Can Scallops Fly

Tales of Vashon


John and I had just finished building a clam-gun for catching geoduck and were headed for the point at Dockton where other people were taking advantage of the minus tide to dig clams and hunt for the elusive geoduck.

Gerald Plancich owned and fished the Arline, whose hulk can still be seen tied to a float in Dockton where she has the dubious distinction of being the last of the Dockton fishing fleet.  Gerald was walking ahead of us in the sand and marking the geoduck holes with small sticks so they would be easy for the tourists to find.

On a different day, on the west side of Vashon the tide was coming in and we were halfway down the hill to the old steamer dock at Cove, when we smelled the scallop boat.  I’ll never forget that smell, though I don’t remember the name of Mr. Ahlmquist’s boat.   It had a twelve or sixteen foot-wide chicken-wire basket that was two or three feet deep and open to one side and when it was dragged across the bottom, the scallops became alarmed and flew up at its approach.  Colvos Passage is 400 feet deep in places.  Of course, we had never seen a scallop fly because they live on the bottom and propel themselves by opening their hinged shell to accommodate a large amount of salt water to spew out the tightened space between the shell halves.  If the scallops were moving with the tide, they could fly as high as 20 feet off the bottom or so Mr. Ahlmquist told us.  Of course, crabs fly too.  If you have ever seen “deadliest catch”, then you will have seen thousands of crab racing along the sandy bottom, the very tips of their claws, the only part in-touch with the ground, the tide being the “engine” of their migration to better feeding grounds.

Mike and Kit and I were just messing around the old dock, looking for bait for our hand lines when Mr. Alhmquist pulled in with a good catch of scallop.  “Could we get some bait off you?” Kit asked as we helped tie up the thirty foot boat.  “No problem,”  Mr. Alhmquist replied and sent us to the rear deck, where we collected clams and pile worms, the perch’s favorite food.  There were 100’s of perch feeding off the old pilings, but no way to get our lines to them except through the cracks between the old planks; then the problem was in getting the fish, who were many times the size of the cracks.  Mike had one on; he was the best fisherman and began swinging it above the water until he had enough to land the fish on the beach.   I couldn’t figure out how Mike could swing the fish to the float when the tide was in and little room between the planks and the water.

David Church was two years ahead of me at Vashon and had fished off the Janet G. for twelve years.  I had heard of guys that fished Alaska and came home with $10,000 cash at the end of the summer, there having been no place to spend it.  Joe Green Jr. owned the Janet G. and fished off Cattle Point, San Juan Island as well as Icy Straits in south eastern Alaska.    David recalls painting eggs with sodium silicate or water glass to help preserve them, before storing them in the lazarette in the stern of the boat.  The eggs didn’t last the whole voyage and when they began exhibiting greenish-gray yolks and whites resembling brown jelly, the crew would take to using steak sauce or hot sauce to disguise the eggs before they became inedible.  Seiners have unwritten laws about how close the boats set their nets to each other and if a net was too close to be safe, the other boat was peppered with the too-old eggs from the lazarette.

Ever since then, john nor I have never been able to tolerate caviar.