Joe with a large halibut on the boat

Summer in Craig: Week 1

My friend Joe came in to take the boat with me from Juneau to Craig. I decided to try the summer in Craig with the boat, and I”m having eveyrone that’s coming to see me this summer come there.  Joe got stuck a day for weather, then another day on a jet mechanical. He showed up and off we went. We’ve known each other since we were in our early 20’s, when we met as Peace Corps volunteer trainees in Norman, Oklahoma at the little college they have there. I think we were there Boz’s senior year, but we didn’t make it to a ballgame. Seven of us trained together before 3 of us went to Sierra Leone and 5 to Liberia. Most of us have been family ever since.

The first day we headed less than a day’s run from Juneau and then up a bay. Nick told me it was a good place to try for shrimp. Joe was eager to see the trawl work. I would dehead the shrimp while we towed the net. We made 3 drags that evening, set the crab pot, and anchored for the night. In one of the drags we caught a tiny little octopus that we admired as it swam away. It was the size of my thumbnail.

The next morning, we made one more drag, pulled the pot, and headed south. We caught almost all coon stripe shrimp and I’m learning a little more every tow on how to fish the shrimp trawl. The second trawl with the smaller net and smaller doors, was much easier for me to set singlehandedly than the larger first net. There was a big king crab in the pot, but unfortunately the season for them didn’t open until June. We  We let the  tails sit for a day in the cooler as I recently learned this makes shelling them much easier.

As we ran down Stephens Passage and rounded the corner to Frederick Sound, I was missing seeing Paul in Petersburg. Kurt and I stopped in and had lunch with him last year. We anchored at the entrance to Eliza Harbor.

The next morning we tried shrimping in the northern end of Rocky Pass, waiting for the tide to rise to mid flood tide before heading down south through the pass.   No shrimp there. We ran the pass without incident, although we saw a big rock pile on the Kuiu side of Devils Elbow that doesn’t show on the chart, which I duly mentally noted for the next trip. We made it into Port

Protection in the evening. The skipper of The Loon kindly moved some boats around at the dock so we could tie up. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. Maybe from television. We also got the sad news that Brian’s Aunt Mary had passed away. She was a good friend to Sara and I, and always with an open door and plenty to eat when we passed through Ketchikan.

We were off at 5 am the next morning to run El Capitan Passage. We were looking forward to shrimping when we came out of the pass, but when we got there, we found several commercial shrimpers pot fishing there. We tried one spot out of their way over what the chart indicated was mud, but caught a huge rock that we were barely able to get to the surface. We called it quits and headed for town.

We got in about 7 pm, and I sure appreciated having Joe with me to offload all the crap I had on board, including a futon for the container, a cart of groceries for Ellen, and a pile of Covid vaccine boxes from Dr Amy’s for packing fish. When we got to the container, we got the old broken futon out and the new one in, and Joe said he slept well on it.

We got out fishing the next day. I set a 2 hook skate on the way there. We fished all day and didn’t even catch a bomber. On the way back to the skate, we tried dragging the shrimp net over the mud bottom, and came up with a cod end full of sea cucumbers and sea squirts, but no shrimp.

We got to the skate, and when I started pulling it in hand over hand, I felt some weight on it, but nothing pulling back. When I got to the first hook, though, there was a nice halibut. We had to find the harpoon and I got a strike that wasn’t quite all the way through the gill, but I managed to get it on board.   The second hook had an even bigger halibut, but with a huge chomp precisely  taking out all the stomach area. The width of the mouth of whatever chomped it was about 2 feet!  We guessed either a shark or an orca. But the fish was still plenty good, and was already bled, and we didn’t lose all that much meat.

We measured the fish to get the estimated weight off the chart in the tidebook. The first fish was 92 lbs, and the second 188 lbs!  I thought maybe the tide book was wrong, so I looked it up online, and the tidebook was not wrong. We had a pile of fish. Joe learned how to clean halibut last year, and you’d think he was a seasoned professional fish processor. There was little flesh left on the bones when he was done.

By the time we got to town, Joe was just about done with the second fish. We stopped to let him finish so we could pitch the carcass outside of the harbor in deeper water. We took the fillets up to the truck in 3 buckets, then drove over to the launch ramp on False Island, where they have nice tables with white cutting board tops and running water with great pressure for cleaning. The bugs were out, so maybe that got us done a little faster. I skinned the fish while Joe portioned. We finished about 830 pm and headed for home. At home, we got to vac packing, and finished that about a half hour after midnight. What a day!

We got one more day of king salmon fishing in a different spot, and just nothing again, even though there was plenty of feed along the drag. When Kevin came over later and told us the fishing had dried up, that made us feel a little better, since Kevin is a high liner on king salmon with the sport rods.

On Joe’s last day, we drove across the island to Thorne Bay to get some rodholders I bought on the local facebook buy-sell-trade page. We then drove down to a bay I knew had sea asparagus to check it out. We were not disappointed. More asparagus than I’d ever seen in one place. We picked for less than an hour and got plenty for pickling.

We continuued on to Kasaan, as I’d never been there. We saw some of the beautiful totem poles, but only saw one person anywhere in town. People may have been to a memorial service in Hydaburg and/or gone to Juneau for Celebration.

Joe left on Monday, but his flight was cancelled to Hyder for weather, I guess. And looks like he’ll be there awhile as the weather is poor, with high winds and rain, the next couple days. I spent Monday picking through the sea asparagus. Joe’s bag was virtually clean. Mine had lots of grass and sea weed and snails. Kinda who each of us is.

I spent Tuesday pickling and canning the sea asparagus. We picked enough for 38 half pints, so I have sea asparagus for awhile. It was blowing 25 and pouring rain, so a great day for canning and listening to KRBD. I will try to send a case of the sea asparagus over to Joe if I can get it over there before he leaves.

Pickled Sea Asparagus

6.5 cups water + 6.5 cups 5% White Vinegar, brought to a boil

In each ½ pint jar:

Pinch of rosemary
Pinch of garlic powder
Boiling bath water canner for 10 min.

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