Wednesday, July 23, 2008


So for those of you that haven't heard Mom's bragging (and bygum - she better be braggin'!), I caught my first Alaskan halibut down in Homer yesterday. It was a whopping 40 pounds - so a long, heavy and suffering haul to reel in. Although it's me saying it - without any biased-ness and bigheadedness, my fish was the biggest on the boat. There were 20 fishermen on the boat (only three women - the two other women were older, and the rough lookin' type) altogether. The bag limit for halibut is two per day - so there were about 35-40 fish on the boat - and out of all of 'em, mine was the biggest. It was so awesome.

So, the day started out with Wesley and I driving down to Homer around 8:30 in the morning. We looked around the shops for a while and then piled into The Jackpot boat around 12:30pm, after our fishing licenses were checked and tallied. We then drove out of Kachemak Bay for a good hour and a half before we found what was supposed to be the "perfect" fishing spot. Got the run-down on how we were supposed to use the reels, and then we got to fishin'. We were given halibut poles (rods that can handle over 100 lbs. of fish), twisted line that was about 1/4'' thick, two-pound weights attached to the line, and about a 3-inch hook with herring on it (as bait). Once you let the line out about 150 feet down to the bottom, you wait to feel a pecking on your line. On the first drop, I got a bite. I whipped the pole up and pulled it to the side to lodge the hook in better, and started reeling in like a fishin' fool. Now, if you gather that without a fish you're having to reel in about 150-300 feet of line that is 5 pounds of sheer line, hook and weight, add on the weight of a huge fish - that has a ton of power to fight with you as much as it can.
This is the Jackpot, the boat we were on.

Reeling in was HARD. I have never had to reel as hard as I had to yesterday. By the end of the day, my left hand was cramping, my arms were sore, and I was soaked to the skin. It had been raining all day.

So, you reel in with your right hand and hold the pole steady with your left. Thankfully, I had Wesley and the boat captain helping me with holding the pole. Not only does it take so much strength to reel in the large boulder attached to your line - you also have to hold your rod steady so the fish doesn't pull it out from underneath you. It was hard work. While waiting for the fish to bite, being that it was probably 48-50 degrees outside and raining - you were cold. But once you got to reelin,' you were cursing all the layers you had put on - because you felt that they were now a hindrance.

It was an amazing time, though. To my annoyance, most of the three hours we fished I caught gray cods. Gray cods are trash fish. They play with your mind into thinking you're catching a big halibut, and then after grueling over reeling in 200 feet of line, a gray cod pops up, mouth wide as a size 4 soccer ball - clinging onto the piece of herring that was meant for your record breaker halibut. Gray cods aren't small by any means - some were as long as 2-3 feet probably, and 12-18 inches wide. Unfortunately, they're useless (for the most part), as they're filled with parasites and worms and aren't good eating. The deckhands on the boat said that they don't even use gray cod as bait. I (no exaggeration) probably caught 15-20 gray cods before I caught my halibut. With an all-call stating that there was 20 minutes left to fish, I had to catch one. Once I caught my halibut, it was worth all the effort. Sadly, by the time I caught my halibut, we only had a couple of minutes left so I didn't end up limiting out. Imagine catching 2 40-pounders! That's a helluva lot of meat.
This is me catching my first gray cod. I'm holding ono the two-pound weight as the deckhand pulls off the fish and lets it go.
This is a gray cod. My face looks terrible. Rain was pelting my eyes. Anyway, this is a smaller one. I caught bigger cods than this -but it gives you a good idea as to how they look like. And, I didn't keep any of those. Like I said, the meat isn't good so it was pointless to keep them. Most of us (with the exception of this one here - a man wanted to keep it to use it for bait) threw them back into the water after we pulled our line up. This is my halibut. I didn't have the strength to hold it up all of the way, so you can't tell how big it is compared to me. But it does look pretty big. Wesley held up the halibut so you can see how big it is. It doesn't look as big compared to him...but it sure looks big compared to me!This is the halibut Wesley caught. He felt embarassed that I outdid him. It was really funny - all the guys on the boat were saying, "The littlest thing on this boat caught the biggest fish!" Don't make fun, though - like I said earlier, he caught a 75-pounder just two weeks ago (that was really tasty, by the way). This is just some of the halibut caught on the boat.The rest is on the other side of this picture not shown. The two deckhands filleted all of the fish on the drive back to the dock.

This is one of the deckhands filleted a fish.

Went to Buttwhackers again to check out the damage. Biggest halibut on the end (on the left) was a 45 pounder, so just a teensy bit bigger than mine.

So, after getting back into Homer, we went over to the fish processing place so I could send all of the fish home to my mommy. Guess how much it cost me - for 25 pounds of meat - just guess. Betcha guessed wrong! Cost me 175 bucks to send that sucker home. After filleted the fish, I was left with 25 pounds of meat. So there'll be plenty to make dinner for those hungry for halibut. I'll definitely be taking some up with me to Gainesville.

This picture below is of me and Ed, a volunteer here at the refuge. This is when I caught my first Alaskan salmon! As much as I hate to admit this, my fish is on the right. A nice woman volunteered to take the picture for us - but unfortunately, took a crap photo. I'm not just saying this to atone for the fact that my fish looks tiny in this picture. It was small, I grant you that - but not as small as it looks here. The way it's held you can't tell how big it was around. Anyway, Ed and I went fishing around 10 at night for about two hours - and didn't get a thing. We both had a few bites, hooked a few but lost them as they started jumping out of the water - but nothing after that. Then suddenly, Ed caught his big 'un. His is a male Sockeye. Once he caught his, I said to myself, I aint leavin' this place empty handed. So I fished with a determined gleam in my eye (oh yes, I'm editorializing) and in no time, caught my salmon. Mine is a female King. She was probably about 5 pounds. Her body was mostly filled with eggs - but we still got two good-sized fillets out of her and it was SO good. I cooked the salmon the next night. I marinated it in teriyaki, italian dressing and cajun seasoning - and boy, was it good. I cooked some for Sam and had 5 other taste testers - and they all assured me it was finger lickin' good. So no biased-ness there. No worries to the family - I'll be catching some more salmon to send home.

Shortly after I caught my first salmon, I foul hooked one close to the size of Ed's. Unfortunately, it was foul hooked so I had to let it go. To this day I still beat myself up about it, because I should have kept it. The hook was just under the gills, the fish had tired out, and it probably died after I let it go. I should have kept it.

Anyway, since that night, I've fished three times. Hooked and caught a few, but haven't managed to land them. I'm supposed to go out again tonight, so hopefully I'll have better luck.

Last Wednesday, I went over to the Russian River ferry and caught my first Rainbow trout. The limit for that is one per day, less than 16 inches - and it was bigger than that, so I didn't get to keep it.

The Sunday after I caught my salmon, I went to Girdwood with Ed to go gold panning. Girdwood is really close to Anchorage, if you want to look at it on the map. It was an absolutely beautiful drive to there. I swear, the mountains and scenery here are 10x better than what I've been showing you guys already on this blog. The mountains were bigger, and more snow-covered. We saw Turnagain Arm and the Alaskan Train that runs from Seward up to Denali (and probably more North).

We gold panned at what I think was Copper Creek. I can't remember the name of it now. I do recall that the creek's name started with a C. We got our pans, two buckets, and two shovels and then hiked down to the creek. We shoveled a ton of dirt and gravel, put them in our buckets, and then sifted that material handful by handful into the pans, searching for gold. I could almost taste the metallic sweetness of that nugget I was sure to find.

To tell you the truth, I never had much of a hankerin' for gold panning, but I figured I'd add that to my repertoire of Cool Things I've Done. In addition to the fact that you can't go to Alaska - the Last Frontier - place where thousands of men, with hunger in their eyes, pilgrimmaged to make their living - the Gold Rush - without searchin' for a little gold. So search I did. For two hours. And found four flecks. I wasn't expecting much - so I had that going for me. I went for a good time - and a good time is what I got.

Above: Me looking through my pan for gold. Below: Ed searchin' for gold. He reminds me a bit of you, Dad. Not in the looks, but in the personality.

The four flecks I found. Ed had been gold panning before - so it was funny that I should find some - and he didn't find any at all.

Before and after we gold panned, we took a little drive around the area - saw Alyeska Ski Resort - and made a lot of stops at overlook areas. I got some really good pictures.

After we gold panned, we took a hike to the Copper Creek Gorge. We took a hand tram over the gorge to get to the other side of the river.

This is a view from the tram, smack dab in the middle of the gorge.

This is a picture of the path we took to get to the hand tram. The forest was beautiful, and it left kaleidoscope dappled sun patches on the ground wherever we went. This is Ed and another man on the tram. It took you 500 yards across the swallowing depths of 500 yards below your feet. This is a picture looking down from the grate of the tram cage. My shoe is on the lower left corner. The water was running so fast. It was an amazing and beautiful sight. This is a picture of the Alaska railroad and train. It was headed in the opposite direction, away from the mountains. In between the mountains there is a glacier.

Another photo of the train, this time of the front.

This is a picture of a mountain peak from the car. Can you believe it? Just from the car. It's really cool to look at the shadows from the clouds on the snow. Took another one from inside the car. This is on the drive back to Soldotna. Such a breathtaking drive, isn't it?

Photo of the rushing water of the gorge.

The loon tagging and capturing I did last Tuesday was absolutely amazing. I held two loons in my hands. I held their beak tight shut with my left hand, and kept their head down with the right. The two researchers took blood and fecal samples, made several measurements of their beaks, and then tagged their left foot. I met them at the Drake/Snookum Trailhead at 8 in the morning, and didn't get back 'til 9 at night.

The second loon we captured was a thrilling adventure. We set the capturing net and grid and all sat in our designated spots hidden by camouflage curtains we had hooked up. The one researcher (Chris) started playing loon calls from a device, and the three of us sat silent, waiting. Within ten minutes of making the calls, we spotted a group of four loons way down the lake. Four loons is unusual. Loons are, by nature, solitary. They have their one mate and that's it. When another loon comes onto the lake, that loon, by the other male loon's perspective, is not respecting his territory. And this is just what happened. The loon we eventually captured was being extremely territorial. He chased the other loon on the lake for a good ten minutes. Apparently, I witnessed something that was extremely unusual. Chris had said that that was probably one of the longest chases he had ever watched - and he's been working with loons for years.

When males feel threatened, they do the "yodel" call, which only males do, and they do the "penguin dance," in which they make the call, careen their heads to one side, hold their wings outstretched, and kick the water out from underneath them. It quite literally looks like they are walking on water. This male was doing that several times. It was such an amazing sight. When they "chase" another loon, they stay on the surface of the water, but flap their wings and use them as propellors as they speed through the water. The territorial male was clearly faster than the other, but the other was doing these sharp and quick turns and so was able to escape. After the other male left, we finally were able to snag the other and then do our measurements.

Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera out because I didn't want to risk it falling into the lake - so the pictures with me and loons in my lap are with the researchers. They said they would send me pictures in August. Those should be awesome.

Anyway, that's all for now - but more adventures are sure to follow!


Trevor said...

Awesome entry Em. I'm glad to to see you've taken such a liking to fishing. That halibut is massive, I cant wait for it to arrive! Miss you.

Love. Trevor

Tessa Rose said...

Yay! Emily is a Champion! I'd better get a small taste of that halibut. I'm glad I get to be friends with you and enjoy the spoils.. hee hee *impish laughter*

Soooo, I think, since you seem to run by buttwhackers so often.. you really should get some more pictures of that hunk-of-a-man that you saw before. I'll pay you in fish luck for pictures of him, lol, and then with your fish luck, you can bring more fish home with you...for me... it's win-win-win.

Anyways, you sounds like you're having a relaxing and adventurous summer, nothing compared to sitting in an office all day, joking with the guys and trying to look like you're working, and becoming paranoid that someone will soon find out you do nothing! *whispers* They're always watching!!!

A lot of the guys here talk about fishing, and the awesomeness of it, but I unfortunately have no input to offer... if you were here you'd wow them all. I think you might even get some of them salivating when hearing your stories, and then they'd all storm off in a jealous rage. True dat.

Well, you must racking up a list of things to pack in before you head back home... I know I am in a panic to get everything done. Have fun!

likerenoir said...

Emily I really enjoyed your blog and all the photos. I'm amazed you are so in to fishing, but glad you are having fun.

I priced halibut at Publix today and found that a 6 oz. (fresh never frozen) portion sold for 8.99...that works out to be just a little less than $27/pound. I would say your $7/pound halibut is a real bargain. It should arrive tomorrow and I am already planning my menu for the first "halibut feast." I'll let you know how it tastes!

Take care and keep enjoying every minute. We are all jealous.