Yesterday, July 1, marked the first opener for set-netters in the Naknek district. A seven and a half hour period from 8:30am to 4:00pm. Our whole crew is here now, all ten of us, and the first-timers were anxious to get out on the water. We awoke early to a beautiful and peaceful morning on the Bay. Slightly overcast with a light breeze, perfect fishing weather. We made our way to Memaw's cabin, enticed by the sweet aroma of the freshly brewed coffee she had waiting for us. Together we sat around the table, facing the ocean, watching Bald Eagles as they flew by to bid us good morning, sharing our excitement for the adventure to come, and treating our taste buds as Dana's delicious sourdough pancakes filled our bellies.
It was time. We slipped on our waders, our boots, our neoprene sleeves, raincoats, and gloves. Double checked each other for our IDs and fishing licenses and made our way down the bluff to the awaiting mud below. This mud is like quicksand; desperately clinging to each foot as it sinks two feet below the surface, we must move steadily and sure-footed. Out to the far boats we go, ready to drop our nets as soon as the clock strikes 8:30. It's like a starting line. A series of skiffs, parallel to each other and filled with anxious crewmen dot the shore and like a silent starter gun, :28, :29: 30 and we take off. The next seven hours is like a school field trip, filled with lessons on how to safely maneuver the boat, how to easily decipher the puzzle of fish caught in the net, how to properly handle each sockeye to ensure the best quality. Tips on crewmen etiquette, communication, and teamwork, and how to laugh and enjoy every moment on the boat with friends, giving thanks to each fish as it blesses our nets. By the time 4 o'clock rolled around, we had filled several brailer bags with fresh fish and minds with lots of new information and experience. Satisfied with the success of the first tide, we pulled our nets and made our way back up the bluff to enjoy a hot bowl of Salmon Chowder and a well-deserved nap.