Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Listen to the Fisherman


February 1, 2018

A local Seattle fisherman recently shared his opinion with us, and we were surprised to hear some of his observations. He told us that trawling can be a successful and responsible method of fishing, but there is a large learning curve. Each individual fish has its own preferred substrate. Some share bottom substrate while others are found in a specific depth, and the key to success is to find the right depth and speed for the targeted species.

He started every year in November fishing around Port Angeles, Washington, where the tow was generally full of ‘codfish’ and a few ‘greenies’ or ‘yellowtail rockfish’, but the first annual order of business was to get the dogfish out.

The dogfish came in every year and are dominant on the grounds or in a tow, but can be manipulated. The trawlers would take turns in the tow. The large dogfish would be iced and brought in for sale, and after a few tows the dogfish leave the area and other fish, including codfish, move in.

The grounds are 14 miles straight out in the ocean from Neah Bay, and 45 miles southwest of Cape Flattery. During the spring it was common to get 15 halibut in a 2-hour tow for codfish, making about 2.9 to 3.2 knots, in the ocean southwest of the cape. He mentioned an instance where a fellow fisherman went down the tow at 4.5 knots and inadvertently got around 600 halibut. Halibut are apparently very speed accountable.

About 20 years ago NOAA put out a request to the industry for suggestions on lowering the incidental halibut bycatch up north.

Fishermen told NOAA that slowing the big gulf codfish draggers by even a knot might cut the bycatch by 50 percent. NOAA responded that they were not interested in a ‘technique’ to reduce bycatch – only in net design.

It seems that these species can be targeted and worked by the trawlers.

Another anecdote involves a hake trawler about 40 miles southwest of Cape Flattery that noticed the cod end of the trawl was full of king salmon. Likely well over 40,000 lbs. or more. The crew pulled the ‘zipper’ and let the bag go.

All fish have a substrate or area that they frequent. A big 10- to 50-pound king salmon doesn’t swim 40 or 50 miles for dinner. Like other fish, it maintains a close proximity to a good source of food.

Hake is a very good food source and if the king salmon swims with the hake, it does not have to expend energy to go eat.

People asking, “Where have the kings gone?” don’t have to look too far for an answer. Just ask your local hake fisherman.

Kings all co-exist with their food supply – it could be herring, and off the coast it’s hake. In California it’s the Delta smelt.

Maybe the managers making the regulations, looking for answers in net design and gear type, are missing the simple solution of better management of the existing resource. Maybe the managers should be listening to the fishermen.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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