Embracing an Alaska heresy

Fish are fine, so long as they're on someone else's line

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I've been an Alaskan for more than 30 years. I consider myself nearly a sourdough. There's that one thing about the Yukon that I admit I haven't done, but on the whole, I'm Alaskan through and through. However, there's one big thing that seems to be an integral part of the Alaska persona that just isn't me. Some would say that I just can't qualify without it. Others would even call me a heretic because I refuse to worship at the altar of the almighty salmon.

That's right, I hate fishing. Lord knows I've tried. I've slogged along the banks of Deep Creek, Ninilchik and even the mighty Kenai. I've bobbed along on the waves of Cook Inlet, literally ad nauseum. I've even putt-putted around trolling the likes of Skilak and Tustumena lakes, but I just can't seem to get fired up about it.

I'm sorry, but it's just plain boring. Casting out and reeling in. Casting out and reeling in. Patiently waiting for that jerk on the line. Even a slight tug, but no, it just never happens. That's right, I've tried all the "never-fail" tricks, the spin-n-glos, teaspoons, Li'l Wigglers. I've trolled and I've jigged. I've tried brown sugar cured eggs, herring, lures of every size, shape and color and all I've ever been is skunked.

Well, that's not all together true. I did catch a fish once. It was in the years B.C. (before children). My newlywed husband decided we should go on a romantic trip to Skilak Lake. Just the two of us in our little 12-foot boat, cruising up the lake. I enjoyed the boat ride, the wind in my hair as we skittered over the blue-green glacier water. He picked out a sheltered spot on the shore for us to camp. We set up our tent and then headed out on the lake to catch our supper. He baited our hooks, and we proceeded to putt-putt slow and easy, just a short way off shore. The lake was flat and smooth, perfect for trolling. In no time at all, the tip of his pole took a sharp dip and he was reeling in a lovely trout. He had barely dropped his hook again and wham, another strike and another wonderful fish, even bigger then the first. My pole, on the other hand, continued stalwart and straight.

"Don't worry, honey," he said. "There's lots of fish here. I think we've hit a hot spot. You'll have something on in no time."

Yeah, right. An hour and a half later, he'd caught three more fish and my line was still hanging as limp as my enthusiasm.

Finally he said, "I'll bet some fish has stolen your bait while you weren't looking. Reel in and let's check it out."

I cranked in my line and just as my lure broke water, there it was, the tiniest trout you ever saw, all of five inches long from nose to tail. So small, I hadn't even known it was hooked. Lord knows how long we had dragged the poor thing through the water, but when we brought it in, it was totally dead. No thrashing, no flopping, not even the teeniest tail wiggle.

My husband, the cretan, started to giggle. He saw the devastated look on my face, but he just couldn't help himself. The giggle grew into a chortle, which gave way to a guffaw which led to a full blown belly laugh.

"Holy Cow, I've never seen such a tiny fish on the end of a hook and line," he roared. "No wonder you couldn't tell it was there. It's barely bigger than the teaspoon."

I was humiliated. I pulled the collar of my jacket up, hunched up my shoulders and pouted all the way back to the shore. In fact, the whole thing made me grumpy for the entire remainder of the trip.

He invited me along on a few more fishing trips, but soon got the idea that we would never be "fishing buddies."

Mind you, I have nothing against fish. I love them ... fried, baked, sauteed ... florentined, poached and battered. But I have no interest in catching them. My excitement will come with that fragrant sizzle in the skillet.

Victoria Steik works in the business office at Kenai Peninsula College. She also is a writing student at KPC. She has lived on the peninsula since 1972.

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