Tom and the Cheese 2023

Tom, and his 14 year old grandson Jasper, aka String Cheese, or “The Cheese” for short, arrived after midnight. Tom, his wife Sarah, and I have known each other since we arrived in Oklahoma together in August 1986 to train as fish farming extension agents for the Peace Corps. Following training, we were posted near each other in eastern Sierra Leone in West Africa. They are family. Their daughter, the Cheese’s mother, is my Goddaughter.The Cheese earned his nickname last year from his love of string cheese as one of about 5 foods he eats, the others being Ritz Crackers, pasta, apple sauce and popcorn.

The forecast from last week changed quite a bit last night, and now a blow was coming, so no hurry to get out our first day, as we were fishing close to town. I let the boys sleep in.

Michelle said they caught lots of cohos on the back side of Douglas Island during the last day of the local salmon derby the day before, and there seemed like an unusually large number of resident (not charter) boats out there, but we didn’t see much catching going on. We caught a couple pink salmon and a shaker king salmon, and one nice coho for the day. We came back to Auke Bay, and hoped to sneak down to Funter Bay tomorrow, fishing our way down from Point Retreat.

On day two, we didn’t go to Funter Bay. The gauge at Naked Island already showed a good bit of wind, and I didn’t think it would fishable out there. So, we set a skate for halibut by Coghlin Island, then fished behind Douglas Island again, down and back to Pt Hilda. We had a nice one on and lost it near Hilda, then got a big coho off Middle Point. That was it. Didn’t see much going on in the other boats, and many were picking up and moving. Tom is on the fish cleaning now, and I showed him how to fillet the cleaned fish, as well, when we got home. We freeze the portions, and eat the frames left over from the fillets for dinner.

There were no fish on the skate. I realized I’d set on a mud bottom, so I was not surprised we had nothing – I need to find rock or sand to set on as Brian told me. As we came into the harbor,  people getting off work jammed the nearby boat launch ramp, heading out to check their king crab pots. Personal use king crab fishing is open near town for a week – a long time around here – with a 3 crab per household limit – also a high number. I’m not setting our pot because I just can’t seem to catch them.

The weather calls for a blow of 30 knots tomorrow, so we may or may not be able to fish behind Douglas Island. It depends on how east of south the wind direction is for the southern end of Douglas Island to block the wind or not for fishing from George Rock down to Middle Point. I realized today Tom and The Cheese don’t leave til Saturday morning, so we still have a chance to make an overnight Thur-Fri to Funter Bay, even if we don’t get out tomorrow, and the weather looks good for those days.

It blew as expected on Wednesday, and the boys were happy for a relaxing day by the woodstove, eating and yaking.

We left early on Thursday morning. Kurt said he’d caught fish at Hand Trollers Cove on Tuesday, so we tried there first on our way to Lynn Canal. The left over winds from Wednesday were supposed to lay most of the way down by the afternoon. We got 3 fish by noon, and then peaked around the corner at Point Retreat, and the seas looked fair. So we went down to Cordwood Creek to fish. We caught two cohos fishing north to south on the drag. When we got to the end, I didn’t turn around because there was too much kelp and wind to deal with to back tack through it, so we picked up our gear and continued on down to Funter Bay.

We put the gear back in at Funter Bay and had good fishing for several hours, catching 6 coho. We set the halibut skate in the honey hole in Funter Bay, then continued on into the dock. Now Cheese was also cleaning fish, after Grandpa taught him, and he was eager to participate. Don’t see that too often in teenagers now. He liked his technology, but he could put it down. Many can’t. They were doing well bleeding, cleaning and chilling the fish as we caught them. Just like I’d taught them. These are lifetime skills The Cheese can hone through practice. That made me happy.

We tied up to the dock in Funter Bay opposite the Gambler, a well kept ~ 50 foot steel troller that might be a freezer boat, as it sounded like a generator was quietly running onboard. Later, the Shelly J and Lucy Lou, two smaller trollers, tied up. The captains of the Lucy Lou and Gambler and the crew member on the Lucy Lou sat down on the dock next to the window of the Shelly J, where the captain was sitting, and held court over beers. I learned so much during those sessions when I power trolled, and I miss the kinship with the other fishermen.

On Friday, I heard the Gambler fire up at first light. There was a chill in the air. The first such chill I’ve felt this summer. Fall is on the way. I put on water for coffee, did my yoga stretching that is working wonders for my nagging hip flexor, returned the cushions to the helm seat that make up my bed on the galley table, and fired up the Jeanne Kay. Tom was soon up, and we eagerly headed to check the skate, where I’d caught halibut both times I’d set there this summer. I felt a little too eager, though, and wasn’t so confident in a catch this time as I’d used pink salmon body portions for bait, but not salmon heads. Pink salmon is pretty soft, so easier for a fish to steal off the circle hook without getting caught. And that was the case this time. Both hooks were bare. No halibut.  I will use heads next time. We put out the anchor, and tried fishing for halibut for a couple hours through the low tide change, and no luck, so back to salmon fishing.

We headed up to Cordwood, where there were many boats. One boat in particular, right in front of us, was catching fish one after another. It looked like they had a similar color hootchie to the one I had on one of our two rods. I put a white King Kandy cut plug on the other. We could not get a strike. We fished north to the top of the drag, almost to False Pt Retreat. and most of the boats were still fishing the southern end of the Cordwood drag, so we turned around. We got a fish on the turn. Finally. A nice coho on the King Kandy. We continued all the way down to the other boats, where we saw catching going on, but we got nothing on the back tack. I put a cop car (half black and half white) King Kandy cut plug to replace the hootchie. I turned north again, and we got another coho. This time a big fish on the cop car lure. So big we weighed it – 15 lbs. That’s bigger than the average sized king salmon now. We got a third nice fish, and called it a day. The boys picked up the gear and finished cleaning and icing the fish while I throttled up for the ride home.

Their final afternoon boat ride home was glorious. With sunny skies and flat seas and humpback whales in Saginaw Channel.  When the boys put all the fish away, The Cheese retired below for a nap, and Tom sat alone on the back deck, taking it all in.

Subscribe to Mark's blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.