Finishing the Sauna & the First Day of Fishing!

  • Over the last few days we have been working hard to finish the sauna in anticipation of the first days of fishing. Gordon found a huge rock that we put in the corner and put the stove on top of–it looks great. I made a bench to sit/lay on out of cedar with legs made of mahogany that washed up on the beach. I think it looks great and I got to use some of my furniture making skills from my art school days. The only thing we need to do now before we can steam is make the interior door and put up some trim. Exciting.

    I also finished hanging my net, which was a nightmare! I thought I was going to have this big sense of accomplishment at finishing my first net, and I do a little, but mostly my hands hurt and my eyes feel perpetually crossed.

    We got to fish my new hand-built net for the first time yesterday and all the pain of hanging it seemed worth it. It was nice to see it catching fish. I was afraid that it somehow was going to catch nothing. Yesterday was our first regular season opening for fishing of the year. Fish and Game has been watching the fish––charting their progress up from the north Pacific, through the Aleutian Island, then up the Bering Sea––and they finally decided to allow some fishing. This past weekend they installed a fish counter at the top of the river (usually an undergrad biology student tricked into living in squaller in the middle of nowhere, counting millions of salmon in the rain surrounded by bear) so Fish and Game is starting to have a good idea of escapement. Escapement is the number of salmon getting upriver past the bears and fisherman to spawn and make a new generation of salmon. They try very hard to make sure salmon get up the river every day all summer to ensure all the genetic diversity that naturally exists in our amazing totally wild run. Even though all the red/sockeye salmon that come up the river here are the same species, they are of different genetic strains, different tribes or races if you will. We saw that yesterday when we fished for the first time this year: small salmon grouped here, big ones there; Some with lovely olive green backs, others with rainbow iridescence on their backs. Some that look all white and silver, like a black and white photo of a salmon.

    I was a little nervous to fish and had trouble sleeping the night before. It’s one of those things we have so few days of each year and I think about it all year. In short, I have a lot of time to psyche myself out. Whenever I wake up, I immediately take stock of the weather. If the cabin is quiet then the weather is calm and the fishing will be a dream, if there are fish. If I can hear the third from end roof rafter squeak now and then, it’s blowing 20-25 mph and the fishing may or may not be painful depending on the wind direction and the stage of the tide. If that same rafter is squeaking constantly, then it’s blowing 25-35 mph and the fishing is going to be hell. But, you can’t always believe your ears. With the wind whistling around the cabin, it always sounds worse inside than it really is. Unless of course you hear that blasted squeaking, then you’re in trouble.

    Yesterday morning the rafter was squeaking a little and the fishing was rough but not too bad. Today the rafter is not squeaking at all so I am excited to go fishing at 3pm. The opening is from 3pm to 1am so we will have to decide if we are going to fish in the dark or not.

    Leading up to setting the net yesterday, I was feeling less than confident. But as soon as the net started flying out the back of the boat and salt spray flew over the bow, I felt great, like I had done it a thousand times before, which I have. We set the net unlike anyone else in the bay I know of. And that is to keep the net in the boat, tie it to our anchor near the shore, then when our watch says fishing is open, we push the skiff out into the waves and blast straight out to sea with the net flying out the back. I slow down when we get near the end so the crewman can throw a buoy, then two anchors with chain then another buoy. As we set the net fish were already hitting and we could see the corks bounce around and some splashing. I like to set like this because it reminds me of the way we would set gear when I long-lined with skate gear for halibut. I hated it then, but now I try to recreate the thrill here.

    The whole day of fishing went perfectly with really no mistakes or close calls. It was rough, which made it hard to get the net into the boat at times, but we muscled through, got a little wet and had the biggest first day of fishing we have ever had. Off to a great start! We’ll see what we get today.


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