After a late night of beers in the campsite, we wake at 4:30 AM to board Dusty’s jet boat. The four of us head out to fish for halibut. Jeff, “first mate” served in the coast guard with Dusty, and both guys are currently Alaskan firefighters. Marilynn and I are rookies out here in the saltwater, and figure that we are in good hands. Surrounded by fjords and glacier strewn mountains, the calm waters and eventually a rare sunny day indicate that luck be with us.
“There they are!” Jeff points to the floating buoys. I help him pull up 300 feet of nylon line with four shrimp pots attached. They’ve been soaking for about 12 hours. “We be having shrimp tonight, Baby!” Dusty laughs. “There must be about 50 of those monsters.” We re-bait the pots and drop them back in, to pick up about 10 hours later on our way back in.
We drop fishing lines about 40 miles out at sea. A sizable rock fish becomes first catch of the day. Then a small halibut (chicken). Marilynn pulls in a black sea bass, and then another. You never know what will be on the end of your line when fishing in the ocean!
“Wow! Look at that sea lion!” I yell as this huge animal circles our boat.
“Gun!” Jeff yells. “Get the gun!” Dusty pulls up the small halibut that was hanging alongside the boat. The sea lion disappears.
“My best friend died from a sea lion while fishing in Kodiak,” Jeff says. He explained that 2,000-pound stellar sea lion jumped onto his small fishing boat (like ours) and sunk it immediately. “You don’t have long to live in this glacial water.” Luckily, there was no need to shoot.
Fishing isn’t always catching. As the day goes on, we move several times to try different spots and depths of water. The sun beats on us, rare for Valdez. We munch on black bear summer sticks, thanks to Jeff’s hunting and processing skills. Sometimes the best cure for drinking too many beers the night before is to, well, drink more beers.
Jeff tells another story about a different friend, who was fishing alone in a small boat off Kodiak Island. He caught a huge halibut (tabletop) and gaffed it into his boat. Didn’t “boom-stick it” which is shooting it with a metal pole with a shotgun shell on the end of it. He gaffed it straight into the boat. The halibut flapped around and broke both of his friend’s legs, as well as tore up the entire dashboard of the small craft.
“Damn it, I got a snag!” Dusty yells. We all reel in yet again. “Oh my God, it’s shaking its head!” Dusty gets animated. “Holy shit, I got a monster!”
At this point, I’ll refer the reader to the video below. Here’s a rare chance to watch a couple of regular folks catch a huge halibut, estimated weight between 80 to 100 pounds:
The end of our fish tale did not make it to video…, once halibut gets flipped over the side of our boat, double tied with thick nylon lines, Marilynn yells, “Sea lion!” She immediately grabs the .45 caliber hand gun.
Jeff pulls the gun from her, just in case, but the sea lion retreats on its own. He was heading for the halibut hanging off the boat (The Old Man and the Sea we are not), but Dusty pulled halibut onto the boat, where he and Jeff sit on its tail until the last of its nerves settle down for good. It takes a while longer for our nerves to settle too. Thank you Abundant Universe!