I was 20 minutes late to the Anchor Point boat launch and six strangers waited for me anyway.
If you saw a red Kia tearing down the Sterling Highway Tuesday, sorry, I don’t normally drive that fast, but the strange-looking right-eyed fish were calling and I hate being late.
As an aside, I don’t hate the taste of salmon, but fresh halibut is the reason I’m no longer a vegetarian.
On board, the fishermen came in pairs. Sal and Vito, two Sacramento-based fishermen came up to explore their luck in the Cook Inlet. Both wore seasickness patches on their necks — an option I’ll be exploring in the future.
Steve and Rick came up from Nevada. They’ll be fishing for king and sockeye salmon alongside their halibut fishing adventure, all of it arranged by Dave Jacobs, their guide, and friendly fishermen who invited me along on the trip. Finally, Anthony, boat captain for Alaska Gulf Coast Expeditions, whose extensive guide experience landed him a job in the Cook Inlet. It is his first season here.
Dave, Sal and Vito know each other from the days of “DJ David J” in Northern California, before he became a professional guide.
I always get a little excited when a boat pushes out into the water. The waves push back and no matter where you are — drift boat fishing on the Kenai, setnet fishing near the Kasilof, drift net fishing out of the Kenai River, everyone on board looks out to the horizon.
I don’t know why anyone else watches as we launch — I’m sure the captain is obligated — but for me, it’s the endless possibility and the promise of adventure. Then again, I’m new here and relatively easy to please. It’s all an adventure.
As the Independence made her way out into the inlet, Dave regaled the group with a story of one of his favorite moments as a DJ when several hundred people crowded into a room to hear him spin and at the perfect moment, he unsealed his copy of “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang and everyone in the room exploded into dance for the 14-minute version of the song.
And there it was. Mentally I got through “I said a hip-hop, hippie to the hippe, the hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it” before I was sick.
Not just, “Oh, I’m a bit dizzy and my stomach doesn’t feel right” sick, but retching over the side of the boat and giggling at the weird sounds coming out of my mouth seasick.
And, over the course of the day, my body rejected everything in my stomach. Violently.
The Dramamine I took the night before didn’t help. My experience sailing and drifting in the inlet didn’t help. Nothing helped. I got sick and stayed sick.
Steve and Rick said it was nice to have the entertainment. They insisted that I fish as it would help take my mind off of the nausea. That worked for a while, then Steve took my pole as the fish I was reeling in pulled hard enough that I had to lean over and throw up over the side of the boat again.
“You alright girly?” became his mantra of the day, usually he followed it up with a chuckle or a pat on the back.
Still, we had a banner day.
From 10 a.m. when we put our poles in the water until about 5 p.m. when we took them out, no more than 10 minutes passed between catches.
“Fish on,” gave way to, “Woah, three of you at once,” and “Hey, I think you’ve got another one,” as the sounds of the reels click-winding up mixed with Capt. Anthony’s reggae.
If you ask him, Anthony will tell you it’s the reggae that brings all the fish, and while I don’t know if Fish and Game has done any research about fish genre preferences, I will say that I’ll be bringing my Bob Marley along wherever I go for the rest of this fishing season.
Sometime midday, Vito — whose previous record had been a 12-incher somewhere in California — landed a monster 72-inch halibut after at least 10 minutes of fighting.
I managed to take a slap from the thing as we pulled it aboard and my foot is still bruised.
It was a beast, it was huge and brownish green and slimy and just beautiful.
As I laid alongside it, for a picture and the serendipity of knowing that it was taller than me, I got lost watching it gasp for breath.
With each gaping movement, I realized I could have stuck my hand down it’s throat and gotten lost inside its massive belly. It was a fighter, a monstrosity from the depths, now useless on the deck of our boat.
And, while it’s probably sacreligous to you avid fishermen out there, I felt no small amount of sorrow for its slow death. Apparently they’ll be fresher for longer but, I’d still rather see an animal like that die quickly and sit on ice than hear it thrash about in the hold for several hours.
As it was, when we finally hit dry land, I jumped out of the boat and headed for three tall logs in the parking lot of the Anchor Point boat launch. At the captain’s suggestion, I hugged the three of them until I felt better. It didn’t take long.
I took several firsts, including huge fillets of halibut, an awesome picture of a fish bigger than me, and the memory of throwing up off of a boat as well as the admonition that I was a “trooper” from most of the group.
I can’t wait to do it again.
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Related Links: Rapper’s Delight http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKTUAESacQM
Read more about Vito’s catch in Friday’s Peninsula Clarion.