Day Off

Getting more days off of work now that the tourist season is winding down. I got up with no plans on Tuesday. Then I thought- you need to get your fat ass out and do some walking after sitting behind the boat wheel for days on end since August 1.  I looked at the tide table and saw low tide was right now. So perfect. I have about 90 minutes to get to the spot in the channel to snag cohos.

I already had my bag of items together from earlier attempts – extra snagging hook, lures, water bottle, gaff, plastic bags and fish cleaning knife. After slogging the distance in the super heavy wading boots I’d used at ADFG, I replaced them with some old Keen hiking boots. Heaven. Like walking on air compared to the heavy boots. I walk out onto the flats to the spot, and see 3 people fishing there. When I got there there were 2 fly and one spin fishers. Plenty of room for me to fish one end of the run while they fished the other.

One of the fishers had worked at the Salvation Army store so we quickly strike up a conversation. He told me there were lots of fish in the run.  I soon see a school rush and make a wake. We’re in business.

For some reason, I can’t remember to buy polarized glasses. It was overcast today so I could see okay, though. It took a few casts to get back into practice, and then it was one fish after another. On the first fish, when I yarded it onto the beach, the line broke. I hustled down and moved the fish up the beach with my foot. Then I noticed the hook had come out. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Luckily I had a spare. I conked the fish, broke a gill, and put the fish on a ganglion line stringer tied to my pack on the beach. It didn’t take long to catch four more. On fish number six (the limit), I actually snagged the fish in the mouth – at least that’s what it looked like. Or maybe he bit it. Either way, just as I had it into the shallows, it broke off. I tried directing it up to shallower water with my leg, but it got away. I tried a few casts with a pixie but a pixie is no snagging hook. I start cleaning my fish, and as I get to the last one, I look up and see my pack floating away. The incoming tide was here and would cut me off from short-cutting it through sloughs if  I didn’t leave soon. I load the fish into a plastic bag that’s in my big waterproof pack, shoulder the pack and slog back to the car. I make a mental note to bring a frame for this pack next time.

When I get to the car, I get a text from my friend and firewood source, Ed (and Kathy). The text read merely “Wood?”.  I thought- I have 5 fish to butcher to get ready to can. But hell yes, I want wood. They key to being a wood recipient is when your source asks, you always say yes. So I tell Ed I can come over in a hour (which turned out being more like two hours), fillet, skin and chunking the five fish, and put the meat into colanders on a cookie sheet in the fridge.

I borrow Jeff’s truck and head over to Ed’s. I told Ed he called just in time as I had so many crab I didn’t know what to do with all of them. I hand bags of steamed dungy crab halves to Kathy, who thanks me profusely, which kind of embarrasses us both. He loads me up with a load of slabs from his mill, then says to bring back my chainsaw when I return. On the second trip, he picks up logs with his skid steer forks, and I buck them off into two-round lengths. After we’d cut most for the logs, Ed then switched the forks to a bucket, and started loading them into the truck. I gotta get a skid steer.

As I was leaving with the third load, Ed said to come get the remainder whenever was easy. At home,  I bulldog the rounds off the truck and into my storage areas between the spruce and hemlock trees, spray out Jeff’s truck bed, and return his truck.

Next I look at my inventory of canning jars. I am getting down to the last of my pints, which I don’t remember happening in 20 years. I didn’t learn til I was about 50 to store jars upside down, so these jars have spiders and dust in them and need to be washed thoroughly. I put them in the dishwasher and start it. I won’t get to canning today.

Yesterday was a full day of boat driving in the day and boy scout meeting in the evening. I get up early this morning and start loading my jars with the well drained fish from the fridge. I load the jars into my two identical 21 quart Mirro canners placed on the three burner stand up cook stove I got on Craigslist. I had one of the canners since I my early years in Alaska, and bought the second off Craigslist when I was up in Kenai fishing with Keith a couple years ago. Having the two big canners and the big stove makes things so efficient. I can can 36 wide mouth jars at a time now, and the cook stove heats the canners to steaming very quickly. Another lesson learned after 50.