Spring is the time of year my husband heads out to catch Sablefish, also known as Black Cod. It’s still cold out, and the mountains are covered with plenty of snow. The F/V Serenity’s bait shed is filled with slinky pots, line, and bait; they are ready to head out to fill several permit holder quotas. I am one of those permit holders, and together with my 4-year-old son, my father-in-law (another life-long fisherman), my husband, and the crew of the F/V Serenity, we head out. It’s my son and I’s first trip, and we are excited to see what a day in the life of these fishermen is like.
The ride out to the fishing grounds was breathtaking. The sun was starting to set and the colors across the water and the mountains were truly magnificent. The next day did not disappoint either. Blue skies, sparkling water, and snow-capped mountains surrounded us and made the outlook for the day feel promising. Now it was time to get down to business.
The captain and crew grab the first buoy and start hauling in the line. They use slinky pots to fish for Sablefish. Using these pots is a newly developed method of fishing and they have revolutionized this particular fishery. Traditionally, Sablefish are caught on longlines rigged with baited hooks. Whale predation has plagued long lining fisheries for years, with the whales taking most of the catch and leaving fishermen to stay out on the water longer to fill their quotas. This threatens the individual fisherman’s catch, as well as the fishery as a whole. The introduction and use of slinky pots have changed all that.
Slinky pots are a more efficient, successful, and sustainable way to harvest Sablefish than the traditional baited hook. These collapsible, lightweight mesh pots are filled with bait, attached to a long line, and set at the bottom of the ocean to await the Sablefish. The pots trap the fish, keeping our catch protected from predators. This lessens the amount of time the boats are on the water, reduces the risk for injuries and accidents, and helps maintain the sustainability of the fishery because they are harvesting fewer fish to fill the quota. While we were on this trip, I desperately waited to see a pod of killer whales. I stood on deck with my camera ready to go several times, only to be disappointed that they had learned we had nothing for them. The whales showed up once, and swiftly left when they realized we had no snacks for them. As disappointed as the photographer in me was, I was thrilled to see the effectiveness of this new fishing method.
The face of the Black Cod fishery has been changed significantly by the arrival of the slinky pot. We are proud to be among the first of the boats in this area to practice this method of fishing and use it to bring you high-quality, sustainably harvested Sablefish. This trip has also given me an all-new appreciation for the hard work our crew puts in. These are long, cold days, and they work hard to fill these quotas. Thank you to the captain and crew of the F/V Serenity for your kindness, hospitality, and truly strong work ethic.
Head on over to our Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok pages to see a video of the hard working F/V Serenity Crew harvesting this year’s Sablefish.