The hunt for opies is on! Last week, everyone battled ice and dumped their crab pots just to stay afloat. Some boats met with success, others didn’t. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
The Northwestern fell short of their fishing grounds by about 80 miles. The Cornelia Marie had to throw pots 160 miles away from their target. They were “making ice like a son of a bitch”. Self-preservation dictates dropping gear where you can. The problem with this tactic, though, is that the ice adds an unwanted buoyancy that cause the pots to land upside down, which allows the crab easy entry, a chance to eat the bait, and then an easy exit.
Amongst other health concerns, Captain Phil’s been working with three crushed discs in his back. 175 more pots to go. Three days at the wheel, dropping gear and then starting to pull it back in.
On the Kodiak, Wild Bill reached his preferred grounds and he’s pulling crab, but there’s a struggle with the count and with his greenhorn. Listening in from the wheelhouse, it’s apparent that Clinton’s attitude is poisoning the crew. Calling deck boss Adam in for a quick talk, Bill makes it known that he’ll be looking for a replacement in St. Paul.
Capt. Keith over on the Wizard is steaming toward his first opie string of the season. He set prospect pots on choice ground, north of the rest of the fleet. Greenhorn Paul was brought on board by Keith in the hopes that he’ll be the one to stick around. Six greenhorns in six years. The odds aren’t in Paul’s favor. They met when Paul served as a mountain guide for Keith in the off-season. Hopes are high, but only time will tell if the rugged outdoorsman is of the right stock for the vast Bering Sea. Average crab count is in the 200s. Art Peterson manages to avoid disaster on deck while hauling in a pot.
The Time Bandit heads to the reef on St. George, also known as the Washing Machine. North winds, north seas, in the trough, etc. Captain Andy dumped pots without bait just to stabilize the boat. The deckhands are busy while greenhorn Jeremy Shelton struggles to keep anything down. Seasickness has hit hard. Jeremy, Scott Hillstrand’s friend, wants to prove his worth and does his best to help out. He’s not doing all that well at the moment, though. The best advice anyone could give was “eat something, barf it up, eat some more, barf it up…you’re not gonna to puke it all up”. I don’t think the rogue wave helped any.
I find it curious that such a big deal is made of the seasickness when many of the seasoned crews still fight it as they head out to sea. It’s actually been mentioned on After the Catch and on the Discovery website that seasoned veterans often spend the first few days heading out with some serious communing with nature.
Northwestern Capt. Sig approaches his first string that’s been soaking 24 hours. Edgar’s bad back is slowing him down. First pot yields bairdi and small opies. Boats incur huge fines if they catch and keep the wrong species. Heavy crab sort slows everyone down. Edgar’s back isn’t helping… and now Sig feels the crew is taking advantage of the situation, taking too long to sort, bait, and set the pots again. The only thing to do to break the crew of their “habit-forming” pace is to jam gear down their throats. In the rush, Jake Anderson cuts himself with his cod knife. A quick patch job is all that was needed to get him back on deck, but Edgar, well that’s another story. All the delays are leaving Sig pissed, but determined, to get back to the grind.
With the Cornelia Marie, Phil’s back is acting up so Josh takes wheel watch. Phil spent three days at the wheel, and his reward is nada. Time to stack gear and move to the Rock Pile to try their luck there.
For Wild Bill and the Kodiak…13 hours of hauling gear is taking its toll. The last pot of the set has Bill questioning the crew once again since the numbers are not adding up, and there’s just no groove for the crew. Clinton’s days are most definitely numbered.
Wizard, more ice, more work, more searching for crab. Greenhorn is growing weary and Keith mentions that 33 year old greenhorns — anyone over 30 — odds aren’t good. Six greenhorns in six years, and the Wizard’s track record with newbies ain’t too good. Keith takes Paul off the bait and puts him on the rail to give him a break. It almost results in disaster, but he manages to escape being pulled over the rail.
The Time Bandit pulls its first pot and it’s bairdi. Andy needs to find some opilio fast. Jeremy is still ailing. Crew has to dump tote after tote down the chute. Andy gives Jeremy 50-50 odds on making it. “It’s all mental now.” Scott’s trying to cheer him on.
Interesting point to note: opilio and bairdi compete for territory, so if bairdi are plentiful, opies are light. Time to move on.
That’s it for this week. In the meantime, please stop by the Cornelia Marie site and read about a visit some of the captains made to the Naval Medical Center while they were in San Diego filiming After the Catch last year. Thanks, Morgan, for keeping us in the loop!