The fish are still here: a beach tender ride along

Jul 21, 2017

The salmon run is slowing up a bit in the Naknek-Kvichak, but it’s not over yet. The openers are on fall hours now, which keeps beach tenders busy collecting fish all day long.

Jack Arcand says beach tendering depends on the tides. Some days he works 24 hours straight.
Credit Caitlin Tan / KDLG

KDLG's Caitlin Tan went for an AGS beach tender ride along. Previously aired on the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report...

Jack Arcand works for Alaskan General Seafood, or AGS. He is making the rounds collecting fish from set net cites.

He drives what is called a ‘duce and a half’ with six coolers that can hold about 5,000 pounds of fish total. He said he avoids filling each RSW with more than 800 pounds of fish to prevent bruising or spill over.

"I can squeeze but then you start to run out of water and ice, and then at that point what's the point. You want to keep them cold,” he said.

It is typically a team of two working the beach tender. Many people know them as the beach gang.

John Bauman (left) and Jack Arcand work as a beach tendering team for AGS. They work with the tides to collect fish from set netters.
Credit Caitlin Tan / KDLG

Arcand said their schedule revolves around the tides and openers.

“We just go with the tides and we’ve been out here from one tide ends to another beginning. We’ve been here that long before depending on much fish there are,” he said. “I’ve pulled 24s before. I mean it’s starting to wind down now.”

During the peak of the season there are three AGS trucks on the beach picking up fish. With each truck is a tractor to move and weigh the fish. Today John Bauman is behind the tractor, but he is also tablet operator, which electronically inputs the stats and prints a fish ticket for the customer.

“It has their information on the card and then it’s basically like a credit card with a chip in it and it’s got a card reader,” Bauman said.

Carrol Ann Hester is delivering fish to the beach gang. She is a fan of the new electronic set-up, as it sends information to Fish and Game instantly.

“It gives us a print out. Everything’s on there what kind of fish we sold, whether they were bled or iced or what,” she said.

Hester and her husband have a daily competition guessing the weight of their catch. Today she won with a guess just less than the 440 pound total.

He was four pounds over so he loses. Every day we guess whoever is closest to the weight without going over price is right rules wins and gets to buy lunch…Gets to buy lunch. It’s a matter of pride,” Hester said.

Although the fish were slow this morning, Hester said it has been a pretty steady season.

Arcand said the peak was the Fourth of July, as the beach gang hauled in 85,000 pounds of fish.

They typically tender fish for set netters without skiffs or when the tide is too far out to reach sea tenders.

On busy days Arcand said he has made well over 20 trips between the beach and AGS, which is a 10 minute drive.

There is a fleet of seven trucks, so when one fills up reinforcement comes in. Each truck is also named after the beach bosses’ wives. On this particular day we rode in ‘Deloris’ and ‘Judy.’

Sometimes the trucks can get stuck. Arcand said it takes one truck to pull the tractor out and two to pull another truck out.

Arcand switched from ‘Deloris’ to ‘Judy’ so his boss could deliver the full truck and Arcand could continue picking up fish.

Arcand said it feels like the salmon run will never end. 

“Right now it feels like forever…Till September. Yeah. It feels like a long time. I don’t think it will ever end,” he said.

Arcand and Bauman said this year was extra tough because of a lack of employees. It has meant longer hours of driving up and down the beach.

“We always work long hours. Now we just gotta work longer hours,” Arcand said.

Bauman said, “Gotta fill somebody else’s shoes so you gotta work twice as hard. We are all crazy to begin with.”

Arcand said, “It’s just kind of like what AGS beach gang is. Part of the job you just gotta do it.”

They will keep beach tendering until AGS quits buying fish which was July 18 the past three years.

Reach the author at fish@kdlg.orgcaitlin@kdlg.org, or calling the station at 907-842-5281.

Each RSW on the beach tenders can hold about 800 pounds. Jack Arcand says he avoids over filling them to prevent bruising and spill over.
Credit Caitlin Tan / KDLG