Picking Fish on the Beach
Picking on the beach is a necessary evil. It’s only to be endured when the sea is too rough to launch a skiff, or when the fish period is over and the nets need to come out of the water anyway. Even then (at the end of a fish day) if it’s possible, we’ll pick an hour before closing so the net is nearly empty when we pull it in.
Because the net is usually longer than the amount of beach available, the tractor has to make several “pulls” before the entire length of net is on the beach.
Once the net, still full of floppy, slimy fish, is on the beach, everyone picks the fish (almost always hunched over in an awkward position.)
In the boat it’s often possible to use the weight of the fish to help shake it out of the net. On the beach, however this is much harder to do. Also, I think everyone who has ever picked fish on the beach has gotten an eyeful or mouthful of sand thanks to a flopping fish, or the net sliding off a fish and spraying sand everywhere. That’s just part of picking on the beach.
The picked fish are tossed into piles. (Watch out for flying fish!) When about half the net is picked, a couple workers fill a wheeled tub with sea water and start washing off the fish. (On a side note, here’s a little trick for carrying fish from the piles to the wash trailer: You slip a finger through the gills and carry the fish tail down. Adam and Robert were so good they could carry a fish on each finger of each hand for a grand total of eight salmon in one trip. The most I could carry was six – maybe seven.)
One or two people wash the sand off the fish and toss them into a tote. This is a particularly delightful job. The water gets really gross (bloody, slimy), and sometimes other workers delivering fish accidentally splash that gross water into the washer’s face when they dump them into the trailer. Yuck!
When the net is picked clean, the tractor comes along and the two people in back pick up the net and pile it in the tractor box.
It is then taken to the net rack and unloaded until the next fish period.