I like taking pictures. The problem is, as a deckhand I rarely have time to pull out my camera while on the boat. I’m usually very busy, making sure our clients are having a good day on the water, including keeping their baits fresh, and serving up cookies. Not only that, when there is a chance for a photo, my hands are often covered in fish slime and I don’t want to mess up my camera. So I end up taking a picture in my head, enjoying the moment for what it is. That’s usually the best I can do.
You can imagine my delight when Theresa informed me that I’d be going along as a deckhand on a photo shoot for the lodge. For a couple of days there would be no fishing allowed on our boat. I didn’t have to focus on the fishing duties of deckhanding—instead I could focus on photography. This was a dream come true! I could finally take all of the pictures I wanted while out on the ocean.
It was a lot of fun. We had decent seas, and good lighting, perfect for ocean photography. We spent a lot of time cruising around our fleet of boats that were fishing, looking for great action shots of our clients. When one of the boats had a fish on, we’d circle around getting into good shooting position.
Besides fishing photos, we also got to spend a lot of time focusing on photographing wildlife. Sitka is an amazing place to be if you are interesting in marine wildlife. In one day (with a little bit of luck) there is a very good chance that you can see animals like: humpback whales, orca whales, stellar sea lions, sea otters, seals, Dall’s porpoises, harbor porpoises, grizzly bear and Sitka black tailed deer. This isn’t even considering birds, which can be found in abundant numbers including: bald eagles, albatrosses, tufted puffins, murres, ducks, cormorants, gulls, oyster catchers, and many others.
On our wildlife photo day, I witnessed some humpback whales “bubble feeding.” Bubble feeding is a cooperative behavior used by humpbacks to entrap a school of small fish or krill inside a “net” of bubbles. They form this net by releasing bubbles to confuse and herd the school together. With the bait all trapped inside the bubbles, the humpbacks swim as one quickly to the surface through the bait with their mouths wide open.
The whale collects a huge amount of water along with the fish in its open mouth, but its baleen allows sea water to pass through while collecting the fish for consumption. Baleen is a structure in the mouth of most whales, flat parallel plates located in the upper jaw. It looks like a long flexible comb.
A humpback has a huge mouth, and it is impressive to see one with its mouth completely full, bulging with fish and water. And it was awesome to see these immense creatures working together.
These feeding whales are a perfect example of why it’s so cool to work and to fish on the ocean. You never know what you are going to see on a given day. You might catch a 35 lb. king salmon, or you might see a pod of orca whales on a feeding run. You just never know. While working here at APC, I’ve probably seen more wildlife and weather phenomenon in one summer, than some people see in their whole lives. I’m very fortunate to work here in this beautiful marine environment.
Written by Tom, Deckhand ~ Checkmate