The king salmon I had caught proved to be a female. This serendipitous occurance allowed my father to execute the plan.
Execution? A trip to the local hardware store to buy a cheap plastic collinder, an hour washing salmon eggs in the sink of our fishing lodge kitchenette, another trip to a local grocery for a box of salt, more fiddling in the kitchen sink, then waiting overnight to see if the result of all this effort is edible.
To my surprise the result was not only edible, but pretty good. Caviar!
An intense salmon taste different but reminiscent to smoked salmon. Served on crackers with cream cheese the bright golden orange caviar was a nice treat after a day out fishing.
It has been three years since the last voyage of the Nordic Quest. In the meantime the Quest has been sold and a pandemic raged. Three years is long enough, time for a return to the mainland and another fishing trip. My first visit to the mainland since the pandemic started.
My father and brother had not taken much of a pause, with the sale of the boat they have instead headed to a fishing lodge for their annual fishing. After some research my father decided on Yakutat for the abundance of halibut and more generous fishing regulations than found in SE Alaska.
For the last couple years they have used Yakutat Lodge, a choice I have to agree with. We had a great time with five days of fishing on Yakutat Bay.Continue reading “Fishing Yakutat”
After the aborted shore mission at Iyoukeen Cove, we were not done for the day, there would be more bears.
We knew there was yet another opportunity to see bears, under somewhat safer conditions, just around the corner in Freshwater Bay. Pavlof Harbor is a small cove off the bay that offers a small river that tumbles over a low waterfalls right at tideline. If there are fish in the river, there will be bears fishing here. As this is still Chichagof Island, they will be grizzly bears, there are no black bears here.
As we entered Pavlof harbor we were surprised as a float plane came overhead and landed along the northern shore. The plane quickly beached a few hundred yards north of where the river enters the cove and disgorged a group of passengers, the plane deparing as soon as the passengers were off. While we set about anchoring the Quest in the cove, they got a briefing from their guide and slowly walked along the shoreline trail to the river.
In binoculars we could see at least two bears at the river. It looked like these folks were getting what they paid for, a chance to see and photograph grizzlies fishing in the river. Deciding to give the other group a head start we broke out the chow and had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
OK, you can stop asking for the new Inside Passage video… It is done!
It has bears! Whales! Sea lions! Grizzly bears! Aurora! Lots of drone footage! More bears!
Actually the video came together pretty well. I already had a piece of music picked out, that saved a great deal of trouble. Nearly four weeks on the water meant a great deal of photographic material to work with. As usual the Inside Passage provided plenty of photographic opportunity, particularly the first week when is seemed like even the wildlife was performing on cue.
And there were lots of bears…
The boat is anchored several miles from the nearest land in the middle of Sumner Strait. Here a series of reefs and shoals provide habitat for many creatures, including our target… Halibut.
Conditions are perfect, rather odd on this large body of water. The sea is a sheet of rippled glass reflecting a few clouds. Bright sunlight warms the day. This is not exactly the bitter wind, waves, and rain that comes to mind when Alaskan fishing is mentioned.
A few hundred yards north a pair of sea otters keep a wary eye on us, noisily eating something lacy and bright orange. Along the shoreline south a humpback is breaching, the white splashes visible miles away.
This is halibut fishing. Pick a likely spot, anchor the boat, drop lines to the bottom, and wait. In the meantime you can simply enjoy the day, listening to the spouts of whales passing by.
As for the halibut? One modest fish is in the cooler, the others remain elusive. Not that anyone is too worried. The day is nice enough to enjoy any excuse to be out on the water.
Among the tribes of the coastal northwest there is a ceremony that surrounds the first fish of the season. These ceremonies might vary from tribe to tribe, from family to family, but every tribe had such a ceremony.
Life once depended on the yearly return of salmon to the rivers and streams each summer. For bears, eagles, and humans the annual bounty of salmon provided the nourishment that would see them through the long winter. The forest itself benefits from the nutrients carried from distant seas into the trees where the salmon would spawn and die.
Upon catching the first salmon of the season the tribe will stop and celebrate. They celebrate the life of the fish, they celebrate the cycles of the natural world, they celebrate their connection with nature. Some protocols insist that the first fish be released, to continue upriver to spawn, to ensure the salmon continue to return each summer.
That one idea is the critical bit, our connection with nature. Any fisherman understands that he takes from the natural world. A good fisherman stops and considers what he takes. He takes only what he needs to feed his family. This is the entire point of the first fish ceremony, it serves to educate the community in the act of taking, to limit what you take to what the environment can provide.
I grew up in a hunting and fishing family, where a considerable portion of our food came from what my father caught or shot. Be it elk, deer, ducks, razor clams, or smelt, so many of my childhood memories center around the capture, preparation and storage of food… Chopping, packaging and freezing an elk was a serious amount of labor for the entire family.Continue reading “First Fish”