Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Search of Fish

Playful Sea Otters
Adult Sea Otters
Two sea otters kept us entertained nearly an hour, playing alongside the docks at Pelican.  They seemed to be daring each other - rolling, jumping, and sliding under the water in playful competition or perhaps courtship.  Being rather large, we assume they were adults which can weigh between 31 and 99 pounds. Water could be seen rolling off their fur; the sea otter has the densest fur of any animal, nearly one million strands of hair per square inch.  The fur consists of long, waterproof guard hairs which keep the underfur layer dry.  These animals are so cute it’s sad to think how they were extensively hunted between 1741 and 1911 for their fur.  The large-scale hunting during the Maritime Fur Trade killed approximately one million sea otters to meet foreign demand for otter pelts, one of the world’s most valuable types of fur at the time.  Although sea otters have made a comeback, they are still somewhat depressed in California and the Aleutian Island Chain. 
Adorable Couple
We departed Pelican the following morning and headed to Hoonah located further inland to wait out winds of 25-30 knots with 6-7 foot seas in Cross Sound, increasing to 8 feet for that next day.  It was of interest to note, that seas in the Gulf would reach 17-18 feet with 40 knot winds.  
Orca Whales, Lisianski Inlet 
As we departed Lisianski Inlet, we saw two Orca whales along the shoreline heading out to sea; perhaps they had finished feeding on the abundant fish in the area in competition with the fishermen.  Orca often referred to as killer whales are found in all oceans from frigid water regions to tropical seas. They have a diverse diet but some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals.  We made our way northeast through S. Inian Pass and South Passage in a 2 knot flood, then rounded Point Adolphus into Icy Strait.  The winds picked up to 20 knots just before heading into the protected waters of Port Frederick and the inner harbor at Hoonah.  We spent the afternoon catching up on phone calls, laundry, and discussing new cruising destinations.  We also defrosted our refrigerator for the first time since its purchase back in February, so much easier and more efficient than the old refrigerator!  As luck would have it, Leonard finally caught a fish to fill up the freezer.  He had been asking commercial fishermen throughout Southeast Alaska if he could buy a fish from them.  The answer was always no, due to government regulations.  Fishermen must weigh and label what they catch and can only sell their fish to commercial processing or packing plants. 
Leonard's King Salmon
From what we have been told, fishermen aren’t allowed to eat their own catch or sell fish to individuals without a special processing license.  There are also strict guidelines about keeping salmon caught in each fishery area separate from any other fish onboard.  Government “observers” randomly board commercial fishing boats for inspection and will also ride with fishermen over a course of time to see that all regulations are being followed.  Penalties can be severe, including fines and confiscation of equipment and/or the boat.  No wonder they were unwilling to sell us a fish!  To our surprise, we were also unable to find any fresh fish in the local grocery stores.  
Cleaning off the Fish Scales
Undeterred, Leonard pursued his search.  When I returned from my laundry duties, there was Leonard holding a fish with a big smile on his face, “I finally caught a fish” he said.  I knew he hadn’t purchased a fishing license so I didn’t fall for his baited comment; where did you get it? I asked.  He had stopped by the fish processing plant in Hoonah and asked if he could buy a fish, apparently the plant can sell to whomever they wish since they are in the business of processing and selling.  What a treat!  We finally had fresh baked king salmon for dinner, delicious!
Moorage at Hoonah

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