I really don’t know what to say
At the end of a great fishing day
I learned how to feel
With my line, rod, and reel,
So the big ones don’t get away.
We’re back in Anchorage after five days fishing on Prince William Sound, made famous during Exxon Valdez oil spill.
One day of fishing will generate more stories than can be recounted in 1000 words; we had adventures enough for a volume. But blogging demands brevity.
Prince William Sound was formed when the sea flooded a river valley cut by glaciers. With frequent weather changes, shifting dense overcasts, sudden fogs and squalls, its beauty is intense but brooding and sullen.
Our skipper, Lee, grew up during the same turbulent times I did. He started as a fishing guide with his own boat at age fifteen. He had a long, successful career as a marine diesel mechanic, and graduated to paralegal seventeen years ago. He describes himself as a farm boy, but when he talks about the law his erudition shines through.
Lee knows the location of the fish and their dietary preferences, their psychology, size, and habits. He can tell if bait remains after a nibble on three hundred feet of line. He knows by looking at the end of the rod if the fish on the line is halibut, ling cod, salmon or rock fish, and can tell you the size.
He has a mystic connection to the fish; one morning he caught three black rock fish in the time it took me to put on my boots. He was very patient with Bethany and me. The first day I couldn’t tell a nibble from a bite, and I didn’t know how to set the hook properly; I lost more fish than I landed.
On day one, the silver salmon came, bit leisurely and followed the line to the boat docilely, after that they jumped and spun and ran and fought.
Bethany caught a forty-two inch ling cod the second day.
The 37 foot cabin cruiser was manufactured in 1978, and was not well maintained by the owner who sold it to Lee’s friend, who now wants to sell it. Lee can fix anything on the boat.
Inside, the comfortable craft sleeps six, has a 3 burner stove, a serviceable head, but no working shower.
Bethany has had problems with motion sickness. She used the patch behind her ear, and it worked well for her. I didn’t have a problem with seasickness; to my surprise I found the rocking motion of the boat soothing and promoting of a good night’s sleep.
We’ve been talking for years about going on a cruise, but Bethany was hesitant because of the seasickness issue. We can now start making actual plans.
After five days I was baiting my own hook and I could identify the fish before it surfaced. Very early on I more than doubled my lifetime biomass catch of fish when I pulled up halibut the size of my dinner table (fifty inches, no exaggeration).
I threw back more fish on this trip than I’d caught in my entire life previously. Kelp greenling turn to mush when cooked, as do saber-toothed flounder. The flounder that I caught, microscopic in comparison to the halibut, wasn’t worth cleaning. Pink, or chum salmon, don’t taste nearly as good as the silver salmon.
Golden eye rock fish look like a kabuki nightmare. They flare their gills and poisonous spines when brought to surface; their disproportionately large eyes bug out of their blaze orange heads.
While jigging just off the bottom for rock fish one day I hooked something of enormous weight and reeled in a ling cod a few inches shy of the 35 inch minimum, and threw him back.
The big ones didn’t get away this trip.