…continued from part 1:
My intention was to follow up our first Alaska fishing trip with a second this year.
Intentions, however, have a tendency to be fleeting. The rising cost of airfare, family commitments, and life in general pushed aside any still-unformed plans for a triumphant return to Alaska.
Which is when the idea of trying for salmon in the waters off Washington began to germinate.
Suggestions of a multi-day stay in Westport faded away amid concerns of storms closing down fishing. In the end, the agreement was to hire a charter to chase Puget Sound king salmon.That’s how I found myself restlessly laying in bed, not really sleeping, waiting for the alarm to buzz at 3:30 a.m. If there’s anything that makes me revert to the giddiness of childhood, it’s anticipation of a day of fishing.
It’s that same anticipation that lends an almost laughable seriousness to the pace of my preparations. I was up, fed and ready in fifteen minutes. Dad was still seeking that eyelid-opening fight sip of coffee.
Greg, dad’s neighbor, was one of three guys joining us, with my brother rounding out the six pack. Greg impresses me as someone who also takes fishing seriously. The plan was to be on the road at 4:00 a.m. Greg was backing the Tacoma Double Cab into the driveway at 3:50 a.m. Dad shoveled down some breakfast, and with coolers loaded, we hit the road long before any reasonable commuter would even roll out of bed.
I called Mark to let him know we were on the road and the drive dissolved into friendly chit chat. A second call revealed that Mark was a short distance ahead of us, and we caught up with him on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, crossing Lake Washington. A quick stop allowed Mark to park his truck and join us; then it was north to the Shilshole Marina.
At the dock, under heavy overcast, we arrived before the charter captain as well as Rowland and his son Jessie, the last of our group. The captain and deckhand showed up a few minutes later, leaving instructions to head down the dock when our last two fishermen were on scene. Rowland and Jessie pulled up a bit later, and down the dock we went.
The water was dark and the boat not ready. Perhaps a sign, but one easily ignored in our excitement. Soon we boarded and began to motor towards Whidbey Island. Less than half an hour out, lines were in the water. During that time it also grew clearer that the captain had enlisted a friend to act as first mate — a friend who wasn’t too familiar with the captain’s usual techniques.
[Now would be a good time to lend some perspective. When Mark, dad and I fished for halibut in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, Captain Daniel and First Mate Dylan operated as the proverbial well-oiled machine. Their boat was squared away and each knew what to do and when to do it, with little wasted motion and maximization of the fishing experience. Maybe we were spoiled by this experience, but it’s the bar by which my brother and I now measure any charter boat and its crew.]
The question arose as to who would be first up, and my gracious companions agreed that as the organizer of this little adventure, it would be me. I didn’t have to wait long. The tip of port-side rod seemed to stutter, then went down. I grabbed the rod, set the hook, and it was fish on. Trolling means there can be 100-plus feet of line out, and our first look at this king was quite a distance out, but close enough to elicit ‘oh my God’ or ‘holy mackerel’ from my boat mates.
After what seemed like thirty minutes but in truth was probably closer to five, I had gained line. About thirty feet off the stern the fish slowly crested the surface, then dove. It quickly took back some line and jumped, nearly lifting its entire body out of the water, shaking its head. The plug suddenly flew towards my head. I ducked. I cursed. I wondered what I did wrong.
Humbled and shaking my head in disbelief, I slumped in a chair. A buzz of excitement lingered in the moist air, only to die away when it was discovered that the hook broke. My disbelief shifted.
Thankfully, the morning bite was on. In short order it was Mark’s turn up. The starboard rod went down and he was fishing. His fishing was cut short when the line broke. My disbelief grew.
Dad was next up. All eyes were on him to change our luck. Fish on and he was in the fight. He uttered something about the fish being gone and was admonished by the captain to keep reeling. Sure enough, like kings will do, this fish was running toward the boat. Slack was taken and line tension regained. Finally, a nice looking fish was brought onboard.
It was soon clear that the fishing this day wasn’t going gangbusters. Some boats were still without even a hook up. The rest of the morning disappeared as we continued to troll, leaving behind the bulk of the “fleet” to chase bait balls in deeper water.
Time gets lost in the gray of an overcast ocean, but within a couple of hours Rowland and Jessie were able to land fish.
Jessie’s king was crowned Big Fish of the Day. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can be certain if Greg missed the hookset on a few fish or not.
The trip back to port always seems much longer when a boat hasn’t limited out. Did we have a good time as a group? I think the answer is yes, it was a good guys’ day out.
However… Reflecting upon our halibut experience in Alaska didn’t help Mark and me to find a way of reconciling what we’d come to call hardware failures. There won’t be a next time. We’d rather put the money towards the next trip to Alaska.
I’m already eyeing dates in 2012.