First King


First King 2009

After several days of near or actual 70 degree weather, clouds moved in yesterday, and the temperature dropped right now. I thought this would be the day king salmon fishing picked up.


My buddy Jeff picked me up on the way to the boat rame with his 14′ lund and brand new 20 hp 4 stroke outboard. As we launched the boat, I told Jeff I thought this would be our day (after several days of being skunked). We motored the short distance from the ramp to the fishing hole, and dropped our lines. I cut a small “plug”, and put it on one of my old commercial trolling hooks.

After days of sun, we had light rain and no wind. Perfect salmon fishing weather. We fished for about an hour before the low tide until and hour and half past. As we fished through an area called “the pocket” in about 20 feet or less of water, a nice fish hit my herring twirling from my hook.

I’ve learned not to “horse” kings in – probably from my days as a fishing guide, where you really couldn’t do that when you fish from shore. A smooth drag and limber rod and patience were what you needed. So, it seemed to take me forever to get the fish in. And of course with Jeff wearing his bright red float coat and holding the net, we drew a crowd of boats. As the battle continued, I heard remarks like “maybe he’s got a marlin on there” and “must be a derby winner” from the boats, as even regular conversation carries so far over water – adding more and more pressure on both Jeff and I. Many a fish has been lost at the net, and Jeff knew that as well as I. I couldn’t even remember if I’d changed the line on the reel in this century.

We finally got it in, and both of us let out a collective sigh. I was all for fishing, as the action had warmed me up inside my ill-fitting raingear. But Jeff wanted to quit and get the fish weighed for our local derby, as of course he was cold from all the standing and waiting. I knew the fish was not a contender, but happy to oblige. We got it weighed, then back to Jeff’s house, where I butchered the fish and handed it out to the neighborhood. As I was on the way home with a few steaks for us, I got a call from my moose hunting partners, so dropped off fish for my wife’s dinner, then took some out to my friends and cooked dinner.

It’s been about 10 years since I had king fever, fishing most everyday before my job as a state salmon manager, near our house with a fishing rod from our skiff. I think I have it again. Getting the fish on, I think, is the most exciting part. Then it’s a sweat to see if you’ll land it. And a relief if it finally gets to the net. But that initial hook up, especially if you are actually holding on to the rod rather than having our pole in the rod holder, is the rush. And you don’t realize until you don’t fish for a long period how the sea, the sea birds, seals, and other fishermen helps to calm the nerves and just relax.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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