Up bright and early for a 7 o’clock start, we had breakfast and coffee and met our fishing guide, a lovely Japanese fellow called Eiji Umemura, or AG. He has been a guide for 25 years but is also an artist who does fish prints which is turning into another article for the magazine.
As I mentioned, I had not been that enthusiastic to actually fish, but was looking forward to going out on the water. But all that changed!
The boat is a 23′ Grady White, a really sturdy little fishing boat, all rigged for sportfishing, with downriggers etc. As both Betsy and I are boat people, we felt comfortable on it and I think AG felt comfortable knowing we weren’t going to puke or get squeamish.
Early morning light was gorgeous – a bit chilly but it looked like it would warm up as the day wore on. AG knew exactly where he would take us – to the hottest fishing grounds around; a confluence of warm (everything is relative) water from the south and the cold from the north. Using his GPS, he positioned the boat and set up the rods and downriggers.
From then on it was mayhem! Betsy got the first Chinook, or King salmon. Around 15.5 pounds (just over 7kg) and of course, many pictures and excitement as it was brought on board and… eeeooow… KILLED with an expert smack to the head! AG is such a star! He positioned the boat so the light was perfect and showed Betsy the best way to hold the slippery, slimy fish for the best pictures! He wiped it down carefully so that no blood was visible to detract! Then he expertly slit the gills and stuck the fish upside down in a bucket of seawater to bleed out. Then out came the hose for Betsy to wash her slimy hands and to hose down the deck! He even had towels for drying hands!That was the start! Next it was my turn and I was amazed at how exciting the fight was! And how hard the fish fight – I suppose I would too, if I was hooked in the mouth and dragged toward my doom! I reeled like mad, with the pole digging mightily into my tummy and my knuckles hitting the rod (the reels are called knucklebusters) but I kept reeling and reeling. The line was out about 200 feet (62m) and what was about a 13 pound salmon felt like it weighed a ton! As I was frantically reeling, a hand lands on my shoulder and AG said “BREATHE.” I was holding my breath the entire time! We repeated this process, with the fishing really hitting for the next three hours! At one stage, I said “I can’t do any more! My arms are soooo tired.” But as soon as my rod jiggled again, showing a fish on the line, I was ready! At times, AG had barely got the line back in the water and there was a hit! He was going back and forth between the two rods and our catch, like a crazy man! But he was having a lot of fun too – I think he got a real kick out of these two crazy broads! In all, we caught three kings (Betsy got her limit of two) and two hatchery coho, or silvers. We caught and released eight wild coho and three undersized ling cod. What a blast! Of course, the nice thing is there was no bait involved, just hoochies, the fake sqiddy things on the end of the line; we didn’t have to kill the fish ourselves or do any of the gooshy stuff! Our hands remained fairly fish free!
After our very active time out on the water, we had a leisurely ride back to the lodge, taking more pictures of the lighthouse with lovely lighting. Landing at the dock, we were greeted by Chantal, Sarah and Morne and found out that our catch was the first of the season! Lots more pictures, of course, before AG took them all to the cleaning table and filleted the coho and beheaded the two larger kings before gutting and cleaning them all. We ended up with more than 40 pounds of cleaned fish which was packed in bags and ice and a cooler for us to bring home! We decided then and there that we would call the pot luck group and have a salmon feed the next day. We had time for a delicious crab cake lunch before our flight arrived at 1:30 to take us back to civilization. What a wonderful experience that was! And yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s something that everyone should do, at least once, even though, like me, they originally have absolutely no inclination to do it!