Debbie Holle Brown displays a 65-pound king salmon caught while commercial fishing on Cook Inlet in the early 1980s.
Editor's note: Anyone who has spent much time fishing has a big fish story to tell, whether it be about the one they caught or the one that got away. This one was submitted by Kasilof resident Debbie Holle Brown.
I first fished Cook Inlet beginning in the early 1970's out of Homer and Ninilchik harbors, continuing through the season of 1996 out of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.
This story takes place in the early 1980's, aboard the FV Moxy, then owned by Danny Mahan of Soldotna and skippered by Lori, wife of Roy Winch of Kasilof. I was the deckhand.
One day late in the season out in Cook Inlet, we were fishing quite a way northwest of the Kenai River. We'd fished all day in heavy weather near the middle rip with little success. I remember how hard we worked just hanging on, striving to keep sticks and tree branches out of our net. It seemed like we'd caught more wood than fish. By the end of the day, nearly 7 p.m., the weather showed no signs of easing up. We were more than ready to get the gear aboard, then head home to safe harbor in the Kenai River to deliver our harvest.
Skipper headed into the wheelhouse to peel off her raingear and make preparations to set our course for the river. I remained at the stern, reeling in the last of the gear fairly fast. I could see no fish in the net but the last few corks were down. I assumed it was just a tangle. I set myself square to handle the rough seas and to catch the end buoy as it came aboard. At that moment, launching over the fairlead was, I thought at first, a shark!
But my grateful heart soon realized the great "ka'whump" landing on deck was a giant beauty, a king salmon. Let me tell you, a big king is a very rare catch for drift fisherman fishing sockeye-sized gear in the middle of Cook Inlet. Amazing! This fish was caught by the last two strands of web wrapped around just the teeth on its lower lip.
It took us quite a few hours bucking wind and tide to get to the dock, deliver our fish, clean and tie up the Moxy. When finished with all our work, we skiffed ashore. The slippery giant was carefully loaded into the back of our truck and packed well with ice for my proper attention next morning.
Our family truly enjoyed eating King salmon in many of our favorite ways all winter long.
Debbie Holle Brown lives at Coffee Point near the mouth of the Kasilof River. Brown has retired from commercial fishing but is starting a business called Alaska Wild Seafood Market Exclusively Caught Wild! to market Cook Inlet seafood products via the Internet.
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