Stories from the Sea: Adventures Gillnetting Chum Salmon with Doug Kostering

Chris - November 9, 2020

When you imagine life as a fisherman, it’s easy to picture an idyllic existence. One where it’s always sunny and clear and the seas are never rough.  Maybe this is because for a lot of us, our main interaction with fishing is as a recreational activity. But fishing for a living isn’t easy, and sometimes things just don’t go your way. This was the case for Doug Kosteringa long-time Skipper Otto fisherman, during the two gillnet openings for chum salmon in the Johnstone Strait in October. 

Learn more about gillnetting here

The first opening was for 40 hours, starting on a Sunday at 4pm. Doug was out on the water, and the fishing was going smoothly at first. But before dawn on Monday, the wind unexpectedly shifted from northwest to southeast and, between that and the tide changes, debris like sticks and kelp were swept from the beaches and clogged Doug’s net! You can’t catch salmon in a clogged net, so Doug and his deckhand had no choice but to spend the next 8 hours picking the net clean so they could get back out fishing in time to salvage the rest of the opening.  

On Monday evening, Doug’s net was clear and he had found a good spot. He was ready for the tide change – the best time to gillnet salmon, as they are moving quicklyMost salmon are caught during this time. But just before the optimal time, another fisherman came along and “corked” Doug’s set. This means he laid his net parallel and in front of Doug’s net so he would end up intercepting the fish that Doug was ready to catch. This led to an angry exchange during which the other fisherman pulled a rifle and aimed it at Doug. Still, Doug did not back down and both fishermen ended up pulling their nets up with poor catches. Between the clogged net and the aggressive fisherman, Doug ended up catching less than half the chum salmon many other fishermen were able to catch during the opening. 

Just a few days later, there was a 65hour long chum opening in the Johnstone Strait. Doug was ready to go late Friday afternoon for the start of the openingbut once again bad luck would strike. Just before dawn on Saturday morning, Doug was an 1/8th of a mile offshore with his net in the water. Suddenly, a tugboat pushing a fish farm barge came barreling towards his net. Doug’s net had his active fishing lights on, and the ends of his net were illuminated and identified, but the barge was still heading right for it.  As the barge came closer Doug frantically tried shining his spotlight at the barge to wave it off, but it was no use. The barge ended up crashing through Doug’s net and destroyed it, causing thousands of dollars of damage. Fortunately, the tug captain stopped, and they exchanged information, but this ended Doug’s trip a couple days earlyIn addition to catching very little, Doug’s left with the chore of having to chase down the fish farm company for compensation to get his net mended. 

Stories like this are not unusual. On any particular opening, some fishermen do well, and others do notoften for reasons that are just chance. The truth is, Doug is a good fisherman and usually does very well. We don’t always hear about the difficulties fisherman can face, because sometimes they can feel ashamed when they don’t do well. We think it is brave of Doug to let us share these stories, so we can all get a better understanding of how the seafood we love lands on our plates. The next time we’re enjoying a salmon fillet, we’ll be thinking of the risks that our BC fishing families faced to provide it for us. Thanks Doug, and better luck with the rest of the halibut season! And thanks to all our members for supporting BC fishing families! 

Chris - November 9, 2020


Back to blog

Stories from the Sea: Adventures Gillnetting Chum Salmon with Doug Kostering

Chris - November 9, 2020

Pledge your support and become a member to enjoy the freshest fish in BC!

Sign up now