Went on my first salmon berry pick after work. Picked for about 3 hours and got a gallon or two I’m guessing. Seems like the yellows are bigger than most of the reds, although there were some trophy reds. Also, yellows clustered in places with lots of berries on a bush but the reds much more sparse on the bushes. And lots of spruce needles in the berries near spruce trees from the spruce aphids. Berries smaller and fewer than last year but maybe it’s just because I’m out a little earlier than last year, I think. Nice sunny evening and good exercise.
My brother in law called on Sunday and said they had a family emergency. There were too many king salmon and not enough people on his boat. Sara had been talking about getting her classroom cleared out and doing a garage sale. I told her the news, then said let’s go get her boxes from her classroom. We go the boxes, set up tables in the garage for her to sort for a garage sale, and she was happy and ready to send me south on Monday. My boss, who grew up where I was going, said “go”. I flew down to Ketchikan on Monday and caught the ferry. The ferry load was surprisingly light. When we go over during deer season, every table is occupied in the cafe onboard. Today, not so much. I rode to my inlaws with a deckhand from the ferry who was the mother of a good friend my nieces’. When we go to Craig, a nice buck in velvet walked across the road between the high school and the little hospital. When we turned up the road to my inlaws, we saw a black bear near our lot. Salmon berries were coming full on. Yellows and reds. Thimbleberries were in full bloom. We arrived to a big feed for a bunch of birthdays. Crab. King salmon. Some incredible banana cake. It’s good to be back and feels more and more like home. I was told I should get a derby ticket for the local hatchery in case we catch a big one, so I drove out to Black Bear store in Klawock. On the way home, there was another black bear in the road right near out lot. I was up early and we headed out in 2 boats. Brian and I picked up a new resident across the bay who is a dentist in Nevada. We headed about an hour ride to the outer coast. Howard and was with George on his boat and they were trolling with downriggers. We mooched. It wasn’t long till the dentist got the first fish on, and we could see action on the other boat. At one piont, Brian thought he saw a king salmon jump near the boat. Next thing I see is a tiny baby seal swimming right next to the boat. We could have leaned over and caught it by hand. Smallest seal I’ve ever seen. We each caught a king salmon and Brian caught 2, along with several rock fish. The other boat got 6 for the day. Not bad. We saw humpbacks feeding right up on the beach at Black Rock on the way home. We ate salmon salad sandwiches for lunch. Ellen filleted and I wrapped fish. The next day we left at 5 am. Kevin, Ellen, Brian and I. We saw orcas near the outer coast. We were the only ones on the spot for an hour or two. We trolled with the downriggers after little action mooching. That was the ticket. We stacked 2 lines on each downrigger, but started getting fish only on the deeper line so we just went to two lines. We had steady action till noon. Caught 8 keepers and lost or shook that many small fish. Plus I got a nice halibut. I bled, cleaned and iced the fish king salmon as we caught them. We headed home at noon. One of the outboards started overheating on the way home. We nursed it to the dock. Then hooked up a trailer to the truck, and I took the trailer to the dock while Brian ran the boat over, and we loaded the boat onto the trailer so Brian could get it to Chet, his high schoolmate, to do an oil change and to look at the overheating. Brian pulled up to the top of the ramp and the trailer popped off the ball. The 3 ball hitch was on the wrong ball for the 3 axle trailer hitch. Yikes. Luckily, Brian had tied the boat bow to the trailer and put the safety chains to the truck or that would have been an expensive error. We got things right and took the boat the block up to Chet’s shop. Chet was in a surly mood. You could tell the season had kicked off as Chet was pretty animated with early season “dumb ass” stories. We parked the trailer and Chet said he’d call when it was done and to come get it soon after as he had boats that needed service stacked up and more on the way. Chet is a lifeline to the charter operators in town, and from growing up in Wrangell, he knows that the outboards are the powerhouse that have to be running for the guidinging operators to make their living during the summer season. We got all the fish butchered and packed and then had dinner of party leftovers. Crab. King salmon. And fresh greens from Ellen’s greenhouse. Good stuff. I originally planned to fish Tue-Thur, but I had a year’s supply of fish as I got all our our catch as the others already had their king salmon. I decided to leave early the next day on the ferry. I got up early and packed all the fish and Brian, Howard and I headed to Hollis. Along the way we saw a doe with a tiny, tiny fawn. The size you could transport in your shirt. The size of a puppy. It was the first spotted blacktail fawn I’d ever seen. When I got to the airport, they have a handy scale to pre-weigh your bags. I had right at about 150 lbs of fish in my 3 bags – nearly all king salmon. That will do us for a year. Now it’s on to the salmon berries here which should be coming on pertty good now.
Jef and I each got a another load of wood today at the free wood pile. I saw a beautiful chocolate colored black bear walk across the highway on my way back yesterday. Had my first salmon berry today- one ripe one on the bush in our front yard. Brian called from Craig and said “get down here” because there’s so many king salmon around so I’m on the mid-morning plane tomorrow.
I saw an ad on craigslist this morning. A pile of free firewood. Logs, already limbed and stacked. You can drive right up to them and cut in and put in your truck. I figured it would be gone by the end of the day, but my hunting partner Matt and I drove two F250s out with our saws after work to see. It’s a rainy day. And there’s no king salmon around. We figured people would be all over it. And we were the first ones there. We took the smaller diameter stuff that we could load the log cut to truck length and get it all to our yard. Plus, the wood could probably be burned this fall – it was so dry. And most of it it very light. Free heat. Sweet.
This was originally posted June 22, 2015 but didn’t post correctly. Today I had an extra day of whale watching as they were short-handed. The company is so good to me I was happy to do it. Bluebird day. Flat calm. And whales were bubble net feeding. The calves that can’t participate wowed us with breaching. I wanted to get some salmon berries this year, as I’ve heard they are already out but did not know where to go here, even after going on 20 years in town. I’d thought I’d seen salmon berry bushes up at Eaglecrest when I was hooter hunting and gathering greens, so I headed back to the fiddle head spot. What a change. After crossing the creek and breaking into the open the landscape was mostly ferns. Everywhere. About waist high. I found a few patches of what I thought were salmon berries but only saw a few berries that were small and green and others with just the blossom back left. So I headed back to the truck and thought I’d look along the road further up to the ski area parking lot. After making the loop and starting back down, there was a couple who flagged me down and asked for a ride down the hill. Sure I said, wondering – did they walk all the way up here? As we drove down the hill I asked the male where he worked. McDowell Group he says. I used to work there I said. When he told me his name, we realized I worked with his aunt at the legislature. When I said I was up there looking for salmon berries, they both said – go to, well, a certain spot that’s easily accessible. They said I could pick all I wanted with ease. When I asked what they were doing at Eaglecrest, they said they’d walked a trail up from the N. Douglas Hwy to a mountain and swung down to Eaglecrest. They asked if I’d ever but up the mountain, and I replied “not on purpose!”. I dropped them back at their vehicle and headed to the supposed honey hole of salmon berries. I was not disappointed. Berries galore. Yellow ones and red ones. Everywhere. All within 50 yards from the road. I realized when I got home I get an adrenelin rush when I’m in a gathering frenzy like that. My mind is clear. There is produce everywhere. I will never pick it all. Maybe this is what heaven is like. I picked till it was getting dark. My pack was pretty heavy coming out. I got home and measured what I got. 30 cups of berries plus a couple cups of juice. 2 cups shy of 2 gallons. And I easily had the full 2 gallons but stumbled and took a header down a stream bed and lost several cups in the process. I vac packed the berries for a later jam session, and now know I’ll be obsessed to continue picking for the next several weeks until the salmon berry season is over. Life is freakin’ good.
Did some chores on the boat today. I had to change a leaf spring that broke earlier in the week. Of course, no one in town had the same type spring I needed. So, I put on an easy loader spring, making the requiem 3 to 5 trips to Western Auto to finally get all the parts necessary. Today I fixed a step on the trailer. I also bought some LED tail lights for the boat trailer, which will last alot longer than the old bulbs. Cleaned off my work bench, but never can seem to thow away everything I should, but mostly move things from one side of the garage to the other. Sara finished her life guard tests and after her last day of school yesterday, will cap her retirement as the graduation speaker tomorrow. She spent most of the afternoon working on her speech. Sunny and high 60’s today. You can almost hear the foliage growing.