We welcomed our first clients of the year last week! They were long-time clients, returning for their 10th annual Alaskan fishing trip. It was good to see clients in the lodge once again, making us feel like all our hard work getting everything ready for the season was justified. The guys had some good fishing days, catching king salmon, some hefty halibut, yellow eye and other rockfish, and even a few sole. They were able to help us get our “Catch of the Day” started, where we feature a new picture on the home page every day!
One of the days of fishing, a couple of us deckhands were invited to go along, as there was extra room on the boat. It was a literal wake up call, struggling to roll out of bed before 5:00 a.m. It won’t be long before we’ll be getting up early every morning to have the boats ready by 5:30 a.m., so this was a good test of my morning routine.
We left the dock in the pre-dawn gray skies. The sky was light yellow in the east, casting its golden glow on the snowy peak of Mt. Arrowhead. Eliason harbor was calm and quiet as we departed. It seemed like we were the only ones up and about. We were going to be fishing on the north end of Kruzoff Island, so we had about a 40 minute ride through the placid, protected waters of the inside passage before we reached the open ocean.
I sat outside the cabin, facing backwards, soaking in the brisk morning air and ocean smells, and enjoying being on the water once again. We passed a lot of familiar landmarks that we hadn’t seen since last September: the waterfall, Bee Hive Island, Olga Straight, Mt. Annahootz, the crosses, the old ship wreck, flamingo island, Whitestone Narrows, Neva Straight, Kane Islands, and the Sinitson Narrows. I spied a couple of Sitka Black Tailed deer foraging along the shore. We passed a couple of trollers working their gear, and a few others moored up for the night in the protected waters.
The east side of our route had a lot of steep hillsides that blocked out the early morning dawn light. About thirty five minutes into our trip, the hills finally relented and the morning sun flooded the boat with light. The warmth felt good, and brought with it an air of optimism; first for good weather and calm seas, and secondly, for good fishing. The ocean was decent as we began to make our way through the open waters of Salisbury Sound. We still had the usual up and down motions of a boat motoring its way through the moderate swells and chop of the ocean, but there weren’t heavy seas by any means.
It was great to be back on the fishing grounds. There’s nothing else like it in the world. I love to stand on the deck in the early morning with the sky lit up with bright morning light, playing off of the clouds and sea. There is something magical about the fresh air, and the movement of the boat in tandem with the ocean. The distant pine covered islands with high snow-capped mountain peaks make for a pleasant back drop. The best part comes, as I take in the beautiful Alaskan scenery all around me, and the captain calls from the wheel house, “All right guys, get them ready..” and the day of fishing begins.
On land, things have been progressing nicely this week. The deckhands have finished painting the bottom paint on all of our boats. This is something that needs to be done periodically, as constant friction between the ocean and the boat’s paint wears it down. It took us about a week to get all five of them painted. We were dependent on the Sitka weather patterns and scheduled maintainance at our local boat shop. It really makes a big difference on the appearance of the boats; they really look sharp. The boys did a great job.
Most of our staff have arrived and are getting settled in at the lodge. We are still making final preparations for the busy season ahead. There is plenty of cleaning, organizing, and small projects are being worked on. The yearly lodge spuce-up session is in full swing. Paint brushes, window cleaner, pressure washers, and other implements of cleaning are out in force. Our new staff members are helped along by the returning ones, training them and showing them the ropes. Everybody is in good spirits, and ready for our next clients to arrive.
Written by Tom, Deckhand ~ Checkmate