March Nephew Fishing Trip

boat scene

My nephews came to Craig for their spring breaks. John is a senior at University of Tampa and will start training as a navy aviator right after he graduates. Kellen is a sophomore at University of Utah, and plays club lacrosse there.

I arrived two days before John was to arrive. Kellen would come 2 days after John. Brian dropped me at our place. I opened the container, then jumped in the truck and ran over to Hollis. One of my niece’s classmates is a crab fisherman, and I saw on his facebook page that he was selling dungeness crab at the Hollis dock for $10 each. Where can you buy a live crab for $10?  Yet he makes more money doing that than selling to a processor. Of course, I love that he and his wife (?) sell directly off their boat to his neighbors on Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan as we did our salmon here in Juneau. I bought 20 crab to take with me to Bethel a few days from now when we go moose hunting. The skipper threw in several extra, as I’d bought shrimp from him before and he knows my inlaws there. This is called “bunya” in Sierra Leone Krio – a little extra to good customers.

I stopped to see my friends Lew and Patty on the way home. They live in Hollis, and Lew got me my job on the north slope. I gave them the rest of the donuts I bought at Black Bear on the way over, to keep me from eating all of them, and Patty looked happy for donuts. We chatted for about an hour. I asked Lew about one of my supervisors on the slope, and he asked if I wanted to read his book. It was not published, but written for a class or therapy, I think. About his time in Vietnam. I read the book that night and finished it the next morning. He went over when he was 18 as a Marine, and saw serious action. He came back after his first tour was up to the US, felt like he didn’t belong, and went back for a second tour. He came out at age 21 or 22, I think. Like most, the war never left him, as you don’t go through that kind of experience without it changing you. John is 22, and I thought about how different their lives were at that age.

When John arrived, we headed out to the big ocean as soon as the weather permitted. The weather was typical windy and rainy March weather, so most of the time it was too rough to fish out there. John caught a nice king salmon, and lost a couple others. We ate on that fish for the rest of the boys stay, as that’s what they said they wanted for dinner each night.

Kellen arrived, and we fished close to town most days. We caught a shaker about half way out to the big ocean, which was as far as we could get that day, and we still payed for in with a lumpy ride home. Ellen had us over for dinner one night for king salmon and turkey turnovers, and he and Brian had fun talking to the boys about their lives and telling them hunting stories.

Each morning, I’d make egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches for lunch in the morning, and the boys would bring their energy drinks and fruit and licorice they’d bought at the store, and me a thermos of coffee. We’d leave at first light at 6 am. We fished areas nearer town because of weather, but with no luck. We took John to the ferry 3 days later, and the weather was so bad we couldn’t even fish at Klawock, where it’s almost always fishable. So, I called the Bay Company, and Chet said he could get my boat in for the 20 hour service on the new engine right today. We dropped the boat there, then saw that the same fishermen I bought crab from in Hollis ended up having extra crab and brought them back to Craig to sell in the grocery parking lot. Kellen called my sister to ask his mom if they wanted crab: they did. So we got 5 of them, and of course he threw in an extra to make 6. We took these back to the house, where I showed Kellen how to clean and steam the crab. I vac packed the halves and put them in the freezer for Kellen to take to his parents.

A 10 foot container I’d bought for a bunkhouse arrived the day before, and I’d asked my friend Markos if I could borrow his forklift to get the container off the truck at our house. He said yes, and tomorrow you can use my trailer to get it to your house, the forklift to take it off the trailer, and my crew will do it all!  Wow. It’s good to have friends. I’ve helped out on Markos’ kelp (and now oyster) farm several times, and enjoyed talking to his lead Thomas, who was heading the oyster operation, on how it was all going out there. They had the container at our lot in an hour.  I returned to town with the boys and got gift certificates at the restaurant and the coffee shop as a thank you to the crew.

What a day. Boat maintenance done. Container offloaded. Crab bought, cooked, packaged and frozen.

It was just me and Kellen for the last two days. We finally got weather that we could get back out to the big ocean, and Kellen got to see one of those iconic Uncle Mark days.

We left from Craig at first light. It’s been a cold March, and the temperature was about freezing. Kellen turned on the magic boat heater… and it didn’t work!  I had him look up the issue on You Tube on his phone, and turns out it was a low voltage issue. I’d have to fix that later. With the clear skies, we hoped once the sun got above the mountains, we’d be warm enough, and we were right. Once the sun was up, we were happy campers in the boat cabin, and would have turned the heater off anyway. We lucked out.

When we got to the bay we fished in, I threw over a flasher with small spoon attached.  Followed by lots of bad words. Uncle Mark forgot to attach the flasher to the fishing line from the rod. Goodbye twenty dollars.

We fished our way out of the bay, where it was a little lumpy, to the channel, where there was about a 10 foot swell. I was fishing into the swell, and when it came time to turn, I waited till we were at the bottom of the trough, then turned quickly back the direction we just came so as not to take the swell on the beam. When I saw the port downrigger line jump I thought: oh no. Then the engine quit and I thought: oh no… I’d wrapped the wire in the prop. Out in this big swell. Bad words were spoken. I had Kellen pull in the rest of the gear while I tried unwinding the wire from the prop by hand with a pike pole. No dice. It was wrapped tight. More bad words were spoken. Kellen was getting an earful of Uncle Mark yelling at himself.

I put the kicker down and prayed it would start. After a little coaxing, it did. We were able to make our way back into the bay and out of the big swell. I took us behind an island and hoped it was quiet enough there that the two of us could get the boat to the beach, jump out, turn it stern to the beach, and allow me to get the wire off. I found a spot, and I jumped off. Then Kellen jumped off. While he held the bow and stern lines to the boat, I worked on getting the prop off. The hardest part is always getting the cotter pin out, but I managed to get it out, and the prop nut off. The wire slid right off the prop, and I piled it the wire in the back of the boat. I quickly put the prop back on, followed by prop nut. The cotter pin was extra hard to get back on with the boat jumping up and down, despite Kellen hanging on. Eventually I got the pin through the prop shaft and prop nut enough to bend back one side of it to secure the prop nut, and we were back in business. I actually bought a prop guard to prevent this wire wrap issue, which John brought with him, but just never took the time to put it on!

We motored back out in the bay, I respooled the wire onto the downrigger, and put the gear back down. I was so relieved to be back fishing I lost focus, went over a pinnacle that came up to 20 feet, and broke off a cannon ball.  Good bye fifty bucks. More bad words.

I had a spare eight pound cannon ball, but the eye had rusted off. We searched the boat looking to make something to make it work. I ended up putting the ball in a fish glove, then tying the fish glove to the downrigger wire. Worked like a dream.

We stayed in the bay now, having wised up from the wire in the prop. Kev was also fishing in his skiff, and was staying out in the channel, so I figured he was catching out there in the slop. I never could raise him on the radio to find out. Even in the bay, it was a little lumpy, but not uncomfortable.

About an hour later, we got a fish on. On the glove wire!  Kellen got it near the boat pretty quickly, and I thought it was a shaker. Then it took off, and Kellen struggled to keep the fish out of the prop. I had him hand me the rod. I swung the line up and over the top of the roof of the boat cabin to the other side of the boat, then handed the rod back to Kellen. Now the boat was blowing us to the fish. Kellen thought he lost it as I said to reel, reel, reel!  When I saw the rod bend over again, I knew he hadn’t lost it. Then Kellen realized it as well. He was back to his business while I worked to get the downrigger wires and the other line in. Kellen was calm getting the fish to the boat, despite his Uncle’s unbridled excitement and flurry of advice. When I netted the fish I thought: that’s no shaker. A nice king. I stunned the fish and had Kellen fill a bucket with sea water. As I slid the fish head first into the bucket, I broke a gill to bleed it.

On the next pass, the starbard line got back over something in the outboard. It didn’t wrap in the prop, but maybe got into the dolfin above the prop, or maybe the trim tab. I was able to get to the line behind the boat, and pull in the flasher and lure by hand, then cut the line. The line now came back through whatever it was caught on and back to the rod.  I was worried a bit that I’d nicked the line, so I cut a bunch off before retying the terminal gear back on.

An hour later, we got another fish on that line. Kellen played it to the boat, and it turned out to be just undersized. I removed the hook, laid the rod down with the terminal gear over the side, and put the fish back into the water in the net. I let the fish revive until it swam from the net. When Kellen went to reset the line, the terminal gear was gone!  Somehow it hadn’t parted when the fish was on, but must have been nicked and parted when the flasher was dragging at the surface. More bad words……Goodbye 20 bucks.

We fished another couple hours and only caught a little bomber rockfish. We headed home about 2 pm.

The wind was behind us on the way home, so a nice ride. When we got off of St John’s island, some humpback whales spouted, and we stopped to watch them for awhile.  Then back to dock and on to the house.

Kellen said king salmon for dinner again. The boys were easy to cook for.

The next day, we were up early to get Kellen to the ferry in Hollis for his ride over to Ketchikan. On his way to Craig, his flight was delayed from Seattle, and he had to overnight in Ketchikan when he missed his flight from there to Klawock. Now his flight from Ketchikan to Seattle was delayed, and by the time he got to Seattle, he’d missed his flight to Salt Lake City. The airline put him up in a hotel and he made it back the next day. We’d packed the frozen crab inside his clothes in his suitcase, and it made it home all good, the clothes having insulated the crab well.

I was leaving the next day. There was left over crab, potatoes, red onion, butter, and baby romaine for dinner. I put in the rest of the butter, sauteed the onions, then put in the already cooked potatoes and crab, and lastly the romaine. When it was all hot, I dished it onto a plate, poured over the last of the homemade salad dressing, and sat down to eat. I’ve had some of the best meals out of that electric frying pan, and a million dollar view from our container cabin that makes it taste all the better. A great week with the nephews.

Subscribe to Mark's blog via email

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