Blog Archive

Thursday, March 31, 2011


My wife, Jan, called this morning with the unpleasant news that a friend of mine, Bunny Lampe passed away last night. Some months back he had complained of a pain in his back. He thought he may have pulled a muscle working at the cold storage. When the pain didn't go away he had it checked out and the diagnosis was cancer. I don't know all the particulars about it and I guess it doesn't matter, the fact is we've lost another fisherman here in Hoonah and more than that, someone who made the world a better place with his presence. I believe his given name was Robert, but if you were a stranger in town and asked for Robert Lampe, I doubt that most people would have been able to direct you to him. If, however, you asked about Bunny, he would immediately be pointed out. Everybody knew Bunny, and I would venture to say, liked him as well. When I fished out of a fourteen foot Hi-Laker skiff so many years ago, I frequently had to compete with Bunny for whatever fish might be around. We would pass each other in our skiffs and he would often yell-"HOW MANY TOM?" I would hold up a number of fingers to represent my catch, and almost always he would hold up more. He was an exceptional fisherman with rods. I don't know of anyone who enjoyed it more. We were out fishing  for cohos at Point Sophia years ago, and when we passed, Bunny yelled over, " I TOLD MYSELF, I CAN'T HAVE ANOTHER BEER UNTIL I CATCH  NUMBER THIRTY FOUR" I laughed and waved and about fifteen minutes later I heard- "WAHOOO!" and watched him pop the top on a cold one. For a number of years he worked at the Hoonah Cold Storage buying fish. All the fishermen liked him and he would frequently comment favorably when you brought in a good load or had a particularly large fish. He had a way of making you feel good no matter what you caught. He almost always pointed out beyond the dock and would mention this point or that as the current hot spot that I should fish next. Of course he told everyone his secret place. He was one of the best natured men I've ever come across and it was always a pleasure to see him.  Those of us who knew him are left with fond memories. He'll  be sorely missed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tools of the Trade

 I looked outside today and saw that the bay looks like a millpond, just as flat and beautiful as a mountain lake. Of course, just because it looks nice doesn't mean that the fish are biting. At least that's been my experience. I always get all spastic this time of year with the weather getting better. I'd really like to get out there and run the gear up and down, but I think  my best bet right now is to try and prepare,so that when the fish are biting I'll be ready- or at least as ready as I can be. It seems like there is always something unexpected that crops up that has to be dealt with. I don't know what I'd do if I actually went out and something didn't break down or I didn't leave the dock without some important piece of equipment that I need. I think I would contact the folks at Guinness Books. I'm sure it would be some kind of a record.
 For several days I set up shop at my dining room table so I could tie some hoochies for the up and coming dog salmon season. The season doesn't really start until June, but I'm really trying to be ready. I bought ten packs of M85 hoochies- supposedly the ones the dogs really like. I hope they still like them and haven't gotten all preppy on me- "sorry, we only want designer hoochies by Ralph Lauren this year." I ordered #6/0 stainless steel hooks that have been blued, like a gun barrel. They seem to be preferred by choosy dog salmon over the bright hooks- or so I've heard. Of course they cost more. I put a bunch of them in the stainless bowl of water to take off any residue that might scare off the fish; their olefactory nerves are very sensitive. It didn't seem to matter that they soaked for days, when I grabbed them, some of the blueing came off in my  hands. Par for the course I guess. I use the black pliers to close the hooks around the swivel that's built into the hoochies. Unlike hooks that I use in fresh water, these have open eyes and have to be manually closed. The red handled pliers are for crimping a loop  in the end of the leader. I use a little Jinkai sleeve for that purpose. The only thing I forgot was a small bastard file for sharpening the hooks. I learned years ago that even though these hooks are new, they're just stamped out and need to be sharpened before use. The exception would be the laser sharp hooks that I think Eagle claw puts out.  So that's about it. The hoochies are snapped on behind a flasher which rotates in the water and attracts the fish and gives the bait (hoochie) some action. I can't recall the exact story of where hoochies came from. I think a Japanese pilot was shot down during WWII and noticed the fish were pecking at his tattered clothing. Anyway, when the war was over I guess he started making small plastic replicas of octopus or octopi,and the rest, as they say, is history. It was obviously a great idea. There have been tens of thousands of packages sold since they first came on the market and I've probably bought half of them- or would if I could. You have to understand, hoochies are to a commercial troller what shoes are to a woman. Sometimes you see some you just have to have. In my minds eye, I'm always catching mass quantities of fish on these special hoochies that I just purchased, which of course no one else has. They watch me in despair as I pull fish in front of them until I'm exhausted, while their lines hang limp as a noodle, until they finally leave in disgust. The fact that it's never happened doesn't mean that it couldn't. More likely than not though, I'll be outfished by a novice using bits of hot dogs or marshmellows. Oh well, it's fun to be on the water anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

These aren't Mine

I got an email from my good friend Doug Courtney last week. He apparently was sick of looking at the Yanni post. No doubt if I had posted about Jimmy Buffett, there would be no complaint registered. Now I not only have to entertain my family, I have to meet the needs of friends and aquaintances. I need to get a larger audience so I can get some sponsors or something so I can just do this instead of a real job. In any event, I've known Doug since I was in the navy. He was just a boy then and I took him fishing with me on occasion down in Charleston. When his family moved to the farm in Alaska, we weren't too far behind. We used to hunt ducks out in the fields and had a memorable experience once when Doug was tearing through the waist high grass with a Brown Bear hot on his heels. We set a land speed record for escape and though we both crossed a shallow slough, I don't believe either of us got our feet wet. Just for the record- running from a bear is the very thing you aren't supposed to do. Go figure. Anyway, we're still both here and have all of our appendages. Now on to the main body of the post. I  don't know how many times when I was a kid I was confronted by Mom pointing at a pile of clothes on the floor or toys scattered in the yard or a mess in the bathroom sink, and of course I would answer, that's not mine. Well, concerning these fine halibut, I can honestly say, these aren't mine. I wish they were- I truly do. These beauties came from the fishing vessel Spellbound. It used to be called the Angela Kay, but Mike, the owner, changed the name and had it repainted. It's a beautiful fiberglass boat that is kept immaculate, and I would love to own something like it, but that would require money, and then I would have to catch enough fish in the year to pay for the expenses, so I guess I'll stay with what I have. The commercial halibut fleet has really taken it on the chin over the course of the past five or six years. The International Pacific Halibut Commission has drastically reduced the commercial quota at a time when the commercial sport charter fleet was expanding and exceeding their allotted catch. Many of those guys own or work for lodges here in Alaska while living elsewhere. It's been a lopsided arrangement with the brunt of the cuts being born by the longline fleet, which I am a part of. This year alone we took a 47% cut in our quota, bringing to over 70% the loss we have suffered in the past few years. I'm hoping we've seen the last of it. In all fairness, I have to say that the IPHC finally decided to reduce the impact of the charter fleet by limiting them to one fish per day and nothing over 37 inches long. Like most government agencies, they didn't act until  there was a disaster looming. Many of the clients who book a charter want trophy halibut, so they are cancelling their reservations to go out. While I can empathize with the charter fleet, if the reason for the cutbacks is to save the resource, I will embrace it. We all have to share in the pain to insure that there will be halibut for everyone in the future. I'll quote Forrest Gump here-"That's all I have to say about that." I was down at the Hoonah Cold Storage when I heard that a boat was unloading. It just happened to be the first load of halibut for them this year. They're nice fish-in very good shape.   I guess it wasn't the nicest trip. We had been going through a terrible cold spell at the time these were caught, and though the weather was sunny, it was windy and miserable. All the more reason I don't fish for halibut in March. Last year my son Brian and I went out for halibut in April, but I think the weather was a lot warmer then. I can't remember. Anyway, soon enough I'll go out and get my little bit of fish  and when I do I'll probably write about it. Doug, if you read this, just thought I'd let you know, I'm listening to Yanni as I write. Maybe I'll try a little Jimmy Buffett later. Margeritaville sounds like a good place to be right now. I'm sure you'd agree.                                                                                            

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today is St. Patrick's Day, the 17th of March. A lot of people celebrate it, wearing green, having a Guiness, beer or speaking a few Irish phrases. I happen to enjoy the day. Green is my favorite color, and because the day falls in the middle of March, there is usually at least a hint of spring. Today the weather is sunny and bright and it actually feels almost warm outside. Yesterday I was supposed to fly to Juneau for a dental appointment,but the day dawned grey and snowy so I couldn't make it-go figure. I need to get back to the dentist before I resemble a Jack O' Lantern. In any event, that's neither here nor there. March 17, 2007 is the day my dad died. I've posted a couple pictures of my dad when he was a young man. Mom is with him in the top picture and you can see they both look pretty happy. She had that effect on him. It' s been four years since he passed away. He had a stroke and was in the hospital for a bit. The stroke left him without an ability to get out and around. It looked like he was headed to an assisted living home and would be confined to a wheelchair- something that just wouldn't have worked for him at all. For whatever reason, after the stoke, he was unable to open his eyes. After a few days a nurse asked him if he would like to open his eyes. "No." he replied. When she asked why not he said "You might be ugly." I had to laugh when I heard that. The last time I visited him, a few months before the stroke, he took me down to the marina where he had a favorite bench he liked to sit at and have a cup of coffee and a doughnut. He would just sit there and watch the sailboats and pelicans and porpoises. He mentioned that he got really upset one day when he came to the marina and someone was sitting on "his" bench- he was funny like that. While I was visiting, Mom sent us down to a fresh produce market to pick up tomatoes or some such thing. We wandered around the outdoor market, looking and sniffing and squeezing the various produce, and then he decided we needed a cart. A basket wouldn't be big enough. We passed by the oranges, but stopped at the grapefruits. Watermelon was on sale, so we needed one of those, and then he spotted some fresh green beans and small  potatoes- throw in a little ham or bacon and you have a meal fit for a king.  We picked up the fresh, ripe tomatoes that we came after, but also found the most beautiful big strawberries. You can't go home without a carton of those. We finally made it back home over an hour later. I don't think Mom was surprized. Dad never did anything half way. In his later years he had developed a sweet tooth and was constantly bringing home icecream. I don't know if he forgot what he had at home or just wanted to make sure he didn't run out. I opened the freezer one day and saw at least six partial containers. My daughter Jen said she watched him pull a pan of brownies out of the oven one day ( I never knew he cooked) and while looking out the back window started absent-mindedly eating them. She said he went through half the pan before  he looked down and saw what he was doing. He was very regimented in his schedule. He went to bed at the same time and woke up early, and God help you if you made too much noise while he was trying to sleep. One evening while Jen was visiting, he came out of his room with his robe and slippers on. Jen thought they were being too noisy and was expecting a reprimand, but instead he exclaimed " My night-blooming Sirus" and grabbed a flashlight. He wanted to show her a flower that only bloomed at night and then only at a certain time. He liked to share things that he enjoyed and thought other people would too. When I was there he took me to various places he'd discovered- beaches, marinas, down a scenic drive past some beautiful homes and spectacular landscaping, a fishing pier and an out of the way sandwich shop down by the water, which also happened to sell bait and fishing tackle in a different part of the building. We stopped by a Home Depot one day and picked up some flowers for his front lawn- he always loved flowers and so do I. He directed where he wanted them and I planted. It frustrated him that he couldn't do the things that he once could, but I was so pleased to be able to help. I think we both kind of knew that we probably wouldn't be spending time together again on this old earth. He left me with some great memories of our last time together so what more could you ask for? While he was alive he modeled integrity. He was outspoken and uncompromising in his opinions and there were times when his temper got the best of him, but in many ways I wish I was more like him. So enjoy the day- I may lift a glass too,  not just to St. Patrick, whom I didn't know, but to my dad, whom I did.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


 Like most of the rest of the world I've been watching the scenes in Japan unfold with a sense of horror and a feeling of sorrow for the people who have been affected. Who amongst us hasn't been affected in one way or another? As I've sat in front of the TV night after night and seen the devestation, I've been left with a feeling of despair and helplessness. I wish this hadn't happened, but it did. Every night I go to bed asking God to be merciful to those people and  to us. As bad as I feel for the folks in Japan, I'm also thankful that it didn't happen here. I'm struggling with the thoughts that I'm having- saddness that it happened, guilt for sitting here fat and happy and not having to deal with the tragedy directly, and a little anger.  I think I'm angry at God for not relenting, or intervening to prevent even more sorrow. Then it struck me today that I'm judging God. He's not doing what I think He should be doing. Why doesn't He do this or that? That's what I'd do if I were in charge. None if this would have happened if I had been running the show. These are lofty thoughts for someone who can't even tune up his car or run his computer or even play an instrument. When I stop long enough to think about it, I realize that I'm looking at things through a little pin hole, while  He see's the whole picture.  In the bible, Job, a man whom God considered blameless and upright was tested in almost every way conceivable. He lost his home, his children, his posessions and his health. To make matters worse his friends who came to comfort him added to his sorrow by assuming he was at fault for his many troubles. Even his wife turned against him and told him to curse God and die. For thirty seven chapters he complains in bitterness of spirit and through it all he wants to know why.  When God answers Job, he doesn't explain why  this has happened, instead  He asks the questions. " Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand."  He goes on to question Job about all the wonders of the world that He has created. At one point He asks, ' Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?" It's a sobering question and one that I have to ask myself when things happen that are beyond my control. I don't believe the Lord objects to our questioning him. I think we'd all like to know why certain things happen in our lives, so often they don't make sense. If He were  to explain the reason for doing what He does, would I be able to understand? Would it matter one way or the other? I think for now the question I have to ask is- what can I do to help those who are in such desparate need? I know of two worthwhile organizations who are already in the process of helping the folks in Japan. Samaritan's Purse and the Salvation Army are established in the country and need donations. Perhaps this disaster has happened to see how we will respond, I don't know. I do  know that God is merciful and gets no pleasure in the death or suffering of anyone and I think He would be pleased to see His people helping their fellow man. In the meantime, the sun will rise and set. People will die and be born. There will be earthquakes and storms and fires and all manner of unpleasant things and as long as we are on this earth we'll all experience sorrow in one form or another, but there will also be many more good things. Families and friends and good food and all manner of joyful times; and when hard times come upon us, there will be good hearted people willing to step up to the plate and sacrifice to help their fellow man. God bless us all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


  I was home alone last Monday evening; Jan had to run to Juneau for a dental appointment and I was left to fend for myself, which was fine.  When I'm fishing I spend many a night alone and after the first few days or so of loneliness, I adapt to the dinners out of a can or from my good friends at Stouffer's or Swanson's. In any event, I had to work for a few hours that night and when I returned home I decided to listen to my latest  Yanni CD. The dog was laying in his bed, under his sleeping bag, the TV was off and I put down the book I've been reading and just listened. Frankly, it was heavenly. For anyone not familiar with Yanni, I guess his music is described as New Age, which in my opinion isn't quite accurate, but I'm no music critic, so what do I know? New Age conjures up images of people chanting or doing yoga or listening to some bonehead expound on spiritual awareness of which he has no idea, while he takes their money and sends them off to die in a sweat lodge.  Anyway, I can't accurately describe the music Yanni produces. Every album is different. As you can see I have several videos and a DVD as well as eight CD's and three cassettes. One of the videos, Live at the Acropolis, shows Yanni standing between two pianos and playing them both at the same time. On that video he's playing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His mother and father are in the audience and the stadium is packed to the hilt. He plays a song that he wrote for his mother called Felitsa- his mother's name. It is one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard. On the Tribute video his live performances occur at the Taj Mahal in India and also at the  Great Wall of China. His Live DVD takes place in the Mandolay Bay in Las Vegas. Like all of his concerts, the auditorium is packed. He's got a worldwide fan base and tickets to his performances can run into the hundreds of dollars. All of  his performances that I've seen come with a light show, coordinated with the music, so it's a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.
   I was watching Good Morning America years ago, back when Joan London and Charlie Gibson were the hosts and they had him on as a guest and he played one of the songs from his concert in Athens. I was hooked immediately. Incidentally, I first heard Enya on GMA too, another one of my favorite artists. I don't know why so many musicians go by their first name only. If I went by Tom alone, I doubt that I would be famous at all. Most likely I'd be considered a world class nut case. I guess that's the price I pay for not having any musical ability.
  If you haven't heard Yanni before, I would encourage you to take a walk on the wild side and give him a try. If I had the technical ability to reproduce one of his songs with this blog, I most certainly would. He's a musical genius and he's used his God given gift well. I hope he continues to produce what in my opinion is some of the most beautiful, stirring music a person could listen to. I've listed the titles of his music that I own  below.
 Live at the Acropolis  
 Yanni Live
 If I Could Tell You
 The Ultimate Collection
 Truth of Touch 
 In the Mirror
 Love Songs

Friday, March 4, 2011

Glacier Bay Tribal House Project

 I spent a delightful few hours this afternoon in the building that used to house the school auto shop. Who know's, someday it may be a shop again, but for now it's being used to carve a screen that will be transported to Glacier Bay National Park,  the original home of the Huna Tlingit. The project manager is Gordon Greenwald. Prior to his retirement from the Hoonah City School, he was the wood shop teacher, as well as teaching drafting and Northwest Coast Art. As I look around my office I see several plaques as well as a small paddle, a replica of what the local natives would have used to paddle their canoes up and down the Alaskan coastline. All have been decorated in the designs  similar to what  the Tlingit would have put on their paddles or totems or screens. Several of my kids excelled at Northwest Coast Art, even receiving requests for designs for paddles. The design of this screen is an original one that Gordy has made himself. I wish I could remember all that he told me about it. At the top left, if you look closely, you can see a canoe that has been carved out of the cedar. I believe the figure in the canoe depicts his family's clan who lived in Lituya Bay on the outside coast. Under the canoe on the far left is a circle with a hole in it. That represents a stone, which the Tlingit used for anchors. Gordy's wife, Chris, braided a rope out of red cedar strips that will be used for the anchor rope. I can't recall what the figures under the canoe represent, possibly several other clans or tribes that make up the Huna Tlingit. There are small figures that look like bears that go up the side and over the top of the large figure on the right. I believe he said they were icebergs. The large figure is the glacier that drove the Huna from Glacier Bay, their ancestral home some several hundred years ago it's believed. The Tlingit had no calendar so it's hard to say when this occured exactly. Between the ears of the glacier there is another canoe. Though it is hard to see, there are figures carved, sitting in the canoe. Gordy said they represent all of the people living in Hoonah. He mentioned that I was being represented by those figures as well. Frankly, I felt pretty honored. Between the arms of the glacier is a carving of Kasteen, an old woman who chose to stay behind and die when the rest of the tribe left to escape the advancing glacier. If I remember correctly, she didn't want to be a burden on her people. You can see her eyes are portrayed by copper. If you look closely, under Kasteen is the outline of a doorway. I guess it will be cut out in the final work. I asked Gordy why it was so small. He replied that if any enemies tried to enter their home, they had to stoop to enter, putting them at a disadvantage. The second picture shows some of the carving tools the artists are using. There are knives and chisels and a special hammer made for stiking the wood handled tools to prevent damage. The wood carvers on this project are
(left to right) Herb Sheakley, Owen James, Louie White Jr.(aka King Louie) and Goron Greenwald. It's quite an extensive project. I read that several huge red cedar logs (4 ft. in diameter) were cut for this screen. When it's completed the screen will be sixteen feet at it's highest point by thirty feet wide. When completed it will be dismantled, panel by panel and trasported to Glacier Bay. There will be a structure built for it. Gordy and the other carvers will be providing the Park Service with four carved posts as well, representing each of the four clans or tribes. Having seen this undertaking first hand, I have to say it's pretty impressive. These men can be proud of their handiwork. It's going to be seen by multitudes of people in the coming years and it's testimony to their skill. Well done fellows.