The big news of the week is that we have a new halibut record catch! After a couple weeks of pretty small halibut coming in, a guest landed a halibut that weighed an amazing 160 lbs! Not only was it a colossal fish, the story of how it was caught was a true “This could only happen in Alaska” kind of thing. So the halibut was brought in to the dock with much fanfare and pics taken. When it came time to process the fish, in its belly was found a half-digested salmon and a big silver-gray rockfish! The rockfish was still alive, it had been swallowed by the halibut and still had the fishing rig in its mouth! The lead had disappeared, but the rest was still in there.
So what happened was the guest was bottom fishing for halibut when the rockfish got on. The halibut, seeing the struggling silver-gray, swallowed the fish whole and that’s how it was caught! Somehow the fish was lodged in there good enough to bring the halibut to the surface. Seems like the halibut would have thrown it up, but for some reason it didn’t. The kicker was that the silver-gray still had the bait in its mouth! We had a fish-within-a-fish-within-a-fish kind of situation! I have fished all of my life and this was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. Halibut are some damn greedy fish! They’ll eat anything that will fit in their mouth.
The elderly gentleman who caught the enormous fish will have one hell of a fish story to tell back home, that’s for sure! The best part is that the fish was 74 inches, which is two inches above what is a illegal fish to take. Halibut from 50 to 72 inches aren’t legal to take unless you buy a GAF permit that’s like 450 dollars. He got 73 lbs of fillets off the thing, at market rate that’s around 2200 dollars worth of fish without having to pay extra. Job well done!
Alright, on to my experiences of the past week. I really would have liked to start this blog post with a picture of some beautiful creek-caught salmon. Unfortunately, the wily salmon got the best of me! Not only me, but my beloved Shimano Clarus rod as well. I’ll explain, but check out the massive Dungeness crab that was caught earlier this week by some guests in my featured picture. It’s the biggest one I’ve seen so far this season, probably one of the biggest I’ve ever seen actually. Naturally I had to pose with it. I hope the guest appreciated it!
The night before my day off, I had a huge evening doing fish-boxes. The whole lodge checked out all at once, so I was responsible for boxing up over 600 lbs of fish split up between 25 people. I treated it like a military operation and my crew nailed it. I was so proud of the work me and my boys had done. I went to grab my vape for some celebration puffs and I noticed it was gone. We tore apart the fish-cleaning shed, but it was nowhere to be found. I even popped open the last 4 boxes I sealed and repacked them thinking it might have fallen in to no avail. I hope it didn’t wind up in one of the ones I didn’t check. It would probably not go over well for me. I do have a backup vape so all good, but it was a downer to lose something so key to my well-being.
Now, as I mentioned last week, I had ordered a new backpacking rod for my trips upstream. I was really hoping it would arrive before my day off so I would have it to use. Unfortunately, after the first couple of plane loads of cargo arrived it was a no-show. I resigned myself to using my nice expensive Shimano rod for the day. I broke it down, put some rubber bands around it to keep the halves together and headed up the trail.
It was a really nice day, bright and full of sunshine. It was a 98% chance of rain in the forecast, so I felt really fortunate. Not that the fish would have cared, if anything the bite seems better when it rains. I had heard that the salmon were everywhere in the lake at the head of the creek so that was my destination for the day. After about a half hour of hiking I found a small trail to the side I hadn’t noticed the last time I had been down there. I could see disturbance in the undergrowth that others had been down that way so I went down to check it out. Lo and behold I hit the jackpot! I found a still stretch of water that was LOADED with salmon! I could see swarms of them all over the place. They were jumping everywhere as well!
I was only about halfway to my destination, but I figured that this was a good of a spot as any and proceeded to get my rod set up. I’m using these lures I got off of Amazon, I got 20 of these Kastmaster knock-offs for like 20 bucks. A pretty good deal, they are a quality product. A trick that Devin told me about is to paint one side with pink fingernail polish. Any color of pink, red or orange (but particularly pink) really gets the strikes. The reason being is that these colors look like salmon roe, which is like crack to these fish. The color might resemble baitfish they like to eat as well, not sure about that though.
I began casting, and didn’t have a lot of luck at first. I had a couple of trout on for a second but they jumped up and cast the hook immediately. I fished for another hour and started to think that they just weren’t going to bite at all. I could literally cast right in front of them and they would ignore it! Just when I was about to lose all hope, BAM! I had one on! It came off almost as fast due to my drag being set too heavy. Still, now I knew that they would bite and sent a stream of casts to the same spot. I finally got another one on and this time it stuck. I didn’t have a net so I played it for a while until it got tired out and brought it in. I got it up to my feet and tried to grab for it but it did one crazy flop and got away. I almost had it!
I tried again, undaunted. Probably another hour went by and several fish were hooked but came off immediately. Finally, another one managed to stay on and I played it carefully. After several runs and wild leaps I brought it to the shore and got my hands on it. I threw it up on the shore, and thought I finally landed my first shore salmon! Then, the salmon somehow got a last burst of energy and threw the hook at the same time it splashed back into the creek.
Well, it seems that a net would have been really helpful for me at this point. I was beyond exasperated, but having nothing better to do, I continued casting. It finally got time for me to head back, so I made one of my last casts of the evening. I had the last-cast luck, and got another fish on! This one I really took my time in fighting and tired him out until he seemed to have all the fight out of him. I propped my rod up on my right shoulder as I held the leader in one hand and tried to gill him with the other. Just as I slid my fingers into the fish’s gills, he jumped straight up. On the way down I heard a snap and the last six inches of my rod had broken clean off. Enraged, I lunged for the fish with everything I had and in one motion he wiggled right out of my hands, spat the hook, and swam away.
You could have probably heard me cussing a mile away back at the lodge. I was furious! Six hours of fishing and I had not only lost 3 nice silver or sockeye salmon right at the bank, I had broken my favorite rod in the process. Damn my rotten luck! I hiked back to the lodge defeated, covered in horsefly bites, and with nothing to show for almost a whole day fishing. When I got back and told my tale of woe to everyone, my new roommate informed me that I had received a package and he had laid it on my bed. Guess what was inside? My new rod! If only I had waited another hour or so, I would have had been able to take it with me and my Shimano would have been spared. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes. You break a rod, you get a rod I suppose.
One of the captains is pretty good at fixing rods, and he had a spare rod tip he glued onto the end of my rod. Now it is usable again, but it doesn’t quite have the same zip in the casts that the extra six inches provided. It’ll do for the rest of the time I am here. I’ll probably wind up buying another one when I get back to the world. So yeah, Team Salmon: 1, Dogfish: 0. I immediately placed an order for a collapsible net so this won’t happen again. Next week I will return to the salmon spot with my new rod and net and hopefully I can get my revenge. Tune in next week to see how it goes!