wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Herring, and Egg on Your Face

So much fuss over a little fish.

But it is a very popular fish, especially on the tables of the UK and Germany. You can have it smoked or fried, or fried and served in tomato sauce, or pickled and rolled up into Rollmops. If you like fish, you probably love herring.

My mother told me that back in the days before WWII, a fishmonger was selling herring in the street, and he called out to the customers, “Herring! Herring! So fett wie der Goering.” (“Herring! Herring! As fat as Goering” [the commander-in-chief of the Nazi air force]). Since Goering’s name rhymed with the name of the fish, it caused a chuckle among the townspeople who came out of their houses to buy his fish.

But the Nazi bigwigs didn’t like to be made fun of so they arrested the fishmonger and put him in jail for two weeks.

When he was released, the fishmonger went back out onto the streets to sell his herring, calling out, “Herring! Herring! … As fat as … they were two weeks ago.”

*****

Right now the local herring fishery is winding up and the cleanup begins.

Here is a photo of the beach area below our house where you can see the herring spawn turning the water close to shore a turquoise blue colour.

The seiners have caught their allowed quotas of herring and most have gone home.  There is still a lot of herring spawn (eggs) in the water, a lot of it stuck to seaweed and being washed up on the beach.

This is what the seagulls gorge themselves on.

The one on the bottom left has “egg on his face” but doesn’t seem to mind it. See the herring roe sitting on his beak?

*****

In my other blog, you might be interested in a post about what turns readers off.

https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/what-turns-readers-off/


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Leftovers?

Same tree. Different bird. Same watchful eyes.

This is a good perch. I see this from my window as I look out towards the bay. I can’t resist trying to get a photo, even though it’s quite far away. I zoom in and try not to shake the camera as I press the shutter. It’s not perfect, but he (or she) is recognizable.  He’s got a great view of the beach and any activity that may signal food.

“Any leftovers?” he asks.

The herring fishery is as good as over, most boats having caught their allowed quota, but the feast for the scavengers is just beginning. Dead herring litter the beaches here and there, and strands of kelp and other seaweed have skeins of herring roe stuck to them. It all makes a tasty and healthy snack for seagulls and eagles.

I thought I’d try some of the herring myself. A friend working on a seiner gave us a few herring mainly for bait, since it isn’t the ideal food fishery time. The fatter herring are fished for food in November. But since these were so fresh, I fried a few fillets in the pan. They have a lot of little bones, but it’s so worth it to pick them out as you eat. They were delicious.

Of course they had to be cleaned up a bit first.

I feel a bit guilty about eating them. See how they are looking at me with reproach?


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Herring Provides for All

The seiners wait in the harbour for the signal that the herring are fat enough, with a high enough roe count, to allow the roe herring fishery to proceed.

Rafts of sea lions are waiting too. They will take advantage of the herring being “rounded up” in the purse seines of the big boats. Many herring “escape,” right into the waiting jaws of these huge mammals.

Some of them like the fishy smell coming from small power boats and are trying to investigate up close.

Seagulls wheel around the seiners trying to grab any herring that swims too close to the surface.

This immature eagle is about to find out that the beach will be full of bounty as roe and herring and bycatch float ashore. These foods provide much-needed calories for the eagles especially at their nesting time, which happens very soon after the herring fishery. Healthy eagles will have healthy chicks.

And let’s not forget that as much as we scoff at seagulls and their shrieking habits, they are the janitors of the beaches, cleaning up every bit of mess.

Once the carnage has been cleaned up, the animals have to scrounge what food they can until next year’s feast.


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Fish or Beans

Vernon Lake on northern Vancouver Island is a good-sized piece of water. Expect lots of gray days, with misty clouds, some moving around the lake, some hanging onto the hilltops nearby.

If you are in a small boat, watch for the many partially submerged logs, especially near the shores. The area around the lake was logged long ago, probably more than once, by the look of the different sizes of trees.

 

Some of the trees have been in the water for so long that the exposed stumps have decayed and supported new plant growth. Sorry for the blurry photo of that one. It was a quick afterthought photo on a drive-by in the skiff.

Some stumps had not had time to develop growth yet. Instead they took on the role of sea monsters guarding the passageway to the far end of the lake.

At that end where the river flows out, the lake narrows like a funnel. Along the sides of the ever narrowing passageway, stand snags of trees that were probably drowned years ago by the rise in the lake’s water level in the rainy season. It looked to me like Snag Alley.

 

The water was so clear you wondered if it was really there, except that it reflected the greenery from the shore.

 

The Captain did his best to catch a fish after scrambling to get all his ducks in a row.

Either our timing wasn’t right, or the Captain was hampered by having to set up the Admiral with her fishing rod, but by the time he was able to dabble, it was not a fishy time for him just then and there.

Or possibly the fish didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t wearing all his top-of-the-line brand name fishing paraphernalia. (The Admiral didn’t care about that stuff as long as he had the bear spray along.)

Anyway, supper that day was not going to be fresh gourmet fish.

More like sausages and a can of beans.

It was time for one of my favourite sayings: Tomorrow is another day.

 


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No Fancy Man

A good man is hard to find. But Marlie isn’t looking for a man. Oh no! She just wants to start fresh with her teaching job on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and enjoy its famous beauty and serenity. And if there’s a man who will take an interest in her, well, so be it, but she’s not looking. Not really…. Or is she?
Be careful what you wish for, Marlie.

Anneli's Place

She pulled over to the side of the gas station after she gassed up, and made the call. At the pumps Brent was leaning his shoulder into the side of his truck, staring off into space as he held the nozzle in the gas tank. The profile of his face was perfect—manly, but fine. His blue checkered work shirt had a tear in the elbow. Jeans were dirty and smeared with dried blood—from the deer, she presumed. She sure hoped that was what the blood was from. How was she to know? She’d only just met him. His canvas vest had lots of pockets, more practical than fashionable. Seemed like islanders tended to be that way. Kodiak boots half unlaced told her he must have walked a lot today and maybe his feet were sore. Fancy, he was not.

Marlie, a young teacher newly arrived in the Queen Charlotte Islands…

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Hard Work

It is herring time on the coast of B.C.  The herring migrate to certain parts of the coast to lay eggs (spawn) close to shore.  It is the ideal time to catch them for their roe.

The seiners didn’t have far to go to set their nets this year. Less than a half hour’s run from town, they put their huge nets in the water  and encircled the schools of herring with a huge  purse seine net.

The small skiff helps anchor one end of the net while the seiner runs around in a circle, unrolling the huge net into the water. The white floats on the top of the net help us to see where the net is. Their job is to keep the top of the net afloat. The bottom of the net has heavy lead rings tied to it through which a line passes. It is like a drawstring that closes the net so fish can’t escape through the bottom.

In the photo below, the red  boat has already closed its net. Seagulls circle, hoping to lunch on unfortunate escapees. The boat next to the red seiner might be a packer, standing by to take the load onto his boat and then to market.

The herring could be scooped out of the net with a huge brailer, like a long-handled fish net, or in some cases, the herring are sucked out of the net and onto the packer or into the hold of the seiner with a kind of (very large) vacuum that slurps up the fish and seawater and pumps it all into the hold of the waiting boat. The seawater is pumped out of the boat leaving only the herring behind in a big strainer.

To unload them, the process is reversed and water is added to the hold to enable the vacuum to suck the herring out of the boat.

 

The boat on the right side of the photo has just paid out the net in a circle to try for a catch of herring. See the white floats?


The farther boat in the photo below has hauled a catch over to the boat. You can see the seagulls going crazy with the feeding opportunities it provides for them.

Fishing for herring is hard work. In late February and even in March the weather can be raw and brutal, especially on the water.

I took the photos of the seiners from the deck of my house, so they are quite far away. The very next day, I took the photo below, of the same view, but the boats are not visible through the snow clouds. I hope no one was fishing that day.

I like to eat pickled herring, but I’ve learned that the food herring are caught in the winter (maybe November) when they are fattest.  In the spring roe fishery, the herring are skinnier and are caught mainly for their roe, highly prized in the Japanese market (at least prized by the older generation). I’ve heard it suggested that the younger Japanese generation prefers McDonalds. Not much of a choice, to my mind.

In case you are wondering what happens to the rest of the herring after they are stripped of their roe … fish fertilizer.

 


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Foolish Fish

Parked in a campground with hardly a soul around, I quickly scan for cougars and bears. I shake my head as I realize I’m too paranoid.

Our trailer sits looking at the lightly wooded view on the one side,

and the lake with our skiff on the beach on the other side. This pic is taken through the trailer window after the trip over dusty gravel road.

We can hardly wait to try fishing on the lake, and Emma is ready to go. She perches as lookout near the bow while Ruby settles into the space between the seats behind me.

When the Captain catches a trout, Emma checks it out,

and then Ruby has to give her approval as well.

The word is out beneath the waves

Swim for your lives and hope that saves

You from the Captain and his wife,

Their fishing rods may take your life.

 

Beware the tiny lures like flies

The Captain dangles them and tries

To fool us, thinking we’re just fish,

How tasty we’d be on a dish.

 

He’s brought his wife and both the dogs

Which makes it hard to watch for logs

His boat may hit one and they’ll flip

And we won’t get hooked on the lip.

 

Alas, young Cutty took the bait

I told him not to bite, just wait,

But no, he had to have it now,

I heard him screaming, “Ow, ow, ow!”

 

The Captain reeled him to the boat,

When Cutty was too tired to float,

They netted him and held him up

With comments about how they’d sup.

 

When Emma saw poor Cutty there

She tasted him and sniffed the air.

Then Ruby had to have her turn,

Making little Cutty squirm.

 

Beware you fishy children all

And listen when you hear me call

Do not be fooled by man-made flies

A better fate in wisdom lies.


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First the Work and Then the Play

It’s that time of year again when the troller needs to be given a facelift and the whole nine yards of a spa treatment. The “spa” is a marine ways near Campbell River. After you make the nail-biting trip up the river a little way, you steer into a  passageway that has most likely been dredged out just to make sure you don’t hit bottom.

On either side of this passageway, are walkways heavily reinforced to hold the weight of a travel lift carrying a boat weighing many tons.

The Work:

Here is the travel lift that lifted the troller Eden Lake out of the water about ten days ago. While the boat sat on the parking lot, propped up on either side with braces, the Captain slaved to power wash the boat’s hull, and cooling pipes. He replaced the bars of zinc as they have been “eaten” by electrolysis. Fresh bars are put on each year to divert the electrolysis from destroying the metal cooling pipes and the propeller.

The top of the hull is sanded and repainted. The gum wood (trim and railings, etc.) is coated with Cetol. The bottom of the hull is painted with anti-fouling paint to make the wood unpalatable to any marine life that wants to make its home there.

When the boat is all clean and shiny, it’s ready to be put back in the water. The travel lift puts the belts under the boat and carries it back to the water. It drives along the two walkways until the boat is suspended over the water and then it is gradually lowered back down where it belongs.

And off it goes, all tiddled up.

The Play:

Sometimes the boat skippers hire help for this grueling work. Even women can do this job (rather well, I might add). If you want to read about a good-looking woman who found romance after working on a troller  — and no, I’m not talking about Yours Truly — why not download the free novel “The Wind Weeps”? If you enjoy it and would like to read the sequel, it would cost you a big $2.99 to buy Reckoning Tide.  The books are available on all amazon sites, as well as on smashwords.com (for those who have e-readers other than Kindle).  Why not give these books a try? You might like them a lot.

You can just click on the book covers at the side of this blog post to find out more about them.

Or go to my website: www.anneli-purchase.com


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Not so rough, “roughing it”

If you like being out in the quiet of nature and don’t mind having very few people around, a fishing and camping trip on northern Vancouver Island might be just the thing for you.

Bringing along a trailer or a camper is not exactly roughing it, but who says you have to suffer to enjoy the outdoors. The Captain and a couple of friends are exploring new territory.

After a long drive on paved roads, get ready for a fairly long drive on dusty gravel roads. Everything in and on your vehicle will be covered in a fine layer of flour-like dust. But what’s a little dust when you end up on a serene lake like this one?

In the morning, you set out early before the sun burns off the fog over the lake and the wind blows away the last wisps of mist. Maybe it’s easier to sneak up on the trout if they can’t see you coming through the cloud.

Time for a nap after all that fresh air. It’s good to be refreshed in time for an early evening bite, when the trout are looking for their supper.

Next morning the lake is a mirror of beauty.

It’s mostly catch and release, but on the last day it’s nice to bring home a meal in time for a Mother’s Day dinner.

The trout were delicious.


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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.