Craig Spring

I’ve been here in Craig a week so thought I’d better write down what’s been going on. I opened up the container a week ago. Everything good, and no mice this time so looks like however they got in when I arrived in Feb is cured.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I helped the kelp farmers film several recipes I’d tried. Each time they tasted something I made, they were tentative on the first bite, then looked at me in amazement with the YOU made THIS expression. From bagels to sweet bread to jam to elk sausage to salsa, they approved them all. I think the videos will be on Seagrove’s website after editing.

I’ve been fishing twice with Brian and several times on my own. The first trip with Brian the 5 of us caught 7 kings and 6 or 7 nice halibut out on the big ocean. So nice to be with a group of men that can butcher fish. We had the fish filleted and in buckets in no time at the dock when we got back. I got enough halibut for Sara and I for the year.

The second trip I went by myself and got one decent king. Then my outboard quit and I couldn’t restart it. Seemed starved for fuel. I was drifting safely and tried to troubleshoot for about an hour. I feared I was out of fuel and that would be the biggest embarrassment if Brian had to come all the way out and tow me in. He was gone to the other side of the island for the day, and so I figured I’d be there at least overnight if I couldn’t figure it out. I started to pull apart and test the fuel system. I pulled off a line on the tank side of the filter, sucked on the line, and immediately got a mouth full of gas. Which made me happy. I wasn’t out of gas and thought- clogged filter. I was still drifting okay, but headed eventually for the rocks on the other side of the bay, so I threw out the anchor.

I drained the bowl and there was no water. And as this issue happened last year and I knew it was a new filter on there,  I still went ahead and put my new spare on. Then I pulled a line after the filter and could not suck fuel into the filter. Just as happened on my boat in Juneau!  I bypassed the filter with a union right to the outboard bulb, and it cranked right up. Took an hour or two but I was back in business. I thought about heading back to town, but it was such a nice day I fished til late in the afternoon and didn’t catch another king or see any bears on the beach.

Later, I found out a friend had gone by me out there when I was on anchor. His partner said you might want to check on that boat to be sure he’s okay, and my friend said if he’s in trouble, he would be out waving at us. And at the time I thought just that. But also thought I didn’t want to hold someone up all day towing me to town if I could figure out the problem. Which I eventually did. Of course, when I found out two days later it was a friend who had gone by, I texted him and said I’d just got to town by paddling. I said it was okay til the drinking water ran out. The doctors think I’m gonna make it, but the ICU is no picnic………….

Brian took me and two Mikes to the big ocean on the second trip. We caught 2 kings in the first hour, but then nothing the rest of the day. Except for 3 black bass rockfish, which I kept. We had good weather and good company and came in mid-afternoon. There was only one other boat out there. A whale was working some feed, and about 20 eagles were circling the whale until they could get a fish out of the school the whale was working, and then flew back to the beach to eat it and rest until they were ready for another try.

I mailed the vac sealer bar in to a guy in Washington who could fix it for me. I’m just not able to do it right with the parts myself it seems. I later found out when I got back the bar that it wasn’t all me. The vac packer still didn’t work. Thom the repair guy talked me through a troubleshooting session and he determined it needs a new transformer. So he’s gonna see if he can make one work and send it to me.

I got to work on fixing the boat issue. I took my filter housing to Chet and showed it to him and he said it could have sucked air past some light crinkling of paint at the lip where the gasket seals the filter to the top of the housing. He thought I could just scrape off the paint and it would be good. I tried that the next day but still didn’t like the looks of it, so I went back to his shop and bought a new one. I then butched a king salmon and the rockfish, and put the scraps in front of the cabin. It took awhile, but several wary eagles finally came in, along with a couple ravens, and soon ate the scraps in place, or carried them away. I was surprised to see a raven was able to carry the entire king salmon head off.
After a week of sun and highs near 70, Tuesday it turned southeast and only 40 degrees. After I packaged up a king salmon and rockfish from yesterday, I put on the new fuel filter housing and bulb on the tank side of the  fuel line to easily prime the filter during filter changes,  and got the fuel system primed. I had no more problems the rest of my stay.
Nick texted me and said they could use help packaging kelp, so I went down in the afternoon and volunteered on the assembly line at Kenny’s. I noticed they were discarding the thicker stems near the hold fast. I took a bite out of one and it was crunchy, salty and fresh. I gathered up a bag of the discards. I stopped at the store on the way home and bought the ingredients for Dolly Garza’s bull kelp recipe, and I would use the ribbon kelp instead. I put it on to simmer for 2 hours and went to dinner with Brian. Upon return, I arrived just before it might have scorched. I tasted the batch and added 3 tablespoons of sugar for sweetness, and then poured 15 half pints and canned them. The kelp tastes good and will get even better after it sits awhile. I think I can reduce the simmer time considerably with the more delicate ribbon kelp.

Went to the range and shot the .308 and .243. I was surprised after thinking I’d sighted them in across the hood of my truck in a gravel pit that they were off. Not so much side to side but the .308 was particularly high. Now they both shoot in the bullseye at 50 yards.

Went fishing north and got a nice king, got a big hit that was gone when I got to the rod, and a shaker. Saw two bears on the beach but in little coves where I could not get to the beach in time before they wandered off. But exciting, nonetheless.

I took a trip around the north end of Prince of Wales Island with Bill, who was taking his boat back to Ketchikan. We anchored in Exchange Cove for the night, and Brian picked me up at Coffman Cove the next morning. Bill dropped me off a little before 7am and the pick up was to be about 8 am, so I just started walking through Coffman Cove to the junction, then headed out the highway. I got about 2 and a half miles out the highway before Brian arrived, and the early morning weather was spectacular. Lots of birds singing, and I saw 3 wood peckers land at the same time on a power pole. We saw a small black bear on top of a rock pile atop a 50 foot high cement wall looking down at us on the Coffman Cove highway.

I brined the king I caught two days ago using Nevette’s recipe – 1 cup of salt, 9 cups of water, for 10 minutes – and put it in Bill’s smoker. It took awhile for me to get an fire going with the alder as it’s been a long time since I used a fire – and not a heat plate – to burn the alder and make the heat for a smoker. I returned about every hour until the fish was about half done and then brought it back to can. I realized I took the wrong gasket from Juneau with the canner I have here, but luckily Jen and Bill had one here they let me borrow. The fish made a case of 12 half pint jars and 5 pint jars.
Nick and I went fishing north of town and didn’t catch anything but good to get him out after hitting it hard harvesting at the kelp farm. He got me some sugar kelp – my new favorite – to try and then he and I made up two cases of salsa to split between us. I only simmered the salsa for 10 minutes and it is really good.

I went fishing right by the boat ramp the next few days. I got a fish each day. I decided it was time I had a smoker, so I made one from scrap plywood and 2×4’s around the cabin, and grabbed some scrap metal roofing from the metal pile to cover it. I bought some wire mesh and made racks like Bill had in his smoker. I put a piece of old aluminum sign in the bottom of it, on which I would put a single burner electric hot plate. I then screwed the whole works to my shed, which I felt safe in doing since the shed is sided in metal roofing. I brined the fish and then loaded up the smoker. I put in the hot plate, and put pieces of alder I’d cut last year that I shaved the bark from right on the coil of the hot plate. I saw the bottom rack was a little close to the hot plate, so I put some shims in to raise it up a bit, but other than that, the smoker worked great. I did several batches of king salmon, including the back bones. I mostly ate on the backbones for later trips in the boat and will freeze the rest of the pieces for later use. Nice to have a smoker onsite. Steve brought along some smoked deer burger when we went fishing that was really good so want to try that in the fall.

I decided to go try hand trolling for a day. I went out where Kevin was, and he advised me on the drag to fish and depths. I put out one gurdy and followed a power troller who Kevin said knew his business so I could plot the drag on my chart plotter. When we were in a straight stretch and trolling with the wind, I put out the other gurdie, and no sooner got the line out when I got a king on. I cranked up the gurdy and played the fish to the boat. I had the gaff ready, then saw the fish wasn’t hooked very well, so I grabbed the net to be sure I got it. Boom. Just that easy. A just legal fish. I fished the rest of the day and caught a second fish- a nice one – and lost 3. I sold my fish to Kenny. When I saw the check for $244 for two fish totalling 24 lbs, it made losing the other 3 fish even a little more painful, but the money is enough for new trolling wire, which I need both in Craig and in Juneau. Plus, hearing the bell I have hooked up to tell me when I have a fish on just makes me happy. Steve mentioned something when we were sport fishing about not having a snubber on the release so the hook would set when the fish hit. It got me thinking I need to take the snubber off my troll gear and try the same thing, especially when fishing with treble hooks and bait.

I decided to leave for Juneau in 2 days. And of course, the next day, in classic last minute Craig fashion, I get the call. We’ve got bear meat for you. Andrew found he loves black bear meat after trying the meat from the bear Jeff and I got last year. Many people only hunt bear for the cape, but in the spring in this area, the meat must also be salvaged, so it’s easy enough to get bear meat if you just put the word out you’ll take it. I helped Howard get the cape off, then we took off the quarters, and got the quarters and torso onto his four wheeler and ran it over to my place. Luckily, the tailgate of the four wheeler was the same level as my pickup tail gate, so it was easy to roll the meat over onto the cutting boards set up on my tailgate. Ellen also called. Come get the rhubarb root for the bed I prepared. So I did that, too, and planted the rhubarb.

This was the first bear I’d butchered. I was surprised at how much meat there is on a bear. And how heavy it is. A hind quarter looks a lot like a ham from a pig. There was an inch or two of solid fat on this bear, which is amazing seeing as it likely came out of hibernation a month or less ago. I trimmed away alot of the fat to get to the meat, and soon I had a pile of eagles sitting in the tree, waiting their turn for the scraps. I know the fat is good for baking, but wasn’t sure Andrew did any baking. I got over a 120 lbs of meat, including the leg bones, which just fit into three 50lb fish boxes. I put the meat in the freezer overnight. The next day, I boxed up the bear, along with the fish and kelp I’d acquired during my three week stay, and headed for the airport with Howard and after a long delay for fog in Juneau, finally got home in the afternoon.

Andrew was excited to see way more meat than he expected. He took one box to process and package, and we put the meat in the other boxes in pillow case meat bags and hung them in my garage to keep cool. He had the good news his wife and 2 daughters are finally in the final stages to move here, so a doubly good day for him. He also showed me photos of a friend in Liberia I’d hooked Andrew up with regarding fish farming over there, and was gratified to see how much they were still doing since I did some volunteer consulting with them there in Liberia in 2016.