The Salmon Killers: Setting the gear

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by BOBLAWLESS, Feb 10, 2003.

  1. BOBLAWLESS

    BOBLAWLESS New Member

    (The below post is an ongoing tale of the life of a commercial salmon troller which does have some useful information for flyfishers. If you are just hooking on, go to the articles page to catch the beginning).

    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.