Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Finally Some Fish: AK2008 Day 3

other boat As I noted in an earlier post about this Alaskan saga, it was hard to get photos showing the height of the rollers, as they called the waves out there in Cook Inlet. The photo above, of a relatively nearby fishing boat, is what we probably looked like as we rolled up and down, and as we got about the business of fishing.

BTW, I don't know if halibut fishing qualifies as an actual Alaskan Experience, in capital letters. I'd have to ask an Alaskan about that. I know that any bear encounter in Alaska qualifies. Fortunately, I haven't had any of those, except when inside a vehicle (and while Outside Alaska on the Alcan). And those were black bears, anyway, not giant grizzlies (a nice black bear picture here at Geotripper). In Alaska, I've only had encounters with grizzly tracks and grizzly scat.
poles Back to fishing. First, you get down these huge fishing poles - or, rather, the deckhand working up there for the summer gets down the huge fishing poles - and then you jam them into some pole-holder-thingies on the sides of the boat. You don't hold the poles. The poles and fish are too large for that, and if you got a fish on while holding a pole, you'd soon lose both pole and fish. (At least that's how we did it - I can't tell for sure about the guys in the blue boat above.)
fishing stuff Before putting the poles in place, the deckhand has gotten them all rigged up with the appropriate gear. He puts a smallish fish on each line for bait, then you reel it down until the bait is sitting on the bottom, however far down that happens to be. I, personally, couldn't tell when the bait reached the bottom.

After awhile, in fact immediately, you will get a halibut on the line. The captain or deckhand says, "You've got one on!" Then you are supposed to let it eat and swallow the bait completely, without letting it take too long. You are not supposed to reel too soon to set the hook, as in regular river-type fishing; the halibut is supposed to set the hook itself. If you reel in too soon, you won't have a fish. If it nibbles awhile and you reel in too late, you won't have a fish. I totally could not get the hang of this! So by the time they would say to reel in, it would be too late. Or, thinking that I had it figured out, finally, I'd go ahead and reel in, then the captain (especially, the deckhand was more patient or pragmatical) would act all exasperated and go help someone else. Eventually, though, with the help of the deckhand, I finally pulled in two halibut. But give me silver salmon, any day!

We all caught our limit of two. That was eight 20-30 pound halibut for our group of four (MOH, my parents, and myself). We spent from about 10:30 am AKDT to about 12:10 pm AKDT catching our fish. So, that's get there: 1.5 hours; fishing: 1.5 hours; and then, head back.
fish in box As you are catching the fish, the deckhand is putting them in a large metal box in the center of the back deck.
water on fish When fishing is all wrapped up and when things are all put away, the deckhand spends some time throwing water around to clean things up, including putting a bunch of water all over the halibut, to keep them cold.
Here, above, we have turned around in order to pull up the anchor, so we can hightail it back to shore.
Ah, shore. Does it look familiar? Well, it looked quite familiar to us, lighthouse and everything. With all the rollers pushing us from behind, it took us a lot less time to get back, from about 12:10 pm AKDT to 1:00 pm AKDT: about 1.5 hours going out v. less than 1 hour coming back in.
Seagulls, boats, and boatmen await our arrival on the beach at Deep Creek.
Land! I'm standing on it! No more rolling around!
As we come in, another one goes out.
Here are a couple views of the fish we caught. Big halibut strung up on this post would touch the ground. We caught a bunch of "chickens" - small, but good-eating halibut.
A second look at the white side of our halibut with captain for scale.
Our three largest fish, maybe 30-pounders or so.
And then we're done! So we drive north on the Seward Highway toward Kenai, stopping at the first coffee place, called Electric Beach Tanning & Espresso.
Then, after a long afternoon of cutting and processing fish, we have some beer in the evening, one of my favorites: Alaskan IPA.

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