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Drift fishermen ease into season

Under way

Posted: June 25, 2013 - 9:06pm  |  Updated: June 26, 2013 - 7:32am
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Roger Thornton works to stabilize a drift boat Tuesday June 25, 2013 at the Pacific Star Kenai dock in Kenai, Alaska.   Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
Roger Thornton works to stabilize a drift boat Tuesday June 25, 2013 at the Pacific Star Kenai dock in Kenai, Alaska.

With each noisy grinder, vacuum cleaner, paint touch-up, bag of trash cleared from the cabin and flick of a water hose over the deck, commercial driftnet fishing boats in the Kenai Dock get closer to being ready.

The Kenai Dock is busy this time of year as drift gillnetters put the last touches on their boats, launch them into the mouth of the Kenai River and prepare to snag a portion of the Cook Inlet’s sockeye salmon run.

While the first opening to fish was Thursday and fishermen had a chance to go in again Monday, Anne Poso, longline logistics manager at Snug Harbor Seafoods, said there were not many boats in the water yet.

“A lot of guys like to wait, it seems like, for that July Fourth opener. That’s usually when a lot of the guys go because that’s when it seems to be a lot more financially prudent,” Poso said. “These seem to be just more dry runs and you’re spending more on gas than you are actually procuring fish to pay for a trip.”

Average catch for drifters in late June is about 60-70 sockeye a boat, said Pat Shields, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s commercial division.

Despite the low numbers, several captains said they were happy to be fishing and ready to get started.

“It’s a good shakedown, you can catch a few fish,” said Richard Thompson.

Thompson said he’ll have his boat in the water, probably by Thursday’s opener, but won’t be fishing until July.

He’s under contract to run a test boat for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and will spend the entire month crossing the inlet just North of Kalgin Island and taking genetic samples of his catches.

As the boats trickle onto the water, Poso said everyone would be gearing up for the busiest time of year and Snug Harbor Seafoods was looking for people to fill open spots for the coming season.

“The third week of July is probably the biggest hit consistently,” she said. “Last year, I think I was up for more than two days. It was more than two days ... (Snug Harbor) goes from needing a handful of people to having, like, 30 people out there (working).”

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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