wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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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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Like a Lamb

This year, March came in “like a lion,” as any herring fisherman will tell you.

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They must have had some terrible days even in these relatively sheltered waters. I know I would be so seasick if I had to be out there.

But at the end of March I took some pictures of the same area and it was a very different story. It was early morning and the sun would be creeping over the horizon momentarily. Its warm glow already lit up the few stragglers of the clouds that had blown through overnight.

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It was still  early, but when I looked more closely, I saw a partial yellow globe.

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No, it’s not the sun. That’s the waning moon. The sun was rising far to the east of it, shining on the clouds around the moon. In the stillness of the dawn the sun sent poetry rays to me:

“Oh Moon, I guess you think you’re cool

To sashay round that cloud,

But keep on moving, you old fool,

While I shine warm and proud.”

The next day, also early in the morning (I’m out there because that’s when the dogs have to go out), the sun was rolling up its sleeves, ready to get to work and warm this corner of the earth. I welcomed it and told it to stay as long as it wanted.

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In these last days of the month, March truly went out “like a lamb.”