Young man fishing off side of boat

Aug Boat Trip

Young man fishing off side of boat

My nephew Eaton arrived the day after we got the boat to Juneau. He’s my youngest nephew, and was here a few years ago. He was here for 2 weeks, and he was ready to fish.

We got the boat provisioned, picked up Dorothy, and took the boat around Douglas Island from the downtown harbor to Auke Bay harbor, where we took on fuel and water.. With nothing else left to do, Sara met us out there, where she picked up Dorothy to take her home, and Eaton and I headed west. I thought about going to Funter Bay for the evening, but it was pretty late in the day, and so we anchored in Barlow Cove near the lighthouse. Bad choice. Although Eaton slept like a baby, I was awaken hourly by cruise ships coming and going around Pt. Retreat.

The next morning, I was up early and we rounded Pt. Retreat and headed for East Point, where I fished for king salmon July 1-2, as well as in my past years power trolling in the spring. North Chatham was the usual. Forecast for light winds and seas, and kicking up 3 foot seas, just because. As we headed towards Funter Bay, I could see my deck hand was getting a little green. We arrived at Funter Bay about noon, and I pulled into the dock to wait out the wind and waves. Also at the dock was the main clerk from Harri’s, where I get my trolling, boating, and plumbing supplies, and Mac, who ran for Mayor when I ran for assembly and his deckhand Bobby, who I know from fish politics. All at the dock to wait out the wind.

We tied up for a couple hours. Eventually, everyone else left, so we figured the wind had laid down. We left and when we got to Chatham Strait, it was a duck pond. We cruised south to Freshwater Bay on flat seas.

We arrived at Pavlov Harbor, where we joined a sailboat, a small yacht, and a couple small cruise ships. I could see a bear fishing just up from the creek mouth.. As we settled in for the night, my nephew watched movies on the DVD player. I sat on the back deck and watched humpback whales bubblenet feeding right at the entrance to Pavlov Harbor.

We fished the next day at East Point. Normally, I try to avoid pink salmon. But there were pinks. Lots of pinks. Really bright pinks. And not much else. And my nephew loved catching them. So pinks it was. Turns out my nephew also loved eating them, as he had a half a side of pink salmon from one we caught the first day for dinner and would have ate more.

I figure out a little more about the boat everyday. I learned how to access the transmission oil check. As long as I have my skinny nephew, that is. How to position rods in the back so I can see them through the windows at the helm. That the freezer I bought for the deck works great and does not unduly tax the batteries. That the windlass is slowwwwwww pulling up the anchor, but if you put water on for coffee before pulling the anchor, it will be right at boiling by the time the anchor is up. That you can kick and move the battery selector switch without knowing it when exiting the port side door. That although the stern is in need of scuppers to allow water to exit more easily, if I clean the fish in a cleaner tied over the side, I can keep most of the fish innards out of the boat.

On Day 2, I was up and had the boat out to East Point to fish.. Eaton got up about 9, and just as he got to the back deck to pee, a pink is on the line, and he lands it in his pajamas. We watched whales lunge feeding close to us and the wind was just right that we could smell their breath. I’m always nervous fishing around whales. I stay away from them, but once they dive, you never know where they’ll resurface.. The fishing action was good with the pinks. And the fish so bright and decent size this year that they weren’t all that hard to clean.

We anchor in Wachusetts Cove and set the dungy pots near others in the bay.. One of them came with the boat, and was a folding type with no escape rings. So, I scrounged a couple large hose clamps left in the boat. I showed Eaton how to adjust the clamp to size according to the regulation book onboard for dungeness crab pots, and then tie them into the mesh, and finally cut the mesh inside the clamp. I then taught Eaton how to cook a pink salmon fillet in butter with some seasoning, which is about as hard as boiling water. He cooked a whole fillet of pink salmon and wolfed it down watching another DVD. The Big Lebowski. For the second night in a row. I sit up in helm writing and looking over manuals, and enjoy just listening to a funny movie like TBL. Like Pavlof Harbor, pink salmon are jumping everywhere.. I also look out at the cool geology in Wachusetts. Rock formations that stick up out of the beach like a chef’s high hat, with caves eroded out underneath that would make for a perfect camping shelter.

Day 3, I wait for Eaton to get up so we can check the crab pots. Although sunrise –  4 am ish- is my favorite time to fish,  I contemplate that helping out with Scouts over the past several years, as well as having Eaton’s older cousin John here several time, has trained me well for traveling with a teenager. I make a pot of coffee and write and look around me and look at more manuals. Then I make another pot of coffee and continue the routine until I hear him rustling down below. I pull the anchor as Eaton tends the wheel, which is our routine now. He sets the anchor in the evenings, and as many times as I tell him, he’s not careful with the chain going out after the anchor and it jumps out of the bow roller and then tries to chew up the nice gunnel rail on our nice boat. I think to myself : maybe I just can’t have nice things….. We idle over to the crab pots,  As we coast by the crab pot buoy, Eaton whiffs with the gaff. Like I knew he would. He grimaces while I shout encouraging words of “if I was going any slower, we’d have going backwards”, and we go round again. He gets it this time. And every time he needs to in subsequent days after that.

The pots are full of crab. But they are small. And female. I show him the tell tale female tails and explain we can’t keep them. He accepts that with no argument, and I’m happy he doesn’t rationalize that we could keep them and cook them and nobody would know, as he’s practically drooling since crab are his favorite seafood. Good boy.

We put down the fishing gear and are fishing soon out of the harbor. The seas are choppy, and it’s pretty sloppy as we round East Point. This isn’t going to be a day of fishing in these conditions. Eaton hurls over the side. We catch a couple shaker kings and a pink, but it’s not something I want to fish in. So I tell Eaton we’ll pull up the gear when we get a ways into Tenakee Inlet, and go see town. Then it happens. One of the rods has a fish. We’re just about in the lee of the point across the bay, and the seas are lessening. Eaton yards the fish in, and when I see it, I see a nice big king salmon. Now I whiff with the net the first pass, then on the second the hooks catch in the net, but I manage to roll it into the net and get it on board. That made the day. Not many fish, but this one was worth the try and he forgot about being sea sick.

As we’re pulling the gear to go to town, a seiner is steaming full ahead towards us. I yell “sorry!” as he passes, but he wasn’t upset and greeted me happily. He was just going to make another set. The inlet was full of seiners after the pink salmon jumping everywhere, and I explain how a seiner fishes as we head towards Tenakee. We pass boats in all stages of seining, and it’s good to see boats catching fish and knowing the miracle of the annual salmon migration looks fruitful for yet another year and know there’s not many place left in the world where this is so.

We make it to Tenakee and tie up to the little dock below the store. It was about 130 pm, and the website for the store says they are open from 2 to 430 pm, so we relax for half an hour. At 159 pm, we head up the dock and arrive just as the store is closing.. The volunteer from the little museum across the boardwalk sees us and says – “Oh that- yeah, the webmaster is pretty busy. They changed the hours. They change the hours all the time.”. We didn’t need anything in particular from the store. It was just something to do. She sees the store clerk walking back into the store and asks if they’ll be open again at 3 when a little cruise ship will be in. He says yes, and we’re welcome to come in now as he’s not going anywhere.. So, in we go. We look over all their goods. Eaton grabs a couple candy items, and I tell him to get a coconut ice bar for each of us.

We exit  the store and head down the trail towards the head of the bay. The museum volunteer tells us about the brown bear situation. They had to kill a bear the evening before, and this seemed to make the other 2 bears around town take off for awhile.. The houses and cabins on either side of the trail are well kept. Many Juneauites have second homes in Tenakee. I point out the various berries along the trail. Some trails bushwacked through the thick berry bushes look like they were made by bears. We walk maybe a quarter mile and turn back. My back is stiff and my leg joints sore from just being on the boat. By the time we head back, things have stretched out a bit and I feel better.

I look on the chart and see a Crab Bay across the inlet. Gotta be crab there!  So we untie and head in that direction. As we entered the bay, seiners were still fishing. We head up the bay, and I immediately see it’s a blow hole. The wind is blowing directly to the back of the long narrow bay, which has spectacular cliffs and steep mountains rising straight up from the bay. When we get to the back of the bay, we haven’t seen a crab pot to think there were actually any crab here now. And it wasn’t going to be a good place to anchor. So we turn around and head back to Tenakee Inlet.

I think maybe there will be crabbing at the mouth of the Kadasan River, and we can anchor or tie up in Corner Bay, where I know the Chew logging and construction family from hauling their lumber from there to Juneau with Larry. As we pass the Kadashan Delta, I see crab pots. So we toss our pots out near them. I see a nice little island towards Corner Bay with a nice spot in the lee of the wind to anchor. Soon, we are anchored in a little 60 foot deep hole behind the island. I shut down the engine – the best silence of the day – and start getting the back deck ready to butcher fish.

I fillet our catch to date, except for the king salmon, which I steak. I set Eaton up at the kitchen table with plastic wrap, and show him how to put some fish pieces in a colander in a bowl to let them drain, then transfer those fish to another container, and put more pieces in the colander. While those are draining, he then wraps each piece of fish in plastic wrap and stacks them in a pile. I continue butchering and feeding him fish to wrap. When I’m done butchering, I come in and start wrapping fish in butcher paper. A vac packer for the boat is on the list of things to get. As I wrap, Eaton tears off pieces of masking tape to seal the paper wrap. We are a good team. Then he starts to write the fish species and year on each package. When we’re all done, I tell him about freezing salmon.. That you want to spread the fish out so they are not in a bunch and so each piece will freeze as quickly as possible. I put as many fish is I can spread out in the freezer to freeze, then put the rest in the cooler on top of the ice. The fish in the freezer were frozen the next day, and I then put in the fish in the cooler on top of them to freeze. The freezer was working out  great, and it was such a pleasure to tie up at the end of the trip with just the day’s catch to butcher, and not a week’s worth.

Now that I have plenty of bait from fish heads and frames, I bait up a halibut rod and put it over the side in our 60 foot anchorage. I set the drag so it’s easy for a fish to pull it out, and put the clicker on so we can hear the line paying out if a fish bites. We were about half way through wrapping fish when we hear the line going out. I get to the rod, and let the fish take it out further, then set the hook. Oh yeah. It’s a halibut. I hand the rod to Eaton. He’s been used to yarding in pink salmon that he can just skip over the top of the water once they are to the surface. So he tries to yard in this halibut. Then the halibut yards back. And yards back. Eaton is not used to this. And he likes it. He plays the fish skillfully to the boat. It’s a nice halibut about 30 to 40 lbs. I conk it on the head, then gaff it aboard. What a day. What started out as a day of sloppy water and few fish turns out to be a king salmon and halibut day. Mom and Dad are gonna be happy with Eaton.

After the brief excitement,  Eaton exits stage right to his bunk and more DVDs. I put out two halibut rods with our new found luck. He passes the pile of dishes I’ll be doing after I clean the halibut and finish wrapping the salmon. The Scout master training kicks in. I’m just gonna let him go and know I don’t have anything else to do anyway the rest of the night. And, I like taking care of salmon and doing dishes while listening to KCAW on the radio from Sitka,  and he likes watching TV, so everyone wins. It’s been a particularly rainy day. The kind of Southeast Alaska day that can soak you to the bone, and I’m happy to get into some dry clothes.

On Day 4,  I’m up early and Eaton late again. Now I’m used to the routine. We had no more action on our gear over the side. However, I did have some excitement. A bear swam across from Chichagof Island to the little island we were anchored behind. An island you could walk around in 5 minutes that had a little copse of evergreen trees in the middle. We were so near the island I could clearly see it without binoculars. It was not exciting enough for Eaton to leave his bunk and look, however.. Eventually, the bear walked over the spit out of sight and I expect swam back to Chichagof.

When Eaton finally got up, I pull the anchor and we check the crab pots. No luck.. We head out Tenakee Inlet back to Chatham Strait. We travel straight down the middle to stay out of the seiners’ way fishing on either side of the Inlet. We fish from one side of East Point to the other, and not even a pink salmon. Yikes!  So, we decide to go to explore the head of Freshwater Bay. My former workmate and her family have a cabin there, built with their friends and featured on a reality tv show. They are bringing us out some salmon rods and a chartbook, so I look at her directions to their cabin so I’ll know where it is when they arrive. We find it perched on a short cliff, and it looks beautiful.

We anchor at the head of the bay at the mouth of a creek – I think it’s a creek. I looked for a little whole like we anchored in behind the island in Tenakee Inlet to see if there’d be halibut there, too.. After we set our crab pots, get the anchor set, we see our friends neighbors come out to check whatever it was they had under some big buoys. Turns out it was a halibut line, and we see them haul a nice 40 pounder of the side of their skiff.

I realize after we set the anchor we put all the bait in the crab pot!  I figure we’ll let them soak a couple hours before we pull them to get some bait out for halibut. During that time, our friends arrived with the gear, and we talked for about 15 minutes about what we’d been doing and what gear they had set on the way in.

After they leave for their cabin, we pull the anchor and go pull the pot to get some bait. We check the pots and ooh!  We have some crab. And then we see a big crab that was hanging onto the outside fall off!  When we look at the crab on the inside, they are males but too small. We toss them back and hope for some bigger ones in the morning. At least we see some male crab in the area.We re-anchor and  I put our lines over the side, but we have no interest for the rest of the day.

On Day 5, at about 5am the next morning, though, I hear line screaming out.. I get up from my bunk, out to the rod, and pick it up. Nothing there. As soon as I jig it once, back the fish comes. I set the hook, and after one or two lunges by the fish, the line goes limp. I reel up, and the line had parted. Not sure if it was rotted there or could have rubbed against something on the boat or what.

Well, I was up now.. And it would be hours before Eaton would be up. Our bait was gone. So, I find a mooching jig in the box left by the former boar owner, tie it to my salmon rod using  leader line from the same rod, and try jigging. It didn’t take long and i had a fish on. It swam straight to the surface.. So not a halibut, I think. I get it to the boat and see it’s a shaker!  I release it, and try again. I get another fish on, and it feels bigger. It too swims to the surface, but throws the hook before I saw it. Another nicer king, I think.

I’d tied the treble hook directly to the line threaded through the jig, and though maybe I needed to put a ring and swivel on the hook so it hung down a little further. When I cut the line to the hook to retie everything, I realized I’d put the jig on upside down!  Well, we’ll see how it works when tied on properly.

I fish for another hour or two. I caught a bullhead and some very small pollock or cod. Then a big one. I knew I had a good halibut on. I roust Eaton, and ask him to put together the harpoon to tie to the small buoy over the side.. We fumble with lines as I get the fish to the surface. It’s a nice one. A little bigger than the one we got earlier. I can gaff it. I ask for the gaff, and when he hands me the short one, I ask for the long one. Now the fish is just laying at the surface, not doing much. Eaton has to get the gaff out of the cleaning table, and struggles to pull it out of the tight space. Then the fish shakes it’s head. Just a little. And the line parts. Right at the jig. I should have used a heavier leader, as the halibut’s teeth must have nicked the 30 lbs test line on the reel. Eaton then got an education in four letter words as Uncle Mark swore up and down at himself for not using heavier line. Again the scout training kicked in. I was careful not to blame anything on my nephew, as of course he was not to blame. I told him: you don’t remember all the fish you catch, but you remember all the fish you lose. I tried another jig with heavier leader and caught some more tiny cod, but did not get another halibut on.

We decided to try the raft on the back of the boat to check the crab pots for a little adventure. I lowered the raft, and mounted the little 2.5 kicker. I then had Eaton get in the boat and instructed him on how the outboard worked. How to start it and how to stop it. When he got it fired up, I flopped into the front of the raft, and off we went to check the crab pot about 100 yards behind us. Eaton figured out how to steer the motor, and how to control the speed with the throttle. He was clearly pleased with himself. I pulled the pot up and when Eaton could see it, I stopped pulling so as to not possibly puncture the raft, and we motored back to the boat. Eaton said he saw crab in the pot.

When we got to the boat, we indeed had 2 crab in the pot. Both keepers, and one hog that was as big as dungeness get. Finally, we got some of his favorite. I’d planned to motor up to our friends cabin to visit, but had seen them leave to check their gear, and I couldn’t raise them on the radio, so we decided to head to Funter Bay. I did reach them on the radio on the way out, and told them my sad fishing story.

On Day 6, we steamed towards Funter Bay in a following sea, which was pleasant. When we got near Lizard Head about 4 hours later, I put the fishing gear out at the two cabins south of LH.. I soon had a nice coho on, and Eaton brought it in. It was big. September sized. Not long after, we got another one on. This one was even bigger – 12 or more lbs I’d guess. I wanted to turn back to fish the drag line again, but it was too sloppy to want to buck the waves, so we kept going towards Funter. After no more fish past Lizard Head, I pulled up the gear and found I did have another small coho on that had not tripped the release. I dressed the fish, and then we steamed in to tie up at the Funter Bay dock.. I dropped the crab pot over the dock, as I’d seen people catch crab here and there were other pots nearby. Later in the evening, a small brown bear walked right along the shore about 20 or 30 yards from the dock as if it was on a Sunday stroll with not a care in the world. When he got further up the beach to some old cannery (I think) ruins, he stopped and sniffed the air. Then he took off at a job across an open patch of beach that led to the woods. I’m guessing he smelled a bigger bear.

I awoke early on Day 7, and left a little after 5 am with no need to wake Eaton. But he yelled up from his bunk not to forget to check the pot, which I had but no crab.. We steamed up to a spot south of Cordwood, and I put out the fishing gear. We had a couple hours to fish, then would steam to Auke Bay, where Kurt would be getting in from a boat trip and give us a ride home.. I caught a couple smaller coho as Eaton slept. Then I got a double on. And lost them both. When we reached Point Retreat, I pulled the gear and we headed for Auke Bay.. A great week with my nephew.


I found a boat Sara might like. A Sundowner Tug. Kind of like a Nordic Tug, but in our price range.

The boat had come up for sale a less than a day before and I just happened to see it on Alaska Boat Brokers. It was a similar situation with our house 25 years ago. We passed our house on our way to work. One morning there was a for sale sign in front by owner. At noon, the sign was now for a realtor. We called him to try to be the first to look. A little house on a big lot. Not a common occurrence in Juneau. We looked, and Sara liked. I told her we needed to offer full price now or it would be gone if we hesitated. We’re still here today.

The one difference with this boat was that I had already scheduled my fish delivery for the following day. I could not change the delivery date now. So I told Sara if she was really interested, she needed to fly down to Ketchikan and look at it. Somewhat surprisingly, she did. And the report was two thumbs up. Looks like we were going to buy a tug.

We had 2 weeks to close the deal with a haul out and inspection, and the next time the broker, who was a friend of our friends in Ketchikan – could get a haul out date was for 10 days later. That worked for me. Sara would be out of town then at a conference, so I asked my friend Kurt, and he was excited to go.

Our flight arrived in Ketchikan a little after 8 am, and Jeff was there to meet us. A little after 9 am, we were at the harbor launch, with a haul out service pulling out the boat on a trailer on the ramp. The hull bottom looked like it had never been even scratched. The mechanic who was a friend of Jeff that we hired to look at the boat with us was familiar with these Yanmar engines and a tug owner himself. Like Sara, he  gave it two thumbs up. He also checked the shaft and propeller, and said the prop showed some signs of electrolosis. Peter, the owner, said he thinks the prop had the pinkish hue when he bought it, and he thought he had addressed the electrolosis issue with bonding. I paid the mechanic, and we put the boat back in the water for a sea trial.

We toodled down Tongass Narrows for a mile or two. Peter went through the controls and electronics with me. Soon, we were back to his stall in the harbor. A done deal.   Money was transferred by wire from my bank to the documentation company, and it was now our boat.

I texted our good friends Jen and Bill, and soon Jen and her car arrived. She took a tour of the boat, then we took her home and borrowed her car. We went to Walmart to look for a small freezer, which Peter said he used on the boat when out fishing and I thought was a good idea. Kurt talked me out of getting it there, but we did find all the groceries we needed. We had an excellent lunch of Mexican food from a food truck near Walmart, then stopped for a half rack of PBR at the liquor store, and back to the boat. Off we go. Just like that. It was only 130 in the afternoon.

We steamed north on calm seas and made our way up Clarence Strait. We thought we’d tie up at the dock in Meyers Chuck for the evening, as neither of us had been there. When we got into the bay, the dock was full, but it was great to see the place.

We continued up Clarence Strait and decided to anchor in a cove in Onslow Island off the channel with Eagle Islands.

The next morning we were up early. I checked the oil and coolant. This was my first check. The engine looks brand new. Never had something like this before. Engine hardly turns over before it jumps to life. Much quieter than the old two stroke Jimmy motors I’ve had in the past. We steamed north and picked out some spots to fish.

We fished near Mabel Island on the advice of my inlaws, but no halibut. We traveled further north to Snow Pass, where there were humpback whales all over the place. The tide was really running, and it was hard to get the salmon gear down very far and still try to make any headway. We caught a pink and a coho here.

We decided we’d travel to the entrance to Wrangell Narrows, and then run the narrows in the morning. I’ve never known anyone having a problem in the narrows, but it’s legendary for tide currents and groundings. As we got to the narrows, we still had plenty of light, so decided to head on to Petersburg. We were traveling at the last two hours of the flood tide, and this may be the best time to go. I thought it might take us 3 or 4 hours, but we made it in about 2 hours with the tide whisking us along.

I called the night attendant at the Petersburg Harbor, and got my stall assignment. We picked our way in there, and when we tied up I realized we were right across from Paul’s boat, Cisco, and right at the bottom of the ramp. We had pizza for dinner. The galley in the boat is as nice as our house. A 3 burner propane cook top and a stove.

We went up to the harbor office and paid our moorage. Then stretched our legs the short block to the liquor store, and back to the boat. We took care of our purchase, and had a restful sleep tied up to the dock.

The next morning, we met Paul and Eric for breakfast at the Salty Pantry restaurant. Paul and Eric had brought 2 vehicles, parking one at the harbor and the other at the fuel dock. We all went back to the boat for their tour, then headed over to the fuel dock to give them a little ride. We took on about 50 gallons of fuel, and Paul and Eric departed up to their car. I suggested we fill the water tank, but Kurt said we’d be fine with what we had.  For some reason I had thought Petersburg was most of the way to Juneau from Ketchikan, but it’s only half way. About 117 miles from Ketchikan to Petersburg, and 115 miles from Petersburg to Juneau.

We made our way out the narrows and into Frederick Sound. Another calm day. On Paul’s advice, we fished at Cape Fanshaw, and caught a pink and a coho. We then steamed over to Five Finger Lighthouse, which used to be leased by a good friend of Kurt’s, and Kurt had been to the place. There was a sailboat full of tourists on site at the lighthouse, and I wasn’t sure if there were residents at the lighthouse or not. A humpback whale was feeding right next to the shore of lighthouse island. I mean right next to the shore such that if you were casting from shore, you might cast over it. We anchored up in a spot that looked like money for halibut, and tried for a couple hours. There were several humpbacks feeding around us, and one came right next to the boat to check us out before diving and being on its way. We had a few nibbles but no halibut. We picked up and headed north.

We made the cove at Point Ashley at dark. There were two smaller cruise ships and a yacht in the anchorage. We ran the heater and it was pretty luxurious sleeping on a heated boat. But we ran out of water in the last washing of dishes. Kurt said “I told you we should have got water in Petersburg”.

The last day there was a little tail wind and chop.  We traveled up to Taku Harbor and tried trolling for salmon. We got a fish on soon after putting the gear out, and it was a 23 inch undersized king salmon that we released. We were in our country now, and recognized our geography. We made our way with a 1 to 2 foot sea the rest of the way to Juneau.

Back home, we got a slip in Aurora Harbor. Jeffy had dropped Kurt’s truck at the harbor, and soon he was dropping me off at the house. I returned to the harbor office to register the new boat, and later signed up for the waitlist for a slip.

The next morning, I was up and got started on my priority project: installing mounts for the downriggers. My nephew Eaton was arriving tonight, and so I needed to get these on so we could fish for salmon. I had been thinking of lots of different ways of doing it, and took supplies from the garage for the different options. In the end, the simplest seemed the best: I bolted a piece of 2 x 10 across the curve of the stern rail, and then put the downrigger mount on the board. Simple and stout. The boat was already starting to look more like a hand troller than a quaint tug. Sara was not surprised.

What is surprising is that there are no scuppers in the stern. Just two little floor drains about an inch in diameter, with a grate over the mouth of the drain. They get clogged just looking at them. So, that’s the next project. There’s lots of free board in the stern. I’m just a little nervous cutting through Sara’s new boat.

Fish Sale Day

Friday was king salmon delivery day. I had the most orders ever, I think. One hundred and one king salmon. Dorothy, my 10 year old Sierra Leoneon niece, was to help me. Her first job.

I’d washed out the fish coolers, then headed to Jerry’s Meats, now the town’s lone fish processor for people’s personal fish, to collect a pile of their fish totes. I would return the totes filled with king salmon ordered by my customers with their instructions for filleting, smoking, or steaking their fish. It was a lesson learned over 20 years of doing this. I used to deliver to my customer’s homes, and then found out many of them took the fish to Jerrys. So, I just take them there now, saving me and my customers an extra trip. I used to take the fish in and have the attendant fill out the paperwork and weigh the fish for each of my customers. As Scott, the owner, and I grew to know each other, Scott allowed me to weigh the fish and fill out all the paperwork at Chris’s plant, so all I have to do when I arrive at his place is put the fish on a cart that is rolled into their cooler, which saves alot of labor time for them and is much more efficient for me.

Scott, the owner, looked very tired when I stopped by. Again. I’d asked him if it was okay to bring the fish in in the days preceding the delivery so this was not a surprise to him. He, like me, knows people depend on us to get their fish and get it processed. But Scott, like so many other businesses in town, simply cannot find workers – and one of his new workers was a no show that morning. The business owners – and their families – pick up the slack until they can’t. And then some, like my friend Marc, have to close their cafe on the weekends, because you can only do so much. Or Dick, a mentor to me like Chris since I started this business over 2 decades ago, can’t find enough workers to process people’s personal fish this year so he won’t be doing that for people – the first time in probably 30 or more years. A few years ago there were 3 fish processors who processed people’s personal fish. Now there’s just Jerrys.

Like many of my friends who are either retired or work for the government, we don’t really know about this product of the pandemic. Many just complain that “nobody wants to work” when they can’t get what they want. But many do want to work, And are working. All the kids old enough for employment in the scout troop that want jobs have them. Those of us not in the private sector full time, but who depend on it, have an obligation as good neighbors to be understanding, and if you don’t like how it is, then take the job that’s causing your problem.

Unlike her big brother Sam, Dorothy is all business. She’s only been in the US from West Africa since September, and so lots of things are still brand new to her. Like seeing the deciduous trees leaf out, and the bare bushes produce salmon berries. And the new birds returning for the summer. I try to point out things she’s seeing.

Her brother was only worried about how much money I was going to pay him, and he inevitably would start messing around at the processing plants where I was delivering fish. Dorothy didn’t ask about money at all. Her job is to write down the weights of each customer’s fish on their processing cards, which I’d pre-filled days before, and also write down the weight on my business sheet so I could bill them. This may seem like small assistance, but be assured it is not. When I do this alone, every time I put a fish on the scale with my gloved hands, I then have to unglove to write the weights down so as not to slime the paperwork. Having a diligent assistant, with good hand writing no less, is a dream come true.

We slogged our way through the long list of orders for Jerrys first. I sorted through king salmon iced in totes that came from Pelican, where Seth had bought them from salmon trollers. I’d look at the fish and look at the orders, and select fish that fit a customers order for size or number of fish, and there was no order to it. Dorothy dutifully and patiently found the customer’s cards from Jerrys and then wrote down the weights, and I kept a sharp eye out that she was also writing down the weights on the business sheet so I had a record to bill my customers. After an hour or two, we had the orders ready and delivered them to Jerrys.

They were not all that enthused to see more work coming in the door, as I knew they were already swamped. I felt like I was piling on, but hoped it would be okay. They were cordial as always to me, knowing I’d already cleared it with the boss. We then back tracked to the Breeze Inn store, where I bought a dozen donuts and a twelver of Rainer, and returned with it for the crew to show my appreciation. That went over well.

We returned to the plant to put together the home delivery orders. I’d brought my 4 big coolers, so we could divide the orders into out the road residents, valley residents, downtown residents and Douglas Island residents. I showed Dorothy how we needed to write the customer’s name on a piece of flagging tape, which I’d tie to the jar of each fish, and then layer the fish in the cooler so the fish on top would be the first delivery, and so forth. She did not need to be shown more than once, and started writing down the customer’s names on the tape while I weighed the fish and when I was done weighing the tape was ready to be tied in the fish’s jaw. We are a good team.

After another hour, we were on our way for delivery. This was a great journey for a new resident like Dorothy, as we traveled all over the Juneau road system, her new home town. I drove over 100 miles for today’s deliveries. People were to leave coolers out for me to put their fish in if they weren’t going to be home, and all but one had done so, and that person was home so she just got a bag for the fish.

We finished our last stop a few blocks from the Conteh’s apartment. I asked Dorothy if she wanted to get McDonalds (like we do at cross country ski practice this winter) or just go home if she was tired. McDonalds, it was. So we traveled to the drive through. I ordering my usual – an ice cream cone and a coffee – and Dorothy her usual- a quarter pounder with cheese and fries. When we got our food, there was no coffee. I asked the server, and she said there was no coffee ordered. I looked at the receipt, and see when I said “small coffee” the cashier heard “small fries”, so now I had ice cream and Dorothy had two orders of fries. When we understood what happened, Dorothy proclaimed  “This is my lucky day!”

I ate my ice cream cone on the way to the Contehs, and Dorothy didn’t touch her food – she liked to eat it at home. When we got to her apartment, I told her to open her bag, and I dropped two folded 50’s on the fries, and she wrapped the top of the bag tight again, not seeing the amount of money she earned. I’m not even sure if she thought she was going to get paid. As I suspected, she was very happy with her first day’s work and pay, according to her dad, and he was glad to hear a glowing report of his youngest daughter after years of many less than glowing reports of her older brother.

Speaking of her older brother, Sam is now over 6 feet tall, and has found his stride. I always knew he had the brains and skills to get somewhere. I just didn’t know when he’d get on the bus. Well, he has. He got himself a full time job a a shop downtown in the heart of the cruise ship district. He stocks shelves with tee shirts. His dad says he’s up early to shower and is ready for work, has a group of friends there, and his boss says he’s doing well. It’s been a long road, it seems, but this has made me as happy as about anything has since he got to town, and I’m genuinely proud of him. I gave him a ride home from hauling aluminum cans for scouts a few days ago, and I realized when I dropped him off that I had been talking to a young man now, and not a surly adolescent.

Today, I got a spinning rod together that would be a size for Dorothy. Unlike Sam, she has been willingly shadowing her Dad when he fishes from shore at various locations around town for returning king salmon. He caught 4 this morning with Dorothy at his side, and that makes at least seven fish for him in the past few days by my count. Now Dorothy will have a rod of a length that fits her 10 year old size to fish, too. I don’t know if the smaller rod will handle a big king salmon, but I loaded the small spinning reel with spider wire line that is about 30 lb test or more, just in case….

Chatham Adventure

Took my first trip to Freshwater Bay in my skiff. I’ve been down there numerous times with Larry on the landing craft, and on the Dutchmaster when I power trolled. But this was the first time I ran there in our 20′ Hewescraft aluminum boat.

Opening day for summer king salmon fishing for the troll fleet is July 1. I considered places to fish from Juneau. The outer coast would be the most productive for fish, but the run there would be 100 miles, and the conditions would need to be calm for me to run there and back, and calm on the big ocean to fish in my small boat. Not a likely scenario over a 4 or 5 day period.

The second option was north Chatham Strait. When I power trolled, fishing there could be good right to the end of June, and then I’d go outside to fish summer king salmon. So, I figured there still could be a few king salmon in north Chatham. I knew the Hidden Falls Hatchery king salmon return had dwindled to nothing, but figured those weren’t the only stocks of fish we were catching in late June. I picked East Point as a place to try.  It is the point between Freshwater Bay and Tenakee Inlet. The Bay and the Inlet both provide shelter in a wind, and I knew there were protected anchorages in Freshwater Bay from my power trolling days. And if something went awry, I could always get to Tenakee to tie up.   If the weather looked perfect, I’d run down there and give it a try.

Well, the weather forecast WAS perfect. Record high temperatures forecast with light winds and mostly calm seas. This trip was on. I started getting things ready the week before.

I had pulled out the nice bench seats from the boat when the hard top was welded on this past winter. There was just the passenger and captain seats remaining. So out came the passenger seat.

Now I had room to line up 4 big Igloo coolers end to end in two rows on the port side of the cabin. These would serve to hold the ice, and to pack the fish in. They would also serve as the base to a makeshift bed where I could sleep at night. When I had the hard top welded on to replace the soft top, I told the welder not to make a rear wall and door for the cabin, just so I could do what I’m doing now. Instead of a back wall, I installed the strips of plastic used for walk in coolers and freezers, allowing me to drag coolers into the cabin with ease.  It was all coming together now.

The strips do a good job of keeping the weather out and allowing ease of passing through. One thing I wasn’t counting on with the hard top was the echo chamber it’s created for the engine noise. That’s the one downside to the strips, as they don’t block out the noise from the 2 stroke Mercury Optimax 140 hp outboard. This is the engine my brother in law gave me, and I do love its power to carry a load and still get on step, and and its fuel efficiency, burning between 6 and 7 gallons and hour. But it’s still louder than a 4 stroke. It’s not so much that it’s loud in decibels as it creates some sort of resonance frequency that’s tiring to a person. Like listening to a diesel engine on a commercial fishing boat all day. To compensate, I wear ear muffs on long runs.

Opening day was July 1, so I planned to get down to Freshwater Bay the day before. I woke up early on the 30th, and drove with the coolers to Taku Smokeries to get ice. They had just put it out, and it was beautiful. Like sand. In 15 minutest, I filled 3 of the coolers to the top, and half filled the 4th, which would be the first cooler to ice. Everything was ahead of schedule now. By early afternoon, I was ready to go.

I thought the trip to Freshwater Bay would take 3 to 4 hours based on my trips with Larry. With calm seas and a bluebird day, I was there in 2 hours. I couldn’t believe it. Even the juncture of Chatham Strait and Icy Strait was nice. I anchored in Pavlof Bay, where I’d anchored years ago with my cousin Marc Reisner and my Dad on a June trolling trip. We’d seen numerous brown bears feeding on the new grass in the bay, and Marc rowed the punt over to check out the water falls of the creek at the head of the bay.

I started in to get things ready for tomorrow. I got four spreads of troll gear staged for each of my two makeshift gurdies. My buddy Kurt turned me on to a lure called King Kandy last year, and I was using the cut plug version behind a flasher, and the “whole herring” version by itself on a spoon leader. I also had some number 7 Canadian Wonder mother of pearl spoons in the mix as well, as this had been my go to spoon in my power trolling years.

Once I had things ready for the next day, I got my bed set up on the coolers, and then laid down and started to read Wayne Short’s “This Raw Land”. He and Mike McConnell are two of my favorite Alaskana authors, likely because they wrote about the Southeast Alaska that I love. Wayne has written several books on the country I live in, and, like Mike’s books, each chapter in his books are their own short story. One of the chapters was of his brother’s miraculous survival of a plane crash near Tenakee on a flight from Baranof Hot Springs to Juneau, and I was now anchored right in the neighborhood where the plane went down.

Wayne’s son put something on Craigslist or Facebook years ago needing a favor in Juneau (he lives in Petersburg) and I helped him out – and of course, he is good friends with my friend Paul Bowen there. He sent me signed copies of all of his Dad’s books as a thank you.

I was up at 4 am the next morning and got the gear down and fishing by about 415. I had fish on right away. I couldn’t believe it. I was gonna catch some kings in this backwater location. I caught all shakers (sublegal-sized king salmon), except for one legal (28 in) fish that first hour, but I was hopeful with so many fish around that I’d find the promised land!  Well, it was not to be. I only caught one more legal king that day, and some 20 shakers. I also caught a coho, a pink, and had to shake many, many halibut as I could not retain them. After 12 hours of fishing, I called it a day about 430 pm. I caught one more legal king, to make 2 for the day. I anchored again in Pavlof Bay, and took a nap.

I awoke about an hour later baking in the oven of my skiff cabin. The temperature was in the 70’s, and I was hot, hot, hot. I had several hours til bedtime, and this heat was not cutting it.  I made a plan. I boiled 2 quarts of water in my jet boil, filled my thermos with hot water and instant coffee packets, and secured coffee for tomorrow morning. Then, I pulled the anchor and went fishing again. In my underwear and a tee shirt.  Trolling with the front door of the boat cabin open provided some respite to the calm, hot air in the anchorage.

I trolled for a couple hours. More shakers!  I also caught a nice bright pink salmon and bright small coho. These were cleaned and went on ice. The Contehs will like these. I saw a doe blacktail deer with her fawn on the beach.  I trolled until the sun had almost set at about 930 pm, and finally it cooled down enough to sleep. I read the last chapter or two of Short’s book, and went to bed.

The next morning, I didn’t get going til about quarter to 6 in the morning. I started just the 8 hp Yamaha kicker I troll on to get me out of the harbor so as not to awake the others anchored there.  Once the sounder showed I was past 100 feet, I put the gear down.  Not long after I had a fish on and brought it to the boat. A keeper!  28 inches with not much to spare.   Not long after, I passed a beach and there was a brown bear, foraging, I think, for sand fleas. Things were looking good with this early fish. But like the day before, it was not a harbinger of things to come.  It would prove to be the only legal king I’d catch on day 2.

I put the gear back down, and continued trolling up the coast line. I got out some other lures, snaps, line and crimps to put together some more king salmon lures. I was intently crimping a loop in the end of a leader line when I looked up and just about jumped out of my skin.  There, right next to me, was the trooper boat!  A rigid hull chambered boat. I could tell they were amused at my surprise. I walked outside the cabin, and the trooper greeted me and asked to see my paperwork – an ID, my limited entry card, and my commercial vessel license. Luckily, I had all three on hand. I brought them to the stern, and answered the troopers questions of my card id number, etc. It was all very cordial. They did not board me, which would have meant I would have had to pull all my gear, and I must say I would have been anxious if they had looked at 2 of my 3 kings, as I measured them to be 28 inches – several times to be sure! – but surely not 29 inches, and would the trooper see the same length as I……..

I caught 2 rockfish and a coho to add to the mix today, but no more legal king salmon. I also caught gobs of nice halibut that, if I lived in a, quote “rural” area, I could have kept, but since I live in Juneau, I could not..  But great knowledge to know for a sport fishing trip there sometime.

After crossing my two troll wires for the umpteenth time, I was ready for a change. Chatham Strait had laid down from the 1 to 2 foot chop at mid-day, and I thought I’ve move north to Whitestone Harbor, and try there tomorrow. I had one good day of spring king fishing trolling there years ago.

I hauled up my gear one last time, and headed to Point Augusta. On the way, I saw a group of humpback whales bubble net feeding.  They all dove together, then after a minute or two, they all came to the surface with their mouths agape to feed on the herring that were schooled together by one of the whales blowing a ring of bubbles around them.

As I approached Pt Augusta, I saw a purse seiner rounding the bend. Uh oh. Then not much further, another one. Dang it!  There was a purse seine opening in Chatham. So, I decided to soldier on to Funter Bay, where I hand troll for coho salmon from mid-August to mid-September.

Now came the lonely part:  crossing Chatham Strait. On a chart, it might not look all that far from one side to the other. But North Chatham Strait can be a witch’s cauldron. Even on a seemingly calm day elsewhere, the wind may be westerly where Icy Strait joins Chatham Strait, and the wind in Chatham Strait may be northerly. Or southerly. Creating a stacked up sea at this juncture.

It isn’t that pleasant on a displacement hull commercial boat. On a planing hull outboard boat like mine, it can be an hour of misery. Tonight, it wasn’t bad at all.

I arrived at Lizard Head, a land mark for fishing south of Funter Bay, with a sigh of relief. I was on my side of Chatham Strait now. I would fish here and sleep in Funter Bay. After an hour and a half of fishing I decided just to call it a trip and sleep in my own bed tonight. I pulled up the gear, and on the last hook, there was a big gray cod. Normally, it would go with me to the freezer, but tonight, I didn’t want to clean another fish, so back it went.

It took an hour to get to the boat ramp in North Douglas from here. The cabin was so hot, and I had to ditch the ear muffs and listen to the outboard the last half hour. They were too hot to wear. As I came in to Fritz Cove, the place was alive with people enjoying the hot evening and the 4th of July weekend. Some young adults were actually swimming and floating in blow up float toy things. One group had tents set up on a pull out. It was a perfect evening, except maybe for the bugs, which were bad at the boat ramp, at least.

The drive from the ramp to the house seemed especially long, as I’d been fishing 12 hours and running a couple more. I left everything on the boat except for leftover food that needed to go in the fridge, greeted Sara at the door, and poured myself a tall one. A perfect end to a perfect camping trip.

Rhubarb Reckoning

I went on a rampage in the past few years harvesting rhubarb from our plot and those I’d see unharvested around town. Although I used some of it, I didn’t use nearly enough to keep up. At the same time, I separated and replanted our rhubarb plants in our plot a couple years ago. Those plants were ready for harvest.

So I dove into the freezer to pull the frozen rhubarb. I think it went back to 2020, and maybe some to 2019. It was alot. I brought it down to thaw overnight, and got online to look up recipes to see what I wanted to make.

Sara and I stopped at a garage sale on Saturday on the way back from looking at a camper out the road, and bought a steam juicer. I’d never used one, so wanted to try that out with the rhubarb. What a score.

I got up about 730 am, and I decided to make some habenero rhubarb jelly with the juice, rhubarb cheesecakes, and then can rhubarb with sugar like Doug and Val fed me in Bethel in March. The juicer is fabulous. Put water in the bottom pan. Stack on the juice catcher pan, then load the top colendar pot. I loaded up the pot, put the lid on, and started on the other two dishes. I got about 20 cups of beautiful red juice from the first load. It settlled down to about half the pot, so I just added more on top, topped up the water in the bottom pan, and went shopping to get ingredients I needed.

I ended up getting 32 cups of juice. I used some for the jelly, and froze the rest in Costco yogurt containers for later use. The 6 cheesecakes came out pretty darned nice. I wrapped them in foil and put into the freezer. I canned 15 half pints of the pepper jelly, subbing jalapenos for the habaneros as the stores were out of habaneros. I was confused as to why it didn’t make the 24 jars I expected, but it tasted good going into the jars. Finally, I canned 14 pint jars of rhubarb with sugar from a simple UAF Extension Office recipe. I think I finished around 4 pm.

Of course, the kitchen was a disaster. I did a load in the dishwasher, unloaded and reloaded another. Then got to work on the canner and steamer pots and pans. A good day in the kitchen on a rainy solstice day.

In between batches and canning, I corresponded with my fish processor friends. One can’t process sport fish this summer – the first time in probably 30+ years – because they can’t find enough staff. Another had asked me if I needed a part time job to help at his place, and I told him I already had 3 jobs. The third said he might start processing but didn’t want to get overwhelmed as he only had a single cutter. Much of my fish business hinges on having these guys process my customers’ fish, so we’ll see how things shape up a few weeks from now.  The kids in the scout troop are too young to work in the processors, but ironically, many of them already have jobs this summer.  So much opportunity right now for the labor force and headaches for business owners just trying to tread water.

Spring Kings

Spring 2022 in Craig

Came down to rustle up some bear meat for the Contehs. They tried it last year and love it in their African dishes.

When I got to town, I stopped at Mike D’s with some maple syrup. He had 3 kings laying in the bed of his truck and gave me the hot tip on where to go.

When I got to the container, all was well. Sara had buttoned up everything just fine when she was here at Christmas. I told my inlaws I was ready to send bear meat up to the Contehs. Friends of my inlaws came over to Howard with their bear hide for tanning, and dropped the meat to me. Already butchered!  All I had to do was hang it overnight in the cool temperatures, then load it into the totes I brought down for shipping meat, and send it up to Andrew the next morning.

Before I shipped the meat the next morning, I went fishing based on Mike’s tip. I got fishing later than I’d liked – 6 am ish. I fished for an hour or two and didn’t see any fish caught by the other boats. Then I looked over and saw – I had a fish on!  It came to the net. Just over 28 inches, so a keeper.

I brought the fish home, butchered it, and then put it in the fridge to cool. The next day, I brined it according to Nevette’s Yakutat recipe, then put it into the smoker. Funny I can’t remember not to put the first batch in right on the metal mesh racks and think it won’t stick!  I should have turned it sooner so a pellicle would form on each side, or cut strips and hung them from a rod in the smoker rather than flat on the racks. Either way, I was scraping later on, but it still worked out fine. I’ve been eating the fish after I canned it, and it’s edible.

Kurt came down a day or two later from Juneau. So fun to have him here finally. We fished several days. Got a king on 2 of the 3 days he was here, and I lost one on the other day. He showed me how he fishes a lure called King Kandy, and we caught all the fish on those lures. We fished in heavy fog the last day. We could see the shore about 30 yards away, and wondered why the eagles were either in very low branches, or were on rocks on the beach. Then it hit us: they have superb vision, but like us, they probably can’t see through fog either, so had to get right down to the water’s edge to hunt.

Kurt insisted on eating out every night. We got Papa’s Pizza the first night, and had extra for lunch the next two days on the boat. The next two evenings we ate at the Dockside Cafe, which was doing a brisk business. The first night it was fun to see a couple tables of cannery worker families chatting in Spanish and enjoying their fellowship.

The outboard started overheating when we were trolling. It was peeing a stream out the water line, but it was kind of weak. This vintage outboard had a history of needing an expensive exhaust rebuild, and that’s what Chet, my neighbor and outboard mechanic, feared, but I distinctly recalled the former owner Brad telling me it had been done, and I was able to confirm that. Miraculously, Chet got me in two days later, and replaced the only other thing he could – the water pump impeller – and that did the trick. Or so I thought. The over heat issue eventually returned.

Kurt left when I took the boat in for repair, so I thought I’d try hand trolling during the upcoming opening. I got up at 230 am, and was launching the boat about 345 and was out fishing at about 415, which was sunrise. I put two spreads of lures on each of my two down rigger wires. All king kandy. I put whole king kandy on the bottom spread by itself, and above it, a cut plug king kandy behind a flasher. I was the second fisher on the drag, joining a power troller.

I thought this was my lucky day. I caught two keepers and 3 shakers in the first hour or so. More action that I’ve ever had. Another 5 or so power trollers showed up. And then nothing. Not a strike or anything, til about 1130, when I caught a shaker. That caused it to be a sucker pass, and I fished another couple hours of nothing again. Unlike the old days, I just couldn’t stay at it with no action, and I went to the dock and sold my 2 fish to Kenny. 27 lbs for 270 dollars. Not bad.

Brian invited me to go fishing with him and Howard the next day. They had had a 23 king catch day when Kurt and I had only caught 1 between us, so of course I had to join them. Brian and Howard also set a subsistence halibut skate on the way out to king fishing. Well, we only caught one shaker and there were no halibut on the long line. That was sad, but made me feel not so bad about catching only a couple fish with Kurt. As I told Kurt, fishing technique is only part of it. Alot of it is hearing what the catch is around the whole area from a network of friends that Brian has, and I don’t. Still, it was a great day of fishing and calm seas. A humpback whale cruised right by the boat while we were fishing, and there were dozens and dozens of sea otters all over.

As we got back near town, Howard checked his phone. Another mass murder.  Buffalo last week. This week, a lot of elementary schoolers in Texas. What are we doing to ourselves. We arrived at Brian’s dock. I thanked him for the great morning of fishing. I headed home, got my gear together, then headed to the store for a bottle, peanut butter and fly paper. The vodka was for later. I hooked up the boat, and fished the cliffs where I caught a fish the second day in town, and listened to the Texas tragedy on my XM radio app. 18 elementary kids gunned down by an 18 year old. So much like the Buffalo shooting. Body armor. An AR. Now Buffalo will be all forgotten and this new carnage in the news til the next one happens.

I had to do something or I’d be hitting the vodka right now. My God. The senator from Texas is saying thoughts and prayers with the family but 2nd amendment rights are second amendment rights. He could have just condemned it all, but had to stick the politics in. How does he keep getting re-elected?? Or sleep at night?  And then I think: just like our senators and representatives do from Alaska. It’s who Texans are and who Alaskans are. Like it or not. We’ve decided this is our price of freedom.  It’s a hefty toll.

We’ll soon embark on making our schools like reverse prisons – secured to keep the bad guys out. And what will that mean?  A boom to gun sales for the school security, and lots of ammunition because if you’re gonna be on gun duty, you gotta practice. The gun manufacturers profit again. And all that money that could go into classrooms will go to security, or be added on to our tax bills to pay for it. I’ll never get the protection of the ARs. Who needs an military assault rifle except to kill people?  I don’t even like seeing the police carry them, but how can they be less armed than the 18 year olds killing grandmothers where they shop or 10 year olds where they learn.

When I quit fishing and got back to the dock, my neighbor was launching his boat, so I helped him. He had to take his boat over to the harbor, then was going to call me after I took my boat home to come get him and retrieve his truck and trailer. I picked him up and when we got to the harbor, my inlaws were there. Brian was pulling his boat out, and also picking up octopus from a shrimper.

Another friend launched his boat to take to the harbor. So I went and retrieved him from the boat harbor. Then Ellen and I drove the short distance to the ramp to the fuel dock, and I carried four buckets of octopus up the dock to the truck in two trips from one of my niece’s classmates who is now shrimping.

On Wednesday afternoon I was heading fishing when I met Lew at the launch. He was helping Mike launch his troller. Lew gave me a tip on where his kids caught fish. When I looked it up on the chart, I saw it was right near where we anchor to deer hunt. When I got to where I thought I was supposed to fish, I made a couple passes and nothing. It was pretty calm in here, but I could see it blowing down the channel further out. Then a skiff appeared in the choppy channel water. I saw him bobbing up and down and then it looked like he got his fishing gear in and headed downhill, passing out of sight behind an island. I thought – maybe that’s where I was supposed to be fishing. So I trolled across the top of the island the skiff had passed and just as I was about to turn downhill with the wind, whamo. A nice king. I’ve been fishing white King Kandy cut plug lures behind a red flasher with white tape as this is Kurt’s favorite and what he was fishng when he was here. I think it’s like using a deer call – you may not believe it works until it does, then it’s your best friend.

I couldn’t really fish the area again as the wind picked up, so I moved to the other side of the big island in the lee. I fished the drag there for the afternoon. I saw a humpback tail lobbing, then it was slapping it’s pectoral fins. Then it breached about 5 times. Later I saw it lunge feeding, I think, right along the shore, sometimes right in the kelp. Just me and the whale with no one else around. It never gets old.

Well, now I had the fever. I was up the Thursday morning and out to my favorite spot, as the wind had laid down so it was an easy 20 minute ride there from the launch. I soon had a keeper on and in the boat. Then another shaker not long after. Doug then showed up, just as I got another shaker on. I rounded the point with the cross and Doug was right behind me. He hadn’t had any strikes so he picked up and moved a little further west. I turned around, and as I got to the cross point, I was bouncing on the bottom. I sped up a little to lift the cannonball off the bottom, and whamo. My second keeper of the morning. Just like the old timer told me at the boat launch the day before. He said he saw me hand trolling and asked how I did. He said the good sized kings were right on the bottom, while the shakers were up shallower off the bottom. He’d caught 14 the day I caught 2. Great to learn from  a nice local troller.

Friday the fever was really bad. I was up at 340 and out with the gear down at 415. What a day this morning would be. As I came east to the cross, what did I see but a wolf. I could immediately tell by it’s gait. Then it went around the corner. Wait. No it didn’t. I  could see its head above a log on the beach. It was checking me out. I slowly continued trolling around the point. The wolf went into the woods around some cliffs, then came out on the beach again.  As I rounded the corner, there it was. Waiting for me again. Now it perched on a flat rock, just staring at me. And then whamo. there goes the fishing rod. It wasn’t a big strike, and when I grabbed the rod, I thought it was a shaker. Then it started taking drag. I could feel it’s weight. Then it just stopped near the bottom. A halibut!

I reeled in the downrigger ball, then worked the fish around to the opposite side of the boat. I looked to be sure I had the gaff close at hand. It took awhile to coax it to the surface. I could see my flasher, then the king kandy cut plug slid up the line. It was a second before I saw the halibut, as it’s dark on the top. Not sparkly like a king salmon. It was big enough to keep for sure. When I got it to the surface, I came down hard on its noggin with the back of the gaff. Then quickly spun the gaff, put the business end of the gaff through the fish, and hauled it aboard. It was about a 40 lber, give or take. I bonked it again, put my gear back down, then found the heavy knife, cut gills on the fish, put a rope through its gill and out its mouth, and then over the side to bleed the fish. It was already a great day and not even quarter after 5 yet. I fished til 915 without another strike and called it a morning after the over heat alarm was going off once in awhile on the big motor.

I cruised the 20 minutes back to the launch ramp dock. Craig has beautiful fish cleaning stations, complete with water hoses. Luckily I had the right knives with me. I filleted the halibut, skinned and portioned the fillets, then rinsed off the white halibut meat and dropped it into the bucket. Now just to drain the fillets when I get home and they’ll be ready to vac pack.

Bob is sending down the spare kicker i got off Craigslist last summer on Ak Seaplanes. Should get here tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll run like it did when I bought it. I’m hoping to get Chet to change out the thermostats on the big engine, and see if that helps with the overheating at low speeds.

Well, the thermostats got changed. I headed out Saturday morning hoping that was the cure. It wasn’t. It actually made it worse. When I dropped to idle to troll, I no sooner got the gear in when the overheat alarm went off. So, I came back in. My kicker was in, so I went out to the air service and got it, slowing by all the runners for the Prince of Wales marathon race today. Saddest sign I saw was “Cheer up. You only have 23.5 miles to go”. Ida quit right there. Before I left, I brined the frames, bellies and collars from the 2 kings I caught on Thursday and put them in the smoker.

I brought the kicker back and it would not start. It took awhile to diagnose. I started by just cleaning the carb after it look like nasty puss coming out of the carb bowl. Still wouldn’t start, so I took off the carb for more cleaning, and then. Finally. I did a systematic trouble shoot. I pulled the fuel line off the fuel pump and cranked the engine. Fuel was pumping so that wasn’t the issue. I then thought – Bob had drained the bowl when he sent it down, so I’ll try priming the bowl with fuel, then give it a try. That was the solution. It fired up and ran for 20 minutes. So hopefully the kicker is gonna be a go. I swapped out the good prop from the dead kicker with the chipped and bent prop on this one.

Then my neighbor hollered. I gotta a bear for you. So I got my butchering knives and totes together and went to his garage, where the carcass was hanging from whick he had removed the hide. I got the bear quartered, put the meat into pillow cases and the remaining bear frame into the truck bed, then brought it home and divided it into totes for shipping this evening to the Contehs.

I shipped the bear meat north to Juneau, and was gonna go fishing this evening. The handle on my trailer winch rounded out and no store in town sold the handles. Mike said he thought there was one on his old trailer, so I thought I’d do that first to get all my chores done before fishing. Well, there was no handle on the old trailer carcass, so I returned home to try to rig a handle with what I had. My final decision was to use a crescent wrench to wind the winch strap in, and then find a handle or whole winch set in my garage in Juneau for next trip down here.

As I looked out to go fishing, I saw it had blown up. Not too bad, but enough for a bumpy 20 to 30 minute ride to the fishing grounds. So, I just hooked up to the boat, drove it up onto the highway so I wouldn’t wake my neighbors when I left in the morning, and called it a day. My final chore was to fix the door on the shed, which I did, and then I took the salmon out of the smoker and put it in the fridge after a taste test, which was perfect. I’ll hope to get some more fish this week so I can have a case or two of half pints of smoked canned salmon parts left over after filleting the sides for freezing.

I headed out to fish the next morning, hopeful the kicker would make fishing possible. When I got to the point, herring were on the surface, and eagles diving on them. I soon had a fish on. The drag was screaming. But when I grabbed the rod, it got off. Not long after another fish on. This one came up to the surface on a diagonal behind the boat and zip, right through the prop. Good bye flasher and king kandy. The kicker, however, was working well. My inlaws and friends showed up after 8. And then it happened. All of a sudden, the kicker just quit. Didn’t sputter or surge. Just died. And it wouldn’t start. I was drifting towards the beach, so thought I better wind up the downrigger and get the gear off the bottom. Then I saw the rod bobbing, and thought I had a rockfish on. Then it ran. That’s no rockfish. A king salmon had hit the gear on the way up or as it was drifting. Just legal. Wow. That was lucky.

Now I had to fish on the big motor again. I got a couple hours more fishing in as the big motor had had time to cool all the way down while I was on the kicker, so took a long time to get hot.

Back to the dock. I remembered to bring my knives, and butchered the salmon on the nice cleaning stations here. I brined the collars and bellies and put them in the smoker, then vac packed the fillets. As I vac packed them, a knife fell off the counter and I felt a pain on the top of my foot by my big toe. I thought the butt of the knife had landed there. A few seconds later, I looked down after moving my foot, and saw blood on the floor. Turns out that pain was the tip penetrating my skin. I took off the sock expecting the worst, but it was a tiny puncture. Put a bandaid over and the sock back on and all was good.

Then to work on the motor. The motor died so quickly I thought maybe it was some kind of ground from a wire that got in the wrong place when I was working on it yesterday. I removed a spark plug and left if in the spark plug wire next to the block to check for spark. I tried disconnecting the kill switch. Still no spark. I scavenged the coil from the dead motor at Chets, and still no spark. Then I got online and looked for threads of repairs similar to this one. A boater had what sounded like exactly what happened to me, and said he changed the CDI computer module and that fixed it. I went back and scavenged that off the old motor. The CDI has lots of wire connections to it, so I carefully unplugged a wire from the old one and into the new one, one at a time. The outboard fired right up. That was it!

My neighbor said he had a bear to find a meat home for. The Contehs were plugged, so I texted my former co worker who grew up here and she was all over it. I quartered the bear and got it out to Ak Seaplanes freight so I would be able to fish tomorrow and not have to worry about it.

Well, another low after a high last evening repairing the kicker. When I got out fishing, it would not start. It would fire, and run a bit, but not keep going. So I tied off a bucket on each side to slow the boat, and trolled on the big motor, keeping it at 900 RPM to avoid overheating. Mid morning, I wasn’t paying attention, got to shallow water, turned hard to port, gunned the motor so the weights would swing back. But this time I was too late. The troll wire broke the bungee at the end of the downrigger shaft, then went under the boat, wrapped in the prop, seizing the engine. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time this has happened, so I threw out the anchor and got to work. Both wire and the soft ganion line backing from the downrigger reel were wrapped. I put the spoon end of the cleaining knife in the end of the pike pole, and used it to reach out with the knife to cut the ganion. I was able to retrieve the free end of the wire, and hauled in the wire, leads and fishing gear by hand. Didn’t lose anything except the tattle tale bell from the bungee that broke.

I patiently worked unwrapping the ganion and wire from the prop, and finally got it all clear. I pulled the anchor, and motored out. I dropped the gear in from the other side, and just fished one side for awhile while I straightened out the wire and gear for the other. Soon I had that gear out too.

I fished from about 415 am to noon without a bite. I know having to fish faster than I wanted may not have helped, but I didn’t see any commercial or sport trollers catch a fish around me so not sure how much an effect it had. Mikey and Cheryl caught 2 power trolling, so there were a few fish out there.

On the way to the house, I stopped and took the carb off the dead motor, as I know Chet and Sal had cleaned that out and had that motor running. I swapped carbs, and it fired right up. I let it idle for a good 10 minutes without it missing a beat. Maybe the CDI needed to match the carb. We’ll see if it will run tomorrow.

Heavy fog on Tuesday morning. I decided I’d see if  could get to the pressure control valve on the big motor and if so, see if Chet had the part. Turns out, it is easy to get to. And, Chet had the part. This was the last thing to change cheaply in the engine cooling system before the dreaded exhaust repair, which has already been done once. I replaced the valve, and by then, the fog had lifted, so I headed out fishing.

When I started the outboard, the pee stream from the engine was not any stronger. So, not a vote of confidence that it was the valve I replaced. The big engine never overheated today, but I didn’t have it at low idle for long enough to know one way or the other.

I put the gear down at the cross. Mike was out there, too. He had caught a couple fish already this morning.

The kicker started right up, and when i got shallow, I started the big motor, gunned it with a hard turn to port, and this time I lost the wire on the starbard downrigger, along with the 70 dollar cannon ball and 40 dollars worth of lures and flashers. I decided to just fish the other side, which I did the rest of the day.

The kicker ran flawlessly for about 4 hours. Then just quit. Just like the day before. Only this time, it would restart, so it wasn’t a spark problem, but a fuel problem. By now it was really lumpy with west wind that wasn’t forecast. I kept going down wind, and Mike said to go back into Trocodero, which I did, and it was much nicer back there. I started to check the fishing gear, and when I cranked up the gear,  it was really hard to crank up the wire. I got up to the last spread, and then realized the last hooks had hooked up with something. The wire I lost!  I couldn’t figure out what was going on at first. Then realized that the wire was wrapped in the big prop, which I didn’t notice, because it wasn’t visible when I checked right after I lost the wire, and it hadn’t wrapped tight to kill the engine. I yarded all the mangled wire up, and got back my  cannon ball and all the gear. Only loss was the wire. No big whoop.

I realized now I had to come up with another plan or just not hand troll from this boat. I realized Kurt was right – I need to move the downriggers to the rear of the boat so the wires can’t get in the prop. I can still use them forward for sport fishing, but need to put them to the rear for hand trolling. I fished the rest of the day and shook an undersize ling cod and a little rockfish, but never ran into a salmon. I think it’s time to button up the container and head home to Juneau.