Wednesday, August 3, 2016

July 23 2016: The end of the season looms

This is Fishtival Weekend, the community-wide celebration of the fishing season - specifically, the end of the fishing season. But like last year, the fishing season wasn't really over yet. Even though the loss of the equipment meant that we were out of the game for commercial fishing, we were still fishing for homepack, and there were still lots of fish to catch. I just heard a report that this year has ended up as the fourth largest on record. Now, most of those fish didn't come to our districts. I think Egegik and Ugashik got the lion's share of the return. But that's the way it goes sometimes. Still, our total catch ended up pretty solidly in the middle of how we've done over the past 15 years.

We dropped Trina and Bruce off at the Fishtival Community Bazaar with the hope that we'd be able to attend in a little while after processing the tide's home pack and making crucial progress in closing up for the season. We'd already stripped and bagged most of the nets, and we'd done a great job washing the Ambi, but there was still plenty more to do. Jeff led the crew in cleaning the New Kid, the brailers, and the slush bags while I sorted out the net locker so it could take delivery of all the things we'd need to store. Everything had to come out of the skiffs for storage - lines, anchors, fairleads, rollers, powerpacks, tool boxes, batteries, fuel cells, five-cans, everything. The winter elements in Naknek are not kind and everything does better if it can be under cover.

We knew we needed to ship the Honda outboard south to find someone in the Seattle area who could let us know if there was any hope... and to repair it if possible. But AGS has developed a new policy of not shipping outboards that are just laid on a pallet. Outboards don't fit just right on pallets and the part that sticks off tends to get broken. So we needed to find or build a box to ship it in. Roy found us an outboard pallet that John up at Charlie's Sport Shop in King Salmon had saved. He would give it to us. So it was important to take a trip up there to pick up the pallet and at the same time, drop off the Evinrude 45 that I had earlier broken the mount on. Maybe John could do something about it. When John saw me, he said, "Oh, so you're the lady with the swamped outboard." I was almost surprised he didn't know because all day long, we'd been accepting condolences from people I would have thought had no way of knowing. People all up and down the beach - and on different beaches altogether - seemed to know of our spectacular season finale.

We had the chance to talk with Randy at mug-up. He has been running a tender and with a haunted look on his face, he told me that there are still lots and lots of fish out there. I wished we could keep fishing - it's just that with only one skiff and zero rangers, it would be a very very difficult proposition. What if we got ebb fish? Back in the old days, we would each tie a dingy around our waists and drag it out through the mud, then we'd fill up the dingy with 100+ salmon and walk it in over the water as far as we could. Then we'd drag out a line to meet the dingy and pull it up with the truck. We'd do that over and over and over again. But that would be a lot to ask of this valiant crew after the season we've had. So we just continued with our inside site and that one seemed to keep us pretty busy. This was AGS' last tide for picking up fish - and we sold them 1,126 lbs, and that was after we took a bunch for home pack, and on only one site. Randy was right.

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