Gillnetter Images

How We Saw Ourselves

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How We Hoped the Public Would See Us

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What We Hoped Would Happen

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How They Saw Us

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What We Saw – On A Nice Day

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Story

The above photo was taken on board a boat I ran in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1999. I had a contract with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to test fish for chum salmon off Esther Island. The contract didn’t pay much, but it was fun and enabled me to see that area of the Sound – without having to worry about what some other guy was doing.

Test fishing is a method AF&G uses to determine if there are sufficient stocks in a given area to open a fishery. This is done after escapement needs are met. Only a few boats are permitted into the area. Each boat must follow strict rules, such as no more than one hour by the clock per set. After a certain period of time, each boat must leave the area and deliver all fish caught to that point and then return to resume fishing.

There were three or four other boats also test fishing. The other guys were old timers and were assigned the most lucrative areas, while I was new to this part of the fishery and given the least productive spot. That is, I did not know were the fish might be or what tides to expect the fish where. Pot shots only. Or maybe hunches and luck. Pick one or both.

Those faint white spots in the water are the corks floating my gillnet – the net is ten feet deep by 150 fathoms long. You might notice that some of the corks appear brighter than others. The partially floated or missing corks indicate where a number of fish have become stuck in the net. While you can’t see it, there were actually a lot of splashing going on as the fish on the top of the net struggled to free themselves. The natural rocking of the boat caused the camera to loose focus on the details.

For a new guy I did pretty well in the six hours I had. With over 600 chums aboard, I pulled up to the tender, fully expecting to be the low boat. This was my third delivery. While I waited for the other guys to unload, I heard them comparing catches – with “knowing” smile in the direction of the old timer running the high boat for the day.

Unfortunately for whoever it was, when the ticket totals were added up, he wasn’t the high boat. I was. Tee hee.

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