Over the last year I have learned that when doing pretty much anything in this state you must plan for, what at least Cara calls, the ‘Alaska Factor.’ In addition to this, whenever I visit John and Cara I plan for the ‘Adventure Factor’ because without a doubt there will be great fun and adventure! Last Friday John’s friend, Peter, invited us to join him fishing on Saturday. Our preparations started the Friday night with packing dry bags with backup gear just in case something happened to the boat (Alaska Factor) and we had to swim to shore.
We headed out the next morning before dawn (sunrise is at 9:50 am) with fishing and emergency gear, thermoses filled with hot drinks and soup, and rum. Our destination was Whittier to fish for king salmon in Prince William Sound. Below there is a picture (taken by John) of Peter’s boat, which he built, and truck. We got the boat in the water and had a calm journey out to the first spot Peter wanted to check out. We stopped on shore for a quick look around. We could not have asked for better weather. The water was almost glass and it snowed softly all day with temperatures, if I had to guess, in the upper 20s to low 30s. Beautiful for the last days of November.
Our mode of fishing for the day was trolling with two lines in the water, one off each side. Both were setup using a down rigger with a 10 lb. weight. One line was baited with herring while the other had a green squid-like artificial bait (I can’t remember the name). Once the lines were in the water and set in tension you could feel the anticipation; everyone was waiting, watching for the moment one of the poles would spring back. Cara was at the helm dutifully announcing the depth and any blips that showed up on the fish finder in addition to observing our surroundings relative to fishing activity.
It was not but a few minutes and we had a bite! Peter started reeling and quickly declared that is was a king. I reeled in the ball and John reeled in the second line’s setup. Sadly the fish shook off the hook. We got the lines back in the water got another bite or two and landed a rockfish and tossed back a small lingcod. At one point John or Peter handed a rod to me to reel in, it was very likely a king. John later described how I slowly started to pitch forward with the rod at which point John took the rod away. He said it seemed like the fish was just going to take me down into the water. Fish are serious in Alaska.
We had one line set in the water and John and Peter were sorting out the second. When I noticed the first line bounce twice without releasing from the down rigger. “Uh, something’s happening over here,” I said loud enough for people to hear, but with caution in my voice. Peter came over and pulled the pole out of the holder, swiftly set the hook and started to fight the fish. I then reeled in the ball while John reeled in the second line and went for the net. The fish ran on Peter three times before we got a look at him. John asked Peter about the best angle/direction to approach and net the fish. Peter tried to describe the approach but decided that he and John should just switch positions! Ah! Somehow they managed to switch (I looked away. Tensions were high). Peter coached John, “Bring him up next to the boat.” Then Peter dipped the net down into the water and scooped up the king and swung it into the boat. At this point we all exhaled. I am pretty sure that in those last moments everyone was holding their breath. Giant smiles and a wave of relief broke across the four of us and high fives were passed all around. The king weighed in at 20 lbs. Below are pictures of John and me each holding the fish.
We got the lines back in the water. Threw out another lingcod, tried another spot for trolling and got nothing. We started to head back to port but then dipped into another spot. The fish were biting and we wanted another one! Within minutes we had another bite. John was reeling in the fish and I reeled in the second line. Peter had the net. We set eyes on the beast of a king on the end of the line. Peter again coaching John to get the fish up along side of the boat. This fish was a fighter. John couldn’t reel the fish in any more, the pole was bent to capacity and John was crouched and backed up agains the helm. Peter tried to net the fish and in an instant the line and the pole snapped! All jaws dropped in shock. We got the lines back in the water for a few last turns and got another bite and almost landed another king but I think it threw the hook too. We were burning daylight and the wind started to pick up; it was time to head home. We fought the wind and waves all the way back to the dock, but we had a king and a rockfish in the cooler!
All in all it was a great day of fishing with friends!