Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Advances in Deck Gear


Bill Webber built a fiber optic Oceanographic Winch for a local research vessel. Photo courtesy of Webber Marine.

Many deck machinery providers have been busy in 2016, with a large number of new vessels requiring deck equipment to outfit their boats. Couple that with boats changing gear types to adapt to different fisheries up and down the coast and it translates to quite a bit of gear moving this year.

Based on our recent reader survey, half of our readers spend more than $25,000 per year outfitting their boats, and a fifth spend more than $100,000. Half of these fishermen upgrade their gear several times a year.

Lift Safe

Seattle's Integrity Machining and Kolstrand are known for their wide range of fishing products, ranging from salmon, tuna and halibut gurdies to seine winches, anchor winches, gillnet reels and rollers, long line reels and haulers, power blocks, and other products.

Lifting hooks are part of the standard equipment offered by Kolstrand, but this year the company has partnered with Tylaska Marine & Aerospace to introduce a new 100 percent stainless steel self-locking safety hook for lifting.

Tylaska is an East Coast company that sells high-performance sailing hardware. Together with Kolstrand they have developed a self-locking hook in a standardized design sometimes referred to as a "safety hook" because of the self-locking design that helps to secure loads and prevent accidental releases.

While the design leaves little room for improvement, the hooks spend all their lives in the elements, and on a fishing boat that includes rain, salt spray and weeks or months of inactivity. This leads to rust, which tends to incapacitate the hook. A typical solution to the rust problem involves the application of oil, heat and repeated blows from a large hammer to get things moving again. The process of bringing the hook back into compliance, ie: operation, can compromise the safe use and operation of the hook.

The solution, from Tylaska and Kolstrand, is the LH10 – a 100-percent stainless steel version of the same reliable self-locking hook design. Not only is the LH10 built entirely from stainless steel components, but it is also 27 percent stronger than the same size 10 grade-8 self-locking hooks.

The new hook was two years in the making, and sells on the company's website for $619. "The hook has only been on the market since the first day of Pacific Marine Expo," says Kolstrand's Brad Tibbs. "The first run was about 250 hooks, and I think we have about 15 left."

"The standard steel item in Alaska is between $100 and $180 depending on where you buy them," Tibbs says. "After the season, they get left on the boat and they freeze up with rust, so the crew try to free them up any way they can," he says. "They soak them in diesel, heat them with a torch and beat on them with a big hammer," he says. That's not good for the hook, and compromises the safety of both the lifting capacity and the smooth operation. The stainless steel construction means the hook will operate just as well after a season in the rigging, saving time and frustration.

Tibbs says the hook is a good fit for the Alaska fishing industry as well as his company. "There isn't big enough demand for a large company to tool up, but the industry is a niche we can fill," Tibbs says. He notes that a company made something similar in the early 1990s, but the hooks weren't rated. "They had some hooks break, and there were some pretty large lawsuits."

The new Tylaska hooks have CE certification for overhead lifting, which means they comply with all relevant European directives, and can be traded within the EU.

In addition to the shiny stainless finish, the hook is offered in an anti-theft configuration. "The hooks can be powder coated yellow for the same price," Tibbs says. "They look like regular steel hooks." This actually makes them less conspicuous, as well as being easier to see in the rigging.

The size 10 eye-type hook, suitable for use with 3/8-inch chain, is currently the only size of stainless steel self-locking hook available, but Tylaska plans to produce a smaller size 8 and larger size 13 hook in the coming year.

Clean Your Net

Webber Marine and Manufacturing, in Cordova, Alaska, has been providing Alaska fishermen with innovative deck gear and equipment since 1981.

"I currently have three employees," owner Bill Webber says. "Me, myself and I."

Those three guys are pretty busy. Webber Marine Equipment designs, builds and markets deck equipment including net reels, level winds, power rollers and setnet rollers. His gillnet reels incorporate a bowpicker anchor winch, and he also produces heavy duty trim tabs and water jet control systems.

"We've built more than 350 net reels, and easily that many power rollers and level winds," he says. "I've got all the deck gear for gillnetting, and I outfit a lot of the bowpickers in Prince William Sound and Southeast."

Webber is currently perfecting a gillnet washing system that fits on a level wind gillnet reel. "I've been working on it for the last two years," he says. "Last year I built it and started using it, then perfected it after a fishing period, went back out, changed a few things, and so on."

He landed on a final design over the summer. "I have the design 98 percent done," he says. "It's functioning as intended and looks like it will be a worthwhile piece of equipment."

The net washer utilizes two vertical water columns and 4 rows of massive waterjets to blast the net clean as it is drawn through two rows of brushes. "It cleans the net very well," Webber says. It will even remove some jellyfish, he says although he has jellyfish shaker plans in development as well. He hopes to have the system ready for market in late February.

All of Webber's products undergo an extensive CAD design process, and his parts are made at CNC manufacturing shops that use water jets, laser cutting, milling and lathes. He has a regular production run of net reels, power rollers and level winds, but he builds custom equipment as well.

Webber also provides design and project planning, including CAD design, vessel repowers and hydraulic and refrigeration services.

Recently a customer requested a net reel mounted on a roller cassette assembly, which allows fore and aft travel on a track assembly to permit access to a deck hatch under the net reel.

He also recently completed a net reel for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's R/V Solstice mounted not only on a sliding table but also equipped with a hydraulic rotating turret assembly that can swing the reel a full 360 degrees, to point the net reel to the port, starboard and stern rail for setting and retrieval.

Webber has also produced an automated Batch Sea Water Chlorination system to the State of Alaska's DEC process water specification, for an onboard processing operation.

Lately Webber has been shifting his focus to processing equipment. When he's not building innovative deck machinery, Webber catches, processes and direct-markets wild Alaskan salmon. He says the superior quality of his catch comes from the way he handles it as he brings it aboard his gillnetter.

His processed-at-sea H & G product is of a quality he likens to troll-caught fish. One of his secrets is an electronic pressure bleed control system that automates the pressure bleeding process. All of his fish are bled pre-rigor, and he's working on a machine for use by catcher processors.

"I'm working on a couple of other bleeding machines that will revolutionize the salmon industry," Webber says. "I'll be working on those over the winter."

He has a couple of Bristol Bay fishermen who will be performing research and development on the machines next spring. "We'll be using the system on board my boat as well," he says. He currently has three different bleeding processes automated and employed aboard his boat.

LEFT-The new stainless LH10 lifting hook from Kolstrand is certified by CE and won't rust closed between seasons. RIGHT-The pricey stainless steel lifting hook is also available in "anti-theft yellow" which disguises the shiny steel and helps with visibility. Photos by Brad Tibbs courtesy of Kolstrand and Integrity Machining.

Webber says fishermen that head and gut their fish often leave one organ in the fish, which speeds decomposition. "Blood is an organ," he says. "It goes rancid and spoils the fish." His new bleeding system offers a very efficient bleeding process.

"I'm getting about 98 percent of the blood out of these fish," he says. "The process actually resets the shelf life window in an H & G product."

Webber says his system keeps the harvest fresh enough to satisfy several high-end restaurant clients nationwide. "I have been getting the fish out of the water and delivered to customers on the East Coast within 36 hours," he says "My West Coast customers have been telling me they're receiving the fish while they're still in rigor. They're processed pre-rigor, iced, boxed and flown out."

Webber says it's time for gillnetters to be able to deliver consistently high-quality fish. "People want to see industry change for the harvester. The quality specification I have devised is unlike any gillnet-caught fish," he says. "I would put it up against troll caught product."


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