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Fish Spotting in a SC (Excellent read)


Northern Minnesota
A Brief Look At Herring Spotting
In Lower Cook Inlet
Jay Kelley

Frequent storms assault the Kamishak Bay area on the west side of Lower Cook Inlet. The narrow boulder strewn beaches rise abruptly becoming massive bluffs and promontories. Ocean swells, turbid with silt, surge and swirl in apparent slow motion over and around the many reefs and shoals. Just a few miles off shore an active volcano rumbles and smokes. The area, covering hundreds of square miles, is desolate and uninhabited except for brown bears, wolverines, moose, wolves and a variety of birds and small animals. April weather is fraught with gales and storms, dense wet snow squalls, freezing rain, fog and rough water. Brutal winds persistently rake the cliffs. Sea water, gouged from the ocean surface by violent down drafts, is flung hundreds of feet upward in twisting walls of white spray. Tidal fluctuations exceeding 36 feet produce fast moving currents and huge swirling eddies. The Alaska Range looms upward from the shoreline. Formed by tectonic, volcanic and glacial forces, the mountains rise to 10,000 feet. Augustine Island, a 4000' cone shaped volcano five miles off shore, erupts from time to time spewing an ash column tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere. Glowing hot boulders, some the size of houses, come bounding down its slopes. At night the mountain provides an awesome display for the fishermen and spotters anchored in nearby Iniskin Bay. It is a risky area for a for a small airplane.
From the fishing grounds the closest safe port for a float plane is Homer, 75 miles across the waters of Cook Inlet, at the mouth of Kachemak Bay. During a storm the trip is scary, especially in the dark or in low visibility. Radio talk with other airborne fish spotters helps to dispel the apprehension. At the end of a long tiring day, I start across lower Cook Inlet for Homer. The northern point of Iniskin Bay disappears behind me. I'm suspended in turbulent gloom, encapsulated in my Supercub, unable to see more than a half a mile in any direction, with heaving gray water 200 feet below.
I key my microphone. "Hey Dan,... this is Jay in triple-six pop, ....you on this one?”
"Hi there J-bird. I'm here. Ain't this weather terrible? My loran says I'm 58 miles southwest of Homer, but I'm having to deviate way south to keep from icing up in a big, wet, snow squall out here. Where are you?".... (Dan also flies a Supercub).
"I just left Iniskin Bay.. I'm heading across, but it's getting really low and thick.....does it look better to the south?"
"Yeah I think so.......It does seem to be getting a little lighter. I picked up a bunch of ice out here in this squall and it ain't melting off. There's a lot of carburetor ice too. My engine almost quit when I pulled the carb heat on the first time. Wow!.....scared me. You might wanta start heading south from where you are.”
"Sounds like a plan, Dan, I'm turning south. What kind of a ground speed are you showing? My loran never works in bad weather."
"It’s indicating 43 knots, pretty stiff head wind out here towards the middle, but it's not as bad as it was back by Augustine Island. You staying in town tonight? We oughta get a bunch of us together for dinner."
"Yeah I've got a room at the Lakeside Inn. Parker's staying there too. So are Frank and Jim and three or four other spotters. Have you seen Parker's observer? She's gorgeous,.... long dark wavy hair, green eyes,... What's his secret, anyway?
A different voice pops in... "Hey guys, quit drooling she's married and has two kids".
Dan interrupts, "Who's that? Ronnie¹, is that you?"
"You betcha, guys. I'm five miles west of Homer Spit gettin' ready to land. The weather's not too bad after you get within about ten miles of Homer but the wind is from the east about 35 knots. I've got a tiedown on the ice at Beluga lake so it shouldn't be much of a problem there, but if you're going to the boat harbor you might wanta look it over real good....pretty big swell in Kachemak Bay, although you might be able to land in the entrance of the boat harbor."
I key my mike, "Oh that sounds wonderful, Ron, I guess we'll just have to see what it looks like when we get there. If it's too bad maybe I'll go to the lake too. I have a secret tiedown spot there if I can dig ‘em out of the snow, except there's no fuel at the lake."
A smug smiling voice pipes up, "It sure is nice to be driving an amphib....no worries about parking or fuel. " It's Terry. He flies a Cessna 185 on amphibious floats and can land at the Homer airport. Parking for him is no problem.
"Hey Terry," I say, "Are you still not smoking?"
"That’s right, I haven’t had a cigarette for over a year now. How about it? When’re you gonna quit?"
I ponder a moment and say, "On my next birthday, one month from today."
And yet another voice chimes in. It's Parker². "Jay" he says, "I'll bet you a thousand dollars that you can't quit smoking."
I rise to the challenge. "You’re on, Parker. We’ll talk about it at dinner. Let's discuss the terms then, like how long do I have to quit before you pay up?"
200 feet beneath me an old 80 foot wooden power scow, the Harry B, is packing a heavy load of herring across to Homer and is taking a beating in the huge gray waves. She pitches down into a deep trough and takes a big one right over the pilot house. I know the skipper and the three crewmen. Tony, the engineer is working over time to keep the engine room relatively free of water, and Greg, the skipper is working hard at the helm, trying to steer the straightest course to Homer in those monstrous wind driven waves. The other two crewmen could be sleeping, or puking their guts out. I feel fortunate not to be down there on the water. The people on that boat will be bucking those waves for hours after I have arrived safely in town. The radio chatter subsides as we all work our way through the weather. The lonely edginess eases as Homer gets closer. I contemplate past seasons and think of the many pitfalls of herring spotting.
Fuel for spotter planes is available from some of the tender boats that follow the fishing fleet. Most tenders have high sides making them troublesome to tie up to and are usually in water that is too rough for a small float plane. Most spotter pilots modify their aircraft fuel systems to provide up to eight hours of uninterrupted flight. Those that have the typical four hour range might carry extra fuel in gerry jugs aboard their planes and have 55 gallon barrels of fuel stored in appropriate locations around the fishing grounds. The spotter pilot often faces tough decisions with respect to fuel, weather and a suitable spot to put his airplane during a storm or at night.
In the Kamishak area Iniskin Bay offers some protection but not always. It depends on wind direction and speed. During a previous fishing season I got up one morning aboard one of my boats for an Iniskin Bay opener to find the wind gusting to 60 plus. The wind was howling over the nearby bluffs and there were severe down drafts hitting the water. When the time came to fly, I taxied away from the boat straight into the wind for 25 minutes angling toward the cliffs and the head of the bay trying to see a pattern to the gusts before getting up enough nerve to take off. Taxiing in that gusty wind into a three foot wind chop was an adventure in itself. Huge powerful gusts would come at erratic intervals, sometimes so strong that I would have to add power and push the stick forward to keep the airplane from being blown into the air as I taxied. I watched down draft after down draft smacking the water at the base of the cliffs ahead of me knowing that each one became a gusty burbling updraft around its outer edges after it touched the water. Finally as an other big gust approached I gave it full throttle and the Supercub rose like an elevator straight into the air up the face of the cliff to 1500 feet in just a few seconds. Where the cliffs rounded off at the top the wind was even stronger. I was able to continue climbing and without turning, backed away from the terrain by slowing down to about 70 mph. We all flew in that wild wind for four hours, ‘round and ‘round Iniskin Bay, occasionally getting flipped upside down by the continuous severe turbulence coming over the steep bluffs. Planes were going up and down around me like yo-yo’s and it is the closest I've ever come to getting sick at the controls of an airplane. I flew with the window open in the 35 degree weather slowly munching on soda crackers to keep myself from puking. After four hours of gradually diminishing turbulence, the fishing opener was ended by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. No fish were caught. I landed for fuel checked the oil, and headed for Homer.
Sometimes the only option for the spotter is to have his airplane hoisted aboard a boat and tied down on deck. This procedure can be risky in a gusty wind and rough water. Some pilots splice a long floating line to a ring at the tail of their planes and to the cleats at the toes of their floats so that with the assistance of the crew, they can keep the airplane from turning as it comes aboard. In spite of these precautions, and the help of a seasoned crew, a strong gust can result in disaster. Even an airplane tied safely on deck can be wrecked by the wind. An 80 knot gust from the rear, broke both wings of a small plane during a herring season in Prince William Sound several years ago even though the plane was securely tied down on the deck of a 200 foot tender.
At night some spotters anchor their airplanes in the water not far from their boats. The anchor is set firmly into the bottom by a small powerful boat, called a jitney used to tow and maneuver one end of the 900 foot long seine net when making, holding and closing a set. The anchor line is tied to a bright orange bladder float so that the pilot can find it and tie up to it when he needs to. Anchoring a plane out by itself can be relatively safe even in winds gusting up to 80 knots. But anchoring out also has it's hazards and disadvantages. If it snows during the night, the wings and tail have to be swept clean of snow or the plane will sink tail first. The weight of wet spring snow on the tail will quickly sink the narrow and least buoyant aft ends of the floats. The rearmost float compartments fill up with water, and like dominoes falling, the remaining float compartments fill up one by one. Soon the tail and half the fuselage is in the water and all of the float compartments are full except the fronts of the forward compartments. By this time the plane is going down. Wet snow can sink a plane in fifteen minutes. The pilot who sleeps on a boat with his plane anchored nearby is up and down all night checking. Occasionally a boat will arrive late at night, and anchor just up wind or up current from an anchored airplane. The tired crew goes to sleep. The wind or current increases, and the boat, dragging its anchor, drifts back into the plane. Even if the plane doesn't sink it's likely to get bent or broken
Some pilots tie the fronts of their floats to the stern of a seine boat and use a lifting sling to take the weight off the floats. The sling (a spreader bar) attaches to two steel rings near the wing roots on top of the plane at it's balance point. A line is hooked to the sling from over the boat's power block on the end of the picking boom and then to the deck winch. Tension is applied which lifts the rear ends of the floats clear of the water and forces the toes of the floats hard against the stern of the boat. This is a secure arrangement which prevents the plane from sinking during a heavy snow and keeps it from constantly bumping the boat in waves, but offers little protection in a high wind. Occasionally an inexperienced spotter pilot will tie just the fronts of his floats to the stern of the boat. He’ll wake up in the morning after a heavy snowfall to see a submerged propeller pointing straight up and the dim shape of his airplane hanging from its bow lines below the surface of the water. Or during the night the pilot might be awakened by a lurch and the sound of his airplane being crunched as his boat drags anchor into the boat behind. Huge flat sheets of ice up to 2 feet thick break loose from the frozen shorelines at the heads of bays during tide fluctuations. They move with massive inertia out of the bays on tidal currents paralleling the shoreline. These flat icebergs can sink a plane, break it loose from its anchor, or damage it in any number of ways. A good skipper and crew post a watch if there are floating ice sheets and have electronics which sound an alarm if the boat starts moving beyond the scope of it's anchor line.
Some spotters fly on wheels during the Cook Inlet herring season. They all use big fat tundra tires and make camps near the beaches. I have an aversion to flying a single engine airplane on wheels across 75 miles of open water. It seems safer on floats, although the water below is often so rough that a successful emergency landing would be impossible. A set of floats at least imparts a false sense of security that allows for less pucker factor.
Although spotters who fly on wheels don't have to worry about their airplanes sinking at night, there are trade-offs. Huge hungry brown bears just coming out of their winter hibernation, roam the country side and are totally entranced by the smell of food cooking. An other drawback is the very limited place for landings and takeoffs. If the wind is gusty and blowing the wrong way, it can be very tricky landing on a narrow, short, twisting, bumpy, gravel bar or on a narrow steeply sloped, rough gravel beach. In a strong gusty cross wind it's possible to ding a propeller, ground loop and wreck your plane or get blown off your landing area into the water or trees. There is something to be said though, for sleeping on dry land. You don't have to listen to three or four crewmen snoring in loud discordant counterpoint to each other, or to the maddening sound of tiny waves plooping against the hull of the boat beside your ear all night long. On the other hand boats have stoves. I camped out alone for three weeks one April and May in my winter tent on a beach near Togiak Alaska. I slept in two down sleeping bags, a heavy wool stocking cap, an arctic snow machine suit with all my clothes on, a set of thermal long underwear, and was still cold. The other option is to fly back and forth from the nearest town each day and sleep in a hotel room each night. That too has its drawbacks.
The sight of Homer in the distance jolts me back to the present. As I arrive over the Homer spit the wind is strong and gusty. The water outside the boat harbor is too rough to land on with a two foot wind chop running at a 45 degree angle to a 4 foot swell rolling all the way in from the head of the bay 20 miles to the east. I decide to land cross wind just inside the rock jetty at the boat harbor entrance. My touch down spot would be just inside the tip of the jetty with a gusty burbling cross wind, but out of the swell and wind chop. This landing would leave about 350 feet of distance in which to come off the step to a slow taxi and make the turn into the narrow rock walled entrance of the boat harbor. This accuracy landing is done by slow flying the plane just above the water for the last 200 feet or so of the approach and then touching down as slowly as is safely possible exactly where you want to. I would have had to transport fuel in gerry jugs to my tiedown spot on the ice at Beluga Lake had I landed there, a time consuming and inconvenient ordeal after a long difficult day.
Several of us have a nice dinner together and de-brief the events of the day. One of the spotter pilots flying a Cessna L-19 bird dog, had somehow managed to take off with his anchor still out. He actually got airborne with the anchor and 12 feet of anchor chain hanging from its 40 foot line. When he realized what he had done he knew he had to somehow pull it in or cut the line. It would have been disastrous to try to land with it hanging down because of the sudden drag it would create when it touched the water before the airplane touched down. Tied to a safety line, his observer crawled out onto the float while they were flying and pulled the anchor in hand over hand.
We all go to bed early knowing we will be up long before dawn in order to arrive on the other side of the inlet at first light. My alarm clock goes off at 3:30am. The cook at the hotel is kind enough to have hot coffee and donuts waiting for us before we have to leave in the dark for another day of herring spotting.
One of my skippers has provided me with a truck to drive. The drive to the boat harbor helps my eyes adjust to the dark. Several of us preflight our respective airplanes which are tied up in boat slips. A Supercub appears to be mangled in its slip. A closer look reveals a twisted fuselage and a crumpled tail. Apparently a couple of drunks running a powerful skiff in the middle of the night ran into the plane and left it virtually totaled, needless to say a terrible loss and disappointment for the spotter. My floats don't require much pumping and after my preflight I'm the first to taxi out of the boat harbor into Kachemak Bay for takeoff in the dark and the 75 mile trip southwest across the open waters of Cook Inlet to the fishing grounds at Kamishak Bay.
The weather is marginal and there is still a pretty big swell rolling in from the head of the Bay. I line up for a cross wind takeoff parallel to the swell. After one more glance at the instruments I give it full throttle. There is always a certain amount of dread during a rough water takeoff in the dark. You can't really see far enough ahead to avoid running into a half submerged log or anything else that might be floating out there, so there is a bit of a calculated risk in doing it. The plane quickly gets up on the step and rises into the dark after a short bumpy run along the water. The Supercub gets off shorter and handles rough water better than most larger airplanes so the exposure to the rough water is minimal during the takeoff run.
The lights of Homer soon disappear behind me as I head across the inlet. About 30 miles out I start running into snow. It gets thicker and thicker and soon there is no forward visibility, although there isn't anything to see anyway. I check the leading edges of the wings for ice and leave the carburetor heat full on. There is a lot of fog mixed with the snow so it's basic needle ball and airspeed and hold the compass heading that I established outbound from the Homer VOR before the signal faded out due to distance and low altitude. I get through the snow shower within a few minutes. After another twenty miles or so the first gray light of dawn starts to show. My arrival at Iniskin Bay would be on schedule at first light. Soon the search for schools of herring would begin.
As I proceed southwest the visibility begins to improve and the base of the overcast rises allowing me to climb up to a thousand feet. Soon I can see the lower half of Mt. Augustine ahead and to the left. Parker overtakes me in his Cessna 180 and waggles his wings as he goes by. No one talks much in the mornings on the radio. We are usually caught up in thoughts of the day ahead, thinking about strategy and where we should start looking. My survey will cover about 150 miles of shoreline and include off shore shoals. I check in with my boats by radio to find out what's been happening through the night. One of my skippers invites me down for coffee and a planning confab. I land and tie up with the toes of the floats straight into the lee side of the boat. Butch, the skipper, asks me to fly down to Fortification Bluffs about 25 miles south. He had heard some radio chatter on his scanner about a boat making a set in the dark down there. He says it had to have been a sonar set because there were no planes flying then.
I leave half my coffee. Two crew members untie my bow ropes from the boat as I climb down onto the middle of the 1/8” woven stainless steel walk wire stretched between the bow cleats on the toes of the floats. Holding onto both sides of the propeller and standing on one leg, I yell “okay.” The crewmen throw my bow lines into the water and I give a big push against the side of the hull with my other leg and the plane moves straight away from the boat. The airplane’s water rudders have to be up for this maneuver to work well. As the plane moves out of the lee of the boat , the wind catches the left wing and the plane begins to pivot, but the skipper of the boat is alert and motors gently ahead before my right wing tip touches the side of his 52 foot seiner. I scramble into the pilot's seat and crank the starter. The engine fires off and away I go.
When I arrive there are two boats near Fortification Bluffs with their nets out. Their cork lines form big circles on the water, but I can't see any fish in the nets. Hundreds of seagulls are very excited about the process though. Those seagulls are a sure indication that there are fish in the net. I call Butch on one of our secret radio channels and tell him what I see. He begins the hour and forty minute trip.
In the meantime I continue my survey hoping to find a bunch of herring that no one else has seen yet. There are about 30 other airplanes surveying in the area. Some of them are faster than mine. I continue flying along the coastline and notice that the whole fleet appears to be converging towards Fortification Bluffs where those first two sets were made. Soon the fastest and closest boats arrive and make sets. A big blue tender begins pumping fish from the net of the first boat to make a set. There are still no fish visible near the surface however, and I soon learn that the fish are too deep to see from an airplane and that the boats are making sets using their sonar. I feel somewhat useless, but am assured by my skippers that they are still very interested in my observations regarding the way the fleet is deployed and what is going on. Nevertheless I still fantasize a little about getting one of those billed caps that says on it in big letters, "SONAR SUCKS."
Eventually I begin to run low on fuel. The only nearby tender from whom I can get fuel is underway in water too rough to land in, so I fly back to the fuel barge which is anchored in Iniskin Bay. When I arrive the wind has come up to 35 knots on the Bay, and the tide is running hard in the same direction. The barge is straining against its anchor chain as the wind and tide pull against it. There are three airplanes tied up to the barge, one is tied up to the stern, the easiest place to pull up to. The other two planes are tied up nosed into either side of the barge, directly across from each other close to the stern. My only choice is to try to pull up to the left side (port side) of the barge toward the bow. I choose the left side because I get in and out of the airplane on the right side and can be quicker in grabbing and securing the right bow line (the upwind line) to the boat if I don't have to walk across the walk wire to the toe of the left float.
After landing I taxi slowly upwind past the barge to gauge the speed of the current and wind and to plan my approach which will be tricky and potentially hazardous. Airplanes on floats will weathervane into a strong wind soon after you shut off the engine. If I shut down too soon the airplane will turn into the wind before it reaches the side of the barge and I'll possibly ding my left wing tip and drift quickly back into the other airplane tied nose first into the side of the barge near it's stern. If I shut the engine off too late I'll be drifting too fast when I reach the side of the barge and could crumple a float against the steel hull. I decide that the best approach is from down wind and down current toward the left side of the barge at an angle quartering the wind direction. There are four people on deck waiting to catch me. Three of them are pilots and know exactly what to do. I angle toward a point slightly in front of the bow of the barge at a fast idle against the wind and the current. As I draw close with my door open, the moment comes and I shut off the engine. Several feet before the left wing tip will strike the bow of the barge at about a 45 degree angle I push hard left rudder to turn the airplane so that the nose is headed more directly into the side of the barge. The plane will stay turned for only a moment in that strong wind although the current from the tide may help to stay sideways to the wind. I scramble out, duck under the wing strut, grab the end of the 20 foot line that is spliced to the front float cleat, scamper forward to the front of the float and throw the line into the waiting hands one of my spotter friends. He takes a quick wrap on a deck cleat and pulls me in while an other guy stands by to push my left wing tip away from the side of the barge if necessary.
Such a docking is much more difficult when you have no help. Once under very similar wind and tide conditions I approached a boat the same way. There were two people on deck, Perry and Leilani, waiting to help me, but when I went to throw them the bow line, it was wedged behind the rear float strut. The airplane started to turn back into the wind so I ran onto the walkwire, hooked my left elbow over the root of the propeller and my right elbow over the railing of the boat. I was hoping that I could hold it by brute strength while Perry climbed onto the float with me to extricate the stuck line. The wind was blowing too hard and inspite of my desperate effort to keep the airplane toed up to the side of the boat it began to quickly weathervane back into the wind. Soon I was spread eagled, suspended over the water with my left arm hooked around the baseof the prop and my right hand gripping the boat railing. I couldn't let the airplane go, so I let go of the railing and dropped into the water. I caught the walkwire with my left hand as I went down. The airplane somehow drifted free of the boat without banging a wingtip and I boosted myself up onto the toe of the float. I heard raucous laughter and looked over to see Perry and Leilani doubled over at the railing, laughing so hard there were tears running down their faces. I started laughing too. I made sure my bow line was free and clear, got in and started the plane and was successful in my second attempt at docking it up to the side of the boat. Leilani loaned me a pair of her Levi's and Perry found a jacket for me to wear while they dried my clothes in the boat's clothes drier.
Back on the fuel barge there is fresh coffee. We stand around on this gassy smelling floating platform drinking quick cups of coffee and exchanging stories of the day. One by one we help each other to depart until mine is the only remaining airplane. Rather than turn myself loose at the front of the barge, I loosen the lines and ease the airplane sideways back to the stern, hop on, and then just drift away on the wind and tide, fire up and fly again to find those elusive schools of herring.
By the end of the day, the Lower Cook Inlet herring quota has been caught. It’s a relief to be done with this fishery. Lower Cook Inlet can dish out some nasty weather in April. I head for Cordova, about 4 hours away across the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound. There the floats will come off, and the landing gear will go on. After a night’s sleep, I’ll make the eight hour flight west to Togiak for at least three weeks of camping on the beach and surveying 200 miles of shoreline and offshore areas for the huge schools of herring that show up there in May.
The Togiak area like Lower Cook Inlet is also fraught with danger for spotter pilots. Newly emerged from winter hibernation, brown bears roam the beaches at night, and have destroyed tents, ripped into airplanes, eaten meat caches and generally raised havoc. Wind, however, is probably the most potentially disastrous problem. One season in the late seventies 13 airplanes were destroyed in a big wind storm. All of them were tied down on the same beach. After that bit of devastation we learned how to tie down airplanes on the beach so they could withstand 100 knot winds without self-destructing. The trick to this high-wind tiedown method is to completely bury four old tires edgewise in the gravel beach. The tires are arranged in a square with rope loops sticking up out of the gravel. A pilot can orient his plane in any one of four directions. Most important, however, is to tie the tail with enough slack so the plane can fly on the ground in a level flight attitude when the wind blows hard. We would tie down the wings, and also bridal the landing gear where the gear legs attached to the fuselage so that any backward jerking motion caused by a high wind would be stopped by the lines tied to the strong landing gear leg attach points instead of the weaker wing-tie-down rings. There are those who fly Togiak on floats. I tried it for two consecutive seasons, but prefer the options afforded by wheels. And have since always done the Togiak herring season on wheels.
Herring spotting is exciting, demanding, and dangerous. Each area has its unique challenges. Every year at the end of the season I think to myself that I’m not going to do it again next year, but by mid-winter I usually change my mind. The adventure is phenomenal, the scenery incomparable, and the flying is extremely challenging. The camaraderie is terrific, the income can be excellent or disastrous and anything in between. The post season debriefing parties at local watering holes are always fun and boisterous. Anticipating a season of herring spotting is probably very similar to the anticipation felt before going into battle. Nevertheless, once committed and fully engaged it goes quickly........... Maybe I’ll do it again next season.

¹ Ron Gribble and his observer were killed April 9th 1997 in a mid-air collision at the mouth of Galena bay near Valdez Alaska in Prince William Sound during a herring survey.

² Tom Parker was killed on April 9, 1991 exactly six years earlier to the day in a mid-air collision at the mouth of Boulder Bay (less than ten miles from the mouth of Galena Bay) during a pre-opener survey for the Prince William Sound herring season. Both of these men were high time pilots and veteran herring spotters. The other pilots survived. The weather was blue sky good on both days.

Jay Kelley is an ATP pilot with single and multi-engine land and sea ratings, helicopters and gliders. He has over 27,000 hours PIC. He moved from Alaska to Hawaii in 1988 where he flies volcano tours in fixed wing aircraft during the winter. During the summer months he flies in Alaska. He gave up fish spotting in 1994.
Holy cow!

Does that ever bring back memories - I was usually one of the guys on the boats, but all the sights, sounds, smells and the feel of that cold wind biting my face, the coffee on the stove, the days of reading in the wheelhouse waiting for the opener, the radio chatter - I feel like I should get down to the harbor and start walking the docks!

Then I come to my senses, of course!

I sure am glad I got a fifteen year taste of it! Herring seining will put hair on your chest and steel in your back! Or is it in your head? I can't remember.
good job Jay. You told it like only a veteran could. Hope everything is going well for you.........Dan
Hey Dan---I second the sentiments on Jay's writing. BUT--one of the best stories never to see print is how you received the Hydro-Plano nickname. :eek: Who would have ever believed it!!!!! Are the Statute of Interpretations up yet :crazyeyes: A lot of memories--that season would make for a good chapter in your book.

Mark, that was a terrific video. I didn’t appreciate how busy the air is above the schools of fish; just a tad too busy for my tastes. Is it safe to assume you know/knew the folks shown?
I had not seen that video in almost 30 yrs. It was fun looking at my friends in their younger days. It was also sad knowing a fair number of them are no longer with us. Lori has passed but the little kid on the floats has grown up to be a nice young commercial operator in Alaska. Last I knew was still flying Lori's airplane in the video. Herring has changed considerably since then. 2020 I was the only pilot in Togiak feeling somewhat lonely. Last year there were three of us. My cub shows up at the 50 second mark with the fluorescent wing tips and belly tank. Randolph used to have a product called vivid color I used to spray every year.
I would love to get my hands on the raw footage as the French film crew had hundreds and hundreds of hours. Lori and I tried to get it years ago but for some reason were unable. Oh well!
Damn, that’s pretty western! I’d pay money to sit around a pitcher of beer and listen to stories.
I can tell you that when the herring fleet was operating in Kodiak waters, all resident pilots were on high alert. Rounding a corner into a tight bay to find a fleet of 30 to 40 seiners and a stock of ten fixed wing and a helicopter tends to get one’s heart rate up.

Some great stories there, though.

Hey Dan---I second the sentiments on Jay's writing. BUT--one of the best stories never to see print is how you received the Hydro-Plano nickname. :eek: Who would have ever believed it!!!!! Are the Statute of Interpretations up yet :crazyeyes: A lot of memories--that season would make for a good chapter in your book.

good video,,,poor little fish….save the fish’s 🤭