Tag Archives: salmon fishing

Marking Trolling Wire

Always ready to help, Ruby sits nearby and supervises while the Captain marks trolling wire. He buys the stainless steel wire in a huge 1200-foot roll and then sets it up to mark it as he rewinds it onto another roll. Here is the newly bought, unmarked wire.

After it is marked, it is wound onto another roll.

Here is the setup, from the new roll to the finished roll, and the work area in the middle.

The stainless steel cable (5/64″) is made up of seven strands, so these are split into four and three, and kept apart by the nail in this little block of wood. Then a short piece of “marking wire,” also stainless steel, is inserted in the space.

This short piece of marking wire is then twisted around the trolling wire, going one way on one side  …

until it is all neatly wrapped around the trolling wire.

Then the other end of the marking wire is twisted in the opposite direction until it is all tidily wrapped around the trolling wire.

About six inches farther along, another mark is put into the wire, so you now have two sets of wrappings, six inches apart. Why do we do this?

It is where the line snap is hooked on. The two marks on the wire keep the snap from sliding up or down the cable. Tied to the line snap are the perlon fishing line and any flashers or lures that the Captain feels like using. The lure in this photo is just an old beat up coho spoon that has seen better days.

Two fathoms (a fathom is about six feet) farther along, the Captain will put another set of marks on the wire to stop the next piece of gear from sliding up or down when he sets the gear in the water.

The trolling wire is spooled onto the gurdies that you see in the photo below, about 300 feet on each spool. There are two sets of three gurdies, one on each side of the boat. From the gurdies, the wire goes up through pulleys and is attached to the trolling poles  which are lowered partway down while fishing, to keep the lines away from the boat.

Lead balls of about 55 lbs are fastened to the end of the trolling cable before it is lowered into the water by the gurdies (with hydraulic controls), and the line snaps with the trolling gear are fastened on between the markers (sometimes every two fathoms) as the line sinks into the water.

The boats below are at anchor but their trolling poles are down and you can see their position during fishing time. When they come in to a wharf, of course they raise the poles straight up so they don’t smash into other boats.

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Now you hope that the lines don’t tangle in bad weather and the fish will bite before that orca gets them.

Showtime

After months of boat maintenance and haulout work and sanding and painting, the Eden Lake is ready for another season of salmon trolling in northern BC. It’s a good boat, well built in 1976 by the late Harald Christensen in Queen Charlotte City, BC.

It takes a lot of work to keep a wooden troller in good shape.This year, like every other, the Captain has the Eden Lake sparkling clean, safe, and seaworthy.

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Here is what the back of the boat should look like during a good fishing day, with the checkers full of spring salmon.

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For those who don’t know the difference between a trawler and a troller, a trawler drags a net near the bottom while a troller fishes individual hooks and lines — two very different kinds of fishing.

 

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The Captain is getting ready to untie the lines and leave Comox Harbour. That’s the very early morning sun you see on the side of the boat. The best traveling time today will be in the morning, before any breezes start up later in the day.

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In the old days, communication systems were not as easily available between the Captain and the fishwife left at home. A call from town when he came in to sell his fish might have happened once a week to ten days. Now, with satellite phones, the communication is much better.

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There he goes, leaving Comox  Harbour.

It will take the Captain a good six days of running to get up to Prince Rupert and another day to cross to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), but often it takes a bit longer because the weather is not perfect every day and sometimes you just have to wait.

I feel a bit at a loss for a few days until I get used to the idea that it will be late August before he comes home, but the Captain always reminds me, “I’m only a phone call away.”

Over the Top

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Fellow fishermen beating through the waves

When people use the expression “over the top,” we usually assume they mean something like “way more than expected” or “unbelievable.” Actually, it is supposed to have come from war days when soldiers in the trenches were sent “over the top” to meet enemy fire.

Many years ago I came up with my own meaning for this expression. Way back about 1986, I was commercial fishing with my husband (Captain Gary). I was tired of spending so many summers alone and thought I’d give deckhanding on a troller a try. Big mistake!

Some people get over seasickness in a few days; some try various remedies until they find one that works; some try everything and find nothing that works. The latter –  that was me. I tried all the remedies. Nothing worked. I even tried patches of scopolamine sold as “Transderm” that you put behind your ears. All that did for me was make me nearly blind for three days. My pupils were as big as those of a druggie on acid. No wonder. I found out later that only one patch should be worn at a time. If you remember from my previous post that I’m the girl who doesn’t like to read the directions first, you won’t be surprised to hear that I assumed that because I had two ears, I should wear a patch behind each one. But never mind. They didn’t work anyway. I was one sick seadog for the whole summer.

Still, Mom and Pop got their share of spring salmon.

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Anneli looks as happy as seasickness will allow.

landing spring salmon

Captain Gary looks happy

It was worst when the weather was a bit breezy and the sea was lumpy. I had to learn to function and make myself useful no matter what the sea conditions were or how sick they made me.

On the top end of Graham Island (part of the Queen Charlotte Islands), the seas were not usually as rough as they were on the west coast where the southeasters blew in from the open Pacific. Captain Gary often took pity on me and anchored with the sissy fishermen in the nooks and crannies of the sheltered top end. In the morning, as the sun’s first rays filtered through the cloudy horizon, we headed out towards the west coast. We had to go through Parry Passage, a stretch of water between Langara Island and Graham Island where the tides sometimes ran quite fiercely.

We had a couple of hours of running time ahead of us so it was too early to set the trolling lines out behind us. We’d do that when we got near the fishing grounds. I sat on the bench in the wheelhouse across from the captain at the helm which is like the dash in a car.

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I dreaded the onslaught of the lumpy waves of the west coast. We were the first boat heading west through the passage, Captain Gary needing to make up for a lot of lost fishing time because of his wimpy deckhand.

Up ahead white foam danced on the tops of  mountainous waves. My eyes bugged out yet another millimeter as I hooked my claws into the wooden shelf of the helm just behind the windshield.

“It’s a bit breezy today, isn’t it?” I tried to keep the whimper out of my voice.

“It’s not too bad.” Captain Gary took another sip of his cup of acidic, stomach-burning black coffee while I held my breath so as not to inhale it and start the nausea quivering in my guts. I loved coffee, but on the boat it was deadly for a weak deckie like me.

My fingernails dug a little tighter into the edge of the helm. “Those waves look pretty big.”

“Nah! It’s just a bit rough in this part of the pass. The tide’s running one way and the wind’s blowing the other. Makes it a bit choppy.”

I must have looked pathetic because he added, “Look! It’s often like this in the pass and once you get out on the other side it’s quite fishable. There might be a bit of a roll, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”

I kept quiet. Swallowed. Nodded ever so slightly. Let out a long soft sigh.

“Tell you what,” Captain Gary said. “We’ll just stick out nose out and if it’s too rough we’ll turn around and come back and fish the top end where it’s calmer.”

” ‘kay.” I breathed a sigh of relief, but the relief didn’t last long. “Holy shit! Look at those waves.”

Several huge waves were coming at us now. Definitely tidal action whipped up by the wind. Up went the boat to the crest of a wave. As it washed away under the hull we were pitched downward at an uncomfortably steep angle, taking a splashing over the bow from the next wave that followed close on the previous one. Up we went again and all the dishes slid around in the cupboards, the coffee pot slid to the other end of the stove, and the soap dispenser flew off the counter. As the crest of that wave passed under the middle of the hull we pitched downward again into the trough between waves. This time we were still pointing down towards the bottom when the next gigantic wave crashed “over the top” of the boat.

We were diving. Fortunately all the windows were shut tightly and the wheelhouse door was closed. So why did I feel like I was in the shower? The front of the boat, by the helm was soaking wet from the water that forced its way into the wheelhouse. My claws had finally dug right into the helm and I stared at the windshield, wondering where the sky was. For several seconds that seemed like minutes, I watched the water wash down the windows – GREEN, GREEN, GREEN – with no sign of sky. At last we bobbed up. I turned to look out the side windows towards the back.

On the farther side of the pass and a little behind us was the Northern Viking, a fine big boat. A quarter mile behind us was the Flicka I, also bigger than our boat.

“I guess they figured if Gary’s going out, it must be okay out there,” he said. Captain Gary picked up the mickey and called the Flicka I. “Hey, Milt,” he said, “I can see your cooling pipes from here.”

For those who don’t know, the cooling pipes are near the bottom of the hull. With each wave, the Flicka I pitched up and we could see her underbelly. After a few seconds of chitchat, Milt said he was turning around.

“Okay,” Captain Gary said to me, “you’ll be happy to hear we’re turning around too.”

The smile I felt coming on was wiped off my face before it could take shape. More giant waves loomed in front of us. Fortunately they weren’t as close together as the ones  that had  mistaken us for a dive boat, but still, to turn the boat sideways to those waves could be fatal.

I needn’t have worried though. Captain Gary handled the boat like an expert. Timing it just right, he started the turn just after a wave passed the bow and then he gunned the engine and whipped the wheel around. The next wave lifted the stern quarter high and pushed us from behind. After that we were going with the waves rather than against them, and we surfed back to the shelter of the top end.

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As we got into waters that were only a bit rough as opposed to violent, Captain Gary said, “Go on up front and pitch that seaweed off the anchor and the deck.”

From outside I called, “The roof of the wheelhouse is just full of seaweed and slop.”

“Wait till we get into calmer water. Then you can get up on the roof.”

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Calmer water

I realized then that I hadn’t had time to be seasick during that whole ordeal when the waves were “over the top.”