May 22 to 24, 2006

FINALLY back out fishing after 6 months of watching it
rain. We’ve sold our boat and are now fishing with
others – just could not catch enough fish by
ourselves. Our first opening was at the Taku River,
and I fished with a friend aboard his gillnetter. I’d
never fished this way, so it was a great learning
experience. And, lucky for the skipper, I was a
former old-wood-boat owner, so when anything breaks,
I’ve probably fixed it before so can get to it while
he watches the fishing. The anchor winch went, and we
had to pull the anchor by hand – I think impossible
for one, and barely possible for 2 of us, but we
finally got the anchor up and secure. Of course, that
meant no sleep for the skipper until we fixed it 36
hours later as we weren’t about to set it and have to
pull it by hand again. I eventually jerry-rigged a
broken pin and we were both happy to have the anchor
working so we could get some sleep for a couple hours.

This opening was for 2 days, so you don’t sleep much.
And, as I learned from this experience, the right set
can make all the difference – if you have a good set,
you do all you can to stay in position to keep it, and
if you know where a good set is that someone else
already has, you keep a watchful eye for any
opportunity to get in there and fish yourself.

My skipper had not seen fish handling, dressing and
bleeding, but – and this can be unusual, especially
for old salts – he was willing to let me do my thing
with the fish, and even take in some advice on good
practices for fish handling on his boat. It’s always
fun to see someone’s reaction to pressure bleeding
fish for the first time. The fish came out beautiful
– I was able to watch the professionals at my
processor fillet our catch, and it looked as good as
any fish I brought in off my own boat, and allayed
some of my fears for controlling quality on someone
else’s vessel.

The weather was great. A medium pod of killer whales
came through, which was fun to see after not seeing
them all winter. A seal or sea lion got half a white
king salmon, which was bitter sweet as although the
fish was not saleable, the skipper and I could now
split this fish to take home to our families as
there’s nothing better than the rare white king.

I also bought and had installed a tail gate lift,
which I can’t believe took me so long. I can wheel
the fish up the dock ramp, set them on the lift, and
then up it goes into the truck bed. This used to be
the worst part of moving fish, and now it’s a breeze
and well worth the $1,300 paid.

With few king salmon fisheries on the west coast due
to low returns, and a lower than expected return to
the Copper River, fish prices are through the roof, so
to speak. So, we’re getting into the fish buying
business at the riskiest time, but with many years of
quality control behind us it’s nice to know you’ve got
the best of the best to sell.

Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
F/V Dutch Master
Hook and Line Fresh, Frozen, and Smoked Wild Salmon
Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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