Saturday, August 1, 2009

Old boats, New Tales

We took a side trip into Ninilchik harbor, where we used to base from in our old halibut longline days, and lo and behold, our old vessel was still there. When we fished her, (as did Orin), she went by the name of Brandi Jo, but now is the Cindi Jo. The Russian fiberglass boats are the majority in the harbor, but she still looks tough as ever in all her aluminum glory!

Well, our part of the season is over - the tales are still being told, and the memories and scars will last for a while, but for us, back to the “other” life! . The Thursday opening was cancelled, and many of the fish operations pulled their gear out of the water and began the shutdown process for this season, so we felt it was time to leave.
We fly standby to take advantage of Emery’s benefit with the airlines that lets parents get around pretty cheaply, so getting home was somewhat of an adventure in its’ own right.
We flew in a Cessna Grand Caravan operated by Grant Airways out of Kenai (holds about 8 people) up to Anchorage on Thursday night. The hospitality of my cousin Katherine, her husband Brian, and the 3 Dean boys was welcome – she picked us up at the airport, fed us supper, gave us a place to sleep after several hours of reminiscing, then got up at 4 am and took us back to the airport to get our plane.
We got out of Anchorage fine, but were stuck in Seattle till 9 that night. Finally we got a place on a plane to Missoula, about 3 hours from home. We called David, my climbing buddy, on the off chance that he was visiting his daughter Ashley in Missoula and we could bum a ride. He and Debbie were on their way home from Missoula, but he delivered his wife to their home in West Glacier, turned around and drove back to meet us at the airport at 11:30pm, then drove it over again! What a guy! We finally got home to slobbery kisses from Willie at about 3:30 am!
Stay tuned for next year – we’ll either own a site ourselves, or be checking out trollers down in Southeast Alaska. Want to read a good fishing book? Try “Alaska Blues”, by Joe Upton.


Here’s Todd with the largest of the Kings we got on Monday.

I still hope to do a post on the infamous Captain Kenai Kev, our fearless motorman. It could be a book, if I got even half of it, I think! It may take another week before I get it all out, but don’t go away yet! This is Lovie and Kev with one of the King Salmon we got.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Clams, Tides, and Kids

Lovie took the kids clamming on Saturday, and we took the results to Uncle Virgil's Saturday for supper. That, along with his gourmet spaghetti, made for a good meal. This photo is about half-way through the cleaning process--just for those who are a little bit squeamish about food that isn't pre-packaged! We've already removed the shells, but haven't separated the necks from the feet, or cleaned the innards out yet. Plus, you can't quite communicate the aroma via blog -----

Anyone interested in a great place to stay when you come to Alaska, check out Uncle Virgil's cabins at the Anchor River. Great fishing available nearby, and I highly recommend the management!

So we've had a very sporadic week fishing, due to the high tides and low fish counts in the rivers. The high tides washed out the bottom 3 feet or so of our road down the bluff, so getting the boat and trailer off the beach ( which is completely awash in any tide over about 18 feet) has been impossible. We made arrangements to use the neighbor's road, but it was still a problem. Their road also washes out, but they are aggressive with their front-end loader in between tides, and generally access is possible.
The high tides have brought logs and all sorts of debris floating up and down the inlet, so net picking sometimes resembles a logging operation more than a fishing one!
The fish escapement up the river has been a little low, so they cancelled some regular fishing days, and we had a stretch that was pretty slow. Right now the only fishery opening at all is the 1/2 mile corridor along the Kasilof beach area -- the drift boats and all others are shut down. The 1/2 mile is where we are fishing, so we may get back in the water again today.
Monday, they didn't open us up until 10 am, and we shut down at 9pm. Emery and Todd came on Friday night, so Lovie got a break while they took over in the boat. Emery was back in her element as "Super Set-Net Emery" or "Pigtails" as she was known by before! Once an ocean fisherman, it doesn't take but a minute back on the sea to feel at home! We caught 2 smaller kings in amongst the 50 or so Reds, and it was great to see Todd's eyes and smile as he helped get them in the boat!!
It was a long day -- up at 5 to check the message regarding whether we would fish or not, then 1 am by the time we got the boat and nets all sorted out and ready to go again -- we also filleted a box of fish for the kids to take home for their troubles.
We almost had a catastrophe -- when we put the boat in at low tide, we miscalculated how far up the beach the tide would come, so the truck and trailer got parked right up against the breakwater, between surf and log wall. When we returned on high tide, waves were already breaking against the passenger side door. We still had a half-hour of incoming tide, and knew that the truck would be completely submerged if it didn't get move. I jumped in, and luckily it started! My only way out was to back the trailer along the breakwater and then pull it as high as I could up on the gravel. The breakers kept slamming me on the side, but I kept the backing straight and managed to keep the engine running long enough to get clear! Moments of adrenaline -- something I seem addicted to! All's well that ends well...
I had to get up at 4am today, take the 4-wheeler a mile down the beach and recover an anchor that we had to cut loose -- it had fouled around a rock, and we couldn't get it free from the boat when we were picking up gear at high tide. At the 4am low, I drove right to it, dragged it out from under the rock it was hung on, got the buoy, and drove back home. Lovie, bless her heart, was very kind to let me warm my frozen toes and fingers on her when I crawled back in to bed. She did scream a time or two, but that's reasonable!
We are waiting to hear about an opening later today, but some part of me hopes it doesn't materialize... !
Emery and Todd fly out this evening, then on to home tomorrow morning. Les and Annie come home tomorrow, and then we leave at the end of the week.

The Last Week

Well, it's our last week here, and we finally found our dream home! This gem of the oceans is located in a tidewater pool out on the Homer Spit, a 7-mile long piece of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay, at Homer. We were down there on Sunday -- stayed Saturday night at Uncle Virgil's, had a potluck at Jim and Donna Toci's, then went to Homer to see Gail Sorenson, a dear old friend from EMT days at the Homer Fire department. Emery and Todd are here, and we went out on the Spit to be tourists and look at the boats. This one caught our fancy, but I don't see a For Sale sign anywhere! Oh well...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Living Space

Home, as we know it, and all the fine necessities of life!

My dear Aunt Katy pointed out in an email today that I have a cousin visiting a "posh" resort in St. Augustine, Florida this weekend, and mentioned some of the nice things that they would be involved in. Opposite ends of the country, and more or less opposite ends of the accommodations spectrum, but both of us are probably happy with the way things are!
I haven't said a whole lot about the actual living situation here, as the fishing operation takes precedence, but this little section might give you an idea of what it's like here.
There are several structures on the site, along with several trailers and other sleeping places. Typical of Alaskan working ventures, utility has been the driving force for construction -- not aesthetics or what the latest home show had to offer! The rustic little plywood sauna felt awesome when we fired it up last night! The larger of the two buildings shown above is the nerve center of the camp. It's the kitchen, dining, office, living room, and observation post. About 12 x 14 feet, it does it all, in style! There's electricity, telephone, and running water -- (if you run out of water in your jugs, you run out, flip a switch, and fill the jugs from the running water in the hose, flip the pump off, and run back in!) Can't beat that! The oceanside wall has a 4 x 8 window, so there is a magnificent view of the ocean. This is situated about 10 feet from an 80 foot bluff that drops down to the beach -- some of the pictures of beach nets in earlier posts were taken from this location.
We sleep in the master suite with Les's permission and absence ... it's a nice 5th wheel trailer with a wonderful bunk and the best amenity of all -- a hot water shower! Lovely after a cold, fish-slimed day at the beach!
There are a couple of other wooden bunkhouses for use when all hands are around; Emery and Todd are going to bunk in the "motorhome" wing of the estate.
In the center of it all is the cutest little cottage that is under construction -- wonderful wall of windows facing Redoubt, with a basement, loft, and all. Should be nice when completed -- I see a foundation extension from the house, but I am not sure what the plans are for there.
The second photo is for those less privileged to envy -- the Facilities. At the north end of the property is a path out into the woods -- you can't see over the fireweed and other vegetation -- and at the end of the path, the Moon and Star room. Nothing beats the daily trip down the path, with the door open to the sea and the sound of the surf. I definitely would remodel and add the Jumbo seat, however -- my only complaint is the mini-seat, and I DO find the duct tape holding it together a bit irritating! No flushing, just drop in a cup full of powdered lime... flush potties are overrated in our society.
We use an old F250 Ford with big whoopie tires for the sand for our beach truck. There is also a nice Yamaha 4-wheeler that serves as utility runabout -- I see by the look in Lovie's eye that she probably needs one of these at home! She uses it to go most everywhere, since she popped her knee out real bad and can hardly walk around. Same knee she had operated on last year, so I think we'll see about a refund from the doc. Health care reform needed here...
Well, the high tides are on their way down now, and it will be back to fishing. Kevin's back needed a couple of days recuperation, and the piles of logs and debris picked up off the beach and deposited in our nets by the high tides made fishing go on hold for a few days. We've been mending nets, fixing vehicles, doing laundry, running the smokehouse (smoked about 10 nice salmon with alder! Yum.) and other menial duties for long enough. Em and Todd get in around midnight, and more than likely we'll fish tomorrow! Better go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Fish

This is a nice 39-pound female King Salmon.

Well, Monday fishing was sort of laid back. We set in glassy water this morning, and just tied up on the buoy and waited for slack to turn the nets, as it was just about an hour till the water stopped running so fast.
We turn the nets on these really low tides, because on a couple of the sites there are rocks that the lead lines get to when the water is down, and they can get hung up. We just point the boat against the tide, pull the cork and lead lines over the bow, put a couple of pins up to push against, and steadily move the net the opposite way from what it has been filling. Looking from above, imagine 2 pink buoys as the edge of a mouth. The tight line stretches between them, with just a little sag in the direction of the tide -- the upper lip. The corks make a bigger arc downstream, and form the lower lip. It looks like a whole bunch of smiley faces from up here on the bluff. When we turn the net, we start on the bottom lip and poke it up to where the nose would be. When the tide starts running in the opposite direction, then the smiley reappears, inverted. Us moving it keeps the chance factor down as far as snagging the bottom goes.
We caught about a million flounders, that basically just foul up the net. We caught a lemon sole that we filleted for a meal, and somewhere in the middle of getting all this miscellaneous stuff, this nice 39 pound female King decided to stop in the middle of our net. Pretty nice fish for a guy from Montana!
We set both our beach nets this morning(Tuesday) on low tide, but no outside nets -- the weather forecast is for 30-50 knot winds, with seas to 7 feet, and we really don't feel up to pulling gear in that! The water is glassy, but the wind is just starting to make new ripples...
We picked up 50 razor clams while setting the beach nets this morning, and are frying them up for supper. They are a lot smaller than they were 30 years ago -- continuous picking over the years has reduced the average size by a bunch. Still taste good, though!
Well, Em and Todd are supposed to show up Friday -- looking forward to that! Lovie has a swollen knee, and my broken rib talks to me when I cough, but other than that we are having a good time. Miss Willie....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Low vs High Tides

These were taken from the exact same spot today, 6 hours apart. In the one, you see a beach net stretched out on the beach, high and dry. The next one, at high tide, shows the boys picking fish out of that net from the boat. The low tide this morning was 1.1, which means it was 1.1 feet above the median tide level. The high tide today is 13.5 feet, so what you are seeing is only about 12 feet of water difference. Now figure that the inlet is 30+ miles wide, over a hundred miles long, and you are talking about a lot of water moving! Our highs and lows get extreme this week, with the lowest being minus (-) 5.4 and a high of plus (+) 21.7, for a difference of 27.1 feet of water on Thursday -- double what you are seeing here!
Went to Kenai today with Rich and Tina Caffroy, our neighbors from our cabin in 1978. We've both raised families in the interim, lots of water under the bridge, but great to be with them. Talked to the famous fisherman from Sitka, Keith Billi, today -- he's down slaying Coho(silvers) using a hand trawler, where the fish pay for the priviledge of jumping out of the water and biting the hooks he drags around. Sounds nice -- low tides, lots of fish, no net hauling -- Good Fishing, buddy! Ski with you this winter in Kalispell!
We sat today's emergency opener out, as Kevin had lots to get done, and we didn't mind the break too much! Back at it again tomorrow morning!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Night Woes

The photos: The neighbor boys getting ready to set their beach net.

Well, a day off finally! We are in Kenai at the laundromat getting a few clothes washed up -- the site has running water from a hose, but no laundry setup that we can find! The tourists had the closest laundromat all jammed up, so we came up here to find one in an out-of-the-way spot. Alaska may be the "Last Frontier", but it sure has a lot more "pioneers" than it did 25 years ago!
Well, we had a wild and exciting day on Friday! Once again, too many fish made it to the biologist, so he opened an emergency opening for the 1/2 mile corridor along the approach to the Kasilof river from 10am to 2am Saturday. It was beautiful and still when we set our nets at 10, and we picked them pretty quickly and got quite a few fish. Things were lining up right for us to work on the beach net, so we landed the skiff and set one beach net. Then, we went back out to the outside sets and tied up so we could pick fish before the tide changed, and it was still lovely. There were some big 3-4 foot swells coming in from the Southwest, but no wind, and it was just pleasant bobbing around in the sea. The weather held for the afternoon pick on the low tide, and we even got to have a couple of hour nap in between outings.
Kevin's wife Robin and kids Tristan and Aurora came and joined us for a Montana deer steak supper, and we had a good time visiting.
The evening high tide was at 1am, and we had to have gear out by 2am, so we knew that night would complicate things. To make it more exciting, the wind began to pick up about 7, and the combo of wind from the SW with the incoming tide surge stacked our waves up really nicely. The daylight here is such that we are able to see dimly, but well enough to find gear and tie knots as late as midnight -- after that, it gets a little dark.
Our first order of business was to pick fish from the beach net, but do it from the boat. The tide is high, remember, so what was just lying on the sand 6 hours ago is now in 16 feet of water. Unfortunately, the surf also builds and breaks at about this point, so things can get lively in a hurry! I snagged the outside buoy and we brought the net across the boat, broadside to the surf. We pulled along the net, picking fish out, and using the net to keep us from washing in to the zone of no return. The swells would rear up out of the night and slam us sideways, but fish were coming in. I saw a nicer than usual fish coming in, and it turned out to be a 25 lb King salmon, which is worth double the price of the reds, so that was a nice bonus. Once we went as far as Kevin thought wise, we started the outboard and cast the net free, then turned and faced the waves. That's when you sure hope the motor doesn't decide to cough!
The outside picks were work, with the big swells, some breaking at times, thrashing us around while we pulled the net along and got fish.
Once the nets were cleaned, we cast one end free, and Kevin kept our bow pointed into the waves so the boat doesn't swamp. Lovie pulls the cork line and I pull the lead line into the boat, piling it in as fast as we can pull. That isn't very fast, with the wind and waves and tide, I can tell you! Once the 210 feet of net is in and untied from the buoy, we got to do it again, and then as a last treat, we went back to the surf line and pulled the beach net. My lead line hung up on a rock, and we couldn't get it free -- I thought we were surely done for, but Kevin had me take a bight on a big pin we have sticking up with the lead line, and he motored along the net until it came free. I'll do a post on Kevin sometime, but suffice it for now by saying he's an awesome motorman with years of experience in most of the Alaskan fisheries -- I don't worry about his judgment or boat handling skills, which is nice!!
We finally got the boat beached after a ride home using a spotlight to find hazards, the fish got delivered, and the nets all stacked and ready to go out again at 2:30am. Lovie and I were sort of jazzed up with adrenaline, so it took us a while to get to sleep. Got up this morning and went down about 8 to move the boat off the beach, as the tides are increasing and our parking space will be unreachable by truck in a few days.
We may fish tomorrow if they open again, and for sure Monday. Weather forecasts are for seas 4-5 feet, which is the biggest we've heard forecast yet. We all agreed that we will NOT have gear in the water if it is blowing and we have to work on it in the dark again -- that was just a little too exciting.
Body fat level is dropping -- if we survive, this may be marketable as a great way to get in shape!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This is todays surf, with our neighbors launching one of their skiffs. It was glassy calm at 7am, and we set nets with no problem at all. We were only able to set 2, as the beach net was at an inconvenient level, so we just set outside. The tide was going out, and by the time it was ready to pick fish at around 11:30 am, the wind from the southeast had kicked up to about 15 knots, and the seas were 3-4 feet average. We had to launch the skiff into these, and that can get real exciting! What happens on a skiff launch is as follows.
We back the boat on a trailer down into the edge of the surf, until it is just floating. We place it so that it is parallel to the shore, rather than stern out, as recreational boats do. The trailer is a frame that is wheels with an arch arrangement over the boat, and nothing under it. There are 2 hooks on pulleys that come down and hook inside the boat at a balance point. There is a hand cranked winch located on the arch overhead that raises or lowers the hooks, and thus the boat. Once the boat is in the surf, I usually am the one in the boat cranking like mad to lower the hooks to where we can disconnect. Today with the bigger waves, the crank got away from me and spun wildly, smacking my hand before I could get free. It didn't break, but I got a dandy 2 inch gash and a hand about twice the normal size!
The bow line is then removed by Lovie, and she puts it underneath the launch line running from the beach out far into a fixed anchor in the water. This way, the boat doesn't drift away from the line in all the hubbub. Kevin drives the trailer away, parks it above the tide line, and runs back to the boat. Meanwhile, I have braced both feet on the inside of the bow, and am pulling like fury to get the nose pointed into the waves. When it is facing the right way, the other two push the stern as hard as they can to get it moving, then they jump in and grab the rope to help me pull. The 3 foot waves that become 5 feet when they break are now beating on the boat, trying to force it to shore -- it's us or them! Kevin's first rule to us was that whatever we do -- fall, slip, spin, whatever -- DO NOT LET GO THE LINE! If we do, the skiff instantly spins sideways, and depending on the load and wave level, can flip upside down. Guess he's pulled a body out of that situation, and doesn't want to repeat it.
After the initial rush, just when my arms are absolute jello with no reserves left, we are usually far enough off shore for the motor to lower and get started. Whew!
My post is then as bowman, Kevin as skipper, and Lovie hangs on getting stuff ready in the center. I love my post -- I hang on to the bow line, brace my feet, stand in the very front, and get the absolute wildest, coolest, bumpy ride of the planet! I watch for obstacles, keep track of where we are going, and get to lean way over the front with a gaff hook to try to snag the buoys or nets as needed. Today as we motored against the surf, the waves just got bigger the further we got from shore. I was 8-10 feet in the air on some of them, then plunging down at a breakneck speed to crash in the trough, then do it again! It is like holding a rope, leaning back, swivelling your body from side to side on a tippy platform, then doing deep knee bends to cushion the shock, and doing it all over again for half an hour at a time! Love it!
No fishing tomorrow unless they give us an emergency opening, which is being debated. Should find out by 10 pm tonight.
Weather did increase our fish intake -- we got about 235 pounds of reds today, a little better than yesterday. 1000 pounds would be nice!
More to come!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The picture is of Lovie with our first Reds!

Well, we finally caught fish today! Overall catch was pretty small, but a catch nonetheless! We sold a total of 37 Reds with a total weight of 196 lbs. That's about 5.3 pounds per fish, which is not bad.

It all started this morning at 3:30am when we had to get up and get things ready to make a beach set by 5, then 2 boat sets as soon as possible thereafter. We got to fish till 6pm, when the gear all must be out of the water. A couple of info bits might make this actually mean something to those who haven't got any idea what I'm talking about!

First, the openings, or times that we can fish, are pretty complex. I don't pretend to understand the rules, but the general idea is that fish are trying to get to the river to spawn, and we're trying to catch them. So are other predators, and sport fishermen once they actually reach the river. Just to tell you how many of THEM there are, try bumper to bumper traffic non-stop from Anchorage, and shoulder to shoulder fishermen in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers when we came down on Saturday.
There are some "regular" fishing days, typically Monday and Thursday from 7 am to 7pm. There are laws that mandate a 24 hour and a 36 hour closure, not fished each week, which can vary from week to week as to where the time is closed off.
The biologists that monitor things on the rivers determine each day, usually by the time the fishing day is done, what will happen the next day or two. There is a phone hotline that plays a recorded message, that we check religously. So, at noon today, we know we weren't going to have to fish all night, but would fish a regular 7-7 day tomorrow. Beyond that, we don't know!

The beach set is made from a semi-permanent anchor setup out in the surf. Today, we could reach the buoy with the truck at low tide, just before opening time. We hook our net lines ( cork- the top line, and lead-the heavy bottom line) to lines running from the anchor buoy. We have pre-stacked the net in the back of the pickup so it will flake out without tangline, and we drive toward the beach, following another line that is always left connected to the buoy setup. This line, or "Tight Line" runs to a post embedded on the beach. The Tight Line runs thru the buoy setup and back to another post on the shore. Thus, once the net is attached to the line, you can adjust how far out in the water it actually sets, if needed. We pull the net up as far as it will go, and attach it to the heavy post onshore. It is just laying there on the beach, and when the tide comes in, the corks begin to float and it is fishing. We were able to check most of it from the boat today, and the rest we sat and watched as the tide went out, picking fish as it receded.

The offshore sets are a little more technical. Without getting in to detail this post, there are 2 permanent anchors with buoys for a site, spaced where a 210 foot net will fish between them. A Tight Line holds them the prescribed distance apart. We come in the boat, hook a big snap to the tight line, tie the ends to one buoy, and race like the dickens to the other buoy, letting the net fly out the back as we go. With tide, waves, and wind pushing against you, it can be a real race to get all the way to the last buoy. If we do, I clip that end to the buoy, and we get out of the way. The net is now fishing. It's about 18 feet deep with the lead lines pulling down to spread it, and the corks floating it. Fish swim along and get stuck in it, hopefully! More details later, as we fish at 7 tomorrow and are exhausted! Pulling lines in and out of the boat all day, bouncing around at high speed standing in the bow of the skiff, and tossing fish sort of does it to you!! Awesome workout!

Sad news -- we just got news from Annie that Les's dad, Norman, passed away this evening at 6pm Montana time. That's never easy, and our thought are with them.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Learning Curve

Tuesday - a 24 hour mandatory closed window, so I'll try to get updated between other tasks.
We still haven't caught any fish, but not for lack of good fishing. The neighbor are hauling out excellent catches, and the official numbers reaching the rivers continue to increase. The said around 15,000 fish came up the Kenai river on Saturday, and they all have to swim past us to get there!
Kevin came yesterday and we got all the education our little peabrains could handle, so we launched a skiff and went out to see what our bodies could do. I have a number of muscles left, I'm sure, because they are all sore! Maybe if I explain how it works, you'll see why!

The fish: The main fish caught here is the sockeye, or Red salmon. The fish in this area were hatched in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and are mature fish trying to return to their river to spawn. They weigh roughly 4-7 pounds at this stage. Look them up for all the real scientific details. The occasional King gets in the net, and they range up to 80 pounds; later in the game, a few Silvers (Cohoe) begin to appear, but this fishery does not target them.

The place: Look on your Alaska map and find the town of Kenai, just down the coast from Anchorage. Follow the coast south a few miles, to Cape Kasilof, just near the mouth of the Kasilof River. Locally called "Humpy Point", this is about 5 miles north of us. Cook Inlet is the water part -- roughly 30 miles across, it runs from the open ocean all the way up past Anchorage. Prevailing winds from the south bring the big Pacific swells up the inlet. It can be calm and glassy, or quite exciting even close to shore!

The tide: The tide rises and falls, as you all learned in grade school. What most of us don't learn until you see it in action, is just what a force this really is! Here in the Inlet, when the tide rises, water from the Pacific comes flowing into the inlet as the level changes. For 6 hours it streams in, just like an immense river headed north. On shore, the level rises, i.e. the tide rises.
In the water, you can anchor your boat, and there will be a big wake behind it, due to the rushing water. It's a scarier force when you work with fishing gear than the size of the waves, because one slip and everything is out of control. Of course, waves don't exactly help the process, and they do occur here. Yesterday morning, the 24 foot skiffs used to fish were going completely out of sight in the troughs of the waves, about a half mile offshore. Our fishing limit for setnet is a mile and a half.

The sites: People lease the sites from the State of Alaska. There is a huge pile of sandbags holding down an anchor arrangement, which has a big orange buoy attached to massive ropes. About 200 feet away is a second such arrangement-- just the length of one net.
You have to own a commercial fishing permit to set the net, and these also are bought and sold since only a certain number of permits are allowed by the state. So, you lease a site, and you have to also own a permit to set a net on it.

The boat: To get out and fish, you have to use a boat in general. Most use open skiffs around 24-26 feet overall, powered by an outboard engine. They are heavy aluminum, not your average sheet-metal recreational boat, and are extremely seaworthy. You have to launch and land them directly from the beach, which can be a real trick, as well as dangerous. Each site has it's own launch ropes that run from a huge piling on the beach out to an anchor site several hundred yards out beyond the low tide mark. The boat is trailered down to the water and unloaded in the surf. The bow man takes the rope and begins to pull the bow around to face the surf. The rest of the crew pushes and gets the boat headed in the general direction, then climb in and grab the rope. It's a hand over hand sprint against the waves for a hundred feet or more, until the motor can be safely lowered and started. Did I mention I am SORE today? I immediately lost my feet while pulling furiously, and floundered around till I could keep pulling. You simply don't let go of the rope, because the boat will swing sideways in the surf, and if the right wave is there, flip it upside down. People die this way, so you don't let go!
Landing, you brace yourself and the skipper speeds full throttle with the surf to get as far on the beach as possible. Again, Lovie and I weren't quite expecting the abrupt stop on the sand, and flopped all over the boat when we hit!

more later - gotta go mend nets.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Well, we made it! Left Kalispell at 6am, Seattle at 8am, and were in Anchorage at 10:30am. Of course there were a few hours added in there, but it all works out when we head home! Cousin Wayne and wife Lynne met us at the baggage terminal -- a very nice surprise! We hope to meet up with them a little later for a better visit-- it's only been 15 years or so since we saw them!
Les and Annie were about 30 minutes out, and were to head back to Montana at 3, so we got to have a burger and go over the basics. Short course, but we at least found our way down the Kenai to the fish site and figured a few things out!
We contacted Kevin, Annie's cousin who is going to be our mentor for the next few weeks - we get together tomorrow evening to get ready for Monday's opening. I'll describe more of what goes on when I learn it myself!
We're situated up on a bluff about 100 feet above the beach, looking directly across at the infamous Mt. Redoubt that has been erupting for the last while. Right now, we can't see it because the fog is so thick that the beach is barely visible. The neighbors are all pulling their gear in, as the opening is over at 10pm tonight. I could hear several boats out searching around in the fog for their buoys, but it must be pretty tough! There seemed to be a lot of fish in the nets when we watched earlier -- a good sign? I have a feeling this 3 weeks is going to build up my back, arms, shoulders, callouses, etc. May need a few weeks to recuperate.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Are we ready?

Lovie and I decided sometime this spring that life was just a little too tame with the kids married off and all our friends acting old. Work has been slow for us as for most of the US, and somewhere in the back of our minds stirred the memories of fishing commercially in Alaska 30 years ago.
Em had spent a summer on a beach site on the Kenai a few years back, and the thought crossed our minds to see if we still had what it took to live the life, even for a few weeks.
Contact with Les and Annie developed into a commitment, and the time has come. We leave tomorrow for the North, and all it may hold. Pictures and comments to follow. The dog and house are in the good hands of the "other" daughter, and we rest easy knowing she's in charge.
Developments with Les's dad's health may accelerate our learning curve, as they will only pass us in the airport and give last minute instructions! Talk about fish or cut bait....!