More on the Russians were here

Dear Editor:

I read the April 21 letter to the editor titled” The Russians were here” and would like to add some personal information from my years of trolling for salmon with the fishing vessel “the West”, between Westport and Neah Bay. Since I lived in Forks, I harbored out of LA Push.

During that period I maintained a current Washington commercial fishing license and subscribed to The Fisherman’s News, a magazine published in Seattle. As a resource of current regulations and news articles I kept abreast and still remember much of the information concerning Washington fisheries. I would point out; various web sites are available now for interested individuals.

What in fact were the Russians doing in our 200-mile fisher-exclusion zone. From what I learned; it was a joint venture fishing project that dis-allowed the Russians from their past practices when the US had a 3-mile limit, The Magnusson Act stopped them from dragging with their nets at the mouth of the Quillayute River, and elsewhere.

However, they were known to place trawlers tied at each end of the trawl net while a third boat prop-washed fish into the middle of the net with the same force held them in place. What our federal department of fisheries and the US government and some greedy US trawl boats cooked up was our boats would drag the Russian net until it was loaded with fish and bring it to the waiting Russian processing boats, who were not allowed to drag their own nets but could have US boats do the netting and bring the nets to the Russian boat. When the nets were full, the US boat was provided another Russian net and was back to fishing. All Russian boats supposedly were required to have an observer who made sure they were not taking salmon! “Good Luck with That”!

Most of the observers were college students enrolled at the U of W in the fisheries program. Whenever a loaded net was hauled on board and the observer alleged the Russian crew members, who were also observing crowded around and blocked the US observer from seeing as the net was being dumped on the deck.

Any salmon were supposedly returned to the sea. Now picture a net so heavy that the US boat was needing to increase engine RPM to remain at a troll speed as the nets became full. In the net were fish buried under fish that were having the life crushed out of them. When the net was unloaded by the Russians the smashed fish being drowned and dead especially true of the smaller pink salmon. The larger kings and silvers, went into the Russian fish hold, while the pinks were kicked or shoveled overboard with their white bellies floated up!

What were the joint fisheries allegedly targeting? Whitefish, commonly referred to as Hake, a white meat fish that are, I believe a mid-water or a deep-water fish. Not bad eating. They are sometimes caught on sport rods and are similar to silver salmon, with fast pulls, and usually fast runs but they tire quickly.

From what I learned about the joint venture, the fisheries started off California, mid-summer and moved north ending in the early fall off north Washington. Apparently, the same project of “rip off of the American fisheries” was started off the east coast. For more information Google NOOA fisheries.

I will add when taking my boat from LA Push to Neah Bay and then to Port Angeles for the winter, while the joint venture debacle was in progress off Washington sometime during the mid-1970’s I observed white bellies floating off Umatilla Reef, and all the way to Tatooch Island. I had netted several fish for a look-see! What was left was “mush”, it was disgusting to see such a waste of our native salmon. Pinks are considered the least desirable of any of the species, soft meat that has very little taste, however, they are not bad smoked.

This is one small part of the demise of the salmon fisheries of our Washington salmon, and I would venture to say, California and Oregon are suffering the same, there are many reasons: from the closing of the hatcheries, and long lining off the coast by foreign vessels, degrading of their habitat, and alleged climate change issues where our offshore waters are increasingly warm, which impacts the food source. The Washington state department of fisheries is telling us that this year will be a “bumper year” for Silvers, I am not fishing anymore but I sure would like to talk to the guys that catch all those fish, we shall see……..

Phil Reed, Forks