One Great Day of Fishing!

  • It’s still early in the season so we were surprised and thrilled to have a great day fishing yesterday! After 3 days of 20 knot northwest wind, we thought  the fish schooling up in the open ocean might be blown into the river–we were right. On Tuesday we caught several hundred red salmon and one lovely little king. There were also a few dog (or chum) salmon mixed in. Fish and Game opened fishing through the afternoon and late evening and we had great weather the whole time. No sun, but at least very little wind. After fishing from just after noon we finally pulled the net just before midnight and ran the skiff back to the cabin for a good meal and a good night’s rest. Our hands hurt from pulling the cork line over the side (many of the other fishermen have hydraulic rollers but we are all manual labor), and the creases in our fingers hurt from where the net catches us when we remove salmon from the net. We ate well, talked about the day and went straight to bed after putting bag balm on our sore hands.

    This is called a barrel knot and is used for lines that need to be released under extreme tension.

    This morning we were thankfully able to sleep in since Fish and Game didn’t open fishing again until this afternoon. We got up at noon, powered down some breakfast and started the daily ritual of pushing the dingy (small boat) down the long mud and sand beach to the water, which is very far off at low tide. I love absolutely everything about my summers at fish camp except this one activity. But, I am trying to make my peace with it and may one day be able to find it zen-ish. The problem is that the dingy weights about 250 pounds and we often have to push it 1,000 feet or more. While it slides on mud, we have to use rollers to get it to move across the sand and gravel. We feel like ancient Egyptian slaves moving rollers from the back of the boat and placing them in the front all the way down the beach. I imagine masters with whips screaming at me and flogging me as I push, pull and heave the mass of aluminum and outboard engine down the beach.

    Once we got to the water, we motored out to our large skiff with the fishing gear and set out for our fishing site upriver. We arrived early (the fishing opened at 2:30pm) so we stood around in the shallows holding the boat and chatting, waiting for the fishing to open. Once 2:30 rolled around, we jumped in the skiff and motored out to sea with one end of the net attached to anchors on shore and the net coming out of the back of the boat as we went. It can be hard setting the net in fast current so we have to work together to make sure I am not being set down current too far. Obie looked back at the shore while I drove and told me which way to tend. Once the net was out of the boat and the bridle clanked overboard, I ran forward and grabbed one anchor while Obie grabbed the other. We made sure out feet were clear of lines, then we both tossed the anchors and their chains in the sea before the rest of the lines came tight. From there we circled back around to tow the net out so it’s straight (perpendicular to shore).

    Unlike yesterday though, the fishing today was not very good and we had just 30 salmon to show for 8 hours of work. Still, they were lovely, big, Ugashik River salmon and we were happy to have them. We will smoke some of them tomorrow but we have to harvest and chip some wild alder for the smoker first.

    Obie fell asleep on some brailer bags while we waited for the salmon to show up.

    My father cooked up the small king from yesterday for dinner tonight and it was amazing. He cooked it very simply by marinating it for 1 hour in Yoshida’s (a brand of Asian sauce like soy sauce) then poached it for less than 10 min in a cast iron pan in the oven in the same sauce. Subtle and perfect. The flavor of the sauce is very light and it compliments the king perfectly. We also had a salad but the fresh veggies will be gone soon. Its always odd being in a place with no stores. When you’re out of something you brought in with you, you’re out of it for good. Thankfully my mother will be able to mail us some more fresh food soon. But mailing food in rural Alaska is challenging and very often it ends up sitting around somewhere for a while before it makes it onto a plane coming this way. I planted some lettuce seeds and the little sprouts are about an inch tall already. They bend toward the window so I turn them every morning so they don’t get too crooked.

    After fishing today, I came home to find my father had cobbled together a shower stall out of scrap plywood. This may not sound very exciting but we haven’t showered in two weeks and we all need it badly. After dinner I heated some water on the stove and mixed it with cold water in a sun shower (a plastic bag with a shower nozzle protruding from the bottom). I grabbed the shower bag, clean clothes, a towel and some soap and beelined it for the funky plywood structure rattling in the wind behind the cabin. An ugly building never looked so good and tepid water was never appreciated so much.

    We think fishing might open again tomorrow so I’m off to bed.

    This is an old salmon cannery from the first half of the last century. The building has been blown down over the years but lots of wonderful wood can be salvaged from the structure. Most of this wood was milled in the NW US and is straight grain, knot-free fir. You never see wood this nice anymore. The trick is getting it from the building without the whole thing collapsing on your head! We are building a sauna with the wood.

    June 23rd, 2011 | Traveler | No Comments |

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Traveler Terpening

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