Monday, July 6, 2015

The Fishing Season

Picturesque Petersburg
We enjoyed our stay in Petersburg relaxing and soaking up the warm sun.  The town was alive with all the activity of the fishing season.  Fishing boats were coming and going from the harbor and men were attending their nets and stocking their vessels with supplies.  
Norwegian Heritage at Petersburg
The town’s population had grown with seasonal workers who arrived to support the fishing fleet.  
Seiner sorting out the Nets
We met two young men from Seattle hired to work on a Purse Seiner for the season.  They came over to help us with our lines when we docked at the loading area to fill our water tank.  They offered to take a picture of us when they saw me taking pictures of the fishing boats and were equally happy to answer our questions about fishing techniques and equipment.  
Seasonal Workers from Seattle
The purse seiner fishing method consists of floats along one edge of a rectangular net and a rope with rings along the other edge of the net.  The small tender motors out from the fishing boat in a wide circle and back to the mother ship.  The bottom of the net is then closed with the rope that passes through the rings, drawing up like a purse to capture the fish.  
Filling the Water Tank
The floats at the top of the net prevent the fish from swimming over the top sides.  The net is then hoisted onto the fishing boat for emptying and sorting.  From Petersburg we made our way south through Wrangell Narrows, a 21-mile narrow channel marked with numerous navigation aids in a winding pattern around ledges and flats.  
Wrangell Narrows
Depending on the time of day, strong current runs through the Narrows necessitating transiting at the appropriate time.  Having made this passage on several occassions it now seems routine; but there are always new challenges – this time we had numerous crab pots to avoid that had been placed along the edges of the channel.  The Narrows spit us out into Sumner Strait where we encountered more crab pots and several fishing boats in the process of laying out their nets.  After safely passing through the congregation of fishing boats, we headed across Sumner Strait against a strong current rising to 4 knots in a few places, then proceeded southeast down Clarence Strait.  
Black Bear, Exchange Cove
We arrived at Exchange Cove on the northeast end of Prince of Wales Island and set the anchor around 8:50pm.  While we were setting the anchor I had noticed a Black Bear grazing along the shoreline.  With some daylight still left, we paddled over in our kayaks to get a closer look.  
Black Bear ponders our Approach
We watched intently as the female Black Bear munched the grasses, looking up at us every once in a while with short-lived curiosity.  Black Bears inhabit most of Alaska’s forests with an estimated population of more than 50,000.  Getting to see a bear, however, is somewhat rare; the best chance for a sighting seems to be during dusk or evening when they are feeding along a grassy shoreline or fishing along a stream.  
Our Little Java Bear
Smaller than the Brown Bear (Grizzly), the Black Bear is generally 5 feet in length; males weigh 150-400 pounds and females 125-250 pounds.  We surmised that it was either a young bear or a female bear based on its size.  Darkness was closing in so we paddled back to the boat, our little black cub Java was waiting for us, fast asleep.

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