It was stormy in Chatham this morning. I heard the wind blowing and gusting all night. In the morning I heard Joe get up. Heard him haul the anchor, and drive out into Chatham. I felt us driving into the weather for few minutes, checking to see if it was fishable, then felt the boat turn around and head back to the anchorage. Once it was calm and quiet again I got up and Joe was already sound asleep, snoring in his bunk. The name of the bay we are anchored in is Security, perfect.
A few hours later we took our fish over to the tender. Every 3-4 days we carefully unpack the fish we have caught, cleaned, and packed in ice. Norman and his crew repack them in ice and take them to town. We get more ice, fresh water for our drinking water tank and a check. As we leave they give us each ice cream! I would say the ice cream is the best part but that isn’t really true. It is always motivating to get a check and it is nice to see a few friendly faces. Ocean gets off the boat for a few minutes, even if it is just to another boat!
August has been pretty mixed up for us, lots going on for us and not all of it was fishing. Fishing takes 24-7 energy and focus. The Caribou crew is pretty glad to see September roll around.
On the 21st we arrived in Sitka at midnight and set the anchor. On the 23rd April and Joe dropped me off on a floatplane heading to Port Alexander. I was lucky, it was the first clear day of the month, plus, just me and the pilot were on the plane so I got to ride in the front seat. When I got to Port Alexander, Finn, Odin, and Torin came down to the floatplane dock (which is just a extension to the regular dock) to greet me. Finn, Odin, and my Aunt Kaiti were visiting from Chico. They were staying in the upstairs of my grandparent’s cottage (in Port Alexander we call it the cottage), my grandparents were staying in the downstairs. That day we played outside on the beach all day. That night we had sushi for dinner. For the whole time I was there, I slept at Sage and Torin’s house. On my 3rd day there, we were playing on the beach when this farmer/fisherman named Jamie came by the lodge and dropped off 3 black and white ducks for Sage and Torin to care for. They already had a brown, black, and white duck so there was almost one for everyone to take down to the beach to feed sand fleas.* The next day was Odin’s 8th birthday. In honor of his birthday, we had a beach fire and hot dogs for dinner and a white cake with stripes of berry filling shaped like a poop emoji. It was the best cake ever. On the 28th, April and Joe came to Port Alexander. The next day we left to go fishing.
*Sorry, the picture equipped with this entry is outdated. The duck in this picture has passed away, but it has similar coloring to the black and white ducks I mentioned above.
We started this trip with sea lions in the morning and orcas in the afternoon. Sea Lions are hard to fish around, they pluck the fish off our lines and are very destructive to the gear. Orcas are lovely to fish around, we don’t see them very often so it is a real treat.
We trolled to the fishing area that had been our destination but rather than anchor and try our luck in the morning plans changed and we charged off in the sunset. Really. It was one of the few sunsets that we have seen this summer. It was gorgeous and Ocean and I watched for the green flash as it set over the Pacific. We ran for a couple hours then Joe turned off the engine right where we were. A flat calm night is a good excuse to drift instead of anchor, get far enough offshore to not drift onto it but close enough to stay out of the cruise ship lane. We woke up to see a little sun on the glacier. There we were fishing below an enormous glacier carving its way to the beach. We found a spot to fish a whole 4 days. Making a full trip. Much better than last short trip and always easier when you are on the fish.
Last night I went to bed exhausted. I woke up with the Advil bottle right next to my pillow. We were tied to the fuel dock in Sitka waiting for morning fuel. Luckily fuel dock first thing is late compared to troller first thing so in addition to a free tie up we got to sleep in. We fished cohos for 3 days then decided it was time for an area change. But we were also exhausted, more worn out than we should have been after the first 3 days of relatively easy fishing. Exhaustion is a trolling reality that we need to adjust to again. Finding the fine line between just enough sleep and non-stop fishing. The line between days fished and days off. Enough days fishing to make money but enough days off to keep on fishing. I ran into a first year fisherman in the hall today and we had a discussion about finding your own pace. Then he told me about his elbow aches. I probably should have told him how I had to ice my hands after the first day and sleep with an Advil bottle but it isnt big news, just a troller reality. Tonight I am being gently rocked to sleep in a beautiful anchorage near a new fishing grounds counting the fish we haven’t caught yet. Tomorrow we will find out if it is still the big smash or maybe it is yesterday’s big smash. All I need is for us to find our troller pace and have a healthy, safe and fishy 5 day trip.
July 1: After all the excitement and anticipation the first day was a bit of a mediocre let down. It was so slow in the afternoon I had time to finish the book I was reading.
July 2: The standout for us. We didn’t expect much after the first days dismal performance but for lack of a better idea had decided to stick and stay. By 10 am we had what we had the day before. By the end of the day we doubled it. Monkey got his sea legs. He started eating and drinking again. That was a relief. At noon the 3 day fog and drizzle blanket finally broke and at sunset we saw a little pinky orange sky.
July 3: On the third day we learned it would close at midnight on the fourth day. So to make the most of it we fished a “morning” spot, then stacked it and ran to an “evening” spot. It worked out ok but we almost missed the “sleeping” spot.
July 4: We still had a decent scratch right where we were. At dusk Joe decided he could finally pull the gear in and let his favorite fishery be over until the second one in August. We anchored, slept in and sold our fish to our favorite tender. By dinner we were tied to the dock in PA and Ocean was roasting hot dogs with his cousins. Short and sweet would be a good way to sum up the opening.
There’s only one way to leave town. Fill the boat up with ice. Untie the lines. Idle out of the harbor and stow the fenders because we won’t be needing them for awhile. Put down the poles. Say goodbye to friends via text because it isn’t really goodbye but rather, “good luck to you and see you in a week.” Then it is finally time to decide, left or right and how far to go tonight.
We are all a little nervous. There are plenty of things to worry about. Where to fish? how to manage the upcoming weather? did we bring enough ice? did we bring enough food? what’s a young kid going to do? how’s an old dog going to do? how am I going to do? We are starting out on an important opening for king salmon and there are a lot of variables.
Now we are anchored in the lee of an island having a quick dinner and stowing the last minute things from Sitka before we go out on the ocean. Dinner of gourmet tuna loin, ore-ida onion rings and quick cooking white rice. Kind of weird but it was what we could get our hands on easily. And to be honest I’m not really tasting anything. Then it was a rush off to bed for me, rush to get a little sleep. Joe will get the boat going and run for a few hours. Then he will get me up (probably with a delicious hot cup of coffee) for the night watch. Summer fishing has started. Sleep will be scarce and the food will be weird but the 3 of us will keep this boat together and hopefully, gracefully, catch some fish.
We found a good patch of beach asparagus. It was fresh and not too much grass mixed in. We steamed it and smothered it with butter for dinner. No need to add salt, this was just about the high tide line on the beach.
We fished our first opening on Thursday and Friday. I’ll just get it over with, the fishing wasn’t a highlight for us. It was slow. The weather was the other low light. Wind and rough tidal chop drove us to anchor early the first day. Spring rain showers all day Friday. Joe reminded me that Little Port Walter, where we had anchored for the night, often records the most rainfall in North America
So the highlights. Just getting started is exciting. We got gear in the water and looked for fish. Day 2 was calm enough for us to enjoy life on board. I was able to really appreciate every fish I cleaned. The first one had a baby rockfish in its belly. The second one was definitely a hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin. The Sixth was long and skinny. At number six we were feeling a little nervous then bing, bang, boom. We were up to nine. When you are trolling it is the little things that you really notice.
By the afternoon Ocean had dug into the “to do on a calm day” duffle. Out came the bead weaving kit from the Juneau Salvation Army. He spent the whole afternoon figuring out the complicated instructions and what was left of the hand me down kit. He started and finished a bracelet with his own beaded pattern of a sunset.
Larch Bay was our destination. It is on the ocean side of Baranof Island and a long brushy hike from PA. We got as far as the muskeg on the ridge, the west wind was blowing rain over from that side so we decided to stay on the Chatham side and beachcomb our way home. It was a tough decision because Larch is famous for collecting glass balls over the winter. We found a few interesting things as we walked slowly home on the beach, an otter skull, a couple of unique plastic floats, shards of a glass ball, a deer antler and a life ring from Panama.