Good Samaritan

As I rounded the spit to my haul out at the beach, I saw smoke coming from a campfire on Admiralty Island and saw a person walk down to the waters edge. As I turned away from him towards Horse Island, the person waved and I headed over to see what was up. It was two hunters, and their boat had pulled anchor and they couldn’t get out to it. I said I’d take them both out, and the hunter at the beach said they had a deer so it would be easier for me to take him to their boat and then he’d pull anchor and go to the beach.

I dropped him off, and headed to my haul out. As I was pulling my crab pots, I saw him get his partner and load their deer and gear into their boat and head for town.

I went to the beach and was pulling the boat out on the clothesline when I saw movement over on Admiralty Island. At the exact spot I ‘d just picked the hunters up. It was the teenage resident brown bear that spends some time on Horse Island as well. He was sniffing all over the area the hunters had just left. Must have smelled the deer. I didn’t notice if they’d dragged the deer out or had butchered it and had it in their packs. Either way, it was kinda creepy to see that bear right on their trail so quickly after they’d left. I wonder if the bear was waiting in the woods til they left or just hadn’t caught up to them until they left. Since they’d been there long enough to start a fire, I’m guessing the bear was hanging back in the woods.

That bear could be trouble for successful hunters if it makes it to adulthood.

I had 6 keeper tanner crab (my favorite) along with one of the usual dungeness crab. All the tanner crab were good – none had the milky innards that indicates bitter crab disease and a cause for discarding them. I steamed them all back at the cabin and I picked them all by lantern light after a dinner of pizza topped with onions, mama lils peppers and moose sausage.  After the crab was all picked, I read an Alaska Magazine from 1975.

Day Off

Getting more days off of work now that the tourist season is winding down. I got up with no plans on Tuesday. Then I thought- you need to get your fat ass out and do some walking after sitting behind the boat wheel for days on end since August 1.  I looked at the tide table and saw low tide was right now. So perfect. I have about 90 minutes to get to the spot in the channel to snag cohos.

I already had my bag of items together from earlier attempts – extra snagging hook, lures, water bottle, gaff, plastic bags and fish cleaning knife. After slogging the distance in the super heavy wading boots I’d used at ADFG, I replaced them with some old Keen hiking boots. Heaven. Like walking on air compared to the heavy boots. I walk out onto the flats to the spot, and see 3 people fishing there. When I got there there were 2 fly and one spin fishers. Plenty of room for me to fish one end of the run while they fished the other.

One of the fishers had worked at the Salvation Army store so we quickly strike up a conversation. He told me there were lots of fish in the run.  I soon see a school rush and make a wake. We’re in business.

For some reason, I can’t remember to buy polarized glasses. It was overcast today so I could see okay, though. It took a few casts to get back into practice, and then it was one fish after another. On the first fish, when I yarded it onto the beach, the line broke. I hustled down and moved the fish up the beach with my foot. Then I noticed the hook had come out. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Luckily I had a spare. I conked the fish, broke a gill, and put the fish on a ganglion line stringer tied to my pack on the beach. It didn’t take long to catch four more. On fish number six (the limit), I actually snagged the fish in the mouth – at least that’s what it looked like. Or maybe he bit it. Either way, just as I had it into the shallows, it broke off. I tried directing it up to shallower water with my leg, but it got away. I tried a few casts with a pixie but a pixie is no snagging hook. I start cleaning my fish, and as I get to the last one, I look up and see my pack floating away. The incoming tide was here and would cut me off from short-cutting it through sloughs if  I didn’t leave soon. I load the fish into a plastic bag that’s in my big waterproof pack, shoulder the pack and slog back to the car. I make a mental note to bring a frame for this pack next time.

When I get to the car, I get a text from my friend and firewood source, Ed (and Kathy). The text read merely “Wood?”.  I thought- I have 5 fish to butcher to get ready to can. But hell yes, I want wood. They key to being a wood recipient is when your source asks, you always say yes. So I tell Ed I can come over in a hour (which turned out being more like two hours), fillet, skin and chunking the five fish, and put the meat into colanders on a cookie sheet in the fridge.

I borrow Jeff’s truck and head over to Ed’s. I told Ed he called just in time as I had so many crab I didn’t know what to do with all of them. I hand bags of steamed dungy crab halves to Kathy, who thanks me profusely, which kind of embarrasses us both. He loads me up with a load of slabs from his mill, then says to bring back my chainsaw when I return. On the second trip, he picks up logs with his skid steer forks, and I buck them off into two-round lengths. After we’d cut most for the logs, Ed then switched the forks to a bucket, and started loading them into the truck. I gotta get a skid steer.

As I was leaving with the third load, Ed said to come get the remainder whenever was easy. At home,  I bulldog the rounds off the truck and into my storage areas between the spruce and hemlock trees, spray out Jeff’s truck bed, and return his truck.

Next I look at my inventory of canning jars. I am getting down to the last of my pints, which I don’t remember happening in 20 years. I didn’t learn til I was about 50 to store jars upside down, so these jars have spiders and dust in them and need to be washed thoroughly. I put them in the dishwasher and start it. I won’t get to canning today.

Yesterday was a full day of boat driving in the day and boy scout meeting in the evening. I get up early this morning and start loading my jars with the well drained fish from the fridge. I load the jars into my two identical 21 quart Mirro canners placed on the three burner stand up cook stove I got on Craigslist. I had one of the canners since I my early years in Alaska, and bought the second off Craigslist when I was up in Kenai fishing with Keith a couple years ago. Having the two big canners and the big stove makes things so efficient. I can can 36 wide mouth jars at a time now, and the cook stove heats the canners to steaming very quickly. Another lesson learned after 50.

Protect the young

On my last whale watch trip, right at sun set tonight, I witnessed two orca bulls trying to kill a humpback whale calf.  The calf was surrounded by 4 to 6 adult humpbacks, though, and I think they may have been on all sides of the calf and even underneath it.  The orcas were driving all around the group of humpbacks.  I had to leave to get my group back to the dock before it was settled, but I never saw any blood and think the humpbacks were successful in protecting the calf.        

Fishing with Andrew

Andrew and I rarely get to fish together since he works two jobs.  He’s been with me to Keith and Jane’s to dipnet and to Roy and Brenda’s to net fish in the river.  We’ve boat fished a few times.  The most we’d caught was 3 cohos a few years ago.
I told him I’d caught some fish down the channel, and he said if I went on Saturday morning he’d like to go as he didn’t work til noon.  I had Salvation Army store donation collection duty, but thought we could get up and start at sunrise and fish til midmorning and then come in for our job commitments.
I got up at 430 and made two thermoses of coffee and a couple egg and cheese sandwiches for the boat.  Andrew showed up right on time and we launched the boat just before sunrise.    We sped down the channel in flat calm waters and clear skies.  It was supposed to get up to 70 again today.  The September weather has been the best of the summer.  Dry and not too hot and calm seas.  
I put the gear out on the downriggers and Andrew drove the boat.  Then he went back to watch the rods as I took over the wheel.  He likes to stand right between the rods and wait for a hit.  One rod was at 45 feet with a green hootchie and green flasher and one at 25 feet with with a yellow and red hootchie with a red flasher.   We trolled for half an hour or more until we got our first fish on.   It was on the 45 ft rod.  The second fish was at the same depth, so I moved both rods to 45 feet.     Then we got two or three more fish – all on the red flasher set up, so I switched both rods to the same hootchie and flasher.
We had steady fishing over the next couple hours, catching 5 more and losing 4 fish.  Andrew just couldn’t keep them on, and I think he wasn’t keeping the pressure on the fish, but maybe I’d have lost them, too.  He wanted me to take the fish now so we didn’t lose anymore but I knew he needed to learn.   The last few fish were a little bigger.  After each fish was landed, I’d break a gill and put the fish on a stringer over the side to bleed.  Then I’d clean the fish and put it in the cooler.  I was able to keep up with the cleaning to this point.
Then we got a double on.  Andrew lost his and I got mine.  Then another double.  This time, we both landed our fish.   Now we had 3 fish on the stringer.   A few boats come around from town, after we’d fished all of the early morning by ourselves.  We got more fish on.  And lost them.  One boat had fished around us for awhile, and apparently hadn’t caught anything and left.  I got to cleaning the three fish on the stringer.  The cooler was overflowing now.  Finally, we got the last fish of our 12 fish limit on and landed it.   I pulled in the gear, cleaned the last fish, and shut off the kicker.  I called over to a family fishing near us who hadn’t caught any.  I told them what we were using  and how deep we were fishing and asked if they wanted to borrow our gear.  They said no, they had the gear and thanks for the tip.  By now it was 1030 and time to go to get us both to our jobs by noon.
We ran back to the dock with the fish.  I told Andrew to stop and get ice in his car while I drove home with the boat to put the fish in a bigger cooler.  I had canned the 5 cohos I caught my last trip last night, and I had all the fish we needed for the summer so I was giving all of mine to him.    Andrew soon arrived with ice and we put the fish in the cooler then loaded it in his car.  He would ice the fish down and butcher them tonight and get help from Sam and Gloria vac packing them.  I think that’s the most cohos I’ve caught on my boat in a day here.

Evening Bite

I had the day off from whale watching.  I went to the channel at low tide to snag for cohos after Andrew told me he’d got four the day before. There were no fish there today, but it was a good long walk.  I did a few chores at the house, cleaning the woodstove stack and hosing the moss off the roof.  
The day was so nice I decided to go fishing on the boat at high tide.  I ran down the channel south of town and got there just after high tide at about 4 pm.  There were a few boats at Salisbury Point and one was boating a fish as I stopped, started the trolling motor, and put out a flasher and green king candy.  
I fished for about an hour, trying different depths, and switched from king candy to a hootchie.  I choked up the downrigger to about 25 feet.  Finally, I got one on. And another. And another.  I caught four, lost one, and released two undersized king salmon, fishing in a circle off the point over the next couple hours.   All the coho were hooked nose males, and all nice sized.  In between catching fish, I cleaned each fish after letting it bleed on a stringer over the side.  I got back to the launch right at dark.   I stopped on the way home and put more ice on the fish so I could butcher them in the morning.
I filleted, portioned and vac packed the four fish the next morning before work.  These I’d send to Carl and Bonnie in Michigan, along with some crab.  

Scouting Outing

We had our August scout campout this weekend. The troop hiked about three and a half miles on the uninhabited east side of Douglas Island. The scouts hiked to a prominent point, which has a little creek that had pink salmon spawning in its lower reach. Keith and parent Chrissy hiked in with about 7 boys and 2 girls. We are the first troop in Juneau with girls in our troop, I think, and they are a great addition to the group.  Seems like one of those things that adults might worry about but the kids don’t. When they were talking about the change of name from Boy Scouts to BSA Scouts, one of the boys said BSA stands for “both sexes allowed”. I like it.

I took my boat down and met them at the camp site with much of the camping gear and food. When the hikers arrived, they dropped their packs and 5 boys got on board my boat. We went to check our pots at the cabin. After getting nothing in the first pot, I could tell by their excitement there were crab (7) in the second pot they pulled up. Many had not pulled a pot before, but almost all of them liked to eat crab. We rebaited the pots, reset them, then went fishing for salmon. Meanwhile, another scout dad showed up and took the girls and mom fishing. They got 3 coho salmon right away. We fished for salmon for about an hour. We had one on, but it got off.  I checked Jeff’s pot later and got 16 more crab.

I ask the kids as they are screaming in my ear in the boat who is loving me right now. They ask who?  I say their parents.  I tell them their parents all smile when they drop the kids off for campouts and tell us if we need to keep them out there all week that’s okay – they can miss school. When I see the kids all having fun with each other and gaining skills in camping and the outdoors – and self confidence in doing things on their own – I figure it’s worth it.  I hope it pays off later in life for them. If nothing else, it was a weekend not spent playing video games, which has to be good.

It was getting late in the day now when we got back from fishing  I dropped off the boys at camp and then anchored the boat in the nearby cove I’ve used when deer hunting. I then pulled myself to shore in the little sport yak I keep on top of the boat with the line from the anchor to the beach that another dad was holding. Back at camp I got to setting up my tent while I still had light. The campsite is my favorite so far in scouting. There were seven other tents all set up among the spruce and hemlock n the rain forest, and the scouts already had a campfire going with firewood I’d brought from our pile at the house.

The boys can pretty much run the trips now. The grub masters were a pair of brothers new to town and to the troop. They made pizza, and we got the crab steaming. The adults and kids gorged on all you can eat crab and the kids also ate pizzas cooked in the dutch ovens with charcoal. Keith then got to work on peach cobbler in the dutch oven. It was perfect with hot chocolate. The kids love hot chocolate.  I think they drank up most of the powder in the new can. After a game of something called troglodites they were ready for bed. Incredibly, I had a good nights sleep for the first scouting outing ever. Been taking pills so I don’t have to get up five times a night and wow, camping is a lot more fun.

Today I knew it would be tricky as the mom and daughter and the oldest scout needed to go back by boat to make work and appointments. The other kids wanted to go by boat, of course, too. One said he’d die if he had to hike back, and I said to let me know when the funeral was so I could prepare a good eulogy. Sam, of course, tried to get his pack onto the boat, but Keith was not having any of it. He is good at being the bad cop, and after 20 years of scout leading, he knows how to handle middle schoolers.

Even though I slept well, it was still on a sleeping pad. On the ground. My knee hurts. My sciatica is acting up as I trudge with my pack full of sleeping bag, pad and tent out to the boat. And I didn’t even hike in. I hate some parts of getting old.

I get the group back to the trail head, then load the boat on the trailer and head home to off load the boat and wait for the hikers.

When I return to the trail head several hours later to collect scouts, it’s raining hard. Real hard. Like a thunderstorm. When I get to the trail head, I roll down the window to talk to two waiting parents. And then I hear it. Thunder. We rarely get thunder here. Soon, we hear kids talking and Samuel emerges as the first scout back. He’s always last in. First out.  The boys walked through the thunderstorm in the big woods, so it wasn’t so bad. I ask if there were berries along the trail and Samuel said lots of red huckleberries.

More sadness awaits them when he and Issac find out we have to go get cans from the cruise ships that they give us to sell. The cans come crushed in blocks that are put in a cardboard tote that we we offload temporarily to a 20′ container. At the end of the season, AML places a shipping container next to our temporary container, and we load all the cans into it. AML then donates the shipping down to the recycler and the scouts get a nice check that we mainly use to defray the cost of scout camp. The boys are less than thrilled we now have to go get cans, but are consigned to the sad news. Samuel contents himself by eating leftover crab.