Thursday, April 29, 2010

my life, in 4 pictures

I promise not to eat your brains, even though that's pretty much what this face looks like it wants. Really, is me after using the paint sprayer.
King crab, fresh of the boat. They are spiny.

He barely fit in our new crab boiler and pot. We need a bigger pot. (Yes, it is a he. It is illegal to keep lady crabs.)

Me with all the trash-tastic schwag from the stuperbowl at a bar. We got 2 miller lite beer cozies but tDF didn't want to hide is mirror pond in such a way. That is our only BBQ. It is not very good.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's a nice day for a white salmon

Winter King, White King, or that totally kick ass salmon, call it what you will. Half of one came up the driveway last week fresh off the Leona. It's sort of a tradition to eat the first fish of the season and we ate the frack out of this lovely white-fleshed king.

No, this isn't a 6th type of salmon we get. It's the winter version of the mighty King/Chinook. Their flesh turns white and fatty through the winter due to diet (not sure what exactly they eat). We were only introduced to this in Alaska, we had never heard anything like this down south.

White king parts! There are belly chunks and the collar along with fillets. The fish was probably 30 pounds in the round (whole).
Look at that! I haven't had winter king in about 3 years and was so very, very pleased.

This is fattier than normal king salmon so it can be pan fired, broiled, or grilled easily. It doesn't dry out the way leaner salmon does and it will baste in its own fatty liquid.

It dawned on my today, when i had to get up at 4:30 am to help with boat things, that my life is going to be very, very different. As long as fish like this comes home I think I can take the early mornings.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bring you kid to work day: subtle sexism edition

I am prone to rants in my personal life. My husband often bears the brunt of my loud, opinionated personality. Let's all take a moment to feel bad for him. Ok! So. I am currently really, really irritated at the whole Barbie-sponsored bring your kid to work day thing.

I applaud Barbie's whole Dream it-Do it stance. Everyone should follow their dreams and become who they are and do what they love. HOWEVER, is there any other toy on the face of our fair planet (Happy earth day, planet) with more baggage than the Barbie? No. There is not. The website reference Barbie's 120 careers. With a few nods to the health industry and generic science excepting, Barbie has held very few science/math jobs.

Yes, when I was a little girl I didn't exactly dream about my current career. BUT I didn't look to Barbie for career advice. She was too busy in the complicated soap operas I embroiled her in.

Even the 10 women to watch are lacking in the sciences realm. Three of the women are in fashion while 1 is a scientist. How will this help the little scientists out there? Also one is the marketing/self-promotion whiz Danica Patrick. I hope any future race card driver I spawn also becomes the face/boobs of a web registry place. So proud I would be. I thought the 10 women would be actual women, not celebrities. Barbie dashes my hopes again.

The Internet is for ranting and funny lists. I really want to support people doing what they want and love. Some kids, yes even little nerd girls like I was, like science and outdoorsy things. We need role models not plastic toys.

Let's turn this around for a call for Actual Career Barbies based on the really great women we all know. I'll start:

Kayak Ranger Barbie: with little paddle, ponytail, and 3 season tent, she's up for any and all adventures on the seas.

Fish-Tech Barbie: Carhartts, chest waders, hard hat, and back pack shocker will monitor the heck out of your streams.

Slime Line Barbie: Head net, long gloves, and Xtratuffs make this lady ready for all that comes down the stainless steel chute at her.

Soil Scientist Barbie: Filthy, ripped pants, orange field vest, Razorback shovel, she'll hike anywhere and dig the pit to prove it.

What about you? What barbies would you propose?

Monday, April 19, 2010

free dump week

Last weekend was one of my most favorite weekends of the year: Spring Clean up. For 1 glorious week we get to get rid of all the rotting awfulness in our house/yard for FREE. Maybe you all don't really know, but it costs an arm and a leg to dispose of trash here. Normally it is 7 cents a pound, which can add up.

Remember that awful boat we cut up and took to the dump last year? Sure you do! That cost over $400 in dump fees. WHEE. Living on an island is super fun. We got rid of a bunch of old, rotten crap in the yard, lots of insulation, drywall, a boat trailer, and temporary flooring. 6 little toyota truck loads left our house and we look much, much less like trash.

There will be more. The event lasts all week and I can find more things to get rid of.

This effort it to encourage all people here to clean up their yard because if it wasn't free, nobody wants to pay to get rid their trash. Even so, there are some amazing properties around here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eat them up, Yum!

Fish heads, Fish heads, rolly-poly fish heads.
Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, Yum!

Ask a fish head anything you want to
They won't answer.
They can't talk.

About 9 fish heads rolled up to the old homestead yesterday. Eight made it into the house. A raven and eagle fought over one of them yanked from the bucket. It was entertaining. The eagle won.

Now that tDF works down on the docks he's meeting lots of people who are willing to give away fish and fish parts. Yesterday, it was a bucket full of Black Cod heads. Black cod is also called Sablefish or Butterfish. We don't eat the heads, internet, but we eat the cheeks and collars.

I had a very, very bad experience the last time I ate Black cod and so was a bit skittish about trying them again. I persevered, though. Black cod is a fatty fish and has slime equivalent of an albacore. Plus, these were frozen so it was challenging work cutting out the cheeks.
Here is a bowl full of heads with guts attached. The collar is just behind the gill place and is around the belly. Most of the heads had some lungs/digestive system still attached.
Here I am ripping the collar off after cutting it free of the gill plate.
There really is a lot of meat on a collar. There are few bones and just a bit of cartilage to deal with. The cut also has a fair bit of fat so they broil/grill very nicely.
This is a bowl full of collars. They aren't completely cleaned yet. I peel back the membrane and scrape out all the blood. Blood ruins the flavor of most fish, plus it will discolor the very pale flesh.
This is the cheek. Forward of the gill plate and under the eye there is a pocket of very tender flesh. Halibut cheeks are bigger and better-known than black cod cheeks. These were a bit challenging to excavate because they were frozen. It was hard to differentiate between frozen flesh and cartilage.

Here is the bone structure behind the cheek. You have to cut away the membrane around the eye. There isn't a ton of meat to be found but it makes perfect little medallions.

Here is a nicer, larger cheek. These went into a salad after a quick sear on the stove. I broiled the collars for about 8 minutes with Tamari and sachiko. The flesh is delicate and flaky but covered in fat. Much the way king crab is delicate and fatty.

Tonight, I'm grilling them. They need surprisingly little to be delicious.

Also, I know these are gross images but this is my life. I get buckets of who-knows-what to deal with on a regular basis. Living up here is messy, bloody, and sticky. I love it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Boat-shaped hole

They say that owning a boat is like having a hole in the water you throw money into. They aren't lying. Slapping the word 'marine' onto something drives the cost up at least 20%. Also, tDF has very expensive tastes. He wants a marine monitor back in the pit so he can watch the Novatech outputs and stay on course.

Hey, look at all the new frickin' terms.

Here is a picture I got from the Oregon's Choice Albacore page. It's a nice illustration of the various parts of a salmon troller. The outriggers dangle the gear away from the boat and you hook 20-foot long leaders 2 fathoms (6 feet) apart along the cable (Below). The gear is controlled by stabilizers, big wing like things that keep the gear more or less in check.

Our permit allows us two lines in the water, so the above illustration isn't quite accurate. (Power trolling allows 4 lines, more like the above picture but you get the point, right?)
Anyway, each hook is baited with herring or you drag plugs or hoochies. DO NOT google image search Hoochie. Search for Fishing Hoochie instead.

Those are hoochies of various colors and patterns. Some glow in the dark. I love the hoochie isle at the gear shop. So pretty. There's also plugs and spoons. I don't know what works and I couldn't find any good pictures. A plug is a conical chunk of wood or plastic with some hooks. A spoon is a flat piece of metal bent so it wiggles in the water. Salmon can be finicky so you drag a variety of tackle.

At the end of the lines are heavy lead balls. These provide the weight to pull the lines down and keep them from fouling. "Fouling" is nautical for tangled. Once you get your lines out you sit around and watch the sky. Until your cowbell at the end of your outriggers (or poles) starts a jangling. Then you reel in.

We have to hand-crank gurdies to bring in the lines. Gurdies are like big, brass fishing reels. We crank from the pit--a lowered section in the stern (Back) of the vessel that puts us closer to water line. Then, as the lines come up, you gaff the fish and swing them on board. Then the lines go back out, rigging them with the most successful lures do maximize your gear. Then you clean the fish.

Cleaning commercial fish is pretty straight forward. Canneries buy fish in the round, meaning whole but gilled and gutted. It's important to take the time to clean out all the viscera and the long vein along the backbone. Blood causing spoilage so removal is necessary. They then get iced down in the hold. Trolling is a quality fishery so you want your salmon to be as pretty as possible. Plus, you get more $$/lb the nicer the fish are. Crummy looking ones get number-two'd and bring less per pound.

This is only the very basics. The electronics on board are astounding and very, very costly. We're trying to get the Novatech chart plotter up and running on 12v power. This little program is a GPS enabled mapping thing where the background is nautical charts, thus eliminating the need for a frillion paper charts.
Look at the Leona!

All new adventures soon. Right now, we're working on the foc'sle (folks-ole) trying to get it ready to take out for a week at a time. The foc'sle is the space forward of the engine and under the bow to sleep/eat/cook in. She is a teeny space. New bilge pump goes in today. Whew.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Finally, he says hello. Peeking shyly around Verstovia earlier than yesterday. He watches me, curiously, as I untangle my gear. I'm embarrassed by the state of things. I don't want him to catch me in such a disheveled state, but there's no hiding from him at lunch.

bolder, he stares down at the deck of my little Troller. At me. Knee deep in tackle I neglected last September when I was staring down another winter without him.

He says goodnight from Edgecumbe, whispering he'll come earlier tomorrow. Promising to meet me before I cast off.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Didn't see that coming

A friend, out of the blue, called to see if we wanted to buy his hand troll permit and lease his boat for the summer. Guess what? We did.

The Dirty Fisherman is now a Dirty Commercial Fisherman.

Looking to a summer learning how to be a deck hand and cleaning fish. Wow. I'm still stunned.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Harbingers of Spring

Can anybody else only think of Starbuck when they use the word harbinger? Yeah, well I am an isolated nerd who watches a lots of DVDs. On to an actual harbinger.

It is spring here in the great Southeast Alaska which means erratic weather and herring. Our weather goes from snowy to sunny and back to rain in the space of 2 hours. This is both strangely beautiful and downright irritating. I've been waiting for my garden to dry out enough to turn it over, but the weather is thwarting me. Mostly, the weather can't make up its mind and folks around here call that equinox weather.

Spring brings life back to our dreary little corner of 'Merica. It comes on the back of herring. Mid march Sitka Sound begins to fill up with sea lions and whales feeding on the huge schools of herring waiting to spawn. They are the first batch of spawning fish we get to meet then we have euchalon, steelhead, kings/chinook, sockeyes/reds, pinks/humpys, chum/dogs, then cohos/silvers. Everybody needs to reproduce and they seem like they're in such a rush during the sunny months.

Like every other thing that swims in our sea it has a multimillion dollar commercial fishery built on it. Herring politics are only slightly better than halibut politics around here, but you don't care about that. You want to know how they fish for the little silver buggers. Well, they seine for them. Seining is where you have a big boat and a little boat with a net stretched between them. The little boat zips around a school of fish and ties off to the big boat. Then net is closed and the school is hauled on board.

Seining for herring (from the Juneau empire)

Sometimes the herring will dive to the bottom (PANIC!) and the boat will roll severely. Remember that scene in Finding Nemo where they have that school of fish work together to beat the eeevil fisherman and the day is saved? That really happens.

The openings (times where the state deems it legal to fish) used to be about 15 minutes long and boats used to team up/ally where one boat actually fishes and the others ram other boats out of the way. Combat fishing, they called it. Now the openings are 2-3 hours long so the excitement of battle isn't really there anymore.

Hauling in a seine full of herring. (From national geographic).

Also, each group of boats or teams of boats have a spotter plane over head. When I went out the road last Thursday to watch, I counted 11 planes working above about 47 boats. Also, a film helicopter and the Coasty helicopter were buzzing about. It was a sight. I took pictures but the were of the far-away variety and not that great.

Herring are also a primary fertilizer for the local gardens. You can read about it here. What's spring like where you live?