A five o’clock wake up works best with a strong cup of coffee. Here
in Kodiak, it is already light at five o’clock as we hopped into the truck for the three minute ride over to Dog Bay. Richard had the diesel engine
warming up as we climbed aboard, stowed our gear and then untied the lines. There is something special about the steady hum of a diesel engine that
implies reliability and power. As we motored out of the confines of the harbor into the fog, Richard, Jack and I discussed our fishing strategy for
The goal of this 4th of July trip was to catch enough King salmon to supply our church picnic. We had to leave early and get back in time to
attend the event out at Fort Abercrombie State Park. So once we rounded the jetty, Richard set course for his spot between Woody Island and Long Island.
On the way, we passed a large raft of sea otters. On a previous fishing trip earlier in the week, my son and I had spotted three large pods of sea
otters – well over a hundred each. I can’t remember a time when we have seen so many sea otters in the waters outside of Kodiak. Typically they scatter
as you pass by, but this morning they just looked at us and kept on eating as we sped past towards our fishing spot.
By the time we rounded the southeast point of Woody Island, the fog had settled in and a grey cast loomed over the channel. In the distance we could make
out a solitary boat who was hauling in a fish – always a good sign. As it turned, he had reached his two fish limit and began heading in so we had
the fishing grounds to ourselves.
Richard rigged up the trolling poles and in less than two minutes
we got a hit on the starboard pole. Jack jumped up and set the hook and fought the fish for a minute but it got off. No sooner had Richard re-rigged
the pole and the port side pole started bending and dipping as another fish hit. Before Jack could get start to wind it in, the fish again got away.
That was the good news – bad news. Two early strikes but no fish landed.
It was about then that we heard the telltale whoosh of a nearby whale. In fact, there were two whales feeding between the reef and the shoreline. We watched
the whales for a while as we idled along at trolling speed. At one point, both whales surfaced at the same time with the water boiling around them
as they came up with their mouths open, swallowing mouthfuls of needle fish. Knowing that the forage fish was closer to shore, we edged in towards
the reef and almost immediately got a strike. Jack wrestled the salmon while we cleared the deck and brought up the other trolling line so it wouldn’t
get tangled. After a few minutes, the salmon was close enough to the boat that we could see it wasn’t a king but a coho. It was a good size 8 – 9 lbs,
so Richard netted the fish as Jack brought it in. So by 6:30 am, we had one fish on board.
The whales continued to patrol the beach and surfaced regularly as they chased the small forage fish in the kelp beds. The fog had come down even lower
and the grey cast made it difficult at times to tell exactly where we were in relation to the south end of the island. Just then we heard the high
pitched sound of the morning Alaska Air jet going overhead. Knowing that the jet had to descend to a couple hundred feet before reaching the missed
approach point, we continued to listen for the unmistakable sound of the engines spooling up to max power for the go around. The weather and visibility
must have been better over by the airport because the jet got in – thanks to skilled pilots and GPS navigation!
Another fish hit, again on the starboard side. We were using a hoochie given to us by a friend of Richards that seemed to be just the right lure for the
day. As it turned out, all of our fish were caught on that lure. Jack reeled in a nice king salmon and we reset the gear. By now, two other boats had
showed up and saw us bringing fish aboard so hustled over to our area to get in on the action.
One of the best parts of trolling is that it is really a relaxing way to fish. You can sit in the cabin, drink coffee and talk while the boat idles at
two or three knots up and down the channel. I have a friend who used to theorize about the different kinds of hoochies, flashers, depths, speeds –
all of which are important on any given day. But sometimes it is about being in the right place at the right time. Now it was my turn to reel in a
fish, so I had a chance to reel in two more kings – probably 14 lbs or so each. After we netted these fish it was almost 10:00 and time to head in.
By now the fog had lifted and we could see the airport about four miles away.
The sea otters were still rafted up as we sped back to town and once again didn’t seem the least bit concerned as we passed by. When we reached the dock
and after tying up, Richard filleted three of the fish for the picnic and I took one of the kings home for dinner.
Now comes the good part. Our friend Dr. Nandi has posted several good salmon recipes
that we share on our recipe page, so I decided to try the Bengali salmon recipe.
If you haven’t already seen the post and tried the recipe, I highly recommend it. This recipe is really easy and quick to prepare. I served it with
couscous and kale from our garden plus some avocado to make a very healthy meal that we all enjoyed. Salmon is an important part of a healthy diet,
so stay tuned for more heart healthy recipes from Dr. Nandi and our crew at Kodiak Fish Market.