fish in a large white bucket on a boat deck

February Trap Line

A mutual friend of my nieces’ cousin called on the cousin’s suggestion. I know the mutual friend just casually through trapping correspondence, and remember he told me his sister lived in Madagascar when I was planning my work trip there.

His two boats were dead for now, and he needed to go out and check his trapline. I’d told him years ago if he ever needed someone to go along, I wanted to go to see what dryland trapping for big furbearers was all about. Did I want to take him in my boat tomorrow?  You bet, I said.

The hour was late – approaching 10 pm – as he’d already tried asking a dozen other friends, and only came to me when the cousin suggested it. Normally, I’d like to leave early on such a trip, but the boat hadn’t been out of it’s stall in over a month, and I didn’t recall just how much fuel I had. So, I told him to meet me at 8 am, in case we needed to stop at the fuel dock.

We left at 8 am, as tanks were nearly full. It’s a 3 hour ride over to the mainland where his traps are in my 6 knot boat. It was a fine winter day, with some blue patches of sky and almost calm seas.

I put him off into the punt to row ashore at his first beach trapline. I was having issues again with my charging system on the boat, so ran offshore a bit, killed the engine, and changed the V Belt. That seemed to help, and I could tell now that the other belt was stretched out, so maybe not working just right. I wasn’t sure how long he’d be, and so I dallied around the boat putting things away and such. With nothing else to do, I put out my fishing gear to see if there were any king salmon around. I fished up and down the shoreline. No action, and nothing showed for feed on the sounder.

About 2 hours after I dropped him off, I saw him come down to the beach for a spell, and eventually to the punt. He radioed that he’d row down the beach to the point, check his traps there, and be done in about 20 minutes.

The 20 minutes turned into an hour. Eventually, I saw him coming through thigh deep snow through the trees behind the beach. He would pull something out of my view towards him, trudge a few steps more in the deep snow, and pull it towards him again. When he got almost to the waterline of the snow I could see it: he’d caught a wolf. A big wolf.

He pulled the punt down to the waterline, loaded his trapping gear, then dragged the wolf to the boat and rolled it in. Out he rowed. The wolf was massive. The largest I’d seen in person. The only other wolves I’d seen were on Prince of Wales Island, and they are smaller and leaner. This wolf looked all of 75 lbs, with huge feet. I can only imagine how impressive the 100+ lbs wolves are up in Alaska’s Interior. My friend also caught 3 marten – two of which were almost jet black in color. Much darker fur than those I’d caught on Admiralty Island or down by Craig.

We motored to the second beach, and repeated the process. My friend rowed to shore, and I fished. Nothing showing for feed on the sounder along this beach either, nor any birds working. This check was shorter, and produced one marten.

I dropped him at a third beach. I almost wasn’t going to fish here since I’d seen nothing at the other two spots, but there were a few gulls on the water. They weren’t diving on feed or anything, but looked like they were there for a reason. I put the gear out – I put 50 feet of wire out and fished in about 60 feet of water. I fished out of the little cove past the point where the beach turned north, then turned back into the cove. There seemed to be some feed on the sounder here and there. And then it happened. I looked back like I had all day, and this time the rod was bouncing up and down. I immediately thought I was in too shallow of water, but the sounder showed I was not. I put the boat in neutral, and ran back and grabbed the rod. The fish was taking drag. A few more runs, and I thought it was a keeper for sure.

When I got the line tight, I cranked up the down rigger wire the line had been attached to. Then stepped over the wolf on the deck to the other rod and down rigger. I managed to get both of them up and out of the way, playing the fish as necessary in between.

I got the landing net under the fish, and the king salmon was on board. I stunned the fish, removed the hook, broke a gill, and slid the fish carefully into a bucket of seawater to bleed.

It was almost dark now, but I put the gear back out and made a pass where I caught the fish. When I didn’t hook another, I cranked all the gear up, as it was now dark. My friend was soon rowing out, the twinkle of his head lamp moving to the rhythm of the oars. We got him on board and the punt secured for the run home. He caught nothing in his traps on this beach.

Two hours later, we neared the harbor, and  stopped at his last beach. He had a couple otter sets here, but neither connected.

We got back to the harbor, long after dark, about 9 pm.

As I tied up, I thought: I’m never leaving this place.

fish in a large white bucket on a boat deck

Air Fryer Incident

So, after falling in love with the Instant Pot – a logical, I guess, from a guy who does a lot of pressure cooking canning, my buddy Kevin said he was hooked on the air fryer. So, I found one for $20 on Craigslist. From my loan officer at our bank. Small town funny.

I watched America’s Test Kitchen yesterday and they made chicken sandwiches in the air fryer. I thought – that’s a good test for fried fish.

We had all the ingredients except Panko. My friend Ken used this often as I remember. I stopped at IGA downtown to buy some. I felt this would be a 5 minute in and out. Nope. Up and down the isles I shopped. I then checked the Asian isle. Didn’t see it. I asked one of the checkers. Both she and a customer directed me to the flour and bread crumb isle. So I back tracked there and scanned back and forth again. I’m 60 now. I know it could be right in front of me and I wouldn’t notice. Sort of like Sara coming home with a new hairdo. Nope. I could not see it.

I hit every isle in the store. I went a last time down the Asian isle. Then boom. There is was. On the top shelf. Hiding itself in plain site. Panko. And luckily only 2 choices. I grabbed one, along with an apple fritter as a reward, checked out, and was on my way.

We decided to do the fish the next day – today – as Sara had a long day at the legislature. I got the ingredients together and got air frying today.

First, I cut up 4 red potatoes into wedges, then dredged them in an olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and parsley dredge till they were all coated. I put these in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

While these were cooking, I got the fish batter together. First I coated a cup of panko with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl, then microwaved them for a minute at a time to brown the panko. While I was microwaving, I mixed an egg with a tablespoon of flour and 3 tablespoons of siracchi, some garlic powder and salt and pepper.

At 10 minutes, I shook the potatoes and cooked them another 5 minutes. When they were done, I put them in a bowl and into the toaster oven on warm. I cut the bomber rockfish fillets in half, dredged them in the egg mixture, then coated them in the panko, and put each piece in the air fryer. I used up all the egg mixture and panko on 5 pieces of bomber fillet. ‘

I cooked the fish for 5 minutes at 400 degrees, then flipped the fillets over, and cooked for 5 more minutes.

We had ketchup for the potato wedges, and I made kelp relish and mayonaise tartar sauce for the fish. Sara and I both approved. An easy meal and no guessing on oil type or temperature to cook the fish and the potato wedges  (we could give a crap about whether it was “healthy” or not!).

Lots of snow in Juneau

January Snow: Storm 3

It rained what seemed like a foot this past week, and it was incredible to see how fast 3 feet of snow can melt off. The sloped part of our driveway was bare. Until yesterday at 3 pm, when the third January storm hit. Luckily, Kurt and I got in a ski just before.

We had another foot of snow overnight, but luckily we got Roy and Brenda and dogs from the airport, and Zeke, their son from Haines who arrived on the ferry, back to the house and got their vehicles up the driveway before the worst of the snow had piled up.

When everyone cleared out this morning, I put the plow back on the truck. I’d bought 2 sets of brand new tire chains on Facebook. Funny how sometimes you see an item has been on there awhile, and you say you are interested, then don’t hear back for maybe a week. Then boom – a reply that they are still for sale. I think busy people put stuff on there and don’t check responses to their ads for awhile, and maybe I was the most recent to reply and so I get the call. Anyway, the seller worked at Bobcat, so not only were there chains, but the tensioner…..and an extra tensioner. $50. For 2 pair!  And unused. They went on almost too easy. And boy, did they seem to make a difference. With the front tires biting more and slipping less, the plow seemed to dig in better. I got to plowing and it looked great when I was done. Still doesn’t take the snow right down to the gravel, and the driveway is still slippery, but my neighbor’s driveway that was plowed out by a professional wasn’t a whole lot better it didn’t seem.

There was just enough snow to shovel that I couldn’t get with the plow to rehab my hip. It’s really something how much better my hip feels. I’ve got a new outlook on things. I feel like I can pack a deer out again. I can climb through the snow again to get to the truck or the woodpile. Maybe this is what people with knee or hip replacements feel like after they get the new part in and get past the pain of rehab, which Brian is going through right now.

No long melt off in sight now. Hopefully we’ve got reliable snow for skiing for awhile.

Lots of snow in Juneau

January Snow

We got socked with snow again. Three feet of snow in a couple days. People looked sort of shell shocked when I passed them along the road as the storm progressed. Shoveling again. And again. And again, as the snow just kept coming. Many don’t have driveways you can really plow, so it’s shovel or snowblow.

I was all fine with it til I managed to bury the truck nearly to the axles in soft ground under the snow in our gravel driveway while I was plowing.  Now it was back to the shovel for me, as I’d given away the snowblower and my tow truck company’s truck was down.

When Sara got home at night, I was bushed, and a little depressed. “This is why people move south or get a condo here” I told her.

But as the storm progressed, and the shoveling went on and on, I realized: hey, this may be good for my hip.

Today was the best my hip has felt in a year and a half. The inflamed bursa finally seems to be subsiding.

I went to the boat to do the post storm shovel off. Chris checked the boat for me yesterday when he went down to check his boat, and said mine was okay, but would “need a haircut” before the rain started. When I got down there today, I saw what he meant-  the wet exhaust pipe, which is usually showing the top half of the pipe above the waterline, was all underwater. Chuck, the dock manager, had just sent me a text when I got there regarding the boat, too, to let me know it was time to get her cleaned off. I looked around and saw I was one of the last boats to get cleaned after the storm. And with my hip feeling so good, I kind of enjoyed it. And I noticed Eaton’s work painting the boat name on the bottom of the skiff pulled up on the stern of the tug has been impervious to the snow.

Weather has warmed up to freezing and supposed to be in the 40’s for a week. Ski trails should be able to weather the warm up now for a long time.

Day of Gratitude

Stopped by the shop with the crab cooking pot I cleaned from Chris’s boat. While I was there, he wanted to give me a couple quarters of deer from their hunt. We went to the freezer, he opened up an 80 lb box full  of quarters, and I grabbed a couple quarters. Chris added two more for good measure. They were beautiful. He’d glazed the whole quarters, just like you do fish.

It’s the first time I can remember I’ve been given raw meat because I didn’t get any deer myself, for the second year in a row no less. But also surprised at how grateful I am. Gives me a good sense of the gratitude others who’ve been on the receiving end of our sharing of fish and game and gathering over the years that I really hadn’t considered much until now. And Chris seemed really happy reminiscing about the success we just had getting king crab and how happy all the people that went along were – many who don’t set foot on a boat very often, much less a big platform boat like his.

Happy to be butchering meat inside with a cozy wood stove ablazing and unlimited espresso from the new machine while it’s a chilly 10 degrees outside, with sun, but that breeze on the waterfront that cuts like a knife.

deer meat on cutting board in a kitchen
Crab tail meat on a cutting board

Crab tails, coffee machines, alternators, and other life lessons

We pulled the king crab pot yesterday. I forgot on day 1 to keep the king crab tails. I kept them all yesterday, and sure glad I did. We got 8 more crab for the new people we had on board, and I saved the tails as we cleaned the crab. I steamed them when I got home, and opened each one up to get the meat out. There is a LOT of meat in a king crab tail – and 8 of them make for several crab sandwiches. The photo is of the meat from a crab tail on the left, the shell it was removed from on the right, with a Bic lighter for scale.

We had some of Chris’s crew and Sara’s staff on the boat today, along with my brother in law’s nephew and his boss from Craig, a Russian friend of the Ukranians who has lived in town a couple decades, and another friend of Chris. I had to twist Jeff’s arm to get him to give me his proxy form so I could bring one back to him. He likes to make it hard to do a favor for him.

Turns out one of Chris’s crew had worked in the alternator shop here in town, and she seemed to really know her stuff. I may get her to check out my whole 12 volt system on the tug to give me some advice to have enough juice to run the little freezer and maybe the new smoker I got for Christmas next summer. I had one of Sara’s staff, who fished and worked for Fish and Game out of Kodiak and the Bering Sea, talk to Chris about possible work at the legislature, as Chris is a wealth of fisheries knowledge and an excellent writer from his years working as a seafood consultant for his dad.

I went out to Chris’s boat today. We were careful to clean the crab well yesterday, and so I wanted to save some of the broth left in the pot from steaming them all for Chris’s daughter to use for stock. I poured some off through a strainer into a pickle container, then planned on cleaning the pot for Chris. The crab residue was frozen on, so I took the pot home with me to clean it properly.

I then went skiing at Montana Creek, and it was fantastic. But crap. I’m out of shape. It about killed me. But wonderful. Such a pretty trail that runs along beautiful Montana Creek. I was almost back to the start when Mark called. My alternator was fixed.

I stopped there on the way home, and he said that the alternator I took off was now cleaned and tuned up. And the brand new spare did not work. He asked several questions about where I got it. He showed me how it was supposed to be hooked up, which wasn’t the same hook up as the one I took off!  I may have fried the unit myself. More tuition. And it may possibly have been just a loose belt that was making the fluctuations in the charging, and nothing else. Chris’s dad Eric, who taught me to troll, told me to always suspect the simplest, easiest solution first when you have a problem. I did check to see if the belt was tight to the touch. And I thought it was. But Mark showed me how to test it properly – if I could turn the alternator pulley by hand with the engine off, the belt was not tight enough. I didn’t try that. More tuition.

When I got home, though, past tuition started to pay dividends. Sara’s espresso maker is kind of tired. I spend a lot of time trying to make it work for her (and occasionally me) properly. A person had a fancy shmancy Mr Coffee espresso latte cappuccino maker on Craigslist for 20 bucks. Said she only used it a couple times. I’ll take it, I replied. She could even deliver it when she took her kid to hockey practice. Then she got back to me and said the pick up tube for the milk was missing, so she’d just give it to me if I still wanted it. Sure!  I said.

She dropped it off, and it did look like new. I saw where the tube had broken off. When I tried finding a replacement online, I could not find any vendor that had one in stock. The tube fits into a socket, and the top part of the tube was up in the socket, but the part from end of the socket to the bottom of the milk container had somehow broken off. I took the top of the container with the socket to the hardware store, and found a piece of 5/8 inch clear tubing fit snugly over the socket (not inside of it). I paid the $1.72 for the foot of tubing, and headed home. I measured the tubing to the bottom of the tank, and needed to cut it in half to be the right length. Which was great, as now I’ll have a spare. I filled the container with water just to try it, and it worked!

I bought milk on the way home from skiing today. I poured the water out of the milk container and loaded the milk. I first tried the latte function, and out it came. First the milk. Then the espresso. Perfect!  After I finished that, I tried making a cappuccino. Same result!   I looked up the machine online, and a new one is over $300. A win.

So 1 loss and 1 win for this 60 year old this week. I’ll take it.

Crab tail meat on a cutting board