Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fish Tales

We left the Yukon and drove back into Alaska, crossing the border once again.  We saw a huge moose (off in the distance, and a beaver in a pond by the side of the road on the way to Teslin National Nature Preserve.  While at the Teslin Visitors Center, a volunteer gave us a lot of information about fishing in the area and got the boys all excited about catching some fish.  We bought fishing licenses in Tok (rhymes with Joke) and headed to some of the spots the volunteer told us about.

 One of a million ponds and lakes by the side of the road, but on this one,
eagle eyes saw a beaver!



We pulled over in several places to try our hand at fishing some streams and lakes, but I think we were using the wrong lures.  What you fish with in Ohio doesn't necessarily work in Alaska, and we have no idea what we are doing.  We just knew that the lady at Teslin says there are lots of arctic greyling in the streams around here, and many of the ponds are stocked with trout.  But hey, a bad day of fishing in Alaska beats a good day in Ohio, right?

 Jack caught a small arctic greyling, but that's the only catch of the day

 Just one of the million streams
That's Jack fishing

Noel fishing from the bridge

We spent most of the day dodging rain drops and fog and looking for "the spot"!  In Alaska you can camp just about anywhere, so we pulled off on the side of the road in a graveled area and spent the night.  The other two motorhomes with us are self contained and have generators.  We aren't and don't, so no electric and no water for the night for us.  Fortunately, sunset isn't until 11:30 at night so we didn't really need lights.  It rained, often hard, all night, and we kept hearing a scratching noise under the bed area of the trailer.  About 4 am Noel went out to see what it was since pounding on the wall didn't seem to scare it away.  "Need a flashlight?" I asked.  Dumb question.  Its already daylight at 4am!  He didn't see anything, but we kept hearing the noise.  Bigger than a mouse, smaller than a bear.  Hope it didn't chew anything important.  Guess we'll find out down the road.

In the morning we finished the drive to Valdez, driving through heavy fog and through very high altitudes.  We're talking snow and glaciers and lots of waterfalls.  Beautiful!

 trumpeter swans flying away - the sound was primitive - right out of a movie!

 A glacier

 One of the many waterfalls

 So pretty!
Between the rain, melting snow and melting glaciers,
there are waterfalls everywhere

Driving into the mountains

Valdez is a small fishing village made famous by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  There is no sign of the oil now, but locals tell us the effects are still felt.  We are camping at Bear Paw Campground, right on the small boat harbor.  The big oil facility that is the hub of the Alaska pipeline is nearby but under heavy security so you can't get close.  We walked the harbor and had booked a halibut fishing trip for Thursday.  Wednesday night they called us to say the fishing trip was cancelled because there has to be at least 6 people on the trip, and there was only 4 of us.  The other two women with us, wisely, declined to fish with us.  Since we had all day to look around and relax, we drove around town, stopping at overlooks and shops and catching up with the laundry.  We found a neat old cemetery just outside of town, and we enjoyed watching the otters play.

 Camping at the Bear Paw Campground.  That is Noel's sister's RV next to us.

 A lot of wooden crosses at this cemetery.

 I noticed there were a lot of fisherman buried here - pretty young fisherman

 I love old cemeteries

 We see eagles every day
 An otter eating a star fish.  You could hear the crunch!

 We enjoyed watching the sea otters

A curious seal pup.  Look at that face!  I want one!

A foggy day at the harbor

Since we bought three day fishing licenses, by golly we were going to fish.  We tried our luck at the harbor, but we were still using the wrong bait.  But as you can see, it was preparing us for bigger things ahead.

So we booked a fishing trip for Friday with a different company (the boat "Jamie Lee" if you're ever inclined to go halibut fishing) that agreed to take us even if they didn't get booked for the other two slots.  We had to be at the harbor at 5:15 AM!  We  met Jeff and Sky from Michigan, Josh our Captain and Caleb, his teenage son.  He checked our fishing licenses and we were on the water by 6 am.  We headed out about 100 miles, about 3 hours, through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska before setting anchor and bait.  We were fishing specifically for halibut,  BIG halibut.  The captain and first mate bait the hooks for you - two small herring on a circle hook with a two pound lead weight.  Then we let the line out to go all the way to the bottom, about 90 feet.  Once you feel bottom, you pull it up two turns of the rod and wait.  And wait.  And rock.  Back and forth.  Up and down.  Back and forth.  Up and down.  Within 15 minutes, 3 out of the 4 of us were puking our guts out.  Me and Carl over the side of the boat, Noel in the toilet.  Sorry.  "Head".  (that's we fisherman's word for the toilet on the boat)!!  LOL

Carl was the first to catch a fish.  A big one!  It was all he could do to reel it in and he had to stop to puke as soon as the captain took over.  Once you have the fish reeled in pretty close, it really freaks out when it sees the boat and starts to fight.  Hard.  The captain then spears it with an attached line, lets it bleed out a bit, then hauls it into the boat.

Carl's 94 pound halibut

They spear the fish with a line before pulling it onto the boat

This was Carl the rest of the day....

Noel didn't even make it out to the end of the boat to fish until much later in the day.  After throwing up eight or nine times, his sea legs just were strong enough.

Me?  This fishing trip cost a small fortune, so by golly, I was going to catch a big fish.  Puke, fish.  Puke, fish.  Puke, fish.  The captain said I was "chumming the water".  It worked.  I caught around a 30 pounder no longer after Carl caught his.  Too small.  Threw it back, but not after getting slimed while getting my picture taken with it.

Five minutes later - WHOA!  I thought I caught a wet mattress that sucker was so heavy!  I left the rod in the holder and had to use two hand to reel it in!  I can barely lift my arms today, and I'm covered with bruises!

 Whoa!  Uh, Guys?  I think this is going to be a big one!
 Help me!

 Caleb helped me reel it and hold the pole while the Capt. speared it.

 Look at my face!!  hahahahaha!   Ewww

My monster fish!  78 pounds!

The adrenalin rush eased the nausea, at least for a short while.  But this was me for a good portion of the trip, especially during the three hours of pounding waves on the way back to the harbor.  Thank God I could lay down, because it really helped distribute the pounding over the length of my body, but oh my, am I ever in pain today.  Fibro friends - learn from my stupidity, and never, ever do this to your body.  There isn't enough pain medicine to make you feel human!  But hey, I have some good fish stories to tell and we'll be eating halibut for six months! 

Later in the day the Captain moved to another spot to catch smaller halibut and some rock fish.  He got Noel off the bench long enough to reel one in since others had caught their limit.  And I caught a sea bass!

 Noel reeling in a small halibut - by small I mean 30 pounds!
Jack didn't keep this one, hoping for a bigger one, and then didn't catch a bigger one.  :(

Sea bass - its what's for dinner! It was YUMMY
We passed the marker commemorating the spot where the Exxon Valdez hit 
a shallow reef and spilled all that oil

Jeff, one of the other guys on the boat, caught the largest fish of the day - his halibut was a BEAST at 127 pounds!

Jeff from Michigan got the biggest catch of the day!

Group shot (minus Noel)  

They filet them right on the dock, and throw all the guts and fish into a flume that catches all the waste.  The seagulls are CRAZY for the scraps!

So, you pay to get the fishing license, then you pay a fortune for the fishing trip.  You pay to have them filleted, then pay to have the skinned, cut into one pound packages, shrink wrapped and flash frozen.  Of course we had 52.5 POUNDS of fish fillets.  We have a freezer the size of two shoe boxes.  So we had to pay an equally small fortune to have them shipped back to the states to my brother and dad to eat and to save some for us until we get home.  This means that this halibut IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE FISH EVER!!  But oh the memories.  I suppose its like childbirth.  Someday I will forget the puking, pain and credit card bill and just have the huge fish tale and a boost in my Omega 3s.

So today we recovered, cleaned all our stinky fishy clothes, and are ready to hit the road again in the morning.  The rest of our party moved on this morning, but we couldn't move, so we will catch up with them again in Anchorage.  Till next time - Matey!  (Oh, I talk like a pirate when I take on my fishing persona.  I'm working on it!)


beth cole barrineau said...

Amazing! I am at a loss for words anymore. What a GREAT fish story , LOVE IT! You're making awesome memories ~ xo

Kelsey said...

Haha, I love this! Great pictures :)