My brother in law came in to join his son for week two of the nephew’s trip here. We traveled all over south Lynn Canal, north Chatham Strait and eastern Icy Strait. We went to the Tenakee dock for a couple hours so they could walk around town while I processed fish. In that time, we met the son and his son and wife, of a family friend, who I’d never met but whose photo we had in our house because he sends his mom a firewood cutter’s calendar each year from Silverton, CO. Then our good friend Winston pulled in to chat as he was waiting to get fuel to take out some whale researchers on his charter boat with his wife Renee. Then my former workmate and her husband pulled in on their ~28 foot boat with a 200 lb halibut. I don’t think I’ve seen a halibut that big in person, and it was a beast. Enormous. The photos don’t do it’s size justice to seeing it in person. I don’t know how three of them managed to get it aboard. The nephew did me a favor and painted the tug name, Jeanne Kay, on the bottom of the punt that rides on the swim step of the boat and hides the boat name. He did a great job. Even though it will scrape off, I should be able to repaint using the shadow of his job and make it come out okay, as I would really butcher it if I did it from scratch.
The huge halibut really impressed the crew and they now were motivated to do some halibut fishing. We headed over to anchor for the night at Strawberry Island, where my nephew and I anchored the year before and caught a halibut. We anchored up there, and put out the rods. They caught a nice halibut about 30 lbs. But the horseflies! They swarmed the boat. I’ve never seen them like this. The temperature was in the 70’s and sunny, but if the doore was open even a crack, the flies came inside. So after we toughed it out for a few hours, we decided to move back to Freshwater Bay where we were the previous night.
We anchored again in Pavlov, and got our second night of great brown bear viewing on the beach behind the boat. A couple deer came out and lounged around after the bears were gone, too.
The next day, I picked out an underwater hill of about 90 feet across the bay. We anchored there, and started fishing. Two rods were set up for halibut, and I fished a buzz bomb lure on a salmon rig for rockfish. After we caught a few rockfish, there was a commotion on dad’s side. Suddenly, the rod in his hand was throbbing up and down. He had a halibut. A nice one, too.
I got beside him and helped him adjust the drag so it was loose enough to give, but made the fish work. He fought the fish for probably 15 minutes when we finally saw it. Oooh. A nice one. The nephew had already readied the harpoon and was encouraging his dad playing the fish. When he got the fish to the surface, I thrust the harpoon. But a poor strike, and the tip didn’t go all the way through. The fish didn’t like that, and ran again. I retrieved the tip, put it back on the harpoon handle stem, and the next time he got he fish to the surface, I made a good strike, and could see the tip toggled on the opposite side of the fish. We had her. I slowly paid out the harpoon line while the fishing weight banged against the side of the boat. I was careful not to just let the fish swim freely with the line, as that’s what my friends had done and the 200 lber had snapped the harpoon line. Luckily the hook and line were still with the fish, and they had a second tip and eventually secured it.
I stunned the fish on the head with the back of the gaff handle. I was able to pull the fish up and over the rail and onto the deck. Then I cut the gills and the nephew poured water from a bucket onto the gills for the next 20 minutes to bleed it well. This paid off later as the flesh looked good when I removed the fillets. They measured the fish and reported the length to me – 57 inches. I looked it up on the halibut length weight chart in the tide book, and that translated to about 90 lbs. Wow.
Now we were in a predicament. We were 2 days from the scheduled return to Juneau. But the screwy federal regulations for halibut do not allow you to butcher the fish more than cutting off the 4 large fillets you get from the fish – 2 from each side – on board your boat. We couldn’t cut these up into portions that would fit in the freezer, so we needed ice. I pulled the anchor, and we headed for Hoonah. Dad took a rest after the big fish workout.
Hoonah Cold Storage, like Alaska Glacier Seafoods and Taku Fisheries in Juneau, put out flake ice each day in a tote for use by the public. For free. So we pulled up to the HCS dock right next to the city dock, and hauled 8 buckets worth of ice to the boat. I layered the ice with the fish, and it was beautiful two days later when we got back to Juneau. We idled from the HCS dock to the Hoonah city dock, and the crew took a stroll around town while I puttered around the boat.
That was the last fish we caught, as the crew said they had all the fish they would take home. I took some of their surplus fish to Mike and Christina, who run the Salvation Army Store, after I got the boys on the jet home with their fish.