wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Herring Time 2019

Two years ago to the day I did a post about the herring fishery. If you are interested you can find it here. https://wordsfromanneli.com/2017/03/08/herring-time/

At that time a fisherman lost his life working in this dangerous job.

However, the fishery goes on. The pressure is on the fishermen to set their nets and catch what they can in the short time allowed.

As seiners from all along the coast of BC gather to await the herring opening, the wharf at Comox, on Vancouver Island, is congested at this time of year. You can see the seiners in the center of the photo above in the government fish wharf, and the toothpick-like masts of the sailboats on the far right, tucked away in their private marina.

How do these boats not get tangled!?

At one time the herring fishery was lucrative, but see, below, the problem facing the herring fishermen now.

These are a few of the sea lions left after a herring season three years ago. Since then the number of sea lions has exploded to the point where the fishermen lose nets repeatedly from dozens of these giants tearing through them to get at the herring in the seine nets.

Every animal needs to eat, but the fishermen are now finding it difficult to make a living when all they seem to do is feed sea lions and pay for very expensive nets. The staggering number of sea lions that have moved in to take up permanent residence on the coast of Vancouver Island has become an overwhelming problem for the fishermen.

Solutions are hard find, as the remedies are all controversial.


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Get in Line

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.


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Fanny Bay Sea Lions

A while back, I posted another sea lion article. It was closer to herring time, early spring. March 4, 2015. In that post, I talked about the kinds of sea lions we have and why they are here. If you would like to have another look at it, click here.

So today I was driving by the same location, but there were fewer sea lions. Only a dozen of them this time. Still, it was a photo op and I couldn’t resist. Here they are lying on the big floating tanks that serve as a breakwater just out from the fishermen’s wharf at Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island.

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The one on the far left has an itch he’s trying to scratch.

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The same fellow is sitting up tall and is about to do an amazing back bend

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Can you do that? Lean back and give your fanny a kiss?

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The old bull with the white face is deep asleep, drooling, and dreaming of salmon he’ll steal right off the hooks of the commercial fishermen. If he only knew that his buddies  up north in Haida Gwaii were already having a smorgasbord orgy, he might get up and start making his way up there. Reports are that the fishing guides are frustrated because their customers can’t land a fish. The sea lions are there to take the spring salmon off the fishing lines as soon as the sporties hook one.

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But maybe ignorance is bliss.

What is contentment, you ask? You’re looking at it!

 

 


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Nature’s Orchestra

It’s early morning. I throw a jacket over my housecoat and take our two dogs outside. We have a big yard so there is no need to go far, but I do have to step outside with them or they would just huddle by the door and wait to be let back in the house for breakfast. All winter it has been cold, often with rain pelting down sideways in the wind. I’m always glad to get back in the house to warm up (and to do that before any early walkers see me).

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But the other day, the air was noticeably warmer. The breeze carried a scent of trees and warming earth. The warm, pink rays of the sunrise said good morning to the snow-covered hilltops. Pussywillows on the neighbour’s willow tree seemed to have opened overnight.

The sounds around me were definitely of spring. I tried to identify each one.  No more morning stillness. I heard the calls of Eurasian collared doves, flickers, towhees, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches and two other songbirds I couldn’t identify, and of course the big indicator of spring – the robin. And right after the robin’s call came the scratchy cawing of crows. They are already cruising to find the early nesting sites of the robins so they can raid them. If they don’t get the eggs, they’ll get the chicks. Good old Mother Nature will provide well for the crows, as she does every year.

In the waters of the bay below, sea lions barked to call each other over a feed of herring while the loons filled the quiet gaps with their lonely calls.

It’s like an orchestra here on some spring mornings. The songbirds are the strings,clarinets, and piccolos, while the doves are the oboes, and the loon is the flute. The sea lions are the tubas, and the crows are the brushes, tambourines, and snare drums.

And me? I guess I could be the opera singer, calling my dogs to come in now for breakfast.

 


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Bucket Head

 

Did you ever catch two fish with one hook? Sometimes these freak things happen. This greedy lingcod was not satisfied to eat a salmon but had to bite at the fisherman’s lure for dessert before he even took the time to finish his main meal. If I didn’t have the photo for proof  you might well say that this is just a fish story.img718This is Captain Gary’s first boat, from many years ago. It was old even then. Older than the “captain.” But the things that boat saw were interesting nonetheless.

The opposite scenario to this one, of “two fish for one,” also happened (more than once) but I don’t have a photo of it. A salmon is jerking the fishing line. The deckhand pulls it aboard and in the time between the salmon announcing his presence and when the deckhand pulls him aboard, only the front half of the fish is left. The rest has become breakfast for a sea lion or a shark. The tooth marks on the fish’s half body tell the story.

Take a look at Captain Gary’s cap and tell me if you think fishing is a bloody job. CSI would have fun with that blood spatter.