The Salmon Killers - Part 5
Bob Lawless, Port Ludlow, WA
Setting the Gear
When you finally have cleared the jetty, you prepare
the boat for fishing. This is not an easy task under
the best of circumstances but in rough seas it can
get pretty hairy.
First, you have to decide to go up (north) or down (south)
or out to the west. Maybe you have a hot tip and you are
going to run awhile, maybe seven miles out on a heading
of 274 degrees to arrive at a known lat. and long. area.
But most days, I would just turn north by northwest. You
have to set your autopilot (a machine for which I have
nothing but contempt) on this course.
In fishing a course is called a "tack." Once you have
decided on a tack, the autopilot must correct any
departure of the boat from this tack or there will
be serious consequences. The pilot has a compass
inside and when it changes a few degrees (wind,
waves, moving about, anything might cause this) the
pilot sends a signal to a motor to turn in one direction
or the other. Then the rudder is changed, course is
corrected and so on. Or so they say! But sometimes I
would think I was going north (foggy day) only to find
out I was headed south! Or sometimes I would be in heavy
traffic on a hot bite and the damn thing would go
bezonkers on me. Failure of the pilot to control the
boat means that the day is over, no matter the bite.
You have to be aft and you have no time or ability to
handle the helm. If the pilot quits, you quit.
To quit during a hot bite can be disastrous, you might
lose several thousand dollars. Once I was standing in
the electrical repair shop begging to get my sonar
repaired when the door blew open and a fisherman stormed
in and threatened the owner with a "damn good beating"
because his pilot had not been fixed yet. This wasn't
the first threat. I heard the owner drank quite bit and
I could understand why.
So now the big gulper; you set the tack and then you held
your breath as the boat rolled when you released your hand
from the helm. Would she hold? She would lean over because
of swell, but then you heard the clicking of the pilot
and the soft whir of the steering motor and she would
straighten back up. I always hollered with joy at this,
usually some vile and filthy oaths, and now I could go
aft and set the gear.
First though, I would remove the flopper stoppers from
the mount and chuck them overboard into the sea. These
stoppers are attached to the booms or poles as they are
known, using chains and thick rope. They are made of
stainless steel and are about two feet square but shaped
like an arrow. They have a heavy lead weighted pipe
attached to their bow which keeps them always pointing
down and straight ahead.
When the boat rolls to port, the port stopper dives as
far as the chain allows. Now the boat rolls to starboard
and so the stopper must be lifted quickly but it is
reluctant to do so because water does not like to move
that fast. Thus, much of the quickness of the roll to
starboard is thwarted. Conversely, when the boat rolls
to port, the starboard stopper goes to work. Much of
the rock and roll of the sea is thus eliminated. I always
could hardly wait to throw in my stoppers.
So the pilot was working, the stoppers were in and now
you lowered the booms. These tall, thick poles where
held in position on the mast. By loosing the lines, you
could send them out at about a 45 degree angle from the
surface and then tie them into place, one on each side.
Now you entered the gaff hatch or the fishing station
and you set out a total of about thirty-six leaders
that were 18 feet each in length. These leaders were
made of 100 pound test monofilament and they could not
be broken by the salmon. They could, however, tear lose
and thus you had a thick rubber snubber attached to
allow for some give but not for much. I have a friend
whose father had his eye ripped out by one of these
snubbers when, stretched to its limit, it suddenly broke
loose and hit him in the face, eye gone.
Each leader had a lure at one end and a snap at the
other which you clipped onto the cables which were
spooled on drums and powered by the engine through
a system of hydraulics that would lower them to the
proper depth, sometimes as much as 50 fathoms, or
three hundred feet.
Every 18 feet there would be two small stops spaced
about 6 inches apart to which you attached the leaders.
The lures, called flashers, were chrome plated pieces
of metal, bent and about a foot or so long. They rotated
in big circles when pulled by the boat. Apparently the
salmon thought these were other salmon trying wildly
to catch a bait. Competition and greed would take over.
The bait could be herring, or spoons or plugs or plastic
squid. To imitate something to eat, I used plastic squid,
called hootchies, and favored the color green. These
flashers and lures were the subject of much discussion.
What was the best color? Did this change with an overcast
or other variables? What should be the distance between
the flasher and the lure? I favored 27" inches. The
greater the distance, the slower the roll. I liked a
nice easy roll which I hoped would excite some big slug
(a fish over 20 pounds) to attack. But some used only
15" which would cause a very fast roll.
It took me years to wade through all this discussion and
trial and error to learn to do what I thought best, what
worked. If you thought properly, you made money. If not,
you went broke. ~ BOBLAWLESS
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