On the Waterfront

Published on Thu, Oct 2, 2003
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On the Waterfront

by Jan Hrutfiord

The salmon season has come and gone. Local fishers were able to fish for sockeye salmon for several weeks in late July and August. There were pretty good fishing days, but not much fish. The Fraser River sockeye went the northern route for the most part, leaving a scant amount of fish coming south through the straits for U.S. fishers.

There were a few minor successes, local fishers were able to sell their catch at the dock here in Blaine. Most of these fish were caught by gillnetters, who set up shop on the dock just below the ramp at gate #3.

This was a �pink� year, which means that the pink, or humpback salmon, were here to spawn. These small salmon have just a two year cycle between hatching and returning to spawn in the rivers where they were born. For some reason, we here in Puget Sound region, have just one year�s hatch, so the returning fish come back every other year, on odd number years. I don't know what happened to the �evens�, they are not there in any countable number. The pinks come in during�the month of September, and this year had a very large return of fish, but with a very low price to the fishers. Those fishers who had a market could almost guarantee filling up their boat during the mid-season run, but the market was flooded with these small fish, and a boat load could possibly give a crewman on a seiner just $300�$400. If that were a boatload of sockeye, the return pay check would be in the thousands.

There is still the fall fishing in lower Puget Sound, for chum (or �dog�) salmon. This usually goes on well into the month of October. These large fish are on the bottom of the scale quality wise, but are good for barbecuing or smoking, and are an inexpensive fish to buy.

It was very apparent that there are not many fishers left for salmon fishing. There were about four seiners out of Blaine for the local fleet, and a dozen or more gillnetters. The buy-backs of salmon licenses a few years ago, along with the low prices and limited amount of fishing time has driven most fishers out of the business.

Crab season started October 1 for all citizen commercial crabbing. The truckloads of crab pots driving through Blaine on the way to the docks to put on the crab boats has been going on for the last week. There were three 24 to 30-hour openings for treaty Indian crab fishing during the month of September, but this will be the first general crab fishing for the season.

The buyers have been getting their docks ready for the harvest, putting pots on boats, setting up live tanks for the crab, stocking bait for the fishers, and hoping for a good harvest this year. The first two or three weeks are the best, and all fishers want to get out as fast as possible with their 75 pots, and start picking the pots the same day if possible. We wish them all luck with this season.

The Seafarers Memorial committee has had a work party at the memorial, cleaning up, painting, and planning for the next step. They still are looking for a porthole or two to install in the walls of the memorial. If anybody out there has a porthole they can part with, it would be appreciated. They are also planning on putting up historic photos of local fishing boats and fish plants. Watch for the improvements as they happen this fall.

The fishing community has lost a long-time fisher. LeRoy Green died in August, leaving behind a wife, Claudia and two sons. LeRoy fished for many years on boats in Washington and Alaska, and was an excellent web-man. He also played Santa for a couple of generations of local children, and loved to visit all children whose families asked for Santa to visit them. LeRoy will be missed by his many friends and relatives, as well as the �kids� who still remember his visits.

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