Blog Archive

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Tools of the Trade








  For six days there has been a troll closure for all salmon here in Southeast Alaska. It doesn't impact the sport boys or the charter guys, but it shuts us right down. The theory is that it will give the coho salmon more of a chance to get into the streams and rivers. I find it interesting that in the past, the closure has always coincided with the Golden North Salmon Derby in Juneau. The fact is though, there seems to be less salmon being caught this year than in recent years. How much that has to do with all the hot, sunny weather we've had and the warmer water temps and what percentage can be attributed to the fact that there are more and more lodges and charter outfits targeting all the species of salmon as well as halibut, rockfish, ling cod and whatever else is swimming in these waters is a matter of speculation. I suspect that if something doesn't change soon, fishermen, lodges, charter companies and residents are going to find themselves with nothing. However, in the interim, things go on as usual. I was out fishing last week and looked around my boat cabin and realized how much things have changed for me since 1978, when I first found out that people would pay me to catch fish. From fishing with two rods and pink lady divers out of an open skiff, I graduated to using Penn downriggers, first with that same 14 foot Hi- Laker, and then later in a 22 foot Larson Commander. Eventually I got gurdies, which required that I have a depth sounder to keep the gear off the bottom.It didn't always work, but that was operator error.At the time a VHF radio and a CB radio rounded out my compliment of tech gadgets. Eventually I bought the Bonnie J, the old wooden troller that I have now. It's hard to believe, but I purchased it in 1990. It was built in 1945 and has undergone so many changes since I've owned it that I doubt that the original owner would recognize it. In my opinion, without a doubt, one of the greatest inventions ever created and used by the fishing industry has been the GPS. Though it wasn't created for the fishing industry, we have nontheless put it to great use. I have a Nobeltec program for my lap top, and I'd be lost without it, sometimes literally. It's guided me through the fog in Cross Sound, and kept me off the rocks in Port Frederick. With it I can mark the beginning and end of a halibut set and expect to find my buoys the next day. I can mark crab pots and high spots in an effort to avoid them, and if the fish are in a particular spot I can mark that as well. If a crew hand drops a gaff overboard, or if they fall overboard, I can put a mark on the spot. It tells me my speed over ground, what direction I'm going in and where I've been. It's been one of the best investments I've ever made. I wish I'd had it years earlier. Of course a depth sounder is absolutely necessary to for fishing and navigation, and it shows fish and feed as well as the bottom depth and type. Beside the fire extenguisher hanging on the wall is a container holding a flare gun and flares, should I find myself in distress and needing to signal someone. It seems kind of old fashioned in this day and age, but if you were somewhere without cell service, or you lost your battery and couldn't use the radio, you'd be glad you had the flares, assuming any passing boats weren't on their cell phones playing games or some such thing. Finally I have a twelve mile Furuno radar. I don't really need a twelve mile radar, I'm never that far from land, and I don't really think I'm going to run into another boat twelve miles away, but when it's foggy outside, which is going to become more commonplace soon, as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool down and we transition into fall, it's an invaluable piece of equipment. While the GPS can tell me where I am, it can't tell me if there is another boat in front of me, hence the need for the radar. By comparison, my boat is fairly elementary, but I'm a fairly simple guy and the equipment I have seems to get the job done. Hopefully it will all continue to work as we start trolling again on Tuesday. If it fails for some reason, I'll let you know.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dog Sitting



  A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to be surrogate parents to our friends Mark and Sarah's dog, Ra'bano. After losing our dog Rigby, it was nice to have the chance to have one of our furry friends come by for a few days. I can only recall once when he kind of whined a little bit. As hard as it can be for people to be in unfamiliar places and uncomfortable situations, I can only imagine what it must be like for our pets. I know that not everyone has the luxury of leaving a beloved pet with a friend or neighbor when they have to leave for one reason or another. I just hate the idea of having to board your pet at a vet or animal shelter. Maybe I'm full of hoo-ha, but I feel like as much as possible they need to be in a loving environment while their owners are away. As you can see, Ra'bano (which means radish in Spanish) is feeling quite at home on our couch. He's really well trained, and though the food right there before him is enticing, he didn't once make a grab for the plate. Sarah feeds him a big meal in the morning, and gives him treats during the day, but he only gets the one meal. It's a custom made one though, usually consisting of a chicken thigh, rice, veggies and a gravy of sorts. I suppose she must change it up some times, but the thing is, it's more than just a bowl of commercial dog food. We had a hard time not feeding him the whole time he was here, and we did sneak him a little bit now and then from our plates. How could we not? Look at that face! He is such a sweet dog, and as you can see, he's no small dog. He made our couch his resting place, so before bed at night we put his favorite blang on it. He is tall enough that he could sit on the couch and rest his front legs on the back of it and look out the window. He only barked once one night around 1:00 AM. I guess it was because someone was being noisy walking down the street out front. It didn't take him long to claim it as his own and he didn't appreciate noisy carrying on when decent folks are inside sleeping. It was comforting to know that he was on watch while we slept. He's incredibly powerful, and unlike Rigby, he liked going for rides in the truck. It was all I could do to keep him in check when I took him out for a spin around the park at the end of the day. Thankfully he didn't spot another dog or cat while we were out. I'm looking forward to having him come for a stay again in the future. Another friend had to leave town recently, and their little daschund who is old and frail was dropped off at a neighbors house to keep an eye on. His name is Sarge, and he's the only blond wiener dog I've ever seen.  I let his owners know that should the occasion arise again where they needed to leave him behind, we'd be available. As much as I miss Rigby, I don't think I ever want another dog. There are so many around that need some love and attention that I'm sure I can meet my need and theirs on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Smoke on the Water









  For the past three weeks or maybe a month we've had unusually hot temperatures here in Southeast Alaska. Actually it's been happening all over the state I believe. I know that eighty plus degrees doesn't sound so hot to some folks, but here, where the average temperatures range in the mid sixties to mid seventies in the summer, having the temps soar to the upper eighties was quite uncomfortable. No, it wasn't just uncomfortable, it was outright miserable, truth be known. Much like last year, there hasn't been any rain since the beginning of June, so the grass around the house was starting to dry out and turn yellow, and the creeks are exceptionally low. Not something you want to see right before the salmon show up to do their annual spawning run up the creeks and rivers. For some reason the horseflies seem to thrive on this hot, dry weather, and they were out in droves. I was fishing up the bay for King Salmon last week and the flies like to drove me nuts. I was knocking them down outside with my salt water wash down hose, and killing them by the dozens inside the cabin of the boat where they tormented me non stop. I hosed some of them right out through the scuppers and into the bay, but those sapsuckers took right off and came around for another bout with me.  I'd love to have an electric suit that I could put on and just stand out on the deck of my boat. When the horseflies landed on me, they'd fry like bacon in a hot skillet. That would be so satisfying ...at least until I splashed some water on me or it started to rain.This hot dry weather has messed up the fishing as well. I understand that the runs are several weeks late in some parts of the state, and I know that trying to catch dog salmon a few weeks ago was almost impossible unless you could get your gear down to almost 240 feet. The water temperatures are above normal, so I guess they're running deep where the temp is more to their liking. Day after day we woke up to bright sunny weather, which was refreshing on the one hand until about ten in morning when the heat would start to rev up. Then the fires up north started in. It's an annual thing for thousands of acres of forests to burn up in the interior, usually caused by lightning strikes. It appears that over in British Columbia there are forest fires too, because we've been inundated with smoke from the fires, so much so that there were unhealthy air advisories on the news. They were recommending that folks with respiratory problems remain indoors. It looked like parts of China around here, it might have made some of the tourists feel right at home. For the first time in all the years that I've lived  here, the July 4th fireworks display was cancelled. It was too dangerous. The NOAA weather station kept predicting rain and clouds and cooler weather, but time and again they would revise it for a few days later. It was all very frustrating. However, today I awoke to clouds (and smoke) and it actually sprinkled a little. When I passed by the information sign at the school the temperature was a very pleasant 65 degrees, much more to my liking. Everyone keeps asking me how I'm going to make it in Idaho if I can't handle the weather here. Believe me, I've wondered that myself, and lately I've been starting to lose a little sleep thinking about it. I guess the answer is air conditioning. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Where the Rainbow Ends



 I was coming in from fishing a few days ago and was a little surprised to see this rainbow. For the past week or so we've had a lot  of sunshine. It seems like it's been much longer than that though. I've mentioned before that when the sun comes out here in the summer, it can get brutally hot. Today the electronic sign at the school stated that it was eighty one degrees. Frankly, it felt even hotter. I'm looking at the clouds in this picture and wishing I could seed them and spark a thunder storm, or at the very least an all night cloud burst. I like the sunshine as much as anyone else. When you wake up in the morning and its sunny out, it makes a person feel pretty good. The bad feelings don't start until about ten in the morning when it becomes blatantly apparent that it's going to get blazing hot. I believe sweltering is a good word. When I lived in Charleston South Carolina, I expected it to get hot and muggy, but good Lord, this is Alaska for crying out loud. I dropped up  to the post office today and ran across two other people who ventured out of the comfort of their homes. One was a lady who lives in Anchorage. Her and her husband are here on a sailboat. She echoed the very words I'd spoken not ten minutes before. She said, " When it gets above 65 degrees around here, it's unbearable." No truer words were ever spoken. Then another fellow came in who had been driving some tourists around in a van sight seeing. They may have been out looking for bears. I suspect the bears are too smart to come out into the sunshine. Can you imagine how miserable they must be, living with that three or four inch long fur in this heat? To make matters worse, they stink, which attracts biting flies. That was something the man mentioned. The horse flies were atrocious. They happen to love this hot, sunny weather. Go figure. Anyway the fellow mentioned that several of his customers were from Arizona, and they were bundled up in jackets. They asked him not to open the windows too far because they were chilly. The poor guy was a retired meat cutter and was used to working in 45 degree temps, so to say he was uncomfortable was an understatement. To make matters worse, he's growing out his hair as part of a charitable act for children's cancer, so he had a six or eight inch pony tail hanging down his back. Now that's a sacrifice. One other disadvantage of these hot sunny days is that the wind blows like all forty. I  haven't been fishing for several days because the only area open is nine miles away across open water,so that even if the seas are calm early in the morning, by evening they can get upwards of five feet. Not my cup of tea.  I don't believe the fish much care for the sun and heat either. Most of the dog salmon being caught are between thirty and forty fathoms down. I suspect the water is cooler down there, and they aren't bothered by the glare of the sun. It looks like I'll be stuck in the harbor again tomorrow- the forecast is for more of the same- hot and sunny. Yippee. Perhaps I should be a good business man and start an air conditioning business. If things keep going this way, I think I'd do pretty good. As far as where the rainbow ends I guess it ends behind the Hoonah harbor. If there was a pot of gold there I didn't see it. Probably someone else got to it before me and bought themselves a ticket to somewhere cooler.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Sorrowful Passing




 Tonight I'm going to write one of the saddest posts that I've ever done. Today around noon, our beloved dog Rigby passed on.  These pictures were taken just over a month ago, but when he passed today, he was just a fraction of the size that he was when these were taken. Over the past month he had steadily been losing weight. His ribs were starting to show and the skin on his belly was hanging. He's always loved to eat, and I indulged him. The kids were constantly telling me he was spoiled, but I don't care. My feelings were that if you were going to have a pet, and especially a dog, he was going to be getting the royal treatment. I've been thinking back over his life, from the time that our daughter Autumn first brought him down from Wasilla in a small carrying case that fit under the airplane seat. He was as cute as a button. For the first week or so he slept in that case in the laundry room and would cry at night. Eventually we purchased a small bed for him, but as dogs and kids are prone to do, he grew out of it. We got him a bed made for a much larger dog, but that's ok, at least he had room to move around. For the first few months he never even barked, and I was starting to wonder if he ever would, but he eventually found his voice, and from then on he would alert us to every dog, cat or person who passed on the street out front. Multiple times I would be in the back of the house or in the office and if he hadn't barked I would have had no idea that there was a visitor on the porch.  During the day he favored the couch, and then one day he decided on his own to jump up onto the back of the couch where he could get a birds eye view of all that was going on. That was his habit until a year or two ago, when either because of his age or the condition of his joints or whatever, he didn't jump up there any more. When he was younger he would sit in the chair with me, and though the chair was huge, would insist on laying on his side with his legs stretched out against the arm and pushing me against the other side. When it was time to go to bed I would get up, but he had no intention of leaving the comfort of the chair, so I would have to pick him up with a hand under his head and one under his backside and take him in to his bed. He was as limp as a wet towel and would look at whoever was in the living room perhaps hoping for rescue. I would lay him on his bed and cover him with a heavy down sleeping bag, where he would stay for the night. Early on, when we were training him to go outside to the potty, we would reward him with a snack- usually a piece of cheese. Being the stubborn breed he was, it almost always took a bribe to get him back inside. After a while the price of cheese was more than we could afford. He was making regular trips outside with the idea that he'd get a snack afterwards. I think he was storing up his treasures with the idea of a future reward, so we switched to the healthier and less expensive baby carrots. We ran through several bags of those every week. Some years back I got the bright idea of giving him a little bit of cereal in the morning when I got my own. At first he would eat it dry. Then one day I poured a little milk on it, and from then on he wouldn't accept it any other way. His tastes in food were diverse. Whenever I was making a salad, he would insist on having some. He ate everything that we did, with the exception of onions or celery. If I was cutting up cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots or any other salad fixings, he wanted some. When it came to food, he wasn't picky. We had a scare once when an older lady was staying with us and left a box of chocolate cookies in her jacket, which was hanging on a chair. He found it and ate every one. I understand that chocolate is fatal for dogs, but somehow he made it through without a problem. As a young dog he loved to go upstairs, especially when we had guests. If there was any dirty underwear on the floor he would grab them and charge down the stairs, running though the house, happy as a clam at high tide. He would stop then and start chewing on them, looking  up with his big brown eyes. It was hard to be mad at him. I think the greatest joy he ever had was charging down the stairs one day with Jan's bra in his mouth, trailing behind and between his legs. It almost looked like he was smiling. He never really played with toys much, but he did like to chew on things. We had a stuffed toy that was like a fluffy fleece shaped like a boy with two arms and two legs splayed out. His snout would fit perfectly into the crotch where he would proceed to chew until the stuffing was exposed. He loved that doll. It was bright yellow and we called it Golden Boy. Golden boy had his crotch sewed up by Jan's mom a number of times until there wasn't enough material left to sew. We tried other chew toys for him- a rubber hot dog, and I think a hamburger, and I don't recall what else, but nothing could withstand those sharp little teeth. Within an hour the toy was demolished and we had to take it away.Finally Jan came home with a toy made out of almost indestructable fire hose. I'm not sure how long it took for him to destroy it, but I do wish it had had a warranty with it. When he was still young a neighbor dog attacked him one morning while Jan was with him. Frankly I was surprised he survived the attack, but he did. Afterwards though, he never wanted to get very far away from the house. He never really cared for riding in the truck, but in the last year or so he would drive with me to the park and then walk home. It was good exercise for both of us. About eight or ten months ago, I can't really recall when, he started developing a tremendous thirst. He would drink all the water in his bowl and want more. Then he had to pee something fierce, something I can relate to. He started having accidents in the house, so we sent him to the vet, and $700.00 later discovered he had Cushing's Disease, so in addition to giving him a pill for hypo-thyroidism, we now had to give him one for Cushing's. He seemed to be getting better, but about a month ago the thirst and accidents started in again. We got an additional dose of meds, but he didn't seem to be getting any better this time. He'd been steadily losing weight, and for the last four or so days, was having trouble going up and down the stairs. It got to the point that we had to pick him up and set him down outside to use the potty. About three days ago, he stopped eating. Then he stopped drinking anything, so we were giving him water with a turkey baster. He spent most of his time in his bed looking off in the distance. Even though we knew his time was near, there was still a hope for a miraculous recovery. In any event, we didn't want him to die away from home, so we kept him as comfortable as we could and spoke to him, letting him know what a good dog he was. He's only been gone for about eight hours, but already I miss him terribly. It's surprising how many commercials come on TV that use dogs. I love them all, but I don't think I can ever have another one. I think I'll probably visit a shelter at the next place we move to. I'll take the dogs out for walks and feed them treats and hug them and talk to them like they're babies, and let them know that even though they're in the shelter, they're still loved. Jan and I are heart broken. For us Rigby was like a family member. We had him for almost thirteen years, but it wasn't long enough. I hope that if you have a pet you'll cherish it. They can be demanding and expensive and they take a lot of time, but they are a blessing from God.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

D- Day



Today, as many of you know, is the 75th anniversary of D- Day, the day that the allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was a decisive day in the war against Germany and was the beginning of the liberation of France and the rest of Europe and led ultimately to the defeat of the Nazis. When I was a kid, I just assumed that all of the men who were in the army were like super heroes, strong, brave, unafraid. I didn't realize that the majority of the men who stormed the beaches were young; many just out of high school, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old men who hadn't even gotten a good start on life yet. They were like young men everywhere with dreams and aspirations, perhaps with wives or girlfriends. I'm sure they had plans for a future that didn't include storming a beach in a foreign country with the noise and the smoke and the terror all around, watching their friends and fellow soldiers bleeding and crying out and dying on those blood soaked beaches, wondering if the next bullet or explosion would be the one take them out. They were afraid, like anyone would be under those circumstances, but they loved this country and were willing to die for it, in order to keep us free. For the past few days leading up to today I've watched the various interviews with the vets who have made the trip over to Normandy. It will probably be the last time there since the majority are in their nineties and beyond. I heard we're losing over three hundred of these heroes every day. I wish there was one of these brave men here in town so that I could extend my sincere thanks to him. Their sacrifices have made my life possible. The freedoms that we've all enjoyed here in America were bought at a terrible price. So many of the young men who died at Normandy didn't even get to return home in death. They are buried in a cemetery there. I hope and pray that America, and indeed the rest of the world will continue to remember and celebrate D-day and the brave men who stepped up to the plate to change the course of history, and deliver the world from tyranny. Tom Brokaw, a renown news anchor labeled the men who fought in World War II the greatest generation. I believe he hit the nail on the head. If you have a vet who served in the war I hope that you'll seek him out and thank him, and please give him a pat on the back for me. They deserve all the honor they receive.
  Just to clarify, the man in the picture above is my father, Benjamin B Botts. He was too young to join the army in "44. However he was part of the occupational forces in Japan after the war. He was another hero of mine.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Great Gifts For Fishermen





 A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a call from my friend Doug Courtney. I've known Doug since he was just about eight years old down in sunny Charleston South Carolina. I moved next door to his family in 1974. I took him out fishing with me a time or two at the Naval Weapons Station ponds back then. When his family moved to Hoonah a year or two later, I followed suit. We fished in my fourteen foot Highlaker and hunted for ducks out on the flats at Game Creek. I caught a thirty nine pound red king salmon one afternoon off the blinker at the cannery when Doug was with me in the boat. It was one of the most thrilling times I've ever  had in my life. Anyway, as I mentioned, Doug gave me a call and mentioned he was sending me a package. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what it could be. When the airline called and said it had arrived I went out and picked up what turned out to be the picture at the top. I was blown away. For those who don't know their fish, it's a beautiful king salmon with a really nice looking hoochie in it's mouth. I don't happen to have that particular hoochie, but  I may have to do some research and see if I can identify it. There is more than one king in the picture, and if all of them took that particular hoochie, I should probably be giving them a try. Speaking of hoochies, some friends at the forest service gave me a retirement party, which in itself was a surprise, but there were gifts also. One person gave me a hoochie coffee cup complete with  a package of my favorite hoochies. They're my favorite because they catch fish- that's also why I don't show a picture of them. I have a theory that if everyone is using the same bait, the fish will elect to try something different. There's no science to that theory, but if a person believes this or that about fishing, it can have an impact on how well you do. The other really dandy gift I got was this
hoochie mobile. I know that usually mobiles are something that you hang above a baby's crib to keep them entertained, but I have to tell you, no baby could ever enjoy this hoochie mobile as much I do. It was a gift from my friend Erin, the Bird Queen of Hoonah. There isn't a question you can ask about any kind of bird that she doesn't have an answer for. Amazing. While I was looking at the mobile, I got to thinking, what if I beefed it up a little bit, put some 100 pound test line on the hoochies and some number 7 stainless steel hooks and trolled it on the bottom spread near the leads, would I possibly catch five, six or more salmon at one time? I may have to try something like that some time. Not with this mobile, this one is just to look at and enjoy. Can you imagine if I could pull multiple fish off each leader? Of course the tangles that would ensue would be incredible, but if I could pull it off, I'd be the Hoochie King.