This crew has "The onions" ! After bombing the net Tuesday night, they sewed until 9 PM, ran out to Catalina and hauled in a few sets. 40 tons delivered. Out again Thursday night and in two sets, more squid. 40 tons delivered on Friday. Now this weekend, the bunt must be sewn correctly to last the rest of the season.
To all my new customers on Papa George Tuna
, thank you for being patient for two weeks while the cannery processed our fish. All back orders are now caught up and our newest canning will be next week.
Bombing the Net
Tuesday night the Papa George crew fished for squid on the back side of Catalina Island. The front side is a Marine Protected Area and is closed to seining. The squid were deep and wouldn't come up to the lights as usual. Steve and crew made a set and saved eighteen tons, but with a large amount of "junk" .... unwanted sardines and mackerel. The search was on for a cleaner school of squid. A lightboat called with a good batch of squid under his lights and Steve responded, making a set on 100 tons or so. Inexperience caused the squid to spill out of the net, over the corks until 50 tons was left. The lightboat is supposed to draw the squid to different parts of the net according to the squid boat captain's directions. In this case, the lightboat operator's inexperience caused the squid to bunch up too close to the big boat. Steve grabbed the net to draw it up and when the winch pulled up on the net, the "bunt" split and all the squid was lost. This is called bombing the net. This family blog cannot repeat what was said at that moment.
It means lots of work and expense ahead. Steve delivered his eighteen tons at noon and went right to work sewing up the damage. The "money bag" or bunt of our net was split for over 60 ft. with some "stalagmites" here and there. The guys put the net on the dock, hired four helpers, and set to work. By 9 pm. they had sewed half and "koozied" the rest. Back on deck went the net, skiff on top, and off they rushed to search for more squid last night. Our crew is something else, skipper included. They know that any day now, the squid could disappear. Make hay, guys.
Our gourmet albacore business, www.papageorgetuna.com
, is canning a new line of Kosher albacore in two sizes, 6 oz. and 3.75 oz., also in kosher extra virgin olive oil. These products should be available by the middle of February.
Fourth Sardine Seiner Sinks
My husband, Steve, reported the sad news that yet again, another squid seiner sank last night. It rolled over after taking a big wave over the bow. The sea conditions were dangerous with a Santa Ana wind sending gusts of 60 Knots into the fleet bucking their way into San Pedro. Steve and our F/V Papa George were near Cat Harbor, the West side of Catalina Island. They didn 't leave for San Pedro until 4 or 5 am. The worst weather occurred in the very early morning hours.
The "Chovy Clipper" has fished many years out of San Pedro. Last night was the worst nightmare for her owner and crew. No one was lost, but jobs are gone and a small business is in big trouble. The boat was hit by the worst weather and a breaking wave over the bow flooded the deck causing lethal instability.
I was glad to hear Steve ran into town with all the scuppers open.
FDA Likes Tuna Again
The FDA issued a small press release
that indicates a more favorable stance toward tuna. As an agency which guards our American health and food safety, this is very good news for a governmental watchdog to endorse the major product of American albacore trollers. Our Papa George Gourmet Albacore contains less mercury than light tuna which is the less tasty seine caught skipjack tuna.
One year we were transiting the equator area of the Pacific on our way from Samoa to Hono.
(Hono is our fleet's name for, you guessed it, Honolulu) The sea was placid and the temperture blasting over the 95 degree mark. Mark, our crew member, had just been swimming and was chased by a shark. We hauled him in quickly and proceeded North for another hour or so. On the horizon the sea surface was disturbed by splashes and fins slicing through the ocean. This was not a small school of fish, it was acres and acres of fish! Out went the jigs and surprisingly a few bit. Come to find out, they were 7-12 pound skipjack tuna, exactly what the seiners out of Samoa target. They don't bite jigs well, so we only kept at it for an hour. We bled a dozen and stored them in our freezer for trading stock in Hono.
Just a little digression from our real news about the FDA's quiet little press release, and the news that small squid are showing up around Catalina Island. That can bode the season's end. No one in Pedro can remember the squid season lasting this long around Catalina.
The Really Bad Cold Hits Big
Over the past month, the really bad cold has spread through the fleet like the plague. Steve and Rick were bedridden for three days in December, Cameron was sick over Christmas, and Benny the lightboat skipper, as well as his crew, was a bunk rat for the first three days of this opening. Steve had 100 tons under the boat Monday night and could not wake up Benny to set him. After two hours of this futile attempt, Benny dragged himself out of the bunk, idled into position to turn on his lights, but watched with disgust as a pod of pilot whales sailed through the school and broke it up. The squid dove in terror to the bottom. After another hour of lights, a ten ton cloud of squid warrented a set, so Steve was able to bring only ten tons to market that morning.
Now you hear lots of hacking over the radio as phase two and three ( major hacking & minor hacking) of this lingering virus remain to bedevil the fishermen. This fishery is brutal if you value sleep. Steve naps for two hours on the way out to the grounds, and two to three hours on the way in. That's it, if he's lucky.
A good website to examine this squid fishery can be found at the California Seafood Council's website.