Wednesday, October 15, 2014


"Everyone should believe in something; I believe I'll go fishing." - Henry David Thoreau

Fixing the spot light
We took a six hour ferry to Juneau to meet up with Scott, an old friend of John’s, who kindly put us up for a few nights. After taking us on a really quick romp around the town and its most beautiful parts, including the Mendenhall Glacier, we pondered on taking a visit to Scott's boat. John wanted to go fishing so bad and his enthusiasm sprung a rather tired Scott to life. By 6pm we were stocked up and pulling out of the harbor into the inside passage were we headed for the fishing grounds. Watching other boats headed back in there was a realization fishing probably wouldn’t be good. We joked that the other boats saw us and were thinking we were idiots for trying. But what the hell, even the boat ride is fun and maybe we will get just a few fish. 
John and Scott

The sun left us to fend for ourselves in the dark, following only the sonar, gps, other fancy gadgets, and the spot light on the water. It was kind of an eerie feeling as you are speeding through the dark thinking you have nothing but open sea in front of you and suddenly you spot a car drive by perpendicular to the path of the boat only seeing its headlights. We had gotten close to the shore, but still a few hundred feet away and it was a strategic set up for the nets. Without landmarks for a reference if felt like that car was flying like a hovercraft.

We were on a gill netting boat, so Scott dropped the line while John drove the boat perpendicular to the shore. We waited about an hour, cooking some steaks in the mean time, before we began to reel in the net and check out our catch. Scott wore protective glasses with his rubbers because it isn’t just fish that swim into the lines, jellyfish do too. And their tentacles can flick at you as they bounce on the incoming net and sting you, as John found out the hard way. Slowly and quite spaced apart our fish were pulled into the boat, their gills tangled in the green webbing and Scott shook them out to the ground. Our first cast rounded up 7 salmon. That’s not a lot for the amount of fuel it took us to get out there, but for John and I it was fun. We cast a second time and only rounded up three, but many more jellyfish, one which got John in the eye as he tried to shake it loose from the net. The pain lasted for a few days, but he persevered through the night determined to get the full fishing experience.

The boys then began to clean. The first cleaning happened after we cast the second net. Both clad in yellow rubbers with extra tough boots became team working the gutting. The remainder of the jellyfish that actually did fall off the net before it wound up on the giant coil were pushed back to sea through a hole near the floor of the boat. Scott worked out beheading the fish, most of which had died already, and made a cut through the belly to remove the majority of the innards. I expected the process to look savage with brutish slicing, but he made it look almost artistic like he was carving a masterpiece. And he was fast. He would then toss the headless, gutless fish at John who then would rinse out and fine clean the fish with a hose connected to the sea. There were only two sets of scrubs so I became the photographer of the event, or at least that’s the reason I’m going to tell people I didn’t participate in the beheading and cleaning.  We were midnight fishing folks, something I never thought I would find myself doing.

My favorite part about going out to sea was sleeping out at sea. We found a cove with some other overnighting boats and dropped the anchor. After waiting for it to set we went to sleep with the plans to get up and try some more around 5 am. However, we woke to find our anchor was not holding us as firmly as we thought and we were drifting. After a few failed attempts to reset the anchor we decided to just head in for the wind had picked up and was making the water pretty rough. I was under the bow in the lower bunk and could feel the rise and fall, or crash at times, of the boat cutting through huge swells at sea. Where most people would become sea sick at this I found it relaxing and was able to sleep really well. Despite only getting a few hours of sleep, when I did wake up I was wide awake and excited. I blame it on the energy of the seas and enjoyed my coffee braced against the wall of the cabin looking out over the waves as Scott drove us home. What a trooper he was to take us all the way out there and drive us through the waves home, which must’ve been taxing. 

Scott donated the 10 fish to us, which we threw in two coolers with cold packs meant for shipping. Alaska Airlines immediately refrigerated our catch. Back in Portland we checked into a hotel for John and I no longer were leased anywhere. We topped off our catch with ice from the ice machine until it was time to eat them. Ten fish. Each about 8 pounds. Holy crap. If we hadn’t been so distracted by packing up everything from the storage unit we may have planned the salmon bake better, but we did our best.


John and I went to the house we had been staying at before we left to have the bake off. We knew nothing of cooking whole salmon so we stressed, sliced, watched snippets of youtube videos, sliced… I cut John’s finger trying to cut off a fin. Luckily reinforcements came in to help us and we cooked us four delicious tasting salmon. We had about 15 people gorge on our hard work. In the end we gave away 6 whole fish and left overs, including two hand deliveries of some lucky night owls. No one that night had any idea they’d be walking away with 6 pounds, or $60 worth of salmon. Some of my friends emailed me pictures of their masterpieces that came of the catch which pleased us to know nothing had gone to waste.
All the folks with their wrapped up Salmon to take home, there is one on the back of the bike

Fish so big we must wack
one another with them

Salmon baby
Lindsay's Salmon creation

Amanda and Shawn's
salmon creation

Chase's Salmon creation
The next day we got on the road with our three vehicle caravan and headed south to California where our adventure begins. We just happened to pass a town called Yolo which I managed to snag a picture of John passing by the sign in his beefed up Toyota Landcruiser. I took this as a sign that I'm on the right path. You only live once.

No comments: