled out one good anchor we had and Roy was able to perform emergency surgery and fix one we brought in today, giving us two straight-enough anchors to outfit the New Kid and the Ambi. The New Kid crew also added a lot of chain to their pretty-short anchor line. It is no longer short, but about half of it might be chain. I don't think that anchor will drag any more. It may not even get buried very deep in the mud, even on stormy days. The New Kid crew beached the skiff as the tide was going out and Jeff walked the anchor out. I knew we would be getting more wind on the early morning tide, so I wanted to reset the anchor as deep as possible to be sure the skiff wouldn't be anywhere near the swamp zone. Usually, we just pick up the anchor and walk through the mud, dragging the line and chain behind. There was no dragging that outfit. Oh my! I will await a report on how it is to work with... and if the anchor doesn't get buried any more, maybe I'll add some chain to the Ambi's anchor line. The plan was to pile three of the nets into the Bathtub and use the ranger to drag it out to set the three outside sites at low water (about 10 AM) - or just as the tide was coming in. It would be moving slowly, coming from a big hold up low tide of 6' to a modest high of 17'. I like having the ranger safely off the mud flats when the tide is coming in. Alas, our plans didn't work as planned. The first deviation was that I decided that I would run into town to grab a new net to replace some of the extra torn up net on #3 and drop off the Bathtub's bent anchor to Roy, hoping he would have the time to straighten in while I was there so I could take it back and have four functional anchors for four skiffs. I was glad to see that Trina was up and I asked if she wanted to go with me. Efficiency-minded as she is, she suggested that we combine trips because she was already planning to go in to get us gas, water, and mail. Sure, I thought, we can do that. I knew better than that - nothing in town takes only a few minutes and we only had a couple of hours. So we loaded everything up and I recruited Patrick to join us because I wasn't sure we could get the nets into the truck without some extra help. By the time we finished all the side errands it was already past our targeted time to set the nets. Even so, we didn't have enough room in the back of the truck for all the water, gas, and nets, so Trina and Bruce and Davey went back in anyway to get it. As we pulled up to the cabins, we looked out and saw Jeff heading out with the ranger and a net in the back of it. The nets had been left in the Ambi (the nets for #1 and half of the inside) and the New Kid (the nets for #3, #4, and the other half of the inside). The Ambi and the New Kid were anchored on the moon crater mud where we haven't created ranger trails. Jeff intended to set #1 with the ranger, but he was driving in uncharted territory and the ranger was stuck. Really good and deeply stuck. Even with Matt and Inku pushing it, it was not climbing out. If I had been on that ranger, I'd have been very happy to see the truck pull up about then. Patrick went up for line because the line we usually use to tow the boats was in the back of the ranger under a net. We were able to pull it out, but overall, we found that the ranger just wasn't very successful pulling that Bathtub around through foreign mud. Jeff was able to tow the Bathtub to the New Kid so we could pile those nets into it, but it wouldn't tow. So we decided to get the ranger to safety and just wait for the tide to reach us. The mud flats are flat, and from my years of fishing on foot, I remembered that the water isn't much deeper out at the outside sites than it is at the midpoints of the inside sites. Well, either that has changed or I didn't remember right. It was too deep to do a push set where we attach one end of the net to the buoy and push the boat along, letting the net pop out over the gunnel until we get to the other buoy, and then move on to the next net. I think that would have worked if we could have gotten out there at low water as we meant to, but now it was too deep. So it was either set it out of the skiff, or don't fish this tide either. That would have been too tough a pill to swallow, so we went for it. The thing that made this an option was that Jeff had fixed the Yamaha outboard after its dousing on swamp night. He had just given it the final couple of pulls to be sure it worked. So we counted on that and we were not disappointed. I am usually a disaster at deep water sets. Several things make those difficult. The buoys are attached to 50' anchor lines and they swing in the direction of the tide and the wind. When I try to motor around those anchor lines, they tend to wrap the prop, effectively anchoring the skiff, stern first. Further, the inside buoy does the same thing, so it will be 50' away from where we need it to be once we get the net in place, and we'll have to go get it in the skiff. So to avoid fouling the prop, we decided to run the skiff backwards and let the net run out the bow of the boat, and to give ourselves the elbow room we'd need to catch the inside buoy without letting go of the net, we attached extra line to the bottom end of the net so that even if the net left the boat, we'd have a line to it. Patrick, Matt, Austen, and Inku were part of this operation and each one was crucial and did his job perfectly. They were great! And it was very helpful that there wasn't any wind to speak of and that the current was mellow. The first net we set was easiest. When there is less water, the current isn't as strong. As the water deepens, it becomes harder to overcome the current with the outboard. An outboard that no longer locks down, so in reverse, it kicks up. But they all went out like we had done it before. Yay us!! We came in for pancakes made by Sarah - chocolate chips in some, pineapple and blueberries in others. Mmmm. And then we went out to fish. Here we see Oksanna holding the king, with Jeff and Matt on the right behind her. The New Kid got about 100 lbs in the next-to-last ebb pick through and took the skiff as far as they could into the beach to reduce the poundage we'd have to push across the mud. We waited in the Ambi to give them a ride out to the Bathtub. I couldn't choose which photo I liked best of them coming back out, especially after Patrick said that this would be the cover of their new album. So here they all are: Oksanna, Matt, Jeff, and Inku.
Monday, July 18, 2016
I wish I had a photo for you, but when the going gets really tough, a camera is far from what I'm thinking about. While standing with our neighbor and his swamped skiff, we looked out and it looked like the Bathtub anchor had dragged, putting it in the swamp zone. But I really didn't want to take the rowboat out to move it even though Patrick - the source of all energy - was willing to do it. Shoulda listened to Patrick's work ethic conscience. I came out to check on all the skiffs - but especially the Bathtub - several times as we were waiting for the sky to lighten a little - maybe 4 or 4:30. We knew it would be a slow ebb, so I wasn't too worried about being stuck with fish in the mud. Whenever I came out to check the skiffs, I shined my heavy duty flashlights at the 'Tub and the Cockroach... and they both seemed to be riding out the storm OK. I decided to lie down for 39 minutes to get a little sleep. I was twitching all over. I decided to get up and go look one more time. This time, it didn't look right. I saw a headlamp in the Bathtub, and not as much Bathtub as I expected to see. I ran back to the crew cabin to sound the alarm - they got suited up really fast. We all rushed down to the Bathtub to try to rescue it. Mark (the neighbor) saw it happening. It took a big wave over the bow (something I just hate to see in any skiff I'm in) so he jumped in and started bailing (didn't I already say he is the world's best neighbor?), but it was already too late. So he rescued all the stuff that washed out of the skiff - binboards, brailers, gas tank and so much other stuff. Sadly, we did see the water splashing over the Yamaha, but it wasn't submerged. So it might be OK after all. Bray and Jack had been there to take delivery of flood fish. When they saw us in trouble, they came over to help and pulled the full 'Tub out of the water. That makes bailing much more effective. After un-swamping it, we got a ride with Mark to the Ambi. Then we came in and picked up the rest of the crew. Yep, it was windy and the breakers were big and scary. It was so shocking to go through the nets and see the fish hitting behind us. We haven't seen that all season. Even so, by the end of the tide - and it was a really long one in which about 90% of the fish were caught on the ebb - we had about 8000 lbs of salmon to haul off the mud flats. That was my nightmare at the beginning of the season. And yes, it was a reasonable nightmare. The tide turned as we were bringing in the fish. I do not like running the ranger, low on gas of course, out toward an incoming tide through mud that I am not confident the ranger can navigate. Eek! We pulled in one load of fish with the ranger and the Bathtub. We pulled in one load with the Cockroach and the pulley system using the ranger to pull it. And another using the Bathtub and the pulley/ranger combination. The final Bathtub load was just floated in on the incoming tide. Don't like that one little bit. Trina saved us by making sandwiches. Everyone needed a little more fuel. The crew (including me) talked it over and decided to skip the big fat winds of this afternoon's tide by pulling the nets at high water and sleeping out the night tide. That's hard because the fish that don't get caught tonight will be gone, period. But everyone was running on fume. They were still running, though. Some had gone just a little bit brain dead, but no one quit or complained. Everyone stuck with it. They were great. The pick up went as smoothly as could be expected when we're trying to fish in little skiff in 25 MPH winds. I think my weather program calls that a "Fresh breeze." Ha! It feels like a hurricane and just try to pull against it. Waiting for the tide to turn so we could begin picking up a net, one of the crew members shouted a warning and I turned to see a huge wall of water curling into and engulfing our very-difficult-to-swamp skiff. There was nothing we could do to stop it or evade it. It had us fair and square. So we all took a dunking. But it didn't fill the skiff and there were no follow up monster waves. One was plenty enough for me. We delivered twice to the beach, also a great challenge in this weather. We threw the anchor to help us stabilize the boat during delivery - and to pull out on so no one has to be outside the boat up to their waists so that our outboard has enough clearance even when the wave stands us on the stern. All our boat anchors suffered from the storm yarfing on them. Slightly bent means it can't move in both directions; therefore it can't be trusted to land and grab. But Patrick threw it twice and twice it grabbed. We delivered four bags of fish to the beach in 25 MPH winds without swamping! Yay us! Then we wrapped up the roundhaul, delivered that and came - staggered, really - in. I think that having decided that we will have the tide off, my body is showing me just how tired it is. So falling asleep at the keyboard, I'm about to go to bed at 6:30 and will sleep through the night!!. Yahoo! Boats are safely anchored (I hope - these are strong winds), the nets are in the boats, the crew will get the truck and other equipment up and out of the way of the tide. And we'll set our nets tomorrow at 10 AM.
The fishing continues to be remarkable mainly in its steadiness. We still haven't had a big tide, just chipping away a few thousand pounds at a time. Well, that's better than a few hundred pounds at a time. Sarah took Trina and Bruce into town today to show them where we freeze our kings. I hope that they will be able to take them in for us in the future. We really like to save our kings, but it definitely cuts into our sleeping time to run any in after each tide. If Trina and Bruce are comfortable taking that role, that will ease it for us quite a bit. We continue to break into three skiffs to be sure we have the chance to get through all the nets on the flood, beating the turn of the tide. We missed it one day, but since then, we've been doing well - sometimes getting through them twice before it turns. We made it over 100,000 lbs a few tides ago - and in a few tides, I hope we make it to 150,000. The forecasted winds arrived on the afternoon tide. I was hoping the forecast was just an exaggeration - more fear-mongering. Nope. We have now gone into July 18th. We are just in from the flood pick - at least as much of it as we could manage. The crew did great and it was really hard. The winds are at about 16 MPH tonight. We went out on the flood - swift current, strong wind, pitch black - sounds like setnetting! Jeff is doing a great job as our pilot. He has nerves of steel in the face of big waves and big surf. He dropped us off at the Ambi (and then ran back to shore through the surf to retrieve a forgotten life jacket) before transferring to the New Kid. I don't know how they noticed that the Bathtub was starting to get away from them, but the anchor was dragging and the wind and current were conspiring to push it onto the shore. They rescued it in time. We decided to call it a night and wait until the tide turns and the sun begins to come up. It'll still be windy, but at least we'll be able to see. We all transferred back to the Bathtub - harder than that sounds in winds like these. Jeff and Patrick dropped us off and backed back out before being thrown up on the beach. Matt, Inku, Austin, and Davey ran for the rowboat and pulled it out for them. A rogue wave swamped the rowboat and knocked over the people. They pulled it back to shore, emptied it out, and pushed it back out again. This time they made it. While Jeff was keeping them from being pushed in, Patrick called for the line and tied it off. I asked them to anchor so that the boat would drift over one of the running lines, so we could pull out to it. As I stood in the breakers waiting for them to make it back in, I just wasn't sure how they would get through those breakers without swamping. They were as tall as I am and the rowboat isn't that big. As soon as we could reach them, Inku rushed out to grab the bow of the rowboat and pull it in. This happened to be during the two or three breaker lull. Everyone was OK. Matt observed that this is really fun... once we know that everyone is OK. As we pulled the rowboat the rest of the way in, we noticed another skiff right next to us, swamping. Oh no! It belongs to our neighbors! Patrick went over to let them know - they had the sense to stay in on the flood. There wasn't much to do except for collect things that had been washed out of it and anchor it so it won't be washed out as the tide goes down. We noticed that the Bathtub was working its way in as well. It seems that that anchor was dragging. We've been watching it. It may have dragged into the swamp zone, but stopped on a running line. It seemed to be riding the waves OK, not taking water over the bow. As soon as I finish this, I'll go out and check on it. It's 3:45 AM now. The tide should have turned by now, but it's overcast so it remains black outside. I'll let you know in the next post whether it swamped.
David D left today on the evening jet. He had a training to attend for his other life as a movement teacher, and the opportunity to meet many of his sweetheart's relatives. Even though I know the leaving part of the season is inevitable, I never like that part! I feel like I should get better at it, and yet, I'm still me. And as he was going out, Trina (my dear sister) and Bruce (her capable husband who is about to be drafted into helping us with our many projects) arrived. I am so very happy to have them here. And not only because of the goodies they brought with them - granola, spinach, eggs, brownie mix, and their little dog, Jojo. I have a small shred of civilization left in me and that shred is embarrassed to be such a poor host. We're pretty much sleeping, eating, and fishing - and doing those things at many odd hours of the day and night. Trina and Bruce have a more normal schedule. Our schedules intersect sometimes. I know that they know how it is and they are perfectly capable of amusing themselves. But still -- they came all the way up here and we're not really changing our program much. These next few days are the days that, about a week ago, had the biggest showing at Port Moller. The genetic samples from those days suggest a healthy percentage of salmon heading to our rivers here. So we may be in for a couple of good tides. However, we are also bracing ourselves because the weather forecast is predicting strong - and very strong - winds. Though in weather-speak, they say things like "moderate breeze" and "fresh breeze" when they are referring to winds that has us all lying on the corks to keep them from bouncing over the fairleads and to keep the fish in the boat that we're trying to pick.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Today was a busy fishing day for us. It was so exciting that on the afternoon tide, the fish kept up even on the ebb! It felt good. We still had time to lounge around (meaning, we could have handled more fish if they were there to handle), but it was a really good feeling to have some fish on the ebb, other than those difficult ones we get at the last minute. We handled them well. But because we were busy, David D didn't get his apple pie and homemade ice cream for dessert. Instead he got D&D pizza and brownies. Not a bad consolation dinner. Today's other notable event was the arrival of Sarah Y, a refugee from a drift boat with Egegik setnetting experience. She will be standing in for David while his solar work occupies his attention for a critical few days. It will be so good for Naknek when that installation is in service! The final ADFG announcement of the season is that the fishing period that started July 8th has been extended until August 1 when the fall fishing schedule will resume, from 9 AM Monday to 9 AM Friday. We've had a lot of fishing time this season. In the final news of the day, I thought it was hilarious when Davey asked if he could be promoted to "Duke" from "Davey" when it's time for David D to depart for his other responsibilities. We are clawing our way closer to the painful part of the season (the saying goodbye part) - and this from a person whose hands don't close easily.
Such an odd season! Usually when I talk about scratch fishing, I'm thinking 100 lbs a tide. We've been getting a couple thousand pounds a tide but it takes a whole lot of those tides to make a season. Usually we get a few pretty big tides - thinking about seasons past, a few 20,000 lb tides will boost the season's total really quickly. Then a few more between 10,000 - 15,000, even more in the 2000 - 5000 range and many in the few hundred range. And we've got a season. But this year, we haven't had any of those 20,000 lbs tides yet. We haven't had so many fish that we've had to eat our Clif Bars as we pick... or that we have had to eat our Clif Bars or we'd just run out of gas. Recently, we've had to race the flood to pick through at least once before the tide turns, but that's at least partly because the floods have been small. We haven't had enough water to get to the nets until shortly before the tide turns. The nets have been full - once or twice, even plugged. But then it has died off and the ebb has been slow. Our ability to handle those busy floods, though, has given me much confidence about our ability to handle a 20,000 lb tide should one come our way. Everyone remains well, optimistic, and hard-working. We've had a few days of scorching hot weather which has interfered with people's ability to sleep during the day between tides. But still, we are all out there and rising to whatever the tide asks of us. I am sometimes embarrassed by how mechanically inclined I am not. And I know that this isn't really any big achievement... but I noticed that the fitting that goes into the Yamaha outboard was broken (making it harder to stay connected). So Sarah got another on a trip into town and I replaced it! I think I'll ask Jeff how he cleaned the water out of the fuel system of the Yamaha earlier... and maybe even how he fixed the power pack that took water into the exhaust. He just said that he opened it up and let it evaporate. I know that the second "it" is water, but what is the first "it?" I think the most trying thing about this season is to not become complacent in our grind. We have fished 26 tides since July 1 - and every tide since July 8. It is easy to begin to think that because we had a light tide yesterday, we'll have a light one today. It doesn't work that way - at least not until the end of the season, if then. In fact, for the next three days, we might be in for some of those big tides. The test fishery at Port Moller had some very big catches seven or eight days ago, and the genetic testing they did on those fish suggest that a good percentage of those salmon were headed for us. So the next few days may just wear us out in the best way for fishermen. As of today, the cumulative escapement into the Naknek is 1.2 million and into the Kvichak it's 3.2 million. So both rivers have what they need for the future... and despite the fishing effort, daily escapement remains high. 76,000 escaped into the Naknek today and 114,000 into the Kvichak. We go again tonight at 10:45 PM probably till about 3 AM.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
We've been listening every morning at 9 AM for the announcement that will tell us whether we are allowed to continue fishing or whether we must pull our gear. This morning's announcement told us that the setnetters will be open until further notice. This is because the Naknek River has reached its escapement goal (1.06 million salmon) and so has the Kvichak River (2.85 million). ADFG clarified, however, that the 48 hour waiting period for transfers between districts is still in effect and will continue to be in effect until either July 17 or when the Naknek escapement exceeds 1.4 million and the Kvichak escapement exceeds 4 million. The 48 hour waiting period means that if someone is fishing in Egegik, but wants to start fishing in Naknek/Kvichak, they can notify ADFG of their intention to change districts, but then they must take their nets out of the water for 48 hours until the transfer goes into effect. This prevents people from hopping between districts and lets the ADFG have a much better idea of how strong the fishing effort will be. We had a moderate day tide, but Patrick was able to see a lot of activity in the nets as the evening tide came in. We got out on them as soon as we could and raced to make it through all four nets before the tide turned, again fishing out of all three boats. We ended up with something in the neighborhood of 10,000 lbs. We don't know exactly because a couple of totes went to custom processing for Naknek Seafood's customers and there's a delay in getting the weights on those.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Just a short blog. I'll have to catch up with photos later. All is well here, except for some swollen hands and sleeplessness. It was supposed to be my tide off this morning, but I thought we'd get some fish, so I didn't take it. Austin wasn't going to be outworked by a 61 year-old lady, so he also declined to take the tide off. The morning tide brought only a few so we decided we'd take the afternoon tide off. Since we could sleep later, Austin and I ran some kings into town and got some hardware at Ace to try to fix the rowboat's stern and the ranger's box. And I had my... second? third? shower of the season! Success on the rowboat! Success on the ranger box, though it will be harder to open now. Mostly, we don't need to anymore. I finally lay down at about 5:30 PM. The crew was planning to go out at 8 PM for the evening flood pick. They would have gone sooner, but it's a short tide and we really couldn't get out to the nets yet. I'd been asleep for an hour or so when my phone rang. It was Harry letting me know that they were getting lots of fish and we'd probably get some too. I'd been having second thoughts about taking the tide off anyway because the wind is up again, though not as rough as it was a few days ago. Harry's call decided me. And if it was slow, I could always come back in. I was so glad he called!! We got out as soon as the outboard would push us and we probably had 4000 lbs on our first site. I think it took us an hour and a half to get through just one net. We filled five brailer bags. Thank goodness AGS sent us a tender! We delivered 10,000 lbs to the Beachcomber before they had to go. The crew gets better and better. Poor Austin - he didn't get the call from my brother, so he was sleeping blissfully away in the bunkhouse and missed all the excitement. Jeff piloted the Ambi as expected, and Patrick, David D, and Oksanna crewed - and I put in a guest appearance. David N piloted the New Kid with all new crew (Inku, Davey, and Matt). Both crews did great! Never stopped working, never complained, good to each other, good to the fish, getting faster and faster. We had a good tide! Now it's time for sleep.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
So, it looks like the ranger isn't pulling the skiffs as well as I'd thought - maybe that's true only when it comes to blazing new trails. I wasn't out there, so I don't really know what was going wrong. I just know that the solution involved a long line and the hope of using the crane truck... except that it got stuck just at the bottom of the beach access road. The crew says there are big deep ruts made by the combination of the loaded deuce and a half trucks and the heavy Gehls, and all the mud and high tides we've been having. The AGS drivers didn't want to use their equipment to help pull in the skiff because the ground is so soft there, they don't want to take the chance of getting themselves stuck. I don't know if they'll help pull out the crane truck. Patrick went with Sarah to use the outriggers to lift the truck up and pack gravel under the tires so they could drive out. I hope that works - the tide is coming in. Final report before starting to nap at 5 PM, resting up for the 7 PM flood pick: while Sarah and Patrick were preparing to implement the unsticking plan, Sarah noticed that the hubs hadn't been locked and anyway, a friend just pulled the truck out. Good, one truck safe. All the fish are delivered. The ranger didn't do as well as I'd hoped - the mud has relapsed. But it turns out that the ranger is able to tow the boat through the mud using the pulley. That is great news! All boats are anchored and we are ready for the next tide. Jeff is singing the praises of the roundhaul - where you just pile the whole net, fish, floaters, flounders and all into the skiff when you're running out of water. Then at least everything is clean, even if it is a bit of a mess. I got a text warning that we might expect a wall of fish heading our way late in the week. OK. And just one final word about the crew. This was a ridiculously difficult tide. And everyone stuck with it. That is the sign of a good crew on its way to becoming a great crew. And that ain't easy when the crew has as many new people as this one does. I'm proud and happy to be working with them. And relieved to find that they are made of solid stuff. It's the stuff we're really going to need in the next few weeks. Time to get some rest.
July 10 2016: Happy Birthday Debby, Happy Birthday Bruce, can you do something about these ebb fish?
Debby is my sister closest to me in age. She was always like my partner in the three legged-race. Today is both her birthday and her death day. She was a wonderful sister. I didn't realize how much she meant to me until she died... and then I really realized it. My only comfort is that she is the type of wonderful sister that probably knew perfectly well how much she meant to me and never did hold it against me that I could be (and can be) as dense as I could be/can be/am. It would just be one of those things that she knew and it didn't really matter whether I grasped it or not. I was about to write that I especially miss her fishing. That's true - it's one of the things we did as partners, even when the rest of the family wanted to fish independently. But I'm not sure that's when I especially miss her. It also when I'm wondering which book to read next, or how to treat this lump on my neck or how to make pot roast or how to get flowers to flourish in my yard or where that hand is that I'd like to hold as I find my way through life. That's when I especially miss her. One thing about losing her when I didn't realize how much she meant is that I looked around at other sisters and my brother and other relatives and started to appreciated more explicitly how much they each mean to me. I know everyone says, "family first." But we really weren't that kind of family. From here, though, I'd say that that oversight doesn't really matter. Family really does. So the other Happy Birthday is to Bruce, the charmingly cantankerous husband of my beloved older sister, Trina. I think he's celebrating some anniversary of his 29th birthday today. Trina and Bruce will be visiting on July 16 this year. Yay! (And yes, I have every intention of putting them to work. Bruce knows how stuff works and he's creative. He's gonna get a list.) Ack! We were out at 6:15 this morning for the flood pick. We are getting more fish. And of course, the wind has been blowing, though it calmed down a bit on the ebb. However, the fishing picked up on the ebb. I recall specifically hoping we would NOT have that circumstance this year. Ahem. The powerpack for the hydraulics in the New Kid took water on yesterday evening's tide, so it's out of commission until that can be fixed. Sigh. (It's missing its exhaust, so the water can just pour right in.) I went looking for my turkey baster to suck the water out of the exhaust port and settled for a couple of fuel lines and the thing you check your antifreeze with. It was a pretty good show of fish for a big tide and while I was on the hunt for something to sock out seawater, the crew was able to deliver to a tender (much easier on windy tides in general, especially with a couple thousand pounds of fish on). They returned from that, collected me, and we started going through the net again - more fish! The Ambi crew went through #1 and the inside while the New Kid crew transferred to the Bathtub and went through #3 and #4. We delivered at the last possible moment before the tide receded too far for the boat and the Gehl to meet safely. Then we went back out to try to stay ahead of the ebb fish. The New Kid crew split up with Jeff and Oksanna in the Bathtub on the inside site (because it can go very shallow) and David and Inku on #1 in the power roller-less New Kid. David D (new nickname: Slinghand Duke) and Davey (new nickname: Blade) and Austin and I worked in the Ambi on #3 and #4. They fish just kept coming. Each time we went through it net, it was as if we hadn't picked it - several hundred more pounds, all on the leadline. After we went through #3 for the umpteenth time, we were pretty sure we couldn't get through #4 and get back to #3 before it went dry. So we dropped Blade off with a small tote to pick out the late hitters while we went to #4 to try to fly through. Again, as if the net hadn't been picked. (I'm never sure whether we end up with more because we keep clearing it out. I mean, say we get 300 lbs per pass through each net on the ebb and maybe we can make 2 passes through. That's 600 lbs per net. If we waited till the last minute, would we get 600 on one pull through? Or would some of the fish that were caught between the first and second late ebb pick through not be caught? Maybe if we waited, we would get 450 per site. Anyhow, I'm pretty sure we don't get any fewer for going through it - unless we happen to have the net out of the water and in the boat just when a big school is swimming by.) Jeff and Oksanna needed more help on the inside site and the net went dry under them. Argh! Mud fish. I guess that's not exactly "dry," more like "gooey." They had lots of late hitters and just didn't realize how many fish they had. I happen to be an expert in picking in the mud - I grew up doing it. So I went to help them with that very difficult task while David got the ranger and started the delivery process. I am very happy to report that the ranger is seeming more and more capable of pulling the Bathtub around and through the mud. That is an enormous relief with so many ebb fish! After getting those mud fish picked, I didn't really have much more to contribute. So at 2 PM I came up to get lunch started and found that Matt and Pat (who had the tide off) and Sarah had started lunch (barbecue ribs and mashed potatoes). I mixed up some corn bread. Sitting back in my cabin, I can still hear the ranger running. I have complete faith that they'll get all those fish in and delivered. Addendum: I hurried this post because I suddenly remembered that I hadn't set a timer on the cornbread. Yikes! I just ran over to see if I had created a fire in the stove... Patrick noticed and took it out. It's now 3:30 pm and I think the crew is just about done getting the fish in. I am sorry to say that the tide is now coming back in and we'll need to be out again at 7 PM for the evening tide. My poor exhausted crew!
The day started at 5:30 with the morning flood pick. I had noticed Inku fishing cracker crumbs out of a Ziplock bag and thought that maybe it's time for bread. So when we came in from the flood pick, I asked if they'd rather handle the tide alone while I baked bread. That was a definite yes. Oksanna and Jeff had the tide off, but after they slept a little bit, they got a meal ready for the crew while I made the bread. The crew got to return to a cabin where lunch was ready and where maple bars and four loaves of bread were just about done rising. Oksanna is looking forward to making roti when the next bread need arises. The wind has kicked up and I think it'll keep blowing through the night and through tomorrow morning's tide. We went out for the evening tide at about 6 after watching the neighbors seemingly have very little in their nets. So we weren't expecting much. But we were surprised! And we had to rush to clear the nets before the tide turned. The ebb wasn't quite as full, but we seem to be having a lot of late hitters again. We went through for our last pick in about knee deep water. Patrick went back to walk through ... and found about 60 more! Really, it's highly inconvenient. We got in at about 1 AM and will go again at 6:15 AM. So... time for bed. It's looking a lot like the 2015 season.
We have about 30 minutes before heading out for the next pick. When we're fishing two tides a day, our schedule goes something like this:
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Everyone but Inku and David D (who had the tide off) went out for the morning flood pick at 4 AM and came back just in time for sunrise.