Thursday, May 26, 2016

The White King




















  As you can see from the pictures, this blog post isn't about chess pieces, it's about a fish. A king salmon. A white king salmon to be more specific. Last Saturday I spent the day fishing and in an uncommon bit of good fortune, I managed to land five kings. I actually had eight on. Two of them took spoons, and for whatever reason, managed to get off. I always play the scenario over and over in my head trying to figure out what went wrong when I lose one. The first one I lost I figured maybe he was still too fiesty to bring in. The second one I let soak a little longer, but I still lost him. Go figure. The third one that got off I never even saw. He hit pretty hard, and I let him soak for what I thought was a proper amount of time- let him tow the fifty pound cannonball around for awhile to let off some steam. As it was though, he swam into the leader above him and managed to tangle the two lures and got off. I can't say I was very happy, but I wasn't overly distraught either. I already had four kings on board, and shortly after that one got off, I caught one more. All in all it was a pretty good day. On Monday, buoyed by the good fortune I'd had several days before, I returned to the same spot where I'd fished with such success, but the whole situation had changed. The feed that had been prevalent on Saturday was nowhere to be found. It just didn't look fishy at all. I made a few passes where I'd caught some of the fish I'd had on, but nothing. Then I tried another spot and was ready to give up when the guy in the picture took a spoon on the bottom. I was really fearful that it might get off. He was really fighting, even though I'd let him soak for awhile. When I got him to the surface he started thrashing and in my mind I could just see him throwing the hook and laughing at me as he sped off to go find a girlfriend in one of the local rivers. I imagine if I only had one chance to procreate, I'd fight like heck too for the opportunity. I feel kind of bad for catching him and keeping him from making more little kings, but not bad enough to let him go. Someone else will pick up the chore that he's leaving unfinished. This particular king salmon was a white one, so named because the flesh inside is ivory colored or a very light pink, as opposed to the bright orange-red flesh that most salmon have. I'm not really sure why they have white flesh. The area around Glacier Bay is the only place that has white kings as I understand. They aren't all that uncommon around here. Because it's early in the year and there aren't many kings on the market, the price is pretty good for them and the whites are the same price as the reds. Usually though, the cold storage pays quite a bit less for white kings. It doesn't make sense. The locals, and folks who know salmon often prefer the white fleshed kings to the red fleshed ones. Often if a fisherman catches one, instead of selling it for a pittance, he'll take it home and eat it himself or give it to a friend or family member. They have what has been described as a buttery flavor, and the flesh seems softer than their red fleshed counterparts. I've never really heard why they are aren't red. There is some speculation that they don't feed on krill or shrimp, thus never taking on the orange hue. I really don't know. This guy weighed twenty pounds and was a little over thirty six inches long. Not huge by king salmon standards, but not bad either. Hopefully there will be more where he came from. Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Thirty Six Hour Marathon






















 I got a call last week from my friend Jim Dybdahl. He said he needed a favor. Jim is one of those guys who is pretty self sufficient. He's got a good mind and can figure things out and if he can't he's got the kind of personality that attracts people to him, so he will know someone who can help. In the almost forty years I've known him, he's never asked for a favor from me, so I assumed it was pretty important. As it turns out, he was asked if he would relinquish a few days of his fishing time to tow a couple of rafts from Angoon to Hoonah. One of the young fellows who grew up here is going to try his hand at oyster farming. I'm hopeful that he can make a go of it. From what I can gather, the rafts we were going to tow were used in three previous attempts at farming. I'm not sure why its so difficult to be successful at it, except that you're combing two very tough professions- fishing and farming. Both are labor intensive, require a large outlay of cash and long hours under grueling conditions without a guarantee of a pay check. With the oyster farming, you also have to contend with environmental conditions like water temps, wind and water quality. In addition, the cute little otters that all the tourists think are so fun to look at are not much more than furry eating machines. They have worked their way into Icy Strait and are leaving a desert in their path, wiping out Dungeness crabs, clams, abalone and anything else they can get their grubby little paws on. Eventually, the stock will collapse because they will literally eat themselves out of existence. From what I can gather, they happen to love oysters too. Strings of oysters hanging from a stationary barge will no doubt seem like manna from heaven. Otters aren't the only predator that likes oysters. Some of our less than honorable boaters seem to feel no pangs of conscience about robbing someone else's property. These are the same clowns who take crabs  and shrimp from other folks pots. I'm not sure how you justify stealing. I well remember a guy who pulled into the dock at L. Kane's years ago for fuel. He said he had taken some crabs from a pot in Spasski Bay, but justified it by leaving a six pack of beer behind. I guess that's better than nothing, but a six pack doesn't pay the rent. In any event, I agreed to go with Jim. He likes to get an early start, so I had to get up at 3:00 AM so I could meet him at the boat at 4:00. The trip to Angoon takes seven hours and the plan was to get the raft ready to tow and do a little fishing. As it was, we got there at about the time we thought we would, but there was a miscommunication and the raft wasn't out front where it was supposed to be. We had to wait for a number of hours for the tide to get high enough for us to enter the bay where it was anchored. We did go fishing for a few hours, but there was almost no sign of feed or fish anywhere. Go figure. In almost every other situation Jim would have caught one or two big kings, but let me join him and the fish disappeared like a fart in the wind. Oh well. We finally made it in to the bay and tied on to the rafts. One of the rafts has a structure on it like a really skookum tent, complete with a stove and cot and a few other things to make it comfortable for the watchman. When the tide book said that the tide was slack, we took off with the rafts. Unfortunately the tide was still running like a river against us and at one point we were actually moving backwards. It was kind of unnerving to be towing those two rafts and thinking about being able to control them in the tide. It finally slacked off and we were able to make a little forward progress, but honestly, it was painfully slow. For the first three hours we were underway I could look right up the bay into Angoon. Eventually we started making a little more headway, moving along at a smoking fast 2.5 knots. Of course there was nothing much to do but talk, so I did plenty of that, so much so that my already raw throat became dry as dead men's bones and I had to keep replenishing my water bottle. I'm not sure how much water I drank on that day and a half trip, but it was impressive. Even more so was the number of times I had to step out back to pee. All that water has to go somewhere. We towed all through the night, past Tenekee Inlet, Freshwater Bay, False Bay and around Point Agusta. We were just coming off nineteen foot tides and during the day there were multitudes of logs and other drift all around us. I kept praying we wouldn't run into any of them during the night. Jim assured me that at a little over two knots, if we did strike one it wouldn't do any damage, but nonetheless I wanted to avoid them at all costs. Remember the Titanic! We kept scanning the video sounder for signs of feed or fish, but it was pretty bleak. We did see one elephant seal and a few whales in the distance, but I assume they weren't having any more luck than we were at locating fish. They probably had to go hungry until the tides drop off.We each managed to take a few painfully short naps and arrived at Burnt Point with the rafts intact. We got them tied up and headed for home. Overall, it was a great trip. I got to spend time with my friend, who was generous with his advice about fishing, I made some good money for the time spent and I was able to help out someone who I admire. It was a win, win situation

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Hidden Truth




 Jan and I were over in Juneau a few weeks ago. I had to go in to the doctor for a physical. There really wasn't much physical stuff involved, aside from taking my blood pressure a few times, having me stick out my tongue,and pressing on my overblown gut. Fortunately I didn't have gas or it would have been a more interesting experience. There are times when it really doesn't make sense to jostle, prod, poke or otherwise disturb the patient. Although I'm sure that most general practitioners have seen it all, for the sake of the patient, it's good to be sensitive to what they have to say. I well remember a friend who was in the naval hospital for some kind of operation or test, I can't recall which. In any event, it seems that he was given a drug that made it difficult for him to communicate with the doctors and nurses. As I recall, he was given a barium enema by a burly nurse whose bedside manner was a bit brusque. He was supposed to be getting some x-rays of his lower tract I believe. For whatever reason this nurse kept poking him in the gut. He tried to tell her to stop, but she kept at it, poking and prodding and generally being rough. Finally all the harsh treatment bore fruit and he blew. Even in his altered state he claims to have had a good laugh when he saw the nurse behind him coated in the remains of the barium enema dripping off her glasses. As the saying goes, payback is a bitch. None of this has anything whatsoever with the post I wanted to write, but at my age, when I think of something I have to mention it or it might be lost in caverns of my mind for a long period of time, perhaps never to resurrect again. The main point of this post was that while we were in Juneau, we went shopping. It's a common thing to do for those of us living in the outlying villages here in Alaska. The cost of goods is so high that it's imperative to shop when you go to one of the larger towns. The local stores aren't totally to blame. The freight company, in this case, Alaska Marine Lines, has taken advantage of the monopoly that they have to gouge the outlying areas. I believe they're still charging a fuel charge, similar to the airlines, even though the price of fuel has dropped dramatically. Anyway, we were in the Juneau Fred Meyer store picking up an assortment of canned goods and other odds and ends, and Jan asked if we wanted to get a few cans of peas. I happen to like canned peas on occasion, so I said yes, and she grabbed four cans. What we didn't realize, until we actually served them with a meal is that they were unsalted. I've eaten raw peas off the pod, and they have a sweet flavor. I don't know what they did to these peas in the canning process, but good Lord they were nasty! I thought I could work my way through what I had on the plate, but there was no way. I suspect that the label would have had more flavor. Really, if stores are going to carry foods that are unsalted or otherwise unaltered to make them taste good, they should have a special "flavorless" section. That way unsuspecting shoppers don't grab up one thing, thinking it is another. In all fairness, the can does say no salt added, but there is so much advertising on everything, we just passed over it somehow. Have you noticed on TV when an ad comes on for something like life insurance for only $9.95 a month, that they like to say that you can't be turned down for your health or age? That's all fine and dandy, but what about all the writing underneath that is so small you'd have to sit right under the screen with a magnifying glass and be a speed reader to take it all in? It's actually kind of deceptive. Do politicians write these ads before they start their political careers or what? It's like what has happened with so much in the grocery stores. Cereal boxes are still the same physical size, but the amount inside is smaller. Same with my favorite pizza. You buy the pizza thinking that it's filling up the whole box, but after opening it, there's only a half a pizza inside. It's kind of like buying a ticket for a plane. You pay for a whole seat, but actually you're only getting about a half of one. Is it any wonder that flying is one of the most stressing things anyone can do? It's not the fear of crashing that bothers most people, it's the fear of being stuck in the middle seat between two fat people. What ever happened to getting what you paid for? Like the saying goes, you can polish a turd, but that doesn't make it a diamond. There is a lot to be said about all the modern conveniences that we enjoy, but for my money, I'd gladly go back to a time when there was integrity in the workplace, when what was advertised was actually what you got; and, if for some reason you didn't get what you paid for, the business owner made it right. If this political season has shown one thing, it's that Americans are tired of being lied to, whether by our politicians, corporate giants, or canned peas suppliers. No one is innocent. How about if we start speaking the truth about what we're portraying- about ourselves, our businesses or our government. How refreshing would that be?