What you don't see in the magazines and brochures

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Everyone who comes to Alaska for the first time in search of a big fish from the deep always seems to believe they'll be reeling up a barn door on their halibut adventure.

I'm likewise almost always in the position of reminding them when they return that the "only a 30-pounder" they ended up catching could have eaten the biggest large mouth bass or walleye they've ever caught for breakfast and still been hungry.

The other thing they never see in those fishing magazines and travel brochure pictures is the poor guy or gal behind the big fat fish, still hunched over recovering from a beatdown handed out by the rolling Cook Inlet seas.

Halibut fishing has been good to me for the most part. I've either managed to get out on top of a bunch of little fish where the action was fast and furious, or waited all day for the reward of one sizable pig.

What I've miraculously avoided is the sea sickness part.

I won't tell you I've got seas legs, because I definitely don't, but so far I've been darn fortunate to have never found myself hanging over the side of a boat up here, except to get a look at a fish as it comes to the surface.

The recent spate of foul weather finally ended that lucky little blue streak though.

I thought, since, none of the other columnists have hit on this yet, that I ought to write a little bit on the one thing that might just as well be guaranteed when halibut fishing up here.

There's plenty of wise men's tales about how one can stave off becoming a two-legged chummer.

Some might work, some might be ridiculous, but in the end, I have to side with the skeptics.

You'll get it or you won't, and you won't have much say about it either way.

This past trip I pretty much asked for it though.

I stayed up late, got up early and didn't eat a thing beforehand other than a seasickness pill, which apparently doesn't make for a good breakfast.

When we got to the dock our captain told us outright we ought to go home, and that if we went out we'd get our butts kicked. We went fishing.

Two rough riding hours later we were all practically rolling across the back deck as steep sided waves tilted the boat this way and that.

It didn't take long before I knew I was a goner.

I won't go into detail about part two, but here's what I found ironically amusing about the whole experience:

Once my stomach quit trying to kill me, and it was all over, at least for one bout, I had the most refreshing sensation wash over my body.

I'd pull my head up, and suddenly the gusty breeze blowing salt water in my face felt better than a hot shower after a long day, the dark gray Alaska sky was so fresh and clean looking I could almost taste it, and, "Oh what's this?"

The rod I'd been clutching under my armpit as I hung precariously over the edge had auto-jigged itself into the mouth of a halibut and it was time to reel that sucker in.

I just hoped I didn't start getting queasy again half way up ...

Dante Petri, when he's not making offerings to the gods of the sea, is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

Send comments, tales, photos and recipes to tightlines@peninsulaclarion.com.



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