An Opener: 14 Hour Window for Commercial Fishing

May is busy for the small fishing towns of Alaska. Commercial fishermen wait to hear when the first fishery will be open for catching. Before the fishermen get out on the water and start netting fish they must prepare their boats, nets and skills for the Alaskan coast. Commercial fishing is a 4-6 month career and when the season is good that is the only work they need for the entire year. The otherwise small populations in these fishing towns begin to grow as fishermen from all over the states come to Alaska and prepare for the season. Their is a tension and excitement in the air as the opening date awaits. The Alaska department of Fish and Game announced that the first fishery will be opening on May 15th. With one week left before that date, the boats need to be ready to go.  Fishermen are preparing by mending nets, welding boats, checking engine fluids and any other last minute fine tuning the boats need. Among them are Davie Allen, Ian Lindsay, Bill Fisher, James Andrew and Emmitt Raymond.  The Alaska department of Fish and Game announced that the first fishery will be opening on May 15th. With one week left before that date, the boats need to be ready to go.

                                                Gillnet Mending

Above the old Orca Cannery is where fishermen and women come to lay out their nets for repairs. Davie Allen is a local gill net repairer. As the fishing season gets ready open, Allen is extremely busy trying to repair all the nets in time.
Davie Allen taught herself the skill of net mending and was able to turn it into a full time job. Allen works on her own hours and usually spends long days working to get each net done as quickly as possible with quality stiches.
As the opening date for the fishery gets closer, the time crunch for Allen becomes overwhelming. The fishermen need their nets if they are going to catch fish. Every morning till night you can find Allen working away.
A simple office space for the folks repairing nets. A small radio hangs on the wall where a mix of talk shows and rock music plays while nets are being fixed.
The bottom rope used for glints are stiff and weighted so that the net keeps its shape as the rope sinks.
The rope must be neatly coiled before beginning the net mending process. If the rope is not well coiled, you run the risk of having to restart from the beginning because of twists and tangles in the rope.
These are the two original paper books that Devie Allen used to teach herself gill net mending.
Ian Lindsay works on a commercial gill netter in Cordova, Alaska. A week before the season opened on May 15, 2015 - Lindsay had the task of mending his net and preparing his boat down on the J dock.
Gill net fisherman are out fishing completely on their own. They haul in the net, captain the boat, navigate and more all on their lonesome. Long hours and hard work when working on a gill net, but if the fishing is good it is more than worth it.
Gill nets are made out of nylon or monofilament. When the net is dropped and floating in the ocean, fish will swim into the holes of the net and their gills will get hooked on the net. After a season of use, there is usually a rip or two that needs to be repaired.
Davie Allen is known in the community as the go to person for net repairs and mending in Cordova. Allen takes her job seriously. Not only is she fast but she makes sure every stitch and knot is perfect. "When the fishermen use their nets they need them to work... I want to give them their net knowing that it is good to go." says Allen.

                                               Dry Dock Repairs

Bill Fisher is the owner of Cordova Outboards and has been with the business since the 80's. Fisher moved from Eugene, Oregon to Cordova with his family because his dad wanted to hunt and fish more.

Five mechanics work at Cordova Outboards. It is a hectic time for the mechanics as the season gets ready to open. Fisher and his team must get all the work done before the opening day.

During the 1960's, boats were all run with outboard motors. Today, boats mainly use inboard motors like the one seen here.

Fisher is a skilled welder and many of the boats in the fleet go to him to get the welding job done.

The office space where you can find every tool you need.

Oil, lubricants, metal shavings and anything else you can think of will get on mechanics’ clothes as they repair fishing boats.

Before the tide goes out a boat that needs work done on a dry dock will dock up here. As the tide goes out it sinks onto the dry dock where one can work under the boat out of the water.

Fisher learned how to be a mechanic and a welder from his dad who once worked on boats.

The Frisian Lady, run by Captain Gus Lynnville and his crew, needs some last minute work done before the opening day. Lynnville called up Fisher for some welding help.

Fisher prepares the surface of the rudder to be welded.

Not only is there a rush to get work done by the opening day but when the boat is sitting on the dry dock, there is only a handful of hours before the tide rises and floats the boat back up.

Fisher welds zinc plates onto the rudder of the fishing boat. The zincs used on a boat are called "Sacrificial Anodes." Zinc is used because it has a higher voltage in the water so the current will be more inclined to flow from it than from your propeller.

Whenever different metals are placed in a conductive liquid, such as salt water, you create a battery. If you connect these pieces of metal together, current will flow. This current, trying to equalize the conductivity of the metals, will be removing metal from one of the metal pieces. This removal is called "electrolysis." Zinc is used as sacrifice to keep electrolysis from removing metal off the actual boat.

Fisher's mobile office space. Often times it is much easier for Fisher to travel to the boats than it is to trailer a boat to his warehouse.

                                              Replacing the Deck

James Andrews and Emmitt Raymond size up planks of wood. They are building an elevated deck above the original 1944 deck so that the original deck doesn't wear down too much.

Emmitt Raymond passes planks of wood over to James Andrews. Raymond has been working on fishing boats for over 30 years everywhere but Alaska. He met the owner of Trask down in Texas and next thing he knew he was working up in Alaska on the tender.

The tender boat Trask is Copper River Seafood's main tender. The boat is named after the Trask river in Oregon and the boat itself was built in Astoria back in 1944.

The weather of spring in Alaska makes it tough to get work done. Especially construction on boats, but it has to be finished before opening season. A large blue tarp drapes over the tender to work in a semi dry space while it’s raining.

With only a few days left before the opening day of the fishing season, Raymond and James work quickly to finish the new deck of the boat so that it is ready to go.

The tender boat Trask is 73 feet long. It takes a lot of work to rebuild the entire deck.

Welcome to the office. Tender boats are the boats that take the fish from commercial fishing boats and deliver the fish to the canneries. The tenders also resupply fishing boats with fuel, food, toiletries and beer. "We are the boat that makes people happy," says Raymond.

James Andrews is one of the mates on board of the Trask and is also the son of the owner of the boat.

The quarters are tight on-board of most fishing boats. "Not a lot of time is spent inside," explains Raymond. This is the ladder that leads to the captain’s station on the top deck.

Emmitt Raymond met Jon Andrews, the owner of Trask, in Texas. Raymond went to a used car dealership to buy a truck and the owner of the dealership happened to be the owner of the tender boat Trask in Alaska. After some conversation, Raymond left the dealership with a job and advice not to buy the truck because it was a piece of junk.