Commercial Salmon Trolling Forum

Fishing Bullies

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Fishing Bullies

Postby Abundance » Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:08 pm

I just got done with another shrimp season, and I have to say that nothing makes me miss trolling more than that cutthroat business. We were alright for the first week, than a big seiner ran by us, saw our bouys, and decided to set up camp. I wasn't the skipper on this venture, so I was able to watch the proceedings with a slightly more cool eye. first off, the guy followed us around all day trying to figure out our areas and what we were catching. Then he left, or so we thought. when we got up the next morning, we found that every one of our strings had one his laid over it. He illegally set gear all night long just to chase us out. There was miles of water all around for him to go, but he must have figured that we scouted it all out already. We carefully spent the morning disentangling our gear from his, not cutting even one of his pots, just to let him know that we were peaceful. That night he pulled them again and set down a few of our strings. He must have had a bunch of gear that he used only for war purposes, because can't of planned to get it back. The skipper got angry by this point, and was ready to escalate the feud but we convinced him that it wasn't worth it. The other guy must have gotten frustrated with us, and spent the next day just following right behind us, setting his gear over ours once we set it out. He wouldn't respond on the radio or acknowledge our waves as we went by. We were definitely spoiling to fight after this amount of bullying, but we had all seen this play out many times before. The shrimping industry seems to just be full of psychopaths from other fisheries. We knew that once we responded even a little, he would just go crazy and we would get up one morning to find all of our bouys cut. He can't have gotten much sleep, fishing all day and all night like that. We reported his illegal fishing to fish and game, but nothing came of it. Finally he got the message and left us alone, probably because we was losing money with so much gear not being used for fishing. He never let up pressuring us until the day it closed, and did every illegal trick to make another dollar at shrimping that I can think of. It would be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but it happens constantly to everyone. The troll fleet is about ninety percent good guys and ten percent jackasses. The shrimp fleet is about fifty fifty. And most of the bad shrimpers are seiners the rest of the year. The point of all of this, and why its in the stories section, is that as a form of catharsis I would like to see how other people have dealt with bullies out on the grounds. In what satisfying ways have you sent them home sorry for what the have done?
I'll kick it off with a story from when I was first trolling on my own. It was a miserable summer for fishing. I had deck handed for years, but this was my first time on my own boat. It was actually all right for an eighteen year old kid to be not catching, just wandering around and enjoying the freedom to do whatever I wanted. But most people were hungry. I finally found a little hole in Cordova Bay that produced a few fish. it was exciting. I was fishing near the beach, at around twenty fathoms. I found a ten fathom rock in the middle of my drag that wasn't on the charts, but I adapted my drag to go around. A big white boat came steaming by, saw me pull a few fish and decided that was going to take this hole way from me. I didn't really know what was going on for a little bit, but even to a real greenhorn it is obvious when a person fishes belligerently. Finally he ended up right between my floatbags. I went back to my cockpit, pulled my gear, and set it back out to ten fathoms. Then I led him right over top of that hump. Thick black smoke poured out of his stack, and mine too as I pulled out of his way. He left me alone the rest of the day, and I even caught a fish when I went over the hump. Satisfactory indeed.
Garrett Hagen, F/V Abundance
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Re: Fishing Bullies

Postby Abundance » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:04 pm

Upon rereading this a month and a half later, I feel the need to apologize. This post doesn't really represent the personality that I believe myself to have, nor is it truly appropriate for this forum. I will say that it was the result of surviving for a month on limited sleep, overmuch coffee, and of course the obvious stress and festering resentment. That is my reason, but I have no excuse. Not to mention that a large number of seiners are good guys and don't deserve to be lumped in with this jerk. And most shrimpers are decent people, certainly not half or less, as I indicated. Have fun fishing, maybe you will see me out there this week.
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Re: Fishing Bullies

Postby SilverT » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:49 pm

Abundance,

I really enjoyed reading both of these posts and meant to reply a while ago, but haven't had a chance. What cracked me up about the first one was that you were just expressing the thoughts and actions that most of us have, but don't write down. The second post says a lot about your character - very respectable. I've heard a few "get back" stories off the air from some of our friends, but what both posts reminded me of the most were my own similar experiences.

The first occurred one day fishing the Cape off Sitka a few years ago. We have a smaller boat and one of the tendencies I noticed was for the larger boats to change course and choose a heading that would force us to change direction. This happened quite a bit and I really got tired of it. On a day when I was exhausted and my guard was down I watched as a large troller headed directly for us. It should be noted that I had two crew members on board and I had opportunity to man the helm. But this day, I felt stubborn and just held course. The larger troller came closer with no change in direction. Even a slight change in direction on my part would have provided adequate passing room but, no, I was tired of it and this was the day I would not be bullied.

At about 100 yards out, I knew it was going to be close, but held on, proud of my decision to stay this time. As we passed, I could see through the windows that there was no one at the helm. In fact, the skipper was in the pit on the far side dealing with a fish. I watched as he looked up in dismay and surprise at how close we were and saw a kind of sick look on his face as he saw our float bags were going to pass within ten feet of each other. I managed a feeble smile and greeting, but it was no cover up for my actions. He looked around with what appeared to be indecision about what to do at this point, heading for the wheel house, but it was too late. It was very obvious to me that it had not been intentional. As he faded behind me, I grabbed the mic and apologized and wished I had simply slightly changed direction. I made a decision that day that I would do my best to always assume the best (Dad told me over and over to give folks the benefit of a doubt). I decided that I would assume the other guy either had no one at the helm, didn't see me, was tied up in the pit & lost track of time, lost steering... and so on.

So, with my supposed newfound compassion I entered the chum fishery. About midway through the season, I was faced with the same situation. A really well-known experienced troller headed in my direction. I changed course. Shortly thereafter, he changed course, again heading right for us. I'm not happy. I change course again, assume things are good and go back to work the gear. The next time I look up, we are much closer and again on a collision course - and he's at the helm. Now I'm really steamed and wildly change direction by about 90 degrees. I get to the dock and I'm still steamed. I see him and he doesn't act like anything's amiss at all. I want to politely say with my best acid grin, "It's sure hard to stay out of your way out there.", but I check my anger and ignore him. Forgiving soul that I am, I only held a grudge for a few weeks and only got angry about it when I thought of him or saw his boat.

About a month later I figured out what was really going on that day. I was talking with another friend who knew how this fellow fished and he made mention that the guy typically fished 50 fathoms of gear. We were fishing structure that day and I fished between 36 and 40 fathoms of gear which gave me a lot more room to maneuver. I thought 36 to 40 was as deep as anyone fished. I dwelled on that so much I could still remember exactly where both boats were when we had our experience and I realized that the guy was just avoiding an underwater high spot and changing course as he went around it. This uneducated, inexperienced individual has since added the "don't assume you know how deep he's fishing" to my ever growing list of necessary considerations when deciding how to react to another's presumed bad behavior. I'm trying, Dad.

There are those who regularly practice being a royal, selfish pain and are difficult to fish around (I'm sure folks have thought the same of me), but I have confidence of three things. First, I may be wrong in my judgment of their behavior, two, if I am right they will run into folks who are worse than they are while they are fishing, allowing them to experience a much greater "lesson" than I could provide. God has a way of arranging those meetings. Three, those same folks only have a short time to act that way before their life will be over. A 60 year old person who is going to live another five years only has 1,825 days left to practice his or her ways, whether they be good or bad. At midnight it will be 1,824. Double it for someone five years younger and it's still not much time. If their ways are indeed bad, when they go, perhaps their vessel will be fished by someone who cares a little less for themselves and a little more for others. None of us have much time.

Thanks for the great stories all - Happy New Year - Make it a good one - Kiss your wife - Hug your husband - Give time to your kids

Lane
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Re: Fishing Bullies

Postby Abundance » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:09 pm

That was just a perfect post. Thank you so much for your gentlemanly attitude. I also have had a time or two where I was sure I was being bullied, but found out later that the guy was only fishing the drag as best he could the depth he was at. And as you mentioned, we so often do things that seem like a jerk move to somebody else. I fish alone, so I have more times than I care to think about looked up from the cockpit to see a boat getting flanked by me. I have been fishing fifty fathoms deep before, only to get trapped in a shallower drag and be forced to cut in front of boats to get back out deep. I must have looked like a true numbskull running sideways through the fleet. I make a point anymore to apologize for any inconveniences or improprieties I think may have done. It keeps the atmosphere civil, and even friendly. It's best to try to take a step back and see yourself through somebody else's eyes. Griping about that idiot oversetting us out shrimping certainly seemed justified while the last of the adrenaline was wearing off, but viewed with a more level head and after a lot more sleep, it seemed like a post written by another person. One reason that I love this site is that it gives us a place to work out our differences and learn more about us and our craft. I suppose that seeing our words, in effect, spoken back to us from the page is a good part of that. It makes us think a little bit more about how we appear to others, and how we should act. I do still meet genuine bullies out there, such as the boat discussed original post. This summer I had a huge boat apparently take a disliking to me and herd me along. That is the only word for it that I can think of. He stayed just a bit outside of me and pinned me against a bluff. Whenever I tried to turn, he would move his boat to block me. This went on for hours, and whatever I did, he wouldn't let me go. But you know what? It is a huge ocean out there and I just pulled my gear and left him to his own life. I may not have caught as much out offshore, but I was happier. Maybe he had a good reason. Maybe not. The burden for it is on him. Lets go fishing and have fun. May this next year have more fish and better weather! I haven't gotten blood on my deck for two weeks, although that's because I was looking for furrier prey as much as the weather. If the weatherman's right, New Years Day is going to be our third massive storm in two weeks. I'm putting on my 2012 triangle on anyway.
Garrett Hagen, F/V Abundance
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Re: Fishing Bullies

Postby Salty » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:11 am

Wow, what great posts with a real perspective about what goes on in trollers minds as they try and work a drag and be good troll citizens at the same time.
A couple of perspectives to add to those I have already contributed on this topic on other threads.

1. Almost all of us, I know I, have been guilty of either inadvertently crowding someone, or aggressively pursuing our "version" of the drag.
2. It does not hurt to make amends either on the radio or, preferably, on the dock. I have felt the need to do this a few times over the years and almost invariably felt better after the conversation.
3. Almost all of the guys in the troll fleet will do almost anything to avoid confrontation and respect the right of way. If they liked confrontation and close quarters they would choose to seine or gillnet.
4. It is important to realize that almost everyone has a unique set of experiences and technology they are bringing to play these days on the "drags". What used to be an 18 fathom drag might now be a 27 fathom drag to the guy with the latest bottom mapping and display technology. That he might actually have the right of way while you think he is crowding you.
5. That the guy you are fuming about because he is going so slow might be making way more per day than you are while shaking less kings, thus actually making the drag much more profitable and cleaner for the industry while burning less fuel.
6. There are no "drags" chum fishing. And here is a huge tip to those learning the fishery. Chums are moving up and down and across the water column constantly. Science tells us chums move up and down in the water column more than any other salmon. They are not holding on or working feed. They like to hang around structure. I have made a living fishing salmon by thinking about how they are staging, moving, and sinking or rising in the water column. Every species is unique in its behavior. Fishing chum like you fish coho just does not work. A big part of fishing any salmon is figuring the optimum depth for that area, that tide, that pass. It is seldom that I don't change the depth I am dragging multiple times in a day. In the last 15 months I have fished salmon with 8 to 80 fathoms of wire. I have fished chums with 6-65 fathoms of wire. One of my best chums day ever was with less than 10 fathoms of wire out.
7. The important lesson I have learned is to "respect" every other fisherman and find your own fish as much as possible. I have spent years wandering off by myself, developing my own drags, even new fisheries. My friend "Ralph Guthrie" was one of my mentors in this respect. Several of the best days I had in the last year were without another boat in sight.
8. If you are in a circle drag it is inevitable that you will come to detest other trollers in the circle, and yourself. I avoid circle drags like the plague. I have observed steady personality deterioration over the years in my peers who choose to make a living trolling in circle drags.
9. Modern communications technology has changed the fishery forever. At least 200 of us know what is going on every day from Yakutat to Ketchikan. Concentrations of salmon are going to have the troll fleet on them within hours. Fishing in a fleet is part of the business. So, understanding that every troller out there has a unique understanding and information system for creating "the" drag goes a long way toward collaborating with each other.
10. Finally, we have the ability to both forgive and to turn over new leafs. We can forgive others and improve our own behavior. While it is a constant struggle, I am working at doing both.
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Re: Fishing Bullies

Postby SilverT » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:02 am

Thanks Abundance, we haven’t been herded yet. Hat’s off to you for picking up the gear and moving on and I wouldn’t assume you did anything wrong to deserve a herding. Great story, though and I couldn't stop thinking about how much fun that must have been. Thanks Salty, great points and if I’m ever herded I’ll try to keep these things in mind and be a good troll citizen, although I might have to chant # 10 as I am picking up the gear.

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