Category Archives: From the Fishing Grounds

CBC Prince Rupert Interview

When we were in Prince Rupert a couple weeks ago, on our way to the first fishing of the season, Otto and I were lucky enough to get interviewed by the local CBC Radio station. Check out our interview with Carolina de Ryk, co-host of CBC Daybreak North, Prince Rupert:

Audio MP3

Parting Ways

This blog entry was originally published on the blog for Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery as I hitched a ride on a tiny commercial salmon gillnet boat on its way to fishing grounds north of Prince Rupert.

20110621_07-26-23.jpgGood morning and Happy Canada Day!

After almost two weeks in cramped quarters, mixed weather and truly spectacular scenery, it’s time for me to leave Otto and Boris so that I can continue on to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) for my own personal adventure.

This has been a once-in-a-lifetime trip; it’s hard to imagine that Otto has been doing it yearly for the last forty-two years. There have been a ton of changes in the industry since Otto began and it gets harder and harder every year to make ends meet. There’s increasing competition for the fish out there, the costs of running a boat continue to go up (especially fuel) and there’s more and more pressure from fish farms up and down the coast. I’ve had a chance to see, first-hand, how innovative models like our Community Supported Fishery keep fishing a viable profession in the face of an increasingly corporate, centralized and industrial fishing industry.

20110627_06-28-43.jpgIn addition to this blog, I’ve started uploading pictures taken during the trip to my Flickr account; when I’m back from my adventures in Haida Gwaii I’ll make sure they’ve all got captions, so you know what you’re looking at.

With the first fishing of the season under the belt, I’m sure it’s going to be a good season for Otto, Terry and Rod on the North Coast. Word came down yesterday that the Nass opening will happen next Monday for two days, again; hopefully it’ll be great fishing in fantastic weather. It’s time to wish Otto well and make my way to the ferry. Thanks so much for following along on our journey… it’s been a blast!

20110630_15-01-01.jpgMy writing for this blog isn’t actually finished, even if my journey with Otto has. I had the chance to do and see a few amazing things here in Prince Rupert that I hope to share with you as soon as I get back to Vancouver. One of the highlights was an incredible lesson by Opa Sushi in Prince Rupert on how to cut sashimi and make other Japanese dishes from a whole sockeye salmon. Once I edit down the 90 minutes of video I recorded, I’ll be sure to post it on the blog. Also, I’ve been collecting some amazing salmon recipes along the way that I’ll also be posting when I return. Stay tuned…

Dropping off the Fish

After a restful night tied up in Port Edward, we went over to the packers’ dock to unload the salmon, get it in bins and get it on the truck heading down to Vancouver.

20110629_08-21-02.jpgFor the bigger boats, there’s a machine I can only describe as a “fish vacuum” that sucks the fish out of their fish holds and sends it through a hose to the sorting/grading conveyor belt, where the different species (sockeye, pink, spring, etc.) are separated into separate larger fish totes (bins) by hand. These are big industrial operations, with forklifts and other industrial equipment constantly in action. Our small catch avoids most of this flurry of activity, however, since we’re only using this company to help get our catch down to Vancouver.

20110629_08-00-04.jpgInstead, two barrels are lowered by crane to our boats (the tide is out, and there are big tides here, so we’re almost 30 feet below the dock) and filled by hand as Otto and Terry pull their salmon out of their fish holds, one at a time. As each barrel is filled, it’s hoisted up and poured into one of the large totes. There’s no worry about separate the different species because that can be done in Richmond when the sockeye and pinks are dressed–which is a fancy way of saying “gutted”.

Our catch almost filled two totes, which were then weighed, tagged and filled with ice slush before being loaded onto a truck. In about 24 hours, that truck will arrive in Richmond and be met by Sonia and Shaun, who’ll be scheduling a pick-up for members shortly thereafter.

20110629_08-29-35.jpgOtto, Terry, Boris and I are now traveling back to Prince Rupert to buy groceries and wait for news on when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will be opening the Nass fishing grounds for another opening. Dock talk suggests that there’ll be another opening next Monday for the Nass and that the Skeena River fishery (just south of Prince Rupert) might have an opening not long after that. For now, though, we’ll travel to Rupert, and wait.

During the trip, you can either check this blog for the latest entries, or you can go to this interactive map of all the blog posts related to this trip. You can also find photos from the trip on Flickr.

Leaving the Fishing Grounds

20110627_06-52-58.jpgI’m not sure where to start, apart from the fact that today was even less productive than yesterday. A ton more boats left the fishing grounds early; we only caught a handful more fish ourselves and our fishing buddies Terry and Rod had similar experiences. So, it’s now mid-afternoon and we’re on our way back to Port Edward, where we’ll have to deliver our fish in the morning.

It’s been raining and windy since mid-morning and a misty fog has descended on the ocean around us, giving us only about a half-mile of visibility. Fortunately, we stay close enough to shore on this trip that it’s easy to see the landmarks necessary to keep us on track. (If the weather was worse, we could always use the radar on the boat, but that’s not a fun way to navigate and it doesn’t always see debris in the water.)

20110628_07-47-25.jpgFishermen like Otto are some of the last hunter-gatherers in our culture; they go into wild and wonderful places far off the beaten track to gather food and bring it back to us. It’s physically challenging work and you have to have a particular kind of personality to accept that you’re completely at the whims of the natural world, both above and below the waterline. If the weather and the fish don’t cooperate, a great day can turn into a lousy one quite quickly.

One of the upsides of leaving the grounds early is that we’ll be in Port Edward with enough time tonight for a shower and early evening; we also won’t have to get up extra early to ensure that we deliver our fish on time. We’ll tie up at a wharf that’s only five minutes from the drop-off point.

Terry has already transferred his catch to our boat, so he’s heading into Prince Rupert while Terry will be joining us in Port Edward.

During the trip, you can either check this blog for the latest entries, or you can go to this interactive map of all the blog posts related to this trip. You can also find photos from the trip on Flickr.

Fishing, Day Two

20110627_08-43-13.jpgGood morning from Sommerville Island, where we anchored again last night after our first day of fishing. Although yesterday started off glassy calm and sunny, by mid-day the wind started to pick up and the tide changed, making things a little rougher (as you saw in the “reeling in the net” video yesterday). Although we were allowed to fish until 10PM, we gave up about 7PM because the fish got sparse, making the bumpy weather not worth it. A relaxing evening in a quiet sheltered bay was just what was needed before giving it another shot this morning.

20110628_07-46-08.jpgThere’s about 80 fish in the hold now, mostly sockeye with a few pinks and a few springs (including a *big* 20lb one!); hopefully we can double that today. If we get good fishing today we’ll stay as late as we can, getting up extra early to get back to Port Edward tomorrow morning to get the fish on a truck to come down to Vancouver.

Although fishermen are often tight-lipped about their catch, it’s pretty clear that no one had a stellar day yesterday; 20110627_08-47-47.jpga ton of people left the fishing grounds even earlier than we did and a few even headed back in the direction of Prince Rupert. There are rumours of some boats that only caught a handful of fish all day. That must be profoundly disheartening…

Time to get some coffee into this groggy body so that we can hit the ground running.

There’s fish out there, somewhere… hopefully Otto can find them.

During the trip, you can either check this blog for the latest entries, or you can go to this interactive map of all the blog posts related to this trip. You can also find photos from the trip on Flickr.