2019 Salmon Season Wrap Up
Our fishing season has finally wound to a stop, and as we get a little perspective on the summer, a few aspects pop to mind that will make this one stand out in our memory banks. The first thing we think about was the heat. Unprecedented not just in Kodiak but all over Alaska, it affected not only those of us humans who were working in raingear and trying not to suffer from heat exhaustion, but more disturbingly our salmon, swimming in 60-degree ocean surface temperatures, some of them looking a little ragged.
Another remarkable facet of the heat wave was the lack of clouds and therefore rain. It was a big question mark whether our little spring fed creeks that fuel our faucets, showers, and coffee pots would hold out with only one rain storm from mid-July until late August or September. Some of our neighbors did go dry and had to haul water, but we were able to squeak through by readjusting our water catchment chutes periodically as the creek beds narrowed to a trickle. That lack of rain was disconcerting, given that Kodiak is supposed to be a pretty wet place. However, it seems that the plants for the most part made it through the summer; brush is still head high and trees are looking fine. On top of the mountains where the soil is basically just rock and moisture from the air, some of those plants either died or went into intense hibernation, but down at sea level we were treated to mega salmonberry and raspberry harvests.
Whether or not it was related to the temperatures, the Pacific Ocean was pumping out the pink salmon into Kodiak this summer so much so that it was the 3rd or 4th largest pink salmon harvest of all time for Kodiak Island. Despite the fact that the pinks, or humpies as locals call them, were very very small – well under the typical 3-pound average – and thus were squirting through 4 and ¾ inch gillnet web, we still had enough of them in our nets to keep us remarkably and sometimes exhaustedly busy for most of August and even into September. Though we don’t process pink salmon for our Soul Mate Salmon business – this species comes in such large volume that we can’t take the time to give them custom treatment and instead just sell them whole to our processor – we do mention them here because they are such a large element of our summer’s work, especially on Adelia’s side of the bay. She had her hands going to sleep, pins and needles waking her up in the middle of the night – affectionately called “humpy hands” -not just from this summer’s harvest but from the cumulative stress of a lifetime of picking the plentiful pinks.
It was a good summer, even though very busy from the middle to the end without much time to write a blog entry. It’s a life that is filled to bursting with the simple routines of waking, fishing, fueling our bodies, more fishing, fixing broken machinery or chafed lines, and more fishing, all in the company of good people. The connection with our community of fishermen and fisherwomen was rekindled, we welcomed in new crew members and shared food and laughs with returning ones, helping our neighbors as they helped us. People, as much as the nature and seasonal physical work keep us coming back. We might not rake in the dollars, but the satisfaction that we accrue from all the little sources is priceless. A cartoon hanging on the cabin wall at Trap Six sums it all up: it’s got a graph with “yin” on the x-axis and “yang” on the y-axis. A line trends upward, and a joyful character raises her hands to the air, exulting, “I’m rich, I’m spiritually rich!”