Gone Fishing: Get That Net

We had the boat. We had the crew. We had groceries. We were shipshape. Even the engine was starting to purr, although the skipper wanted a few more tweaks: you don’t get second chances when you’re out on the fishing grounds. What we didn’t have was a net. As in, you gotta be kidding, we don’t have a net?

The typical salmon seine net for Inside waters — meaning protected waters like those in the “Inside Passage” — is 220 fathoms long (which translates to a quarter-mile). There’s a cork line to make it float on top of the water and a lead line to sink the bottom of the net. There are also pursing lines, lifters and a tow end that connects to the power skiff. If you build one at today’s prices, expect to pay at least $30,000 per net.

Salmon Nets for sale (in storage)

But fishing is a funny business. People work their way up, with better boats and bigger catches and then, for a multitude of reasons, they sour on the industry. When that happens, they have lots of fixed assets that they need to unload. The most valuable of those assets is their Alaska fishing permit; they are limited in number and, depending on the area and fishery, can be worth upwards of $100,000 (two SE seine permits recently listed for $250K each).

Our skipper knew just the right somebody. Maggie was one of the few female skippers in an industry then dominated by men (still is, by the way). She’d sold her Southeast seine permit and rebooted, starting a river rafting and adventuring business in Talkeetna, at the gateway to Denali National Park and Reserve. She still had her boat and her gear. Including her nets.

Purse Seiner with skiff and net

“How about you come up to Talkeetna with me and help me get that net,” the skipper said.

I didn’t need to be asked twice.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


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