After I pitted the cherries from Haines last week, I put them in colendars to catch the juice like I do for salmon berries. This makes vac packing the berries easier without so much liquid. I thought I’d try my first batch of jelly ever. I’ve made tons of jam, but never tried jelly. I had 10.5 cups of cherry juice. I added 15 tsp of lemon juice and 11 tbs of no sugar ball pectin according to the Ball website recipe. I bought this to a rolling boil, added 1 cup of sugar, and boiled another minute, then put the jelly in 13 half pint jars and canned it in a boiling bath. The bottom of one of the jars broke, so I lost a 1/2 pint of jelly. Crap. I had 1/2 a pint extra of the jelly, and put that in a little plastic cup. It looked like it was going to set up great when I put it in the fridge. It was set up a few hours later, and tasted freakin’ excellent.
Andrew, Samuel and Gloria came over to help package the salmon tonight. I pulled each fish from the flake ice, rinsed the ice off, cut it into steaks, and put the steaks in a colendar basket. The Contehs put the pieces in the vac pack bags and ran the packer. Didn’t take all that long at all with so many hands. After we finished, I helped Gloria with a class project by teaching her several knots – bolen, blood knot, and others I don’t know the names of. Gloria will graduate from high school this year, and her expatriate family in the lower 48 will attend so now we know there will be salmon for them as with the low king salmon returns, finding salmon in May can be tough. I vac packed the cherries I’d pitted on the ferry, and bagged up 8 cups of juice, too. After the Contehs left, I pitted the rest of the cherries. Ellen called earlier on her way to moose camp north of Delta with Brian and Howard, and said she’d love some cherries so I’ll get plenty to her on her way back.
Ron and I went on our annual subsistence sockeye salmon fishing trip to Haines over Labor Day. I picked up ice at the fish processor the day before. I picked up Ron at 5 am on Monday and we drove out to the ferry office. We picked up our tickets, then drove to our assigned lane to get on the ferry. Lots of people heading to Haines. Some to go moose hunting up north. Others likely ending their seasonal jobs and driving home either north or south from Haines. The Chilkat River had been behind in reaching its escapement goal early in the season, but then things picked up late and escapement was okay. So we thought we might get lucky with these late fish. It was a flat calm ride to Haines. The weather is still warm. In the 60s. Also on board were 3 retired biologists from ADF&G who Ron had worked with. I knew them all. Lots of stories over breakfast. They’ve been moose hunting together for decades and this was not our first year coincidentally traveling with them on the same ferry to Haines. We arrived at Roy’s house, hooked up the trailer, and headed for the river. Ron had tied up a new net using an old commercial net and we were excited to try it. We got to the river by 2 pm. The fall colors of the cotton woods was spectacular- yellows and reds – with that cottonwood smell wafting about. And no one else was on the river. The Chilkat River and its valley are among my favorite places in Alaska. We got 6 sockeye in each of our first two drifts. Ron ran the boat and I fished the net. Then only two more on subsequent drifts so we called it a day at 14 fish. We broke a gill on each fish and placed them in a tote of water to bleed out. Then I rinsed each fish and placed them in a cooler with ice to keep till we could get back to Roy to clean them. We dressed the fish at Roys and iced them. I then started cherry picking. Roy and Brenda had not picked at all this year, so this was the first year I could mostly pick the low hanging berries from the ground without a ladder. I picked till nearly dark and got about 4 gallons. Brenda is a great cook, and made us dinner of halibut, beets from their garden, and rice. We got up first thing the next morning and were at the river not too long after sunrise. No one else on the river. We got 8 keepers our first pass. Seven the next. And 6 sockeye and a coho the next. The last pass we got a bunch of spawning sockeye and chums so we called it a day. Ron thought maybe others had been fishing before us the day before and that was why it was slower. I doubted that, but later on the ferry I heard others saying they’d been fishing so realized Ron was probably right. We were back to Roy’s late in the morning. We did the same routine as Monday. We pressure bled and dressed all the fish, then put them in the ice. I resumed cherry picking and got several more gallons. At some point I realized I wasn’t going to pick all the cherries and had picked most of the easier ones I could get up to with Roy’s little step ladder, so called it a year. I took the fish guts to the river, dropped off our fishing permits with the fish totals to ADF&G in Haines, then went to the ferry terminal to get my lane assignment. When I got back to Roy’s, Ron was packed up and ready to go. We got lunch at the Bamboo Room. As usual, the waitress was exceptionally pleasant like the rest of Haines. We had time to kill before meeting the ferry so we drove up to Chilkoot Lake. I’d never been out there. After seeing no concentration of people much in Haines, after a several mile drive out the road, we found a crowd of people on the Chilkoot River. They were standing right in the road, taking photos. Must be bears somewhere. Sure enough, at the fish counting weir, a sow and two big cubs were doing their thing with the salmon. There were people everywhere, except for a buffer zone on either side of the weir. And unlike the rest of the roads around Haines, this one was in terrible condition, with pot holes everywhere. This place is begging for a bear viewing stand to get people off the road for safer crowd control and a better experience for the viewers. The gawkers really had no other place to stand with a tiny shoulder off the road that slid off to the river. I knew the ferry was booked solid with vehicles so wasn’t sure if I wanted to pit cherries on the way home. I parked the truck, then went up and saw what kind of crowd was on board. It was pretty full, but not too bad, so I went down and grabbed a pile of cherries and the pitter. I pitted all the cherries in a few hours, and really liked the pitter. As always, people like to stop and chat about cherries and the season and Haines. When I got home and tried a few cherries, I realized many still had the pits in them. The pitter was not getting all of them. So I will have to squeeze them when I package them to see if I can detect pits and then be careful eating the pies or jam when I get to making something from them. So, 35 sockeye, a big coho and 5+ gallons of cherries in 24 hours in Haines, America. Already looking forward to next year.
Jeff took me fishing today in the channel. The south end of the channel is right across from our house. The north end is out near where we launch our boat. We got there about 2 hours after low tide in our chest waders with spinning gear. You can wade across the channel at that time. As the tide continues to flood, you look north and here come the cohos with the tide. First you see them jumping a 1/3 of a mile away, then a 1/4 mile, and soon they are jumping where you are as the tide floods. We cast Pixie spoons, tee-spoon spinners, and a sort of vibrax spinner. I caught 1 big one, 1 smaller jack, and lost 3. It’s over in about 2 hours. The tide moves you back towards the woods and the fish just seem to quit biting. That’s something I haven’t done in a long, long time. And good exercise, too. Much better than the 12 ounce curls and junk food eating you do on the boat. A good hike and even better hike out if you catch fish and are carrying them out, too. It is a bluebird day here in Juneau. Dry and in the 60’s and the smell off fall in the air. Off to Haines, America tomorrow on the ferry with Ron to Roy and Brenda’s on the annual sockeye subsistence fishing and cherry picking run, so the next shore fishing will have to wait till next weekend.
Today I ran 4 trips on the whale watch boat. I had 4 outstanding guides doing science trips where we pull a pot looking for invasive green crabs on the way out to watch whales, and then do a plankton tow as well. I rarely do this trip and the guides who do these are really good. All 20 to early 30 somethings who are really good with people. And, the people who did the trips were keyed up as soon as they got on the boat to do some “science”, as were their kids. We watched a group of 13 whales bubble net all day. And during each of the 4 trips, at least 1 of the full-grown whales came full-out of the water and breached. One one trip, 3 breached. One after the other. Never seen that before. What a great day.
I dropped off 21 lbs of fish for one of my longest-buying customers last week for filleting and freezing at a local processor, Jerrys, who processes most of the fish I sell to people in town. Only I had written down that my customer wanted it smoked. So, she picks up her order and it’s smoked. She leaves it there and lets me know the error. Now I own 20 lbs of smoked fish, including the processing fees. Which, if you are going to make a mistake, is a nice way to lose money when you at least gain fish, rather than just losing money. So, my customer says – “Can you take 20 lbs more out to get it filleted and packed. Plus 10 more lbs. to make 30 lbs total”. I say sure. In a panic I call Winston to see if the boat has come in and if they have any extra sockeye. “Sure” he says. I get the 30 lbs of sockeye and take it to Jerrys. I check in my customers fish to be filleted and frozen. Then I ask the clerk if I can pick up the errant smoked fish so I can pay for the processing. Scott – the owner – brings out two boxes of smoked fish himself and says “hows that”. The box has a “paid” sticky note on it with my name, as he knew the situation. He didn’t charge me anything for him butchering and smoking the fish. Hows that for good people. I screw up an order. I get 20 lbs of smoked fish for it, and a reorder for 30 lbs. Then the processor doesn’t even charge me for the filleting and smoking. Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s Juneau. But whatever it is, it’s good to be good people and know good people.