Sunday, November 29, 2009

We headed east...


In my last blast I defined the boundiries of the Bairdi fishery and I'm glad to report we headed east! When we left Dutch with a light load of 80 pots, our heading was northeast enroute to Amak Island, 135 miles from town. This small uninhabited island lies about 20 miles offshore north of the Alaska Pennisula and is home to some of the most fertile Bairdi grounds in the entire state.

The crew was able to get a day off being that it was Friday. Few, if any, boats will leave town on a Friday because most fishermen believe it's bad luck to set sail on that day, and going into this trip I wasn't about to push that!

The Bairdi crab is without doubt the slipperyist crab we target and notorious for it's ability to baffle skippers. They tend to hide in pockets rather than lie in large schools over several miles like King crab or Opilio would. In those fisheries a 30 pot string covering 5 miles would more than likely yeild the same or similar score in the whole string. With Bairdi a 15 pot string would more than likely read something like this.. 10,15,20,40,70,85,100,100,75,65,40,25,15,15. kinda scary because one could just as easily land on a 10 and miss the 100 altogether. (bear in mind that is over two miles of ground) With those numbers in mind and the fact we set out to catch 50,000+ crab (150,000 pounds total) it appears we could have our work cut out for us.

First things first, we'll set the 80 and steam another 100 miles northeast to round up 135 pots that were stored at the end of king crab. We are eager to get going as the holidays are looming. Capt. Monte "mouse"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bairdi 2009

Hello again.

It has been some time since you've heard from me and I apologize for the delay. The time we spent in Dutch Harbor was brief between King Crab and Bairdi with most of our time being consumed rigging the gear over again, which is a larger chore than I can describe here, but I will take the time to do so between seasons which will be soon! The Bairdi fishery is unique in that few boats participate and with an average weight of 2.6 -3.0 lbs apiece Bairdi crab are substantially larger but not nearly as plentiful as their close relative the Opilio (aka snow) crab. The Wizard has targeted these elusive critters for many years and most of the time I am given the task of running the boat. The fishing grounds are split into two areas with the center boundary line being the 166* west longitude. This longitude line runs north/south almost right through Dutch Harbor. The crab in the western district is primarily caught around or between Saint Paul and Saint George Islands. Because abundance is low in the west fishing there has proven difficult over the years, and for 2009 the fishery was closed altogether. Thank God!

As for the eastern district the crab are generally caught around Amak Island about 135 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor, and this is where we intend to fish. With mixed results in the past the entire crew knows it could be a battle to put together a viable trip but nonetheless we have high hopes. Capt. Monte "mouse"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 4.....

Our first King crab trip is behind us and by now, the second one will be as well.
Things went well enough, not as blistering as last year but a steady, solid number coming over the rail. As in the past, come Halloween the fishing peters out to the point of horrible. Most of the boats still fishing (about half the fleet) struggle to find more than 10 per pot, and at that rate it's no longer lucrative and quite maddening to boot! This year the problem can be attributed to any number of things:
  1. minus tides associated with the full moon on November 2nd
  2. a storm that blew through at the same time, stirring up the bottom and creating large waves that tend to jerk on the buoys. This turbulence is transmitted to the pots via the line and can actually bounce the gear around.
  3. any large concentrations of crab have, to some degree, been caught by the fleet

It's good to be finished with King Crab and now we are on to the mighty Bairdi fishery. More on that later,

Capt Monte "mouse"

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The gear is wet, and now it's a bit of a waiting game as the pots need to soak a spell before we haul em'. Pulling a pot with less than 18 hours of soak at the start of the season is a huge mistake. The pots need to "work" the bottom through two (or more) tidal periods to give the crab an honest chance to reach their ultimate destination... your plate, via our tanks! But curiosity is a powerful thing and hauling early has crushed many a dream, as the scores are almost always low and not a good indication of what's really down there. We have the resolve to wait.

The weather is decent and it has yet to snow.

Capt. Monte "mouse"



The King Crab fishery is now well underway.

It appears as though the fleet is targeting three separate areas. The first and closest is about 135 nautical miles from Dutch Harbor, around Amak Island. We fished this spot briefly in 2007 & 2008 with mixed results. Both of those year's the concentrations of crab were small, but when we were on them the scores were huge. (In 2007 we hauled the largest count in a single pot that I have ever seen, 168 "keepers". ) On the other hand, at times we would haul a blank not one mile away! With that in mind, the Amak area is a total crap shoot and we chose to continue on.

The next stop is known as the "Deep Hole", at about 200 miles from town it is a solid day's travel. Surrounded by water 220 to 240 feet deep the hole's 300 plus feet of water is a drastic depth change for the relatively flat bottomed Bering Sea. The fishing here is more consistant over a larger area but as with any location the crab are either there or they're not.

The third and last locale is known as the "Compass Rose". This area was given that name due to the navigational device on a common paper chart that aids in plotting. We have caught more crab in this area than any other and at more than 240 miles from Dutch Harbor it is pretty much the end of the Earth as far King Crab fishing goes.

We expect to have gear in both Deep Hole and Compass Rose. I will let you know how it goes.

Capt Monte"mouse"

On the way out....

Steaming along under a cloak of grey, we approach our destination of choice. Northerly winds, though mild, carry a constant reminder of the upcoming winter.

Our primary task while on the way out is to ready the bait for the large loads of gear we will set. Perforated two quart plastic bait jars are filled with chopped herring. Herring resembles a medium sized trout which is ground into dime sized chunks. Along with Herring is "hanging" bait which is typically cod served whole. An average cod fish weighs 8 to 10 pounds and we like to use two or three per pot. With those numbers in mind it's safe to say a boat will go through thousands of pounds of bait every day. Wonder where does it all comes from? At the start of the season we are allowed to fish 10 cod pots, (which are crab pots installed with plastic fingers to retain the fish) in order to catch our bait. When hauling the gear it's a full time job for one crewman as they are coming aboard at about 18 to 20 an hour.

Thanks for hanging in with me as it has proven difficult to send updates from sea. Capt. Monte