Click on pictures to enlarge.)
I will attempt to summarize two wonderful days in a few paragraphs.
It was a long two days. And to think their season was only beginning. Not many salmon were caught, as it was the beginning of the run. Better days are ahead, although the three boats (all have been commercial fishing from San Francisco to Alaska for the past four decades and seemed to be very close friends) together harvested around two thousand pounds of chum salmon. A pretty weak opening, but not too uncommon, as it was unseasonable warm and there was little wind (especially the second day). Rougher seas offer less visibility for the fish to see the net, so there were many contributing factors to the lack of fish moving through the strait.
We left early Thursday for the fishing grounds - about five hours of cruising for an opening at noon. We set the net and basically fished all day. Actually, they fished. I didn't do squat. I just stayed out of their way: a crew of two and a third crew that was the business partner (and expert on grading fish) was enough on the foredeck. Slippery aluminum decks and huge moving machinery can be quite dangerous, so I kept my distance. The net is approximately (300 fathoms (1/3 of a mile) long by 100 feet deep. A very large net that still appeared minuscule in the vast Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We anchored the first night in Dungeness and the three boats - all around 35 feet - tied off together after arriving at different times. We had dinner and retired around midnight. The next day was a full breakfast including eggs, toast, home fries and fresh salmon. A seal had bitten part of the fish (a common problem in fishing), so the remainder was baked with and tasted remarkable. Lunch was just as good, with dungeness crab freshly caught off the spit that morning.
The afternoon set (I believe the third set of four) offered the most fish. Yes, only about thirty fish in a yield that can often range in the hundreds in the high season. This is the above picture, just as the sun was setting and we were preparing to retrieve the net.
(This picture is the first day on one of the first sets, just after noon.)
Looking back, I was very lucky to see commercial fishing from this perspective. The fishermen were so very good natured, but they took their jobs very seriously; they had a lot on the line (pun intended). I wish I could write more and wax ore eloquent in the beauty of the my experience, but I am beat.
Memories of grand times like these will last a lifetime. And I learned how to play cribbage too.