Monday, June 16, 2008

A Visitation from the Depths

Two years ago I lost a humongous silver salmon, having been caught by some violent weather near Spuhn Island. I put a waypoint there when it hit, and from time to time I fish near it just in case. On Wednesday last week I was coming in from checking out the backside of Douglas Island (nothing) and thought I'd run over the waypoint. The boat was coming up on it when bang! went the rod in the holder, a hit, not a reel-smoker at first—and then she bowed and dove and when I saw that slab side I knew it was the biggest fish I'd ever see.

Then she started taking line, hundreds of feet of it, nearly half my reel—and I use braided line. Finally she tired; my heart was racing, I couldn't get my breath, so took several deep ones, and started reeling her in. She was a dead weight; I almost couldn't turn the crank. Then she ran again. This went on for about 20 minutes. Finally I got her up to the boat and gasped: her nose was at the mount for my rod holder and her tail extended beyond my kicker, in other words, this fish was more than 50 inches long, probably 55-60 inches, and 60-70 pounds.

For five minutes I tried to net this fish; I actually had her partly in the net at one point, but she was too heavy, my left arm couldn't pull her high enough and she was too much for the drag, which was slowly leaking line. I finally realized she was too big for the net—and I have the biggest size. There was no point in gaffing her, as I could never hold on to that much weight. As I was trying to figure out what to do she suddenly shook her head, snapped the 40 lb leader and was gone.

I phoned Fish and Game. The agent said it might have been a Chilkat fish, which are an endangered species this year, so it was just as well I didn't boat her. Also, a friend who is a big game fisherman says if you've got the fish to the leader you've caught her. Anyway, I'm happy to say she was clean-hooked, no blood, so she'll survive to spawn. I have never seen a fish this big, not even in the tanks at the hatchery.

The next morning I woke up still in a state of shock—you just don't expect to see something nearly as big as you emerge from the depths on a #4 hook you so casually dropped in the water—and so very very happy I hadn't killed her. She was a primal fish; her appearing was like a Visitation, an auspicious omen. I'm not sure what the message was except perhaps that a creature that amazing is not food for the ego, to be unceremoniously bonked on the head and dragged home behind the boat to show off to other envious [male] fishers.


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