Fish Emergency

My brother in law called on Sunday and said they had a family emergency.  There were too many king salmon and not enough people on his boat.  Sara had been talking about getting her classroom cleared out and doing a garage sale.  I told her the news, then said let’s go get her boxes from her classroom.  We go the boxes, set up tables in the garage for her to sort for a garage sale, and she was happy and ready to send me south on Monday.  My boss, who grew up where I was going, said “go”.   I flew down to Ketchikan on Monday and caught the ferry.   The ferry load was surprisingly light.  When we go over during deer season, every table is occupied in the cafe onboard. Today, not so much. I rode to my inlaws with a deckhand from the ferry who was the mother of a good friend  my nieces’.  When we go to Craig, a nice buck in velvet walked across the road between the high school and the little hospital.  When we turned up the road to my inlaws, we saw a black bear near our lot.   Salmon berries were coming full on.  Yellows and reds.  Thimbleberries were in full bloom. We arrived to a big feed for a bunch of birthdays.  Crab.  King salmon.   Some incredible banana cake.  It’s good to be back and feels more and more like home.  I was told I should get a derby ticket for the local hatchery in case we catch a big one, so I drove out to Black Bear store in Klawock.  On the way home, there was another black bear in the road right near out lot. I was up early and we headed out in 2 boats.  Brian and I picked up a new resident across the bay who is a dentist in Nevada.  We headed about an hour ride to the outer coast.   Howard and was with George on his boat and they were trolling with downriggers.  We mooched.    It wasn’t long till the dentist got the first fish on, and we could see action on the other boat.  At one piont, Brian thought he saw a king salmon jump near the boat.  Next thing I see is a tiny baby seal swimming right next to the boat.  We could have leaned over and caught it by hand.  Smallest seal I’ve ever seen. We each caught a king salmon and Brian caught 2, along with several rock fish.   The other boat got 6 for the day.  Not bad.  We saw humpbacks feeding right up on the beach at Black Rock on the way home.  We ate salmon salad sandwiches for lunch.  Ellen filleted and I wrapped fish. The next day we left at 5 am.  Kevin, Ellen, Brian and I.  We saw orcas near the outer coast.  We were the only ones on the spot for an hour or two.  We trolled with the downriggers after little action mooching.  That was the ticket.  We stacked 2 lines on each downrigger, but started getting fish only on the deeper line so we just went to two lines.  We had steady action till noon.  Caught 8 keepers and lost or shook that many small fish.  Plus I got a nice halibut.  I bled, cleaned and iced the fish king salmon as we caught them.  We headed home at noon. One of the outboards started overheating on the way home.  We nursed it to the dock.  Then hooked up a trailer to the truck, and I took the trailer to the dock while Brian ran the boat over, and we loaded the boat onto the trailer so Brian could get it to Chet, his high schoolmate, to do an oil change and to look at the overheating.  Brian pulled up to the top of the ramp and the trailer popped off the ball.   The 3 ball hitch was on the wrong ball for the 3 axle trailer hitch.  Yikes.  Luckily, Brian had tied the boat bow to the trailer and put the safety chains to the truck or that would have been an expensive error.  We got things right and took the boat the block up to Chet’s shop.   Chet was in a surly mood.  You could tell the season had kicked off as Chet was pretty animated with early season “dumb ass”  stories.  We parked the trailer and Chet said he’d call when it was done and to come get it soon after as he had boats that needed service stacked up and more on the way.  Chet is a lifeline to the charter operators in town, and from growing up in Wrangell, he knows that the outboards are the powerhouse that have to be running for the guidinging operators to make their living during the summer season.    We got all the fish butchered and packed and then had dinner of party leftovers.  Crab.  King salmon. And fresh greens from Ellen’s greenhouse.  Good stuff. I originally planned to fish Tue-Thur, but I had a year’s supply of fish as I got all our our catch as the others already had their king salmon.  I decided to leave early the next day on the ferry.  I got up early and packed all the fish and Brian, Howard and I headed to Hollis.  Along the way we saw a doe with a tiny, tiny fawn.  The size you could transport in your shirt.  The size of a puppy.  It was the first spotted blacktail fawn I’d ever seen. When I got to the airport, they have a handy scale to pre-weigh your bags.  I had right at about 150 lbs of fish in my 3 bags – nearly all king salmon.  That will do us for a year.  Now it’s on to the salmon berries here which should be coming on pertty good now.