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!

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