Patiently we wait. It's been an early but cool spring and the ocean water temperatures are colder than normal, delaying the returning Karluk sockeye run. This season in particular has a zen-like start to it. Being ready early and having extra time has been a blessing. Some years we open June 1st and it's a frenzied madness; this year has the rhythm of a waltz or a ballroom dance. Waking each day with time before the scheduled opener lets our minds prioritize and slowly sift through what needs to be done. A sort of muscle memory awakens at the beginning of our four-month long marathon.
As a primitive hunter sharpens spear or knife and envisions the moves needed to secure success for his or her family group, we too prepare to be one with our watery world, mending our nets back into pristine shape, sliding new bleeding knives into our sheaths, picturing in our minds the array of anchors, fixed lines and buoys in the water coming together in a simple elegant form to hold our net in place.
A new net for us is a thing of beauty. With gem-like shades of blues and greens, the multi-strand filaments create thousands of diamonds ready for the sea. We almost don't want to put the work of art in the ocean for the summer journey ahead, for the storms, the logs, sticks, kelp, jellyfish and slime to wear its sparkle. Almost…. But we do want to fish and interact directly with our food source.
Tomorrow the music starts for those with the right ear for it. The weir at Karluk river, which sits like a fence in the water and allows Department of Fish and Game technicians to manually count each and every salmon that swims upstream to spawn, has passed 40,000 individual sockeye in one day. More are in the lagoon and wait for the next tides to give them the signal to travel up stream in one last final twilight, ensuring the future of Karluk salmon.
At noon sharp we will be allowed to set our nets for the first time this year. We eagerly anticipate starting that work, the kind of work that shows us and our crew that all our long days of getting ready haven’t been for free. There are no guarantees in this business, but that's acceptable for us. Our office has blue skies directly overhead and a greening land around us. We have a million dollar view unspoiled by man's creations, so if we have to sacrifice some security, gladly we will exchange that for the chance to be one with our environment in body and spirit.
Here's to the season ahead, and to feeding our group of healthy wild salmon eaters!