June 19th, 2011
Arriving in Ugashik we drop the hook near the northern boundary of the district and wait for first light. It is here that we make our first set of the season. Every geographical feature has a different name and these names aren’t always common between different fishing groups. The “condos” to one group may be known as “the white house” to others. Like the explorers of old, geographical features are often named after things that is missed at home. The “witch’s tit”, the “cigar bar”, the “shark’s tooth”, we decribe our location from geographical features. This semantical code is partly how fishermen keep information sacred within their groups. Honey holes and sweet spots are all information that are prized and kept quiet. Knowledge comes from experience and working for different operations is one way to learn more and more about different fishing styles… and different honey holes.
Our first day of fishing is rewarded with 4600 pounds. This is a great catch for such an early season. However, we have a lot of operational procedures to work out. The net has been getting caught on our salmon slide, ripping long glaring holes in the net. The greenhorn spends most of the time running around in circles and we are conscious of making sure that he doesn’t get hurt. Fishing is dangerous. At one point, the toggle on his hood gets caught in the net as it is paying out overboard. There is a scream as his hood is instantly sucked closed around his head. He is a hooded cyclops with a little anus of an eye. Blind and the gear still pouring overboard! He gets low and out of the way of the net to get himself sorted. On deck the mood switches from silent concern to snickering laughter as we figure out that he’s okay. Shaken but not broken. This narrowly averted accident serves as a good lesson learned. Keep all your snaggy shit tucked in and out of the way. Eternal vigilance, a sense of humor, and clear communication need to happen in order for deck to operate smoothly. We’ve got to watch each other’s backs. Our safety and livelihood depend on it.
Once the net is paid out and we start holding the set, the crew can kick back a bit as Bruce goes to work shaping the net and scooping up fish. Here we are enjoying the weather and the view of the volcano:
These early days of fishing, they have us on a pretty light schedule so we spend a lot of time anchored up or going dry up in the rivers. Dago Creek is a good place to get shelter in the event of a blow. The tides are sometimes 20 feet! – so there’s a lot of current going through and it’s easy to go dry – even unintentionally. On a good day, we can cross the mud flats and stretch our legs a bit on the spongey tundra.