Roadtrip to Sitka

For some reason, I thought about a trip to Sitka to
buy king salmon from the last 2 days of the winter
king season. Prices had falled from the highs of over
$8 at the dock, so I thought maybe I could go buy a
few fish and get some king salmon as we’ve been out
for months.

Turned out the ferry schedule was perfect. I work at
my other job Wed-Sun. The ferry left Mon at 8 am, and
returned on Wed at 945 am, so I’d be back in time for
work at 1 pm (I work swing shift). I got out of work
on Sun. evening at 8 pm, and then had to get all my
totes out and santized and on the truck. Sara helped
me to take the cap off the truck first, then I loaded
up the totes. Then to find the fish tickets and my
licenses, etc so I could buy fish.

I’d called my friend Paul in Petersburg, and another
friend Chris in Juneau for some ideas on who might be
fishing over here that I or they would know. Paul
gave me a friend here in Sitka, and his friend Dave
gave me the name of his friend, Jim, who had plenty of
fish to sell. Chris reminded me to call Hank, an
oldtimer who everyone knows and loves. Hank gave me
the name of a troller who started trolling the same
year I did, and who was trolling out of Sitka. I
called him, and he had a dozen or so fish to sell.
So, I knew I would get a few fish, at least, and the
ferry was not so expensive that I’d be losing alot of
money if I couldn’t get any fish, as my buddy Bob now
works here, and Sitka is a good place to go just about
anytime. You can’t drive to Sitka (or anywhere else,
for that matter) from Juneau, so the ferry is the only
option to take your vehicle.

Got on the ferry about 7 am. The fast ferry is a
catamaran and can make it to Sitka in 4 hours. Once
in Sitka, I went to the first processor I could find,
and they agreed to sell me ice, although the manager
was a little wary, asking me questions about what I
was doing. I just told the truth, that I was here to
buy fish, and I think when he saw I wasn’t taking tons
of ice, he wasn’t as worried about me taking fish that
may have come to his plant.

I picked up the dozen fish from the first boat, and
then 2 boats from Juneau showed up with plenty of big
beautiful king salmon. They had about 60 fish between
them, and the average weight was over 17 lbs dressed –
the largest avg. weight kings I’d ever seen from
trollers. I wasn’t thrilled with some of their cohos
I purchased last year, and told them so. It must have
got through, because the fish were absolutely
gorgeous, and they did not even know I was coming, so
I was really happy to see the quality that was as good
as I can produce when fishing myself.

We offloaded both boats, and I spent a good chunk of
the rest of the day rearranging the totes on my truck
to maximize space usage and, as I had to stack totes
on top of the other, to make it so the totes on top
would be wedged forward and not want to slip off. My
3/4 truck is straining under the totes, and some
expressed concern about the load, but it doesn’t
concern me yet because I know I’ve had it loaded down
with firewood more than it is now.

The two boats I bought from recently moved their boats
from Juneau to Hoonah, because the harbor fees in
Hoonah are $745 / year, and in Juneau are now up to
$1,850 / year.

I ran for the city assembly last year to bring this
issue forward, but nothing has changed, and more and
more boats are leaving town. It’s kind of sad when I
have to come all the way to Sitka to buy fish because
the boats aren’t coming back to Juneau anymore, but we
were all happy to see Sitka get the fish tax dollars,
rather than Juneau, where the commercial fleet has no
political support. It may just take time for the
citizenry to see what’s happening, but it may be that
the commercial fleet dwindles to a shadow of it’s
former self, because the industry is “invisible” in
that most of it’s activity takes place out on the
water, away from sight in town, and because most folks
in town are state workers not associated with the
industry. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I
can’t do much about it, and so am just looking to keep
my business going by doing whatever it takes.

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