Bob Martin is captain of the F/V Argonaut, a small 35’ aluminum jigger converted from a Cook Inlet drift boat. Like many Alaskans Bob wears more than one hat, operating as a Professional Guide in Colorado during the off months when he’s not fishing for cod.
Here we are with Bob Martin of the F/V Argonaut, about to deliver some cod…
Yup, about 8000 pounds of cod, almost 1300 fish. We had pretty decent fishing weather, it was real nice, although it had its moments coming in today! We had about 10 footers rolling on the side…
How long have you been fishing?
I’ve been fishing salmon, and been coming to Alaska, since 1982. I came up to work as a deckhand and eventually bought my own boat, got started in the salmon fishery. Expanded into the cod fishery, and that’s what I’m doing now. I love it, having a good time!
So you fished salmon on the Kenai Peninsula…
Kenai Peninsula, Cook Inlet, we focused on Sockeye. We catch a few Coho and Kings, but mostly Sockeye. We gillnet, that’s a little different than the seiners. We actually have a curtain of net we lay out, they get tangled in their gill plate, and we bring them onto the boat and pick ‘em out.
What other fisheries do you participate in other than Cod and Salmon?
Well I’ve done a number of different ones. I’ve been involved in the longline fishery quite a bit, fishing blackcod and halibut during the derby days. Like I mentioned I’ve been salmon fishing since 1982, and we’re now involved in the jig fishery, which is actually my favorite! I like the casualness of the jig fishery versus the high intensity salmon fishery and longline fishery where you have to compete for the fish a lot more.
Have you had any close calls, scary stories, incredible events?
There’s been a number of them, weather is always our big issue. About 3 years ago I was crossing Marmot straight, running into about a southeast, probably 35, dipped into a wave and busted one of my windows out. That kind of puckered us up a little bit! I had to call one of my buddies over and he kinda broke trail for us, busting the swells down so we could get back in to town. The crazy thing about that is I busted out my port side and my driver’s window out and I had to drive by looking out my starboard side. That was kind of odd… My deckhand josh at the time came, he came flying out of the seat when he saw the wave coming, he just flew out of the seat and scared the living daylights outa me! That was some kind of a day there.
So what’s the biggest challenge facing you today as a fisherman?
Yeah, just streamlining my operation, making it more efficient, especially with the fuel. Trying to find fish closer to town so we don’t have to run quite so far… That’s one of my weaknesses, I can run all around the island, I enjoy getting way out, getting away from everybody, and sometimes that’s not what you need to do. You need to be fishing closer to town where you don’t burn so much fuel.
And if you could change one thing about the fisheries, what would that be?
Well I would want prices to keep pace with inflation and with fuel prices and all that, I think that’s the biggest challenge facing us is fuel costs. We’re one of those very few industries where you can’t pass it on down, you just need to catch more fish. We can’t bring the processor a fuel surcharge bill when we’re done fishing, I think you guys would hand me the bill right back and say “Sorry Bob!”
So, what’s the craziest thing you’ve brought up in your net from below?
It’s not all that strange, but I’d have to say salmon sharks. (Crewman shouting in the distance) No, we didn’t catch a whale, haha…we did have a whale cross our gear, we hooked on his fin, he stretched out all our line and popped off right on the surface. We get octopus once in a while, skates… but I’d say the most exciting was catching a salmon shark, it took about an hour to get it up on the boat and get her released.
What is your favorite thing to eat when fishing?
We eat a lot of sandwiches, things like that, anything simple to cook since we’re generally working pretty hard. Although we do take the evenings to cook a nice dinner, generally, and eat fish of some type… we love that cod!
So Cod is your favorite fish?
Actually salmon, I’m much more of a salmon eater. I love kings, love silvers, deep fried or baked, really any way. Fresh seafood, it’s one of the benefits of being a fisherman!
Where do you see yourself and the industry in 10 years?
Probably upgrading my vessel, getting a little bit bigger boat, not a real bigger boat, but maybe something around 48 feet… and to keep pursuing the elusive cod! I believe that cod is the fishery of the future for a while, the price is going up, there’s lots of fish around. I just got to get better at catching them, and a little bigger boat will help with that.
Bob, what do you do when you are not fishing?
I hunt, fish, and ski, my whole life, that’s what I do. I run a guide service in Colorado in the fall called North Park Outfitters, and we take back-country hunters on elk and deer hunts, on horse back. We do that from October till the end of November. Then I get a couple months off before I come back up and go cod fishing. So I like to ski then.