Friday, October 9, 2009

Enjoy the View


Jan and I are going to be going south for a few weeks, so I doubt that I will be posting anything on the blog until I get back- I don't know. I don't have a laptop computer, and I don't know what kind of hassle I would run into or if I will even have the time to work on it while we're gone. We have to go see the Moms. Mine is in Ohio and Jan's is in Wisconsin. I'm not looking forward to the plane ride down. It's quite the ordeal to leave here. We are taking a catamaran to Juneau tonight and spending a couple days there. I'd rather just fly over and be done with it, but the weather is unpredictable this time of year and we can't afford to miss our flight south. We leave Juneau and fly to Seattle, then to Minneapolis and finally to Columbus. It's an all night affair. Hopefully the plane won't be crowded and I'll be able to stretch out a little. Last time I flew, we were packed in like sardines and the rather plump fellow beside me was oozing out under the armrest and squeezing me over into the isle, where I could be bumped by every one who walked up and down. To make matters worse, he had a newspaper he was trying to read and instead of folding it, he had it stretched out in front of my face. Ah the joys of travel. As you can see, we're used to a little more space here in Alaska. This first picture was taken a few weeks ago when I was trolling up in the bay. That's Neka Mountain, or at least I think it is. Anyway, it used to be totally wooded all the way to the beach when I first arrived up here. There used to be some tremendous deer hunting there. Before the logging started up too seriously, when they were just putting in roads, we used to send over a group of hunters from the farm. Even a novice like me was successful. I shot three deer in one day- one at Game Point and two on Neka.
On a drive out to Long Island where the log dump is, we always have to cross this slough. I've never seen a deer here, but I've always thought that I should have. I know that some duck hunters have had pretty good luck in the area, down closer to the bay. I used to think I might take my canoe up here some day, but the chances of that happening are becoming increasingly slim. I'm afraid I'd have a hard time staying dry if I tried a canoe trip anymore.
This last shot I took up at the town dump. Not many places in the world have a view like this. This site is different than the dump I wrote about in the book. As the town started to expand, they moved the dump further from the population. Now it's up the mountain aways and they have a permit to burn all the trash that can burn. It helps keep the bears away. In years past, before they had it all fenced in, it wasn't uncommon to spot three or four bears at a time feeding right in amongst the flames. One big guy had a good bit of his hair singed off when he got too close to some burning plastic sheeting.
This is looking out over Spasski Valley. Most of the local flights go right over the valley on the way to and from Juneau. There used to be a trail maintained by the Forest Service that went from the airport to Spasski Bay. I had to travel it once when my boat broke down during bad weather and it was the only way back home. It was during June and I had no gun, so I scrounged up a pop can off the beach and filled it with some pebbles and shouted and sang and prayed my whole way over that trail. Guess that's it for now. I'm looking forward to a little vacation, but I'm already looking forward to returning too.




Tuesday, October 6, 2009

End of the Season


ON my last post I mentioned where I caught the fish and shrimp, and I did have a picture of it, but for whatever reason it didn't upload. Being the technical genius that I am, I couldn't figure out how to correct it, so here's another picture. It's not the same picture, but it's the same area. See that point that sticks out way down the bay on the right hand side? That's where all the action took place. I took this picture last Sunday, and as you can see, it was glassy calm that day- just the way I like it. Although there aren't any boats in this picture, there are still a few guys trying to get their halibut quota. For whatever reason some fellows prefer to wait until the fall to chase the halibut and black cod. I've done it before, but would rather not wait, even though the price usually goes up a little. Almost always you have to battle the seasonal storms and I hate that.
I was down at the cannery the other day enjoying the serenity of the area. All the tourists are gone and along with them, the whale watching and charter boats. The streets aren't clogged with the throngs of people and the large green buses are parked in the lot. The boardwalks are empty and the shops are locked up
and there is a delicious stillness that has decended upon the area. It's delightful. For now the town is ours again and we can go about our daily lives not feeling like we are on display. With the exception of the disregard for the common sense and common courtesies that would prevail in their own home towns, most of the tourists seem to be decent folks. They just get overwhelmed by the beauty of the area and the abundance of wildlife and forget, perhaps,that this is a real town and we are real people with real jobs to do. We're not all actors and Hoonah isn't just like Disneyland, though for some reason several have been led to believe that. Some folks are surprized that there aren't any igloos or dogsleds here, and there have been more than a few - American citizens no less- who didn't realize that we were a state, not a foreign country and we do trade in US currency. I guess it's good that I've been exposed to the tourist industry here. Hopefully it will help me to remember my manners when I'm on vacation.



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Subsitence Fishing


Last week my son Brian came over to pick up his truck and skiff and take them back over to Juneau. Since he was here for a few days I suggested that he go with me up the bay to set a subsistence long line for halibut, which he thought sounded great. Because we live in a rural area along the coast and I guess because there are limited opportunities for employment, we qualify for a subsistence permit from the federal government to go catch halibut to eat. You aren't allowed to sell any of your catch with this permit- it's for personal use. For reasons unknown to me and in typical government fashion, you are allowed to use thirty hooks on a set and can keep up to twenty halibut a day. Twenty a day! Who needs twenty halibut a day? I raised seven children and I don't think we ate twenty in a year... and we really enjoy it. Anyway, we went up into Port Frederick and made a set last Sunday and while we were there we set out a shrimp pot that I had snagged several years ago when I was longlining. It had been lost and apparently had been there quite some time because it was covered in the fossilized remains of tube worms. We threw some dog salmon carcasses inside for bait and tossed it over in about sixty fathoms of water. Six hours later we came back up to pull the halibut set. The first hook had a Shortraker rockfish- they are brilliant red-orange; then we caught a few smaller halibut- 8 to 12 pounds and a number of grey cod. I normally don't eat the cod fish unless they are in a fish sandwich at Mc Donalds or some such thing. They make excellent halibut bait, but since I had plenty of bait, I ended up giving them to a Korean couple who are running Mary's Inn here in town. I gave them the Shortraker and a Quillback rockfish also. That blasted Quillback ended up poking me in the index finger when I was cleaning it. They have sharp spines on either side of the anal fin as well as on the gill plates and dorsal fins. I mean to tell ya, that really hurt. It took three or four hours before the pain started to abate and it was two days before my finger returned to it's normal color and size.
While we were pulling the gear the line got hung up on the bottom. I tied it off to the hay rack and pulled and it ended up parting, so we had to go to the other end and pull. When we got close to the end Brian shouted that we had a big one on. I looked over the stern, and there, wrapped around a big hunk of coral was a halibut that measured five feet three inches long. According to the tide book it had a live weight of 127 pounds and a dressed weight of 96 pounds. There was another smaller halibut on the next hook under it- maybe twenty pounds or so. Brian whacked the big one with a heavy gaff hook when it surfaced and then we shoved a shark hook that we keep handy for big halibut,into its mouth and got it on board. It was quite the ordeal though. The line was really tangled with the coral which was attatched to about an eighty pound rock. I kind of wanted that coral, but it was too much to mess with at the time so we let it go. We were pretty jazzed about the whole ordeal. Thirty hooks and we had our whole winters supply of halibut with plenty to share, plus the rockfish and grey cod. We checked the shrimp pot too, but there were only two shrimp in it at that time, so we set it back down and I picked it up again on Thursday. What you see in the bucket is what I kept. Some of those prawns were huge! I have a picture of the biggest one stretched out with a dollar bill beside it. It is longer than that bill- and I might add, a good deal tastier.
I've included a picture of where all the action took place; between the first and second points. Thats all the more I'll mention about that. I don't mind sharing information, but like all fishermen some things have to remain a secret.