Sunday, February 21, 2010

If anyone out there has ever watched

the Deadliest Catchon the Discovery channel, they might be surprised to know that I was one of the stars of the show.

Not the show itself, but I did fish those waters in the 80s.

I didn't care much for fishing with iron boxes very much, but I truly enjoyed the halibut fishery. We caught them on longlines, which were long lines of rope with a leaded and a hook spliced in every, say two fathoms. The hook is baited and the longline weighted and laid out on the ocean bottom to soak a while.

Then the groundline is retrieved, fairleaded between a pair of rollers and a hydraulis sheave pulles it up.

That's where the fun begins.

The guy that is next to the roller is called the roller man and as the fish appear, he gaffs them in the cheek and yards them aboard.

Running the roller is wothout a doubt so much fun it should be illegal.

The entire fishery is brutal. Everything about it is savage. You gaff fish, and throw the damned thing into the checkerboards, a bin of sorts. From there, the fish is hauled onto the cleaning table, whacked on the snout with a baseball bat, gutted and thrown into the hold, which is full of ice and seawater. Old School Norwegiens used to fill the belly cavity, called the poke, with ice until the 'champagne sysyem' of mixinh ice and seawater was developed.

I loved sticking a gaff into those huge flat fish, some of whom were bigger than a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Of course, the big ones required help from the rest of the guys, but you would be astonished to see how big of a fish one guy could haul in alone if he knew how to time the movement of the boat. A roller man that knew his stuff would often lookk like Superman.

The hours were brutal, too. If the opening was 48 hours, generally a guy would be up for about 60 hours straight. Getting punchy was half of the fun, as was describing your hallucinations to your fellow crewman.

My favorite hallucination, except for mermaids, was a huge purple brontasaurus walking across the ocean. Of course, mermaids were everyone's favorite.

Most people don't know where mermaids come from, but I do. I know they exist, too.

That's because I seen 'em.
It sure was a fun way to make a living.

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