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.

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