“I was reeling up my line, and at 10 feet below the surface, I got a bite. Something took the bait straight out from the boat, and I wondered if a sea lion had gotten a hold of it, line was peeling out so fast. Then it breached, and I saw this monster king salmon soar through the air. I didn’t have time to think too much about it, because it dove down to 190 feet in a matter of seconds. From then on, it was a long furious fight, going around the boat three times before finally getting it back to the surface. It took about 45 minutes to land it…” ~ Franz, who caught a 60 lb. king salmon on June 18, 2010.
There have been some outstanding king salmon caught this past week at the Wild Strawberry Lodge, including the three biggest of the year so far. On Thursday, a 42 pound king was caught and retained. I was aboard the High Roller taking pictures for the lodge, when one of the clients hooked into it. It was a normal king salmon fight; it didn’t give any indication of its large size until we saw at the surface, just before it was netted. It was a beautiful fish. (Check out the catch of the day for June 17th, 2010.) The next day, Franz caught his 60 pound salmon. A 40 pound salmon was also taken on the same boat (the High Roller), the same day. What more proof do you need that the best fishing for king salmon is in Sitka, Alaska?
When a big king like Franz’s 60 pounder is taken in, it gets a lot of attention. Imagine a famous foreign dignitary or hometown hero coming to visit. The paparazzi appear, and everyone wants a picture of the gigantic fish. It starts down at the dock where it gets unloaded. People passing by stop and admire the fish, asking questions such as, “Where did you catch it?” and “How much does it weigh?” Congratulations are bestowed upon the lucky person who caught it, and numerous pictures are taken.
Eventually, it is transported into the fish transporting van and hauled up to the processing room. It is washed down and rubbed with water for the umpteenth time. Then a tray is zeroed out on the scale to hold this beautiful king, and finally, like a heavy weight fighter before a title match, it is weighed in. Word spreads like wildfire around the lodge, and clients, staff, neighbors, and passing folks trickle in, to look at the big fish and take more pictures. Everyone wants to hold it and pretend it was their prize catch—and who could blame them?
Finally, it’s time to fillet the fish. There is nobody better to do the job than our head processor, Kent. He clears out the mingling crowd, and gets the fish ready to be filleted. He sharpens and steels his favorite fillet knife, before making his first cuts. On Friday, he warmed up on the 40 pounder, to get the feel for filleting a beefy salmon.
Kent did a great job on both fish, and especially the 60 pound king. He really did the fish justice, by making good clean cuts, and not wasting any meat. I would almost consider it a work of art, and probably the apex of his career here at APC. Not many people can say that they filleted a 60 pound king salmon, and I know he is proud that he has. Afterwards, we were curious to see how much the carcass weighed, so we rezeroed out the scale and placed it on the tray. It came out to be about 10 pounds.
Now that we’ve seen some really nice kings, it has seemed to re-inspire fantasies of catching the next big one. Saturday, our clients could talk of little else. Onboard the Checkmate, Franz finished off his Alaskan fishing trip by having a ball catching a nice salmon for his last tag. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day, with calm seas and more great fishing. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Written by Tom, Deckhand ~ Checkmate