Light-weight collapsible pots prevent whales from pirating black cod from longline hooks and give a break to small boats.

“Getting whaled” is so pervasive, starting in 2017 fishery managers allowed the use of pot gear in the Gulf of Alaska.

The whale predation has just been so horrible. The last couple years, I tried to do it with hooks. And it just got to the point to where we left tens of thousands of pounds of black cod unharvested, because we were going backwards feeding the whales. You can spread your strings 10 miles apart, and you might get one or two skates up and they find you. And then they pretty much strip you blind.”

Frank Miles of Kodiak fishes black cod on his two boats. But he now uses pots made with a knotless PE mesh that impedes a whale’s ability to use sonar to detect the fish. Inventor Alexander Stubbs — 

“So basically, the pots that I’m producing now  are a hot dip galvanized high carbon steel wire that is formed into a helical springs with a closed end at both ends.// And then the pots that I’m producing now also use knotless PE webbing, and the idea there is to have a small mesh size. And that’s partially because I think it fishes better and also to try to acoustically mask the fish that are contained in the pot. There’s a density difference between the PE mesh and water, and the idea is that will obscure the acoustic echo return of fish trapped in the pot to try and prevent whales from messing with this gear.”

Stubbs  is a San Francisco-based fisherman and research biologist who over the past year has sent thousands of pots to Alaska longline fishermen. Many couldn’t switch to traditional rigid pots because their small boats simply didn’t have the space.

The mesh pots also are much safer.

“I tell people you’ll probably need more space for line than pots and that has come from talking to fishermen using this in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea fishery. That’s really helpful for them because they don’t have to worry about stacking out in poor weather or about loads shifting and crushing people. Even my largest heaviest version now only weighs 22 pounds. So there’s a big difference between having a 22 pound spring hit you in rough weather versus 100 plus pound, sort of standard black cod pot.”

The collapsible pots make it possible for any boat to carry the 300 gear limit. Fifty-five will fit in a tote, says Frank Miles.

“ I have friends that are using these rigid frame pots and they’re stacking them 20 high to accommodate all of their pots in the Gulf of Alaska. The  pot limit is 300 and guys like to be able to bring their full complement and the big boats can do it. But you talk to the crew members that are working these heavy pots, or you’ve got two guys trying to stack pots over their heads in a rolling pitching sea, it can be an issue. These coil pots depending on which variety of them you have. weigh anywhere from seven pounds to 10 pounds apart. And they spring out 36 inches in height by five feet in length. And so you’re getting a lot of cubes that are actually fishing. And in the pot world, cubes mean everything – the bigger the pot, the more, fish it attracts.  The results have been incredible.”

At a cost of about $150 each, Also incredible are the savings, Miles says. Buying pot gear and modifying a boat with hydraulics can cost several hundred thousand dollars.

 “So for about 10% of the cost of a rigid frame build up. In fact, I got I’ve got less than $30,000 on my, my black cod pot program.”

Contact Stubbs at or visit