June in Craig

Sara was able to come through for a few days from a family event in Portland and a legislative event in Juneau. We got out on the boat for a few days. We caught nothing our first afternoon out. Next day we got three kings- two over 20 lbs. We were fishing near a young local family. The couple had a boy and girl with them. Both under 12 I’d guess. The young boy had a nice king on, and it gave him all he could handle. Dad was trying to clear the lines while the crew cut kid’s rod was bent clear into the water. The fish was playing him. In the end, Dad coached him through and they netted the nice fish.  We got one on right after we passed them. Biggest king of the year. We had two more hits that didn’t stay on. We were really in them. But that was it. No more action. I cleaned our 3 fish with the washdown pump I installed this spring. How nice is that. So much nicer than pulling buckets of water on board to clean fish.

We headed about an hour out to a spot near the big ocean, and tried there for an hour or so. Two guide boats were in the drag mooching, along with three of us trying to troll the same water. No fun. We didn’t see any kings caught. Eventually we pulled up and returned to our earlier spot.

We traveled up to the honey hole to set the two hook skate, then settled in to what’s become a favorite anchorage.

Today, I was up early and the gear out. We fished all morning. Lots of feed on the drag, but no strikes. We picked up the gear about 10 am, and headed to check the skate on the way home.

As we approached the skate drop location, I saw our buoy a quarter mile or so from where we set it!  Not sure what that meant. When we got to the buoy, it was in a heavy current with a large amount of kelp around the buoy. So maybe that’s what drug it so far. Still- two anchors were down there. As I pulled up the line, it was taught but not pulling back. I got the first anchor over, and as I pulled up more line, I could see we had a halibut down there. Not sure how big yet, but we got ready. I tied off the ground line on a cleat, and splashed the punt off the swim step and tied it to the stern rail. I tied a line to the harpoon toggle, and set it at the ready. Then I pulled up the fish to the surface and conked it a few times with the back of a troll gaff. A few thrashes, and it was calm. I went down to the swim step, and had Sara hand the ground line over to me. I plunged the harpoon through the gill plates.   Solid hit. We had it now.

After seeing quite a bit of blood in the flesh of the halibut we got with Brian and Kevin, even after bleeding on deck, I let the halibut bleed out in the water for a good half hour. Then Sara and I hauled it up on the swim step and through the stern door to the back deck. I cut the gills and put the washdown pump in the gills to keep any further bleeding moving. We headed home.

We went to the cleaning tables in Craig to butcher the halibut. It took both of us to get the 140 lb fish up on the table. I filleted off a quarter, skinned it, portioned the fillet, and put the pieces into a bucket. Sara got to rinsing and draining the portions while I worked on filleting the next quarter. We finished with two buckets of portions – about 60 lbs? Total- and headed to tie up in the harbor.

Back home, I got to vac packing the halibut and Sara labeled them. I brought the racks from the boat freezer to layer them in the cabin freezer. Whew.   Sara took about 35 lbs of king salmon fillet portions home with her, and a bit of the halibut. That is a good head start on our salmon supply for the year.

Kurt came in a few days later. We headed out the morning he got here, and managed a nice king before the end of the day. We had the drag to ourselves. A couple whales that seem to homestead this patch of water were working the surface feeding. Occasionally, we’d see one breach in the distance.

The next morning we were up early and out fishing by 5 am. We caught one fish the first hour. Then the armada came. Charter boat. After charter boat. After charter boat. We counted at least 3 dozen. Boats were still going by as others a hundred yards were coming through the pass 3 miles away. At about a quarter million dollars each, I’m guessing- about 30’ aluminum boats with twin 250 to 300 hp outboards and loaded with electronics and fishing gear – that’s a lot of cheese.

When we didn’t catch another fish for another hour or two, we decided to head outside where the charter boats were and see what we could find. I went around the corner from a spot I normally fish to the big ocean, where there’s nothing between me and Seward – and there they were. Dozens of charter boats. Most mooching. But a few trolling, along with some locals like us. We got in the troll line.

It didn’t take long til we got our first fish. And then another. And then another. We left before noon with king salmon, along with a chicken halibut and some bomber rock fish.

We headed there again at 4 am in the morning, and arrived before the charter fleet got there. We got a king the first hour or so, but the fish were not there like yesterday. We fished several more hours and didn’t catch any more, and only saw a few fish caught in the other boats that arrived.

Kurt had his king salmon supply for the year, so we headed home. He helped me cut a few stipes of bull kelp on the way in yesterday, and I’ll spend today canning kelp relish. I used macrocisistis stype last year because we couldn’t find bull kelp. I’m back with bull kelp this year, as the stipe is a whole lot bigger and lots more efficient to grind. Sara said we about ran out of relish last year, so I doubled the amount this year. I think we may go through it especially fast since I canned up so much halibut.

2024 Bull Kelp Relish

18 cups ground bullkelp stipe

1 medium large green cabbage

1 medium red cabbage

6 white onions

18 carrots (2 bags)

2 green peppers

3 cups sugar

8 cups white vinegar

2 tbs tumeric

4 tbs mustard seed powder

Simmer for 2 hours

Can in boiling bath for 10 minutes.

Instead of using a food processor, I used a food grinder I got second hand for the kelp and all the vegetables. Came out great as all the items were the same size coming out of the grinder.

Made about 60 half pints.

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