Victoria Briggs: Getting Ready For Fishing

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nets 003The nets begin with a bundle of web

May 13, 2009

Ugashik Alaska

As I am already running around realizing I am not only weeks but probably a month behind on some things I realize Ann and I have to keep you “in the loop” so will better understand why we might “drop out of the loop” at times this spring and summer. Fishing in Bristol Bay, and maybe most other places in Alaska from what I hear, is one of much planning but always of feeling like you are behind.

At the end of the season most try to do a number of things to make the following spring easier, but to be honest you are usually so tired not as much gets done as should. Also ALL those other things you did not get time to do over the fishing season to either take care of your home/equipment or put up food for your family must get done before freeze up.

Most people think; freeze up- cold weather, spend more time inside. Freeze up also means outside building are usually no longer even slightly comfortable to work in except for VERY short periods, any construction usually comes to a halt or moves totally indoors, equipment doesn’t like to start when you want, any fuel issues- like not flowing – will show up, everything freezes to the ground from a stray hose to a dropped glove and generally just getting around for work purposes becomes hard.

So when spring arrives, right now almost mid May, with days in the 40s or higher but nights in the high 20’s, we are out and moving to get things going.  By now I am lucky enough to have all my fishermen/assistants hired something that is so darn important!! Lucked out with getting Segundo hired! We are lucky in two ways in that we have a local man who has been running our daily fishing operation for us so we can concentrate on the processing operation. He splits duties with us so our prep work is less and also he handles the majority of the full time fishermen.

One of the first things that gets done is “nets”. Although we all fish salmon in this village and bay we fish with a huge variety of different ‘gear’.  We still have to purchases nets, and lines if needed, get quarters set up, generators gone through and boats prepped.

We fish for three different species of salmon; Chinook, Sockeye and Coho that require at least three different sizes of nets, one for each species.  Actually it can require 2-4 different sizes for EACH species of salmon.

nets 001The cord line will be attached to the nets

The nets come in a bundle of just the web and then must be strung onto the line that goes along the top, the cork line, and also the bottom, the lead line. IF you are very good, experienced and determined you can get a 300 fathom net hung in about 2 days. VERY long tiring days. Now think of 3 kinds of salmon, with at least 2 different sized nets for each. Multiply that times the main nets, back up nets and if you can a third set.

If you set net, as we do, and might be doing more than one ‘site’, as we do, it involves all that times how many sites. You get the picture.

nets 002A finished net

Nets are a big thing here.  It is fascinating when you look at all the different skills, gear and experience you need to even think of fishing for a living.

As we prep for the season, Ann and Segundo arrive and we move into all these tasks we will try and share them with you.  Our hope is for you to learn a little more about how we live and why we choose to continue this lifestyle. Like farming, mechanics, machinists, plumbers, wood workers and so many other skills it is a long time in learning and hard to attract new people to it.

~ Victoria

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5 Responses to “Victoria Briggs: Getting Ready For Fishing”

  1. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Victoria – I’m tired already! What a great introduction to set netting – pics and all! When I tried to help someone with nets years ago, I got the net all tangled up. That was bad. It is a skill of coordination and paying attention, in addition to being incredibly physically exhausting. I was lucky – I only got a stern look and a big sigh.

    Thank you for helping us learn about the amazing process of fishing. I just bought my kitties some canned Alaska red salmon as a treat, and they almost climbed up my legs to get to it when they smelled the opened can.

  2. Art Says:

    Hi Vic!
    How exciting to have salmon season almost upon us already. I loved your “Gillnet 101” discussion. I grew up gillnetting in Prince William Sound with my parents, but never did any net hanging or mending. Just picking and other deckhand-y stuff.

    How does the pre-season outlook look for y’all. I have it from ADFG, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

    Best,
    Art.

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Vic – can you explain the difference between set nets and gill nets? Are set nets done from the shore? I’m confused!

  4. UgaVic Says:

    Our season in Bristol Bay overall looks good. Some rivers, it is a 5 major river system, are due for GREAT runs, like Egegik with I believe over 8 million fish (not pounds) due in, to us on the Ugashik with one of the lower of about 2 million fish. Doing this off the top of my head so those might be off.

    Fishing runs go up and down normally and we were expecting a smaller run this year after an unexpected huge one two years ago.
    I believe the way to look at all this is that given a smaller run you better not miss any opportunities to fish to make it a good year.

    The skill and knowledge comes in knowing what size of nets and what is best for your area.

    One of the first things I learned was to hang nets, although I am still not ‘good’, when I first came to Alaska.

    I am also attempting to get better at mending nets but the time I get to devote to it is less it each year, making the task harder to master.

    All of our nets, whether you drift or set net, in Bristol Bay are “gill nets”. This means we set out a net that is sized to the fish we want and it allows them to swim into the holes in the net just enough to catch them right behind the gills so they can’t back out.

    Drift fishing is done off a boat that has both ends out in the water and can be dropped any place the fishermen thinks he can catch fish within that fishing district.

    Set net fishing is where one end is tied the beach and the other end goes out into the water. Most often you have a particular site, short stretch of beach, you lease from the state to fish from.

    I am sure as we get more into the season there will more on “nets”, given all that is happening this year in the fishery.

    Vic

  5. Daniel Says:

    Hello,
    My name is Daniel Spantikow and I’m sure sometimes finding an extra deckhand or processor can be tough. Although I don’t have any prior experience, I have and friend who has gone out for a salmon season and has told me all about the work process. This is a job I have been trying to get since last season and would love the to have a shot at. My last job was at a Fireworks store outside in a same town called Pahrump, which involved moving, stacking, loading and unloading trucks all day. Most boxes weigh an average of 65-80lbs and it is very repetitive work. I’m 5’11” 175lbs 24 years old and I consider myself to be in very good shape. If any Ugashik residents need a reliable, loyal, and hard worker please call me. God bless!

    Please give me a call at 702-460-5764 or reply if any positions are available.

    Thanks for your time,

    Daniel Spantikow

    The temperature is currently 105degrees get me out of here! :)

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