NORTH BEND, Ore. — Longtime fisherman turned net maker Dave Gregory hopes his new business, South Coast Nets, will make waves with shrimp trawlers angling to save fuel this spring.

The Coos Bay man is renting a warehouse in North Bend's Airport Business Park and has hired several workers to weave fishing nets of a strong, lightweight material called Dyneema.

On a recent Tuesday, two employees and his son, Matt, were painstakingly shaping a pile of netting into a tapered web.

Though laborious, the work is rewarding, said Abby Haynes.

"It's nice to see the finished product," she said.

"You're actually getting to see how it's going to be in the water."

Net making is equal parts art and science.

"Nets are very mathematical," Gregory said. "But the art of it — you have to be very coordinated with a needle."

But take a close look and there's something noticeably missing from the mounds of material:


The net work uses an advanced braiding process.

The knotless webbing makes for less drag under water. Gregory expects that will be the product's biggest selling point as diesel fuel approaches $4 a gallon.

South Coast Nets gathers input from the area's top trawlers, such as Brookings shrimper Randy Wenbourne, whose boat Ms. Pacific is sporting Gregory's product.

Wenbourne said the fuel savings are noticeable.

"We feel we gain maybe 10 percent towing power," Wenbourne said.

The Ms. Pacific is rigged for two nets. Should Dyneema continue to prove its worth, he'll replace the other conventional net.

"It looks like it's going to hold up fine," Wenbourne said. "We'll probably end up with another one."

Certainly, the cost of fuel has been weighing on fishermen's minds.

"Fuel is a big part of the cost equation for a shrimper," said Brad Pettinger, director of the Oregon Trawl Commission.

A trawler's fuel costs can exceed $30,000 during a typical shrimp season from April through October.

"By summer, it's going to be $4 (a gallon)," Pettinger warned. "At $4, you better be making some money."

Trawlers are looking to save where they can.

"I know fishermen have been trending toward lighter gear," he said.

Dyneema weighs roughly a third of common knotted netting made of nylon and polyethylene, and has half the volume, said Mario Perez, a salesman at Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based netting manufacturer Net Systems, which supplies South Coast Nets.

The product was introduced in Iceland in the late '90s. It's caught on in the U.S. in recent years.

"It's new in Oregon, especially because it's a hard sell," he said.

It's pricier than standard netting, Perez said.

"The nets he's made so far, he's breaking some new ground there," he said of South Coast Nets.

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Further lightening fishermen's loads is Gregory's use of a high-tech rope called Spectra, from which net hangs. The rope is smaller in diameter than the more commonly used nautical braids or cables.

"No one has put a shrimp net on this," Gregory said.

As advanced as the product is, he recognizes there might be a slim market for it on the Oregon Coast.

"If I could make 20 nets this year, I'll be really happy."

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