Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Day 26, July 19, 2008-0 miles. Wow, what a DAY! One of my dreams of Alaska included going Halibut fishing. At one point in the trip, Iwas not sure it would happen, but our gracious host arranged for a day on the waters in the Prince William Sound.
The day started early, at 5am. We got up, got dressed, had a cup of coffee, and headed south to Whittier. The trip included going through the famed 2-mile tunnel, carved for trains, and used as one-way traffic for cars and bikes. We were lucky and the tunnel was open for car traffic to go into Whitter as we arrived at the tunnel and paid the $12 fee.
The weather on the mainland side of the tunnel was dark and dreary, looking like rain at any moment. However, when we got to the Whittier side of the tunnel, the sun was out bright and the wind was blowing a gale. And cold.
First, I worried that I did not have enough clothes for the trip; I borrowed a rain jacket from Gary's brother, so I put it on and it blocked the wind. Underneath, I had 3 layers; a sweatshirt, a fishing shirt, and a long undershirt. So, I was properly layered.
We found our captain, one of the men who works for our host, another man who works for him, a friend of theirs, and Gary and me with out host. 6 in all. We boarded the boat and started off into the sound.
The boat was a beautiful 28' aluminum boat, equipped with a full cabin (including refrigerator, stove, sink, toilet, table, and berth space for several folks. Our captain said he and his family use it for camping on the water. His family numbers 6 people!
It also had an inflated skiff on top of the cabin for emergencies. Two 150 hp Honda outboards powered the boat. It truly is a very classy boat that is equipped with redundant equipment (one large Garmin GPS with radar) and 2 other GPSs, along with other crucial equipment.
We rode for a little over 2 hours at about 30mph before we stopped to fish. It was a spot where he knew from experience that fish were likely present. The anchor was dropped, and the rods handed out.
Wow, the fishing equipment is heavy duty. The short, stout rods were equipped with big Penn reels holding 100 # braided line. The terminal tackle included a 5 # ball of lead to pull the bait to the bottom, some 200 feet beneath the boat. Crystal clear water was beautiful! No wind and the water was almost as slick as glass. And it had warmed to a very comfortable temperature. Perfect conditions!
We dropped the bait into the water, and about 3 minutes later could feel the weight hit the bottom. Jigging was the technique, pulling the weight about 3 feet off the bottom, and then raising and lowering the rod to attract the fish to the bait.
In about 2 minutes, I felt a definite tug on the rod, and it pulled back! Fish On!! as people had told me, it was work bringing it to the surface. Probably 5 minutes to reel it in—a Halibut bigger than I had ever seen live before. I don't know how big it was because as soon as it was gaffed and pulled into the boat, it went into the fish hold. But it was a big flat fish as far as I'm concerned. Catching the first one, and a Halibut put me into blue heaven. I loved it!
Within a couple of minutes, others had a fish on, and the battle ensued, with us winning most of the time. I caught a toltal of 6 fish, one of which was tossed back in for it's smaller size. The limit was 12 Halibut (2 per person), so I got more of my share. But I probably fished more than the others. The captain and his co-worker, and our host did not actively fish, with them helping manage the fish caught and bait and picture taking chores.
I had a ball! Gary is not an avid fisherman, but he enjoyed this trip.
When we made our limit of Halibut, the captain asked if we wanted to catch some other fish. Dumb question as far as I was concerned!
So, we took off to another location maybe 15 miles away to look for Ling Cod. And we found them!! The technique here was drift fishing, with the boat drifting by the tide and us jigging with lighter tackle. Actually two kinds of rigs were used; silver plugs were used and big leaded plugs were used.
We found that the big leaded plugs caught Ling Cod and the lighter tackle caught Black Sea Bass. The Ling Cod are big, ugly fish. They are voracious feeders and have a huge head and 18 big teeth. We were warned not to put any body parts into their mouth or we might lose it. Big and ugly. The size limit was a minimum of 35”, so all we caught (11) were between 36 and 42 inches in length. We thought we had our limit of 12, but learned at the dock that we miscounted and shorted ourselves by one.
The Black Sea Bass were not small fish. They probably averaged 2 feet in length and probably weighed 10 pounds each. We caught what we thought was our limit of 12, only to learn later that the limit was 5 instead of 2. Oh well, we had a ton of fish already.
When we left this area, our captain asked if we wanted any Silver Salmon, so of course we said yes. They were closer to our dock, so we rode for about 2 hours back towards the dock before he stopped to rig for the salmon. We fished once, but caught nothing. So, we headed back to the dock.
The ride back was fairly long and more violent than the ride out. Big sprays of water and bangs of wave on aluminum hull made it loud.Several of us (me and our host), tired from the day's activities, took a nap along the way. But we got back to the dock, unloaded the fish and gear. Our hosts then cleaned the fish. Actually, they filleted the fish and put them into gallon ziplock bags. 40 bags of fillets!! They filled one of the huge Igloo coolers, leaving no room for ice! A nice problem indeed.
The hosts then cleaned the boat, filled it with gas (100 gallons, which was very economical for what we did!) and we loaded up and went back to our base.
Topping off a perfect day, on the ride back to our base, it was raining, and the sun was shining. Looking over our left shoulders, a perfect rainbow was sighted. Perfect in that it was complete—it ranged from one side of Turnagain Arm to the other side mountains, and also that it was brilliant in colors and had a mirror image just outside the main image. We took a few pics that did not show the brilliance or completeness of the rainbow.
A great day! One of my life dreams realized, thanks to our wonderful friend in Anchorage. I'll forever be grateful for their hospitality.
Tomorrow-beginning ride to the ferry.