Glossary of Terms Used

(Part of my Gone Fishing story)

Ball of Bait – Small fish tuna eats. Thus, where there is bait, there is usually tuna.

Beeper – Electronic radio beacon that floats tied to a raft or log. Beeper receives a radio signal from direction finding equipment on the boat, and briefly transmits a signal back so that the boat can get a fix on the location. Beepers respond only to a signal that has the proper code. Depending on atmospheric conditions, a beeper can be heard from hundreds of miles away.


Raft with “beeper” attached

Bird Radar – Radar used to detect flocks of birds that usually are around schools of fish, or rafts. Radar shows returns from rain, birds, boats, helicopters, and waves.

Boiler – Many fish jumping or breaking the surface as bait is consumed. Not quite a foamer.


“Boiler” of tuna

Bow Thruster – A hydraulically driven propeller mounted laterally to the keel that provides the ability to maneuver/turn the bow of the ship during sets and at low speeds.

Brailer – Metal hoop of approximately five foot diameter and four-inches thick, on which a net is attached, making a scoop to transfer the fish from the main net to the hopper. From the hopper, the fish go down one of two shoots (port and starboard) into the fish wells. At the bottom of the net are attached hoops in which a chain runs through and is able to draw close the bottom of the brailer, opening only to dump the fish into the hopper.


Brailer scooping fish out of the net

Breezer – School of fish just below the surface of the water searching for bait. A breezer makes the water appear different from the surrounding area. It may appear as a shadow or smooth spot (water “smoothed” out due to the action of the fish swimming).

Code Group – Group of boats that share information via encrypted radios. Information concerning location, weather, bird life, fish activity, surrounding boats, etc.

Crow’s Nest – An enclosed platform at the top of a tall steel mast that allows a lookout to spot schools of fish within the general vicinity of the purse seiner. You access the crow’s nest via a ladder made of wood slats suspended by a couple of cables, so you sway back and forth with the rocking of the ship as you climb or descend. While in the crow’s nest, any ship movement is amplified because you are high up at the end of a very long “stick” so motion at the base is amplified by the time it reaches the crow’s nest. Fun times!

crow's nest

The Auro’s crow’s nest

Dope – Information passed among a code group. “Getting the dope” takes place several times a day at set GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) hours.

Foamer – A whole school of tuna, or large part of it, jumping or breaking the surface as bait is consumed. Quite literally, looks like foam on the surface of the ocean. Very good time to make a set, since the fish are preoccupied with the consumption of bait and tend not to dive to safety or go out of the net.

Port – Left.

Purse Seiner – Type of fishing vessel whose net is laid out in a circular fashion and then drawn closed at the bottom like the drawstrings of a purse. The Auro is a 225’ Tacoma class purse seiner.

taimane fishing

The Taimane (another StarKist purse seiner) cruising by the Auro’s net

Raft Fishing – Making sets on logs or manmade rafts. Fish are attracted to rafts due to the baitfish that feed on the rotting wood or raft growth (algae, etc.). Sets always made in the dark of pre-dawn morning while the fish are sleeping. One set a day, while the rest of the day is spent going to the next raft/log or drifting near the raft. Rafts can be found through the use of beepers.

School Fishing – Fishing in an area of high fish activity. Sets made on schools of fish that foam as they eat bait.

Set – The act of letting out the fishing net, circling the school of fish, drawing closed the net, and catching (hopefully) the fish. To “set” the net.

auro fishing

The Auro setting the net as viewed from the Auro’s helicopter

Skiff – Barge-like boat that is released off the back of a fishing vessel at the beginning of a set. Acts as the anchor for one end of the net during the set, then maneuvers the vessel, in conjunction with the bow thruster, from a stern tie-point during the retrieval of the net so that the net-to-boat relationship is maintained correctly.


Skiff (one end of the net) meeting up with the Auro (other end of the net)

Skunk – When a set is made, but no fish are caught. I.E., the fish got away.

Starboard – Right.