Where in the World is Michael Rosenthal?

08 September, 2015

Sep 3, 2015 - I'm Off

I will be flying to King Cove on the Alaskan Peninsula to meet the F/V Vixen and its crew after which I will take the boat to the central Aleutians to fish for red king crab around Adak Island. This is a pre-survey, survey funded by a fisherman’s research foundation. I will be looking for king crab in a once productive area (that I fished in the early-mid 90’s) that crashed to levels that would not support a fishery.

In 2000 a survey was conducted and out of 1,000 pots set, just 2 crab were caught! In the past couple of years there has been increasing incidental bycatch of king crab by local fisherman. The research foundation approached Alaska Department of Fish & Game to get permission to conduct a survey to see if we can find enough crab to warrant ADF&G to conduct an ‘official’ survey which would hopefully lead to a fishery in the future.

The cool thing is I get to fish like a fisherman, and not have to set in specific stations. The boat and crew are new to me, so it should prove to be a great adventure. Unfortunately, we don’t get to keep the crab, everything gets counted and measured and released back.

The very cool thing is our son Wyatt will fly up to Adak to join me on board for a week, 9/13-9/20. Although Luc, Jesse & Alexa have all spent time with me in Dutch Harbor and on the boat for short day trips, he’ll be the 1st of our sons to ever spend actual fishing time on a boat in the Bering Sea/North Pacific with me.

Sep 4, 2015 - Landing in Anchorage

Difficult to describe how I'm feeling as we descend through cloud cover into Anchorage. It's been 5 years since I've flown this route and I have few points of reference for this particular trip.

Few points of reference because I'll be flying into King Cove, a place I only visited 2 or 3 times in my fishing career but always by boat, to captain a boat I've never seen with a crew I've never met.

This will be a short trip by my historical fishing standards. A day or 2 to get the boat ready, 2 1/2 days of travel to the Central Aleutians, 10-12 days of fishing, then return.

Familiar points of reference are that I'll be working around an area I fished commercially many years ago. For a great part of my life, the Western Aleutians were a second home to me and I was as familiar with those waters as I was with the streets of Bainbridge Island.

This trip is a survey funded by a fisherman's research foundation with the support of Alaska Department of Fish & Game and National Marine Fisheries. The objective of this survey is to see if we can find enough red king crab to warrant an official survey. I get to "fish like a fisherman" vs. setting in standard predetermined stations.

Sep 11, 2015

It's interesting how easy it is for me to fit back into this role.  Handling the boat has been great, and the crew has come together well. It is kind of surprising to everyone how much work this is. The conventional wisdom was that it was a survey and we only have 80 pots a day to run, but that's 80 pots to pick and 80 pots to set and run here and run there and we're still working 18 hour days. So far we have not seen a king crab. This area was surveyed in 2002 and out of 1000 pots set, only 4 adult red king crab were caught. We're here because there has been some incidental catch in the past few years so we'll find them if they're here.


Sep 11, 2015 - Crabs!

We moved to a new area and are still pulling a lot of blank pots, but we have seen king crab (4 to be exact!) and we've run into a fair amount of Bairdi (snow crab), sometimes 50-100 per pot! Just not that many pots with those numbers and our targeted species is king crab,

When I say 'blank pots', the pots aren't actually empty. We're getting tons of cod fish and halibut, some octopus, rock fish and a few other assorted creatures.

Our youngest son Wyatt is flying up today to meet the boat in Adak. Through my entire fishing career, none of our boys have been on the boat at sea w/me. Alexa, Luc & Jesse spent some time in Dutch, and running around on the boat from dock to dock, but Wyatt will be the first of our boys to spend time on a working boat, can't wait to see him!

Sep 16, 2015
The grind continues. While everyone is guaranteed a wage (since this is a survey), it can still get depressing pulling empty pots and we have a lot of ground to cover. 
We're fishing on both the Bering and Pacific sides of the islands. Currently we're on the Pacific side. The weather has been great. The forecast gale never arrived, just a few days of small craft advisories (blowing 30), and we were working in sheltered waters. On the Pacific side we've had no wind, but a pretty consistent 6-10ft gentle swell.
Wyatt has settled in great! A small bout of seasickness which he's over now. He spends his days reading, doing homework, drawing, writing and watching episodes of Dr. Who. He's too young to work the deck but said he would like to cook the crew some meals, so we'll see if we can make that happen.
Four more days of hauling gear, then we head her for home, in this case King Cove.
Sep 19, 2015
I remember when I first started working out of Dutch Harbor in the early 1980's there was a sign somewhere in town that said "Welcome to the South Bering Sea Islands" with palm trees painted on either side. I found it exotic and funny, especially since the 1st time I visited Dutch was in the middle of the winter. I think of that sign when we set gear in places like The Bay of Waterfalls or Bay of Islands. The Aleutians are beautiful for sure, and might look like tropical islands if they had the right vegetation.
Wildlife is abundant, porpoises, sea otters, whales (many species although we've seen only Orcas this trip) and sea birds by the thousands.
One distinct change that I've noticed this trip is that we're seeing hundreds of Black Footed Albatross, a bird whose sighting was notable in the past. On this trip, they actually outnumber the Laysan Albatross.  Other sea birds are Northern Fulmar, Auklet, Puffin, many types of gulls and Petrels to name a few.
There is a fisherman's superstition (or maybe it's all mariners) that it's good luck when an albatross crosses your bow. I've always believed that, and after this trip, I must be the luckiest man alive!
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