5/25/2008

Gittin the Fish - How it works

First you get the net onto the boat. The net is 150 fathoms x 5 fathoms. On top there is a float line and on the bottom there is a lead line. We stacked it on the dock on a tarp and pulled it off with the net reel.
It goes over the bow roller and through the fairleads, which slide back and forth to help wind the net evenly on the reel.

Next you go to the cannery (our relationship is with Copper River Seafoods thus far in the season) or the tender boat and get some chipped ice into the fish hold. The ice lasts quite a while actually. We have a big snow shovel on board for moving the ice around. Note stylish double-funnel day marker.
Then you wait. And you check the Fish & Game website to see whether ADF&G is going to announce an "opener" - usually 12 hours long this early in the season - when you can fish.

Fast forward to putting the net in the water. You tie a big orange buoy to one end and throw it over the bow roller. The bow roller has a hub like a 4wd hub on a pickup. You lock the hub, turn on the bow roller to spin seaward and idle backward for a few minutes while 900' of net rolls off the bow. That's why its "drift net" fishing.
Then you "soak the net" for a while - maybe 15 minutes at first just to check whether you are in the fish. When you're pretty sure you're in the fish, you might leave it an hour or more. You can even drop your end of the net on a second buoy and putter around to the first end to check for fishies.

When you're ready to pull the net, you just turn on the net reel and wind it in. This is a red net so the mesh size is about 5 inches, just the size to catch a sockeye (red) salmon around the gills. They can see the net in clear water but they get frustrated and try to swim through it anyway. When a fish comes over the bow roller you stop the real and paw through the net to "pick" the fish out. Sometimes they get pretty wrapped up and tangled.
You ease the fish out of the net. Those blackish lines on its back are from the net. You see those on fish at the market and you know it was caught in a gillnet as opposed to some other method. Some are dead in the net but most come onto the boat alive and the squirm around and slime you while you work. Raingear is key. You can see my black raincoat is covered with silver scales. Then you reach under the gillplate and pop the artery in there to bleed the fish. This helps preserve the meat.
Sometimes you get lucky and another species, like this king (chinook) salmon will get tangled in the net. Obviously he can't get his head through it but sometimes just his teeth or nose will get caught. Often times one person can stand next to the net roller with a big dipnet watching for kings to make sure they don't fall out when the net comes out of the water. This one was just barely caught but he got pulled over the bow roller and flew into the boat! He's about 19 lbs, a little smaller than average. We sold him for $6.70/lb. You can buy him for about $25/lb.

Here they are on ice in the brailer bag. The bag will get picked up by the crane on the tender boat and weighed and we will get a little ticket that says how much fish we delivered and what kind. Straight to a market near you.

5 comments:

Trifarina said...

Seriously, can I come along some time?

Fault Rocks said...

yes! you will love the hydraulics and all the levers.

Ishmael said...

Working on a bowpicker, eh? Never liked them. Too much bobbing up and down at the bow for me.

Coming to Kodiak later in the season? Look me up at Tony's.

Fault Rocks said...

i have never seined but I sure like the bowpicker. I don't mind the bobbing around so much, having graduated up from a heavy double-ended sail boat.
wish i could come on down to the rock but i just used up all my vac time, enroute back to ZA right now.
enjoy the sunshine, maybe I'll come visit you next year. there are some great rocks on the east beach of pasagshak point that need checkin on.

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