The End is Near

Jesse was in town for 3 days of fishing. A perfect trip length I think, although we can’t run down to Tenakee. Jesse was my last out of town guest for the summer.

We caught seven coho the first day, and five the second. And none today, the third!  My first fish skunk day this summer. And we fished for miles and miles. Had several hits that released the line from the downrigger, but no fish. Only saw about 3 fish caught all day by the many boats we passed.

This was the third straight trip (and fourth trip overall as the first trainee was Jesse’s wife Hanni) of training the crew on the first few fish caught how to properly bleed them in water, clean the fish, then chill and later fillet them. I then turned them loose to take care of their fish the rest of the trip. Wow, has that been a good move. I can see the crew improve with each day, gain confidence in their fish butchering skills, and increasingly understand the importance of all the simple, but necessary, steps to make great fish for themselves.

We spent both nights at the Funter Bay dock. The first night a Prince of Wales Islander couple offered us some cooked dungeness crab. They must know I can’t catch legal crabs. These looked kinda small and feminine, but how can you be sure when they are already cooked.

Jesse took the punt to the beach on the second night to check out the remains of some buildings. A sailboat I recognized from Harris Harbor in Juneau tied up to us later that night, operated by a couple more elderly than me. When I got up in the middle of the night, I saw their bow was pointed into the bay, with only the stern tied up. I wasn’t sure if they did this on purpose to take the numerous cruise ship wakes head on, or if they had just not tied up their boat properly. Later when I got up to go again, the boat was along the dock again, so I thought maybe I was seeing things. The next time I got up to go – yes, I have an appointment with the urologist next week – the boat was pointed out again, and the lone late-20’s something guy in the small sailboat in front of us was coming down the dock in bare feet and pulling the couple’s sailboat back alongside the dock. This is when I realized it wasn’t tied up right, and I jumped out in my bare feet and helped him tie up their boat. The couple never roused. Maybe the comforts of old age like poor hearing are something to look forward to.

I set the halibut skate three times. Once with “can’t miss” octopus, which did miss and bait was gone. The other two times the skate was baited with fish heads. Our honey hole has soured, so time to find a new set.

We used the salmon remains after filleting to really load up the crab pot. I finally got a full day+ soak, instead of just overnight, and most of the pots in the bay that were there earlier in the summer were gone. When we pulled the pot this morning, we had a keeper!  And a second that was a 1/16 inch too small, but at least it was a male. And a couple females that looked remarkably similar to the crab offered us by the Prince of Waler. That single keeper was our only keeper of any kind for the day, and ended up being our highlight reel!

Today, we fished the mouth of Funter Bay for nothing. Then steamed north and fished Cordwood Creek almost to Point Retreat for nothing. Then fished Hand Trollers Cove for nothing. Thank goodness for one dungeness crab in the morning!

I’ll hope to take the West Africans and Ukranians for a trip or two before the cohos run out, which I hope hasn’t happened already. Funny how one day of catching nothing sends all kinds of gloom and doom prognostications into your conversations, only to be replaced by it’s the best run ever the next day when the fish come to the net one after another. I do love this place.

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.

Natural Disaster: Day 2

Kitchen scene

Tom and String Cheese (aka, The Cheese) get here early tomorrow and we’re off for a week of fishing. I’d taken out what I thought were all the blueberries and made them into jam and pies a day ago, but turns out that wasn’t even close to all the blueberries when I started looking for the Haines cherries from Roy and Brenda’s.

So, back at it canning and pie making today. Just put the last batch in the canner.

I pitted cherries for 5? hours yesterday next to the woodstove burning, and got good phone calls in with friend Emmanuel and cousin Amy.  Laura came by for halibut to take with her to Cali for a family function, and I was able to press a big bag of cherries on her as well- she’s a master baker. Then Absatu came by to take some halibut for their family, and I pressed 2 smaller bags of cherries on her, too. That lightened the pitting chore considerably.

Went to bed early with shoulders aching – had to be from all the pitting I did with the old thumb and forefinger pitter. I’ve just never found a mechanical pitter that doesn’t end up leaving a lot of pits in with the cherries. My biggest challenge doing it by hand is to stay focused enough to keep putting the pits with the pits and cherries with the cherries, and not do a vice versa once in awhile.

Got up in the middle of the night to strain off more juice from the cherries, and so slept in late this morning. When I got to it, I had decisions to make. What to do with all these cherries and blueberries and their juice.

Pies are the simplest to make. Get more crusts from the store, simmer the cherries and blueberries. Add some cornstarch and sugar and almond extract to the cherries, and some flour and sugar to the blueberries, pour it into a pie crust. Done. Each pie crust takes 4 cups or so of fruit, so that takes up a good bit of my fruit volume.

I was going to make jelly from the cherry juice, so didn’t want to make jam on top of that with the fruit I still had left over after taking off 8 cups for 2 pies. Then I thought: I’ll pickle some. The pickled rhubarb Malisa from Craig introduced us to was so dang good, I thought I’ll try pickling some cherries.

You can pack a lot of cherry meats in a half pint jar I found. I crammed a lot of cherries in 8 jars. Then made a pickling solution from vinegar, pickling spices, red pepper flakes and half a stick of cinammon, simmered it for 5 minutes, strained off the solids, then filled the jars of cherries. I had enough pickling solution left for one more half pint, so I went out to the rhubarb patch and cut the fattest stalks and made up one more jar. I added 2 tbs of sugar to the rhubarb, which got me to thinking maybe I should have added sugar to the cherries, too, but I guess I’ll see when we try it. I can always add it after we open one up.

I left the keyboard right after I wrote the last sentence above: of course I need to add sugar to counter the vinegar!  The water bath canner was not boiling yet, so I took out a jar of pickled cherries, opened it up and tried a cherry- too tart. So I opened all the jars and drained off the pickling solution into the measuring cup. I added 1/3 cup of sugar and tasted. Still too tart. Another 1/3 cup of sugar. Just right.

I poured the solution back into the jars, and now had enough for yet another jar of rhubarb, so back out to the garden and one more jar into the canner.

I had 12 cups of cherry juice and 11 cups of blueberry juice. I made jelly from those. The Pomonas Pectin is really simple to use. No boiling until you reach a critical gel point or anything like with other pectins. Just get the juice boiling with calcium water you make from the packet in the pectin box, and lemon juice if called for. While this is coming to a boil, add the pectin to sugar in a bowl, and when the juice is boiling, add it to the pot, get it back to boiling, boil a minute or two, then into the jars. Simple.

There’s still some bags of red huckleberries in the freezer. And some cherries and  blueberries Naomi gave me when she came over in the spring for moose meat that I’m going to dehydrate, as I’ve not done that before but don’t have time right now with us taking off fishing tomorrow.

We got a pile of rain over the past two days, and there was a slide on the hill behind town that damaged one house but not sure the extent of it yet. We got several inches of rain, and Sara said Sitka got 4+ inches, a record for them for this date.

Sara left mid-morning, seeing the natural disaster in her kitchen was already in full storm mode, and hoping I’d get it cleaned up before she got home.

Canning was invented for these kinds of weekends, I think.

Blueberry day

blueberries on the stove with four pies on the counter

Time to clear out the freezer of blueberries today with a heavy rain and a blow coming. Rain starting now, and the blow added in tomorrow and Sunday.

I made 4 pies and 33 half pints of jam with the berries, some that I picked 3 years ago, I think.  Berries really stand up well in the freezer, even if the vacuum seal breaks.

I love the Pomona Pectin I got from David at Rainbow Foods for making jam. I first remember using it at my second job for Fish and Game about 1990 in Sand Point, making salmonberry jam. The salmonberry patch behind the Sand Point harbor was the finest I’ve seen to this day.

Pomona seems pretty foolproof for setting up. I used it to make rhubarb jelly earlier in the summer when I was having trouble with traditional pectins, and it worked great, so I ordered a case of the pectin from David so I’d have it through the winter.

For the pie filling, I used flour to thicken and sugar to taste, poured into 9 inch store-bought pie crusts. Yep. Store bought crusts. Organic, even. I’m not Martha Stewart.

Joe and Mathias

My friend Joe Degisi and his son Mathias came fishing this week from Smithers, BC. Both have been here before. The last time when Mathias was about 10, so about 10 years ago. Joe and I trained for the Peace Corps fish farming program together at the University of Oklahoma. He went to Liberia, and I to Sierra Leone for our assignments. All of us who trained together consider each other family.

They drove for two days to get to Skagway, as our current governor has greatly reduced the state ferry system through severe budget cuts, even though the state has 70 billion dollars in the bank, and there is currently no service to Prince Rupert, which is just a four hour drive from Smithers.

They arrived late in the evening, so we slept on the boat and headed out to Point Retreat first thing in the morning. We caught 5 coho trolling down to Funter Bay. I introduced the Degisis to moose hot links for lunch, and fried salmon frames for dinner.  Both were a hit. The boys fished rings off the dock for dungy crab. They caught lots of crab and small fish, but no legal male crab. The owner of the legendary Fugly came by and said the commercial crabbers had blanketed the bay with pots and he’d only eaten crab 4 times all summer. We slept soundly tied up to the Funter Bay dock.

The next morning we had the fishing gear down about 730 am heading out of Funter Bay. We caught no fish all the way to Lizard Head, where we were entertained by a lone seiner closing up their set. Then we caught the first of 6 nice coho trolling on down to the entrance to Hawk Inlet. We picked up the fishing gear at noon, and headed to Freshwater Bay with fair seas. We saw 2 trollers fishing in Iyoukeen Cove, where I’d never fished or seen others fishing, so we put in the gear there. We trolled about half way north up the cove, then turned around as the water was a bit choppy. We lost a nice fish near the point. When we rounded the point, we ran into two big coho. Joe had me teach him how I clean fish, then he taught his son. They cleaned fish the rest of the week. I decided today that will be standard for all my trips. People should clean their own fish if they are going to kill them and eat them, and I can teach them how to do it right. It also gives people more confidence in their abilities. Joe also learned to fillet fish, and he’s better than me at it now. We anchored in Pavlov Harbor.

With a dozen+ fish in the freezer, I thought we’d try for king salmon on day 3. We saw a bear on the beach on the way out of Pavlov Harbor about 7 am, and put the gear down just outside the bay. I changed over from the yellow with red stripe hootchie fished behind small green flashers to king kandy fished alone above little green flashers clipped to the cannon ball eye, and put the gear down deeper. We caught 3 big coho from Pavlov to Wachusett Cove. Normally I keep trolling in the same direction for coho on around East Point, but I turned around and trolled back to Pavlov. Nothing. We turned around again towards Wachusett, and caught 3 more nice coho. This time I kept going. By the time we got to East Point at 10 am, we had 11 nice coho. That would do us for the day. And with 24 fish now in 3 days, that would do us for salmon for the trip. I was glad I had made a few more racks for the freezer to keep the fish separated before they are frozen, as we needed them now. I also learned this trip that the fish in the very center of the freezer don’t freeze very quickly, while the fish to all sides of them towards the 4 walls of the freezer do, so I’ll remember not to place fish on the rack there now.

We processed our catch on the way to Tenakee. We tied up at the short stay dock in Tenakee and walked up to town. Joe looked intently at the warm springs bath house information, including the times for men and women. I walked into the store and was chatting with the owner and others there, reintroducing myself from the trips to Tenakee with Larry. Then Joe walked into the bath house.  During the women’s hours. Which he just read.  He was immediately harangued by the Tenakee residents in the store, and came right back out. He didn’t get all the way past a wall to where he’d have seen a pile of naked women, but  was embarrassed as hell nonetheless. Oh boy.

On the walk to the harbor,  I met some Juneau folks, including one of the boys in the scout troop and his parents. The dad had a bag of crab, and I asked him where he caught it. He told me that the spot was across the bay, there were no other pots by his, and that there were so many crab in the pot that he had kept only the biggest of the keepers. He said we were welcome to check his pots on the way out. We were excited to finally find a good crabbing spot.

We headed out about an hour later for the scout family’s crab pots. We never found them. We saw lots of other pots there, so we tried ringing. Caught a keeper the first pull, but only females the rest of the two hours we tried. We had not found the crabbing grounds. Again.

Like last week, the horse flies were horrendous there, so we didn’t stop to try for halibut by Strawberry Island, and headed back around to Pavlov Harbor for the night. The next morning we intended to head back up Chatham towards the cabin I had rented. The forecast was for 10 kt winds in north Chatham Strait, but we were in 2 to 3 foot seas right out of Pavlov. We turned around and decided to go try fishing out of the wind behind Cedar Island. We got back there, and it was a nice little anchorage. We ran up into 10 feet or less of water looking around – the marine chart on my garmin plotter is not at all accurate in this little area – and we were lucky not to go aground. I backed up in time, and we moved into a 70 foot deep bowl, where we fished for an hour or two. As the tide fell, a whole sandy reef was exposed where we almost went aground. Wow. We were lucky. We caught nothing – not even a bite – and I think it was a mud bottom so not a good halibut spot. Surprisingly, the wind laid down, so we ran across Freshwater Bay to the spot John caught his big halibut last week. We saw a little brown bear on Cedar Island as we left. Seemed too small to not have a sow around, but we didn’t see another bear with it.

I had the boys fishing the halibut rods, and I put a jig on a salmon rod for rockfish. I caught one quillback rockfish after another. I kept my limit of 1 – which just seems absurd since there is so little meat on a rockfish that what are you going to do with just one. I released the rest using the gizmo that takes the fish back down to the bottom and releases it so it doesn’t die from the bends. That IS a good regulation.  You may wonder why I kept fishing when I had my limit for quillback, and that’s because when I was there with John and Eaton last week, I caught mostly dusky rockfish, and for that species the limit is 5, and I was hoping to start catching them, but never did.

The wind continued to lay down, but there was a blow coming tonight. The boys hadn’t caught any halibut, so I decided to pick up and try to cross Chatham while the seas weren’t too rough.

When we got out to Chatham Strait, it was nice. The calm before the storm. We kept going to cross to the Admiralty shore, where there are numerous bays to get out of the weather if it comes up. I fished the shoreline during my years of power trolling, and it was my favorite area to fish in the spring.  I just saw my friend Harry the other day in the store in Juneau. He lived in Angoon at the time and showed me how to fish the area and where to anchor.

We got to the other side, then headed north. Now we were going with the southeast wind and the tide. We kept on going up to Funter Bay to hide for the blow. We made over 8 knots much of the trip, and that’s the fastest I’ve gone in the tug at it’s normal 2750 rpm cruising speed.

We arrived at Funter Bay, and set the 2 hook skate in the same spot as I did with Todd and Renee. Then continued on to the dock, where there was just one other occupied vessel.  It was a good feeling to be tied up with a blow coming. And nice that the state DNR that oversees the recreational cabin program allows people to get a credit if they can’t use the cabin for the night they reserved it due to weather. I didn’t want to use the cabin as I saw the boat drag with a much less wind than was forecast for tonight when Todd and Renee and I stayed there.  The blow came overnight, but passed through and it was flat calm in the morning.

Joe wanted to try for halibut again. We were heading to town today, so didn’t have a fish storage concern. We had jugs of ice in the freezer that would keep any fish cool til we got to town.  We headed towards the skate buoy, and I noticed as we approached that it seemed to have moved some. Possibly a good sign. I readied the harpoon and gaffs. Joe idled the boat up and I hooked the buoy line. There was definitely weight on the line. Then the line started pulling back. Definitely a good sign.  Like the last time here, up came the anchors and one of the two hooks in a tangle with a loop still down in the water with the other hook. And this time, a big fish.

I cautiously worked the line up into the boat. I’ve heard of people getting big nurse sharks on their halibut sets, so we didn’t know just what it was till we saw the mottled brown top skin of a big flatfish below. We had a nice halibut. I got the halibut to the surface, and made a clean strike through the head with the harpoon. The harpoon tip toggled on the otherside, and the fish ran. I payed out harpoon line, not wanting the fish to run freely with a bunch of slack line and then break the line when it snapped tight at the cleat like my friends had happen with a 200 lb halibut. I slowly played the fish back up to the side of the boat. Mathias handed me the troll gaff so I could bonk the fish on the head, which I did. Then I cut the gill to bleed it in the water. The fish didn’t thrash much after this. I tied a lasso around the tail and tied the other end of the line to the rail. We had it.

After the fish bled out, Mathias and I both stuck gaffs into the head and together heaved the fish up and over the rail.  It was bigger than I thought. We measured the fish at 61 inches, which translated to 115 lbs using the length weight table in the tide book. We headed back to the dock to fillet the fish.

I lined Joe out on filleting a halibut. When he’d finished, he’d done a better job than I can on his first try. We headed to Juneau to process the halibut on fair seas. We saw the usual humpback whales in Saginaw Channel on the way in. What a trip.

Nephew and his dad

My brother in law came in to join his son for week two of the nephew’s trip here. We traveled all over south Lynn Canal, north Chatham Strait and eastern Icy Strait. We went to the Tenakee dock for a couple hours so they could walk around town while I processed fish. In that time, we met the son and his son and wife,  of a family friend, who I’d never met but whose photo we had in our house because he sends his mom a firewood cutter’s calendar each year from Silverton, CO. Then our good friend Winston pulled in to chat as he was waiting to get fuel to take out some whale researchers on his charter boat with his wife Renee. Then my former workmate and her husband pulled in on their ~28 foot boat with a 200 lb halibut. I don’t think I’ve seen a halibut that big in person, and it was a beast. Enormous. The photos don’t do it’s size justice to seeing it in person. I don’t know how three of them managed to get it aboard.  The nephew did me a favor and painted the tug name, Jeanne Kay, on the bottom of the punt that rides on the swim step of the boat and hides the boat name. He did a great job. Even though it will scrape off, I should be able to repaint using the shadow of his job and make it come out okay, as I would really butcher it if I did it from scratch.

The huge halibut really impressed the crew and they now were motivated to do some halibut fishing.  We headed over to anchor for the night at Strawberry Island, where my nephew and I anchored the year before and caught a halibut. We anchored up there, and put out the rods. They caught a nice halibut about 30 lbs. But the horseflies!  They swarmed the boat. I’ve never seen them like this. The temperature was in the 70’s and sunny, but if the doore was open even a crack, the flies came inside. So after we toughed it out for a few hours, we decided to move back to Freshwater Bay where we were the previous night.

We anchored again in Pavlov, and got our second night of great brown bear viewing on the beach behind the boat. A couple deer came out and lounged around after the bears were gone, too.

The next day, I picked out an underwater hill of about 90 feet across the bay. We anchored there, and started fishing. Two rods were set up for halibut, and I fished a buzz bomb lure on a salmon rig for rockfish. After we caught a few rockfish, there was a commotion on dad’s side. Suddenly, the rod in his hand was throbbing up and down. He had a halibut. A nice one, too.

I got beside him and helped him adjust the drag so it was loose enough to give, but made the fish work. He fought the fish for probably 15 minutes when we finally saw it. Oooh. A nice one. The nephew had already readied the harpoon and was encouraging his dad playing the fish. When he got the fish to the surface, I thrust the harpoon. But a poor strike, and the tip didn’t go all the way through. The fish didn’t like that, and ran again. I retrieved the tip, put it back on the harpoon handle stem, and the next time he got he fish to the surface, I made a good strike, and could see the tip toggled on the opposite side of the fish. We had her. I slowly paid out the harpoon line while the fishing weight banged against the side of the boat. I was careful not to just let the fish swim freely with the line, as that’s what my friends had done and the 200 lber had snapped the harpoon line. Luckily the hook and line were still with the fish, and they had a second tip and eventually secured it.

I stunned the fish on the head with the back of the gaff handle. I was able to pull the fish up and over the rail and onto the deck. Then I cut the gills and the nephew poured water from a bucket onto the gills for the next 20 minutes to bleed it well. This paid off later as the flesh looked good when I removed the fillets. They measured the fish and reported the length to me – 57 inches. I looked it up on the halibut length weight chart in the tide book, and that translated to about 90 lbs. Wow.

Now we were in a predicament. We were 2 days from the scheduled return to Juneau. But the screwy federal regulations for halibut do not allow you to butcher the fish more than cutting off the 4 large fillets you get from the fish – 2 from each side – on board your boat. We couldn’t cut these up into portions that would fit in the freezer, so we needed ice. I pulled the anchor, and we headed for Hoonah.  Dad took a rest after the big fish workout.

Hoonah Cold Storage, like Alaska Glacier Seafoods and Taku Fisheries in Juneau, put out flake ice each day in a tote for use by the public. For free.  So we pulled up to the HCS dock right next to the city dock, and hauled 8 buckets worth of ice to the boat. I layered the ice with the fish, and it was beautiful two days later when we got back to Juneau. We idled from the HCS dock to the Hoonah city dock, and the crew took a stroll around town while I puttered around the boat.

That was the last fish we caught, as the crew said they had all the fish they would take home. I took some of their surplus fish to Mike and Christina, who run the Salvation Army Store, after I got the boys on the jet home with their fish.