The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear, equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.
The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”
The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.
Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.
This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.
Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal. Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.
And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids) held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.
The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it. A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.
With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.