This past week, the strangest fish I’ve seen yet here was caught off the dock. Jon, my fellow dock-monkey, has been towing out a line with the skiff all summer to the middle of the bay trying to catch a big halibut. He’s been pretty persistent, it’s a shame he’s come up empty-handed thus far. A couple days ago, however, he caught this weird looking fish. It looked like something you’d find in the deep ocean. The glowing green eyes on the thing were pretty creepy. We were at a loss trying to figure out what it was. The body definitely had some shark-like characteristics, but the face and mouth didn’t resemble anything I was acquainted with.
It wasn’t until Captain Johnny showed up that we learned the identity of this strange beast. He said it was a ratfish, and that they were pretty common around here. I was a little bummed out that it didn’t turn out to be some creature from the abyss that took a wrong turn and wound up in the shallow waters of the bay. We took some photographs and Jon released it to get back to whatever ratfish do. I’ve seen some amazing fish come out of these waters big and small, but I’d have to say the ratfish wins the award for weirdness!
Things are beginning to wind down here at the lodge. We’ve got two weeks left and everyone is itching to finish off this season. Equipment is breaking down, and all of us are completely worn out. I have a nagging pain in my left hand that probably is a repetitive strain injury from doing the same tasks over and over. I was reaching for a boat to tie up to the dock about a month ago and something snapped in my palm, followed by intense pain. Since that incident it keeps on happening at random, and for a day or so I can’t make a fist or really flex my fingers without pain. It’s getting more and more frequent, I hope I haven’t done any permanent damage to it.
We’ve had one captain quit and another got fired in a dramatic fashion since last I wrote. The guy who got fired got drunk and cursed at a guest, then threated another captain who tried to intervene. I won’t go into detail as I don’t like to talk about lodge drama, but needless to say his behavior got him immediately fired. The number one rule here is to not piss off or insult the guests, and the second rule is to not get drunkenly out of control when spending time with the guests. Well, he broke both of those rules so he was sent packing.
The upshot of the captain getting fired is that I got to take his room! It is like staying at the Ritz-Carlton compared to my previous lodgings. Not only am I 50 feet away from the main hallway used by the crew (it’s much quieter), I have an 8 inch memory foam mattress and I actually get Wi-Fi in here! It’s the same crappy internet as everywhere else, but at least I can get on the Internet without having to be out in one of the public areas. The joy I feel at finally having a room to myself is immense. These last couple of months having a roommate was agony for me. My sleep was awful and the lack of privacy was driving me insane. Now I feel like I can finally relax and recharge from the rigors of my daily grind.
Anyways, we are down 2 captains at the most critical time in the whole season. Silvers are thick out in the Inside Passage and guests are limiting out every day. A couple of days ago we set a new record for catching around 1000 lbs of salmon in a single day. We processed 533 lbs of fillets from that haul. Having two less people is having a great impact on our processing capability. Also, the weather is just lousy every day. We’ve had one sunny day in the past two weeks, it’s been non-stop rainy and cold.
We’ve also been having a lot of trouble getting guests in and out. A couple of groups have had to stay overnight in Ketchikan because the weather was too bad to fly in or take a boat out in. Along with the constant bad weather, the temps are starting to get down into the 40’s at night. It’s incredible how short the summers are here. It’s wild watching football on TV and seeing people still running around in shorts and T-shirts. I’ve been having to wear three layers of clothes down on the dock every day and I’m still chilled!
In fishing news, I have little to report. Two weeks ago on my day off I went back to the spot where I caught the silver. The water was thick with pinks, and I got a fish or a bite with almost every cast. I caught 13 at that spot, 3/4 of them foul hooked. I wasn’t even trying to snag them, but it was impossible to avoid hooking them. Most were miserable-looking specimens. It was fun for a while, but I got tired of catching them. They were having a rough enough time without me embedding treble hooks in them. The water was clear and the day was sunny, for the first time I got to witness the fish actually in the process of spawning. The male salmon do this little herky-jerk motion on the bottom of the stream when they fertilize the eggs. Until then I’ve only seen salmon do that in documentaries. The biologist in me really enjoyed seeing that part of their life-cycle up close and personal.
The past couple of days I have had off I’ve had the weather and the flow of water from the creek stymie my attempts at fishing. I’ve only got two more days off before I’m out of here so the pressure is on. I’ve got a fish box I want to fill and take back with me, so I hope to get on a boat this week or the next and get me a limit on some silvers. If I do, I’m going to try and smoke a good part of it. It’s so good, it’ll make you slap your pappy!
That’s all for this week. Sorry for the lack of output. I’ve been just consumed by work lately. It just drives the will to write out of me. I’ve been doing a lot of planning on my upcoming expedition in my down-time. I think ya’ll will all be entertained by what I get into in the coming month or two. I certainly am very excited about it! There’s nothing better than planning an expedition, especially one that will be as well funded as this one. It’ll be the perfect time of the year to hit the road also. I think the lifestyle of working hard for months and then being free for months suits me well. That’s how I’m going to proceed from this point forward. The next couple years will be critical, but once I pay my dues I’ll be set. “Live to fish, fish to live” will be my new creed!