Something different happened yesterday.
It all started when I came home from fishing Saturday night, and had a couple of halibut to clean. There were six ladies from my home state of Minnesota staying in our Moose Manor apartment – so I invited them out to watch me clean the fish. They grabbed a drink, and surrounded my cleaning table. One thing lead to another, and soon, they were wanting to go out with me the next day. As it turned out, my schedule was open – as I only entertain our guests from Majestic View, and no one had taken me up on Sunday as of yet.
You must know, this isn’t my typical trip. Usually, I am entertaining couples, or parents and children, or best friends who are traveling companions. Rarely is it more than three or four people, though my record number of people in the boat is 9 – yes, NINE!
Ladies tend to be a little more work. What? We’re going out on the ocean? Spur of the moment? Wait! I didn’t plan for this!
Some adventurous sorts were all over it. Others weren’t so sure. Questions abound. How cold will it be? How windy? How wavy? Do I need a license? How do I dress? What if this? What if that?
I tell them what I tell everyone. I’m the captain. I do this every day – almost. You just gotta trust me! I will check the weather, the tides – and we will make our best plan. Look – then ocean is 40 degrees. And I have an open boat (best for fishing, sight seeing, and photography) and we are running around 25 mph (at times), basically, in a refrigerator! You will wear four layers on top; two on the bottom. Warm boots, hats, and gloves are in order. You can always take some off. You can’t add it if you don’t have it.
One of three things will happen:
#1. And most likely – We will go. We WILL have a blast the entire time.!
#2. We will go. It will start fun, but get crappy, rainy, windy – so we will come in early. This is YOUR trip. I have no agenda. I want you happy. Period. My making any money is completely secondary.
#3. We wake up in the morning and decide to bag it. This means you MUST come back to Alaska next year and go fishing with me. It’s that simple.
Are you okay with one through three? I am.
Well, #1 happened. I wasn’t so sure it would. The girls were up late partying. Drinking alcohol around the campfire. Laughing and giggling. Eating raw halibut cheeks with salt and pepper (that was my doing). Eating s’mores. The works. Then they retired to their room for Aromatouch Therapeutic Massage before bed – compliments of my wonderful wife Maria. Maria rolled into bed with me about 1 am. I wondered if the girls would be up for fishing the next day – but come 8:00 am, there they were, asking for me, and wanting to make a plan. These girls were gamers!
We left the harbor at 11 am. Packed em in like sardines! Grandpa otter was there in the harbor, sleeping, floating lazily in the docking area. We pulled up right beside him. Our official photographer Lindsey snapped photos furiously. I took a couple with my cell phone. Grandpa? He just did what he always does. Too lazy to get his feet wet, he pumped his tail to get a few more feet between us. Soon, it was time to move on.
The ladies took photos of the boats as we left the harbor – for there is such a variety, perhaps more than anywhere else. Pleasure boats of all sizes. Sailboats. Dingies. Rubber rafts and zodiacs. Aluminum boats. Steel boats. Wooden boats. Landing craft. Famous boats from The Last Frontier and Deadliest Catch. Commercial gill netters, purse seigners. Crab boats. Massive landing crafts. Barges. Tug boats. USCG cutter and work boats. Ferries and Cruise ships. We’ve got em all.
The tide was nearly slack and I needed to kill a little time. I need current to bring in my fish – so, we took a spin over to Gull Island – the national bird sanctuary. There, we played with more sea otters wrapped up in the kelp. The ladies especially enjoyed the mother otters with the fuzzy babies held tight around their necks as they floated effortlessly on their backs. The ladies also enjoyed juvenile and mature eagles – one of which stood still on a cliff right above our heads, daintily eating from the nest of it’s victim – a Kittiwake (don’t worry, there are thousands more where that one came from)! A harbor seal presented itself, as did a dozen or so Tufted Puffins, thousands of Common Murres, and a few Guillemots and Marbled Murrelets. Even the hideous Cormorant (birds shouldn’t have teeth, but these do), when mature and in the proper light, can show their unique iridescent purple/blue/green heads, necks and backs – and we tried to appreciate these as much as we could 🙂
Some fisher ladies were getting restless with all the fishing time spent looking at birds – so we skedaddled for a fishing spot. It was blowing hard – more than a typical morning, and I didn’t like the way it looked. Too much bouncing, twisting and turning when affixed to the bottom with an anchor – makes for possible sea sickness. I have a pretty good record for preventing this – only two people in 6 years have gotten sick with me. Here’s how we did it.
With 3-4 foot waves coming into my fishing spot from the south, we hid behind a 200 foot barge that was moored east and west. In the lee of the barge, I anchored the “Late Lying Maria” (the unofficial name of my boat), and we commenced fishing.
Not really knowing the ladies too well, yet,\ – right or wrong – these were my first impressions:
Funny how the lady who seemed the most apprehensive about the trip, and the least experienced fisherwoman, got off to the best start. Deb was the first to get bites. She was “on point”, ready to set the hook, and catching several flounder. She giggled, laughed, and overall, seemed pretty excited.
Annie seemed the most experienced. She dished out some instructions, trying to help the others. She caught the first halibut, and several flounder. She went through ALOT of bait. That’s good. I like being busy.
Lori was the most improved. She began by getting snarls in her reel. Not setting the hook. Fishing without bait. That sort of thing. But by the end, she was “crossing their eyes” with her hookset – pulling up many flounder, and God only knows how many Irish Lord. Seriously, I think she caught the same one 3 times, and that takes talent! By the end, no more snarls.
Julie? I felt bad for her. She was up current, in the bow of the boat. The only way she got any fish was if one circled from the side, or if one of the other ladies “let one get by.” She never complained. She was happy to see the other ladies catching fish. She took the most uncomfortable spot on our tour. She was just all around easy going. So, I gave her the heaviest pole. She didn’t know it, but she was set up to not get as many fish. The jig and the bait was bigger. But, she also had the best chance of getting a BIG fish with her big bait. And it happened. She hooked up. She was up there, fighting it, and not saying much. I was busy tending to all the other women in the stern. Finally, I looked up, and knew instantly that she had a halibut. I reached for the net, rushed to the front, and looked over the side just in time to witness the halibut shake it’s head and spit the hook. I shoved the net down to scoop, just a second to late. Sorry Jules!
Dawn is the reason all of this happened anyway. She is a friend of Maria’s, has a home in Soldotna, and is a fellow Zumba instructor. Dawn had a car accident recently. With broken hand bones and a cast on her right hand, she needed to take care of that – so she mostly just watched, enjoyed, kept unattended poles from going overboard, and took photos and video. Fishing or not, she played an important part!
Last but not least, Lindsey couldn’t decide whether to fish, or photograph the wildlife that hung around the boat. Otters came by, working the bottom for crabs, shrimp, sea urchins, starfish, and whatever they could find to eat. A harbor seal appeared twice, just down current, periscoping as it checked us out. Then came the eagle, flying from shore circling the boat just over our head, and perching nearby on the barge as it looked for its opportunity. I soon decided that Lindsey would rather photograph than fish. Regularly, she dropped her pole to grab her camera. And you know what, she also caught the biggest halibut. Late in the trip, she set the hook, and I knew right away that there was some weight to this fish. With some coaching, she steered the fish a round the other poles, and the two engines at stern. She learned to pump the rod up, and reel down. Soon, we had a 32″ halibut in the net! There was much excitement, high fives, and then everyone was “on point.” Linsdey wanted to own that fish. I mean all aspects. She was taking it home. She was showing it to her boyfriend, and his family. Heck, she even wanted to clean it! I thought that was really cool 🙂
There was a dinner engagement planned in Soldatna – and everyone was having so much fun, that NOONE wanted to leave. We pushed it as far as we could. We even thought up lies and excuses. Unfortunately, we had to pull anchor and go.
On the way home, one of the ladies asked me if I ever get sick of guiding, and fishing. You know, sometimes when I have gone ten or fifteen days straight, my body, my mind, and my poor hands just need a break. But honestly, I never tire of seeing the joy on the face of people who spend time in my boat. I never tire of using the talents that God himself gave me, so that I can make this happen. And, I really feel no need to fish. I’ve done it all. This is all about YOU. I get more joy and satisfaction from helping YOU to succeed, than I ever would in doing it myself. Thanks ladies, for going out with me. I had a blast!
Have a reservation with us? I hope you book a trip with me. Don’t have a reservation with us? Well then, maybe you should.
Just remember, This Could Be You, AT Majestic View!