The Tide Is Our Clock

Posted on July 18, 2012


Set-net on the North Naknek beach of Bristol Bay on a quiet morning as the tide ebbs

Both tides of each day move forward about a half hour every day and with them move our focus and activity. As long as we have nets in the water that need tending, the tides govern our days and the tide book is our timepiece. Nothing will make the water move slower or faster than it intends and it seems that when there are few fish the tide scarcely moves at all. And, conversely, when we have lots of fish the water leaves the bay all too quickly. The water sometimes requires that we tend our gear in pitch-black hours. Other times the tides are so big that we are concerned with our vehicles getting swallowed by them while we clear our gear of fish with our skiffs.

Wading in calm waters outside the mouth of the Naknek River with salmon on a string

The bulk of our season is now gone and as we gather what is left of the body of Bristol Bay salmon from the shore our timing is less critical. This type of fishing requires that we make it to the beach before the water recedes enough to lay our catch bare to the seagulls who are waiting from the shore to feast on fish unprotected by lapping waves. It is good to have mornings where the timing has been predicted well, the water is calm, and quiet wading gets you through your gear, with just enough fish to make it worthwhile. It is good to close the season in this calm and peaceful way, before returning to the clock that is known by the rest of the world.