Onthe Waterfront

Published on Thu, Sep 30, 2004 by Jan Hrutfiord

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On the Waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

The local fishing fleet is getting ready for the commercial all-citizen crab season, which starts October 1.

Truck and trailer loads of crab pots have been arriving at the docks all week, with the crab fishers then baiting their pots and getting them set out on Friday, the first of October. This year the non-treaty crabbers have opted to set out 50 pots each, with the hope that this will prolong the season for most crabbers. Usually, 100 pots per license have been allowed, and often the majority of the crab is caught in the first three weeks.

The commercial crabbing that took place the past month was by Treaty Indians, who had three 24 hour openings, with 25 pots per license. In this time, they caught thousands of pounds of crab. They will be allowed to fish again now that the all-citizen season has opened.
The sport crabbers, who were allowed to put out their pots August 16, have already caught their year’s quota of crab, so no more sport fishing with pots will be allowed until next summer. This is the earliest that the sport quota has been reached that I can remember.

We shall see if there are a huge number of crab this year, which the catches seem to indicate. There were also some very large crab being caught, and as fishers are paid by the pound and not by the number of crabs, the larger the better for them.

Crab is cyclical in nature, and this may be a year of large numbers of crab. Last year there was a fairly small catch of crab caught commercially in the early months of the season.

The local draggers have been catching some good quantities of sole in Puget Sound waters. The offshore draggers continue to come in with good catches to K-C Fish here in Blaine, as well as to Bellingham buyers.

Salmon fishing is pretty slow now, until the chum season starts up next month. Most of the chum is caught in lower Puget Sound waters.
The Alaska salmon season is still going on in Southeast Alaskan waters, but is winding down now. Many of the boats and fishers have returned home from Alaska.

I was saddened to see the old seiner Mars in the Westman Shipyard a couple weeks ago, its tophouse cut off, mast gone, and lying on its side with the hull split open. This is a sad way to end the life of a familiar fishing boat. After it sank in the Blaine harbor, the repairs to fix it would have been too expensive to warrant saving the old boat.

Many fishing boats have ended up being “munched” at local shipyards, because there was not enough money in commercial fishing for salmon anymore, the licenses were sold, and the boats had to be safely destroyed.

A fishing boat is treated like a hazardous waste dump, because of the heavy metals in the paints on the hulls, the fuel oils that have seeped into the wood, and old wiring and insulation which have to be removed safely. After the boats are taken apart, they have to be hauled away to a hazardous waste site. To destroy a boat safely costs thousands of dollars.
It’s good to have the bustle of busy fishers here in the harbor. Come down and see what is going on, but it can be dangerous with slippery docks, forklifts, hoists, and other machinery involved. Don’t get too near the docks where the buyers are working.

There are safe places from which to watch the unloading and it’s an interesting activity to watch. Artists have been taking pictures for painting the local “color” here in the harbor. I have indulged in many photo sessions myself. Who knows, maybe some day I can come up with a “masterpiece.”