C-Dory 22 Angler: A Boat for Alaska

The Gillie: Our 2008 C-Dory 22 Angler taking a cruise on the Sacramento River

“Gillie” is a Scottish term that refers to a fishing or hunting attendant, much like a guide. As such, armed with an excellent electronic fish-finding unit, a dependable 90 hp Honda engine (and an 8 hp kicker), and enough open deck to comfortably fish two or three anglers (four in a pinch), this boat has proved to be a reliable gillie. Barbra and I have spent many nights both on the water and on land snuggly tucked away in the cuddy cabin, and the dinette table in the pilot house is just big enough for the two of us to enjoy a meal. These boats are capable of storing an amazing amount of gear, the hull is tough, and on flat water loaded down with fishing gear and four medium-sized adults, it tops out around 25 knots (about 29 mph). Inside the pilot house with the Alaskan bulkhead door closed, making long runs is both warm and quiet. The 90 hp Honda trolls beautifully when we’re running rigs for salmon, and the shallow draft (well under two feet) allows us to get in the rocks in pursuit of species close to shore.

Ask a typical boat owner what the best boat is, and they’re likely to tell you, “The one I own right now.” That’s how we feel about our C-Dory. With a beam of only 7’9″, it’s a breeze to tow, yet it’s enough boat to feel safe on fairly big water–from the California coast to the ocean bays of Alaska. You’ve probably heard the quip that goes, “The two happiest days in a boater’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it.” Not with a C-Dory. The happiest days are the ones we have it on the water.

Setting the Net

September 4: We’d be wanting to learn how to set a net from shore, so when a couple invited us to come fishing with them, we jumped at the opportunity. The way nets are set here is pretty ingenious.

The first order of business is to get a big enough weight out from shore to securely anchor the far end of the net. In Shishmaref and lots of other places, they use small dingies or other watercraft to accomplish this. But the current runs strong near Point Hope, and high winds can come up quickly. In the past, lone anglers launching small boats off the beach led to drownings. So a different method for getting the cloth sacks of rocks which serve as weights out into deeper water was developed. Here fishermen use long poles–sometimes lengths of two-by-fours nailed together. The fish often run quite close to shore, so even 25 feet or so can be far enough and a 30 foot net set is all you need. The pole is threaded through a loop on the top of the weight, enough floatation in the form of plastic buoys is attached to the end of the pole to keep everything floating as its pushed out, and then the pole is pulled back and the weight drops to the bottom.

Meanwhile, a long line has been run through one end of the net, top to bottom along a piece of wood attached to the net and is also run through the weight. With the ends of the line tied together to form one long loops, and controlled from the beach, this line is pulled until one end of the net is snugged up against the weight. The top and bottom lines are adjusted so that the net is positioned upright, and the lines are tied off to two stakes on the beach. At the other end of the net–the one closest to the beach–another line holds the net in place and is similarly tethered. Corks keep the top of the net up, and a lead line keeps the bottom of the net down. It sounds a bit complicated, but in practice the whole process is fairly simple and intuitive.

Once the net is set, the fishing is much like any kind of fishing anywhere. You wait, hoping to see the tell-tale dancing of corks, or maybe a splash as a large fish entrapped in the net swims to the surface. Up here the quarry are salmon (pinks, silvers and Chinook), and the highly prized “trout,” i.e. sea-run Dolly Varden. While you wait for the fish to come along, you might see grey whales or even Orcas, seals, or maybe a walrus. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds nest and roost on the cliffs of Cape Thomson to the south, so the sea is usually alive with murres, gulls, puffins and more.