Petersburg Weekend

I went to Petersburg to go duck hunting with my buddy
Paul Bowen. Paul is 75 years old, but, according to
Paul, he has the body of a 74 year old. It’s become a
regular ritual to go down to hunt with Paul over the
past few years. For me, it’s a royal privledge.

Paul, his daughter Nevette and I left early Wed.
morning in Paul’s old camo green painted 1960’s
vintage Bell Boy cruiser before daylight to head to
the north arm of the Stikine River. As we motored to
the head of Wrangell Narrows, the outboard idiot light
was blinking. Paul immediately started calling the
outboard people he’d known forever, with no pretense
that a 630 am call might wake them up. He knew they’d
know this surely was an emergency. When we finally
reached a mechanic, he advised we not continue until
he could diagnose the problem, so we motored back to
the harbor. He showed up at 8 am, and by 830 had not
diagnosed the problem with his computer box. So, we
decided to take Paul’s hand troller out and try our
luck commercial king salmon fishing. The dock price
was over $8.00/lb already, and half a dozen boats or
so had passed us on their way out as we headed in.

We moved the survival suits and food from the cruiser
to his small troller the Cisco, and started again out
the channel. We lit the oil stove for some heat in
the cabin, and settled in for the 2 hour run to the
fishing area. It absolutely poured all day, with a
little snow part of the day – perfect duck hunting
weather! We trolled for several hours, and caught
one sub-legal sized fish which Paul returned to the
sea. The rest of the time we talked about fishing and
politics and the weather and the future, and of course
ate like we were all going to the chair, which is what
you do when the fish aren’t biting and it’s cold
outside.

When we returned to town, it turned out it was only a
loose battery cable making the idiot box blink, so we
were on for duck hunting tomorrow. We had a dinner of
summer sockeye salmon and elk from my Afognak trip.
Beverly, a friend of my wife and Nevette, joined us
and we all had a good night’s sleep.

The next day was cloudy and not much rain or wind.
Perfect fishing weather, as we now headed out duck
hunting. We went to what amounts to sacred ground for
Paul. He’s hunted this same spot for over 40 years,
many of it with his first wife Neva, and later with
his best friend Tyler. Most of his stories start with
“me and Neva”, and a few with “me and Tyler”. The
place had such memories that Neva’s ashes are
scattered on the island. I saw what I thought was a
grizzly bear prowling on an island where a friend of
theirs owns land. The wind and rain lessened, and
there were even a few sucker holes of blue sky. We
could hear snow geese, honkers, and mallards all
around, but they just weren’t flying on the pleasant
day. I got a spoonbill duck about mid-day. Not soon
after, Nevette suggest we call it a day, with no
objection from me or Paul. We’d had a great day in a
favorite spot – ducks or no ducks. We loaded up the
gear, and headed back to town in a light rain and calm
seas.

Paul’s wife Penny flew over us on the afternoon
flight, so we knew she’d be home from her trip to see
her 88 year old mom in California when we reached the
house. For me, it also meant another fabulous meal as
Penny is such a great cook.

It almost feels like going to a funeral when I leave
Petersburg. Through thick and thin, Petersburg
remains a small fishing town whose economy depends on
the sea. It’s a place that feels like home. So
unlike Juneau, which is primarily government and
tourism and doing it’s darndest to send it’s
commercial fishing fleet elsewhere. I touched down at
1230 in the afternoon, and was back at my desk job by
145, already making plans for deer hunting next
week…


Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
Wild Salmon and Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801
907-463-3115
www.GoodSalmon.com