The Akwe River opens to commercial fishing the 4th Sunday in June. Last weekend, we had Chris cover the fly shop, while Teen and Eden joined Tanis and I for the opening week. Unfortunately it was yet another underwhelming opener for us…
It was a busy Saturday last weekend, with Family Fishing Day at the harbor. Tanis and Eden wanted to participate in that, so we didn’t exactly get out to the river early… Tanis brought out a cod he caught off the dock, so our dinner ended up being one of those nice little bottom feeders from there in the greasy-oily boat harbor… Yum…
Tanis had spend a week out at the cabin alone last month getting the nets ready, so there wasn’t much for us to do to prep for the next morning. Just getting the skiff down to the Akwe and into the water. That went smoothly, so we took some time running up the Akwe to see how many fish were in the river. Greg from the fish plant had told me there were “thousands” of fish in the river, so it was a bit disappointing to see “hundreds” in the Akwe/Italio confluence and then nothing… Literally NOTHING in the rest of the river. We blasted upstream about 5 miles from the mouth and spotted only one small pod of maybe a dozen. That’s it.
With our lowered expectations in hand, we went to bed early and got up Sunday morning. The river constantly changes and this year, we really have only two spots where we can set. The rest of “our zone” is braided with multiple channels and very little water. Out on the Akwe, we have a gentleman’s agreement with Dave Brown – the other fisherman, where we have divided up the river into “his zone” and “our zone”, so we don’t have any arguments and bickering. Our zone isn’t very good this year, but other years we end up with a few holes that will hold fish and we spend our week sweeping them repeatedly. Not in the cards this year, but we’ll definitely save on gas.
We set Tanis’ net, but the anchor dragged off the shore. Had to pick it back up again and try again. My set went uneventfully. We swept the two holes (which consists of taking the jet-boat and doing circles starting at the top to sweep the fish downstream into the net. Tanis’ caught about a dozen. Mine netted us only 4. Not quite enough to pay for the gas we burned sweeping. Oh well.
The sun was out and the day tide was a small 6 footer. There wasn’t going to be any big push of sockeye on Sunday, so all we could do is try to rest as best we could and keep the nets as clean as possible. With all this sun all spring, keeping the nets clean isn’t such an easy task…
Lots of shaping and shaking. The moss builds up on the web pretty quickly, making it very easy for the salmon to see the net. You have to constantly shake and shake. Some types of moss shakes pretty easily, but there is one type that does NOT shake at all. We had a mix of types. We spend far more time shaking moss than picking fish this time of year. Usually by September, the constant floods of fall and lack of sun tends to keep the moss under control. Not so during the sockeye run.
The 11pm night tide was a good 9 footer, but I expected to see a little action after the tide, when it starts to get dark. We did finally see some fish push in on that outgoing tide, but not a whole lot. We had a planeload by morning and I flew that to town at first light. A little groggy, but I’d rather get the fish out of there than have them sitting around in the sun, with our problem juvenile bear. We have a 3 year old who has been biting tires and gas jugs and ATV seats, digging holes under the cabin and being a nuisance.
After my return from delivering fish, our week was pretty much over. We only caught another dozen or so fish all day. Nets come out at 6pm Monday, so it is a short 36 hours of fishing. We essentially stay up the entire day and a half and fish continuously, except for any brief chance to get an hour’s nap in somewhere.
It was great to have the chicks out there through the week. Teen would have lunch ready for us when we came back to the cabin, so that was sure a blessing. Although with as slow as it was, we had plenty of time to relax and rest between shaking episodes.
With our two nets, we had about 1,800lbs total for the week. We covered expenses for the week, but have a long way to do to dig out of the financial hole of cabin permit fees and fuel expenses. It usually takes till week #3 or 4 before we start actually making a bit of profit, but some years (like last year) we never reach that threshold. Last year was our worst sockeye season ever, but I still get to go out and spend quality time with Tanis, playing with ATV’s and jet-boats. It isn’t all about the money… It is about living a quality life and sharing it with those you love.
And I’m very blessed in that department. Even if the bank account doesn’t always show that.