RINGING THE VICTORY BELL

Prince William Sound salmon 2

 

The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal

BY KRYSTIN AND BIXLER MCCLURE 

As we pulled into the next cove in Prince William Sound, we watched as small fishing boats jigged and trolled furiously forsilvers.

Word on the street was that the salmon fishing was slow around the sound. The fish had decided not to congregate around the usual popular spots this year and most people were having trouble finding them. The marine radio was filled with endless chatter about silvers, and many boats were heading for home empty-handed. Rather than pursue silvers ourselves, we continued into the cove and dropped our anchor near some friends of ours on another sailboat.

The weather was hot and the cove was calm compared to the boat-to-boat combat fishing out on the point. Bixler and I waved to our new friends – fresh up from Tasmania – who were enjoying the heat way more than we were with our thick Alaskan blood. I hopped in the dinghy to make dinner plans with them, while Bixler tied up a mooching rig.

Prince William Sound Salmon 1 (2)

AMBLING ALONG AT 6 knots in a sailboat means you must fish opportunistically rather than target species. Many of our largest fish are caught by simply dangling a line over the side while at anchor. Usually, this works wonders for halibut in a cove that opens to the Gulf of Alaska, but we didn’t have much luck in Prince William Sound. With the number of salmon anglers out and about, we changed our strategy to the dangling slip-tie rig: a 2-ounce chartreuse banana weight with a double slip-tie hook and a whole herring on the end.

I came back to our boat, Carpe Ventos, with dinner plans that included our latest haul of spot shrimp, while Bixler affixed bells to the rods. We were tired from sitting in the sun all day and needed some relief inside the cool, dark boat.

As we finished the last chore and climbed into the V-berth, I heard the distinct sound of a jingle. At first I reminisced about those wonderful cold days of ice fishing, but then I realized there was a fish on one of our lines. I nudged Bixler, who ran to grab the rod.

The rod was dancing wildly in the holder as he grabbed it. As soon as he began to reel, the fish took off and performed underwater somersaults like a silver salmon. I grabbed the net off the deck of the boat and waited patiently for the fish. Bixler continued to reel and nudge the drag. Silvers are notorious fighters, and this feisty fish certainly was not giving up.

Bixler reeled up to the surface and, sure enough, a big fat silver had nabbed the herring. Ocean-bright and shiny, the fish had brought an entire school with it to the surface. The rest of the salmon disappeared as we netted this catch – and just in time too; the second rod was now jingling.

I grabbed the rig while Bixler untangled the first and excitedly dropped the slip-tie rig back down. After an equally exciting fight, I pulled up a bigger, plumper silver. In all the commotion, I looked over to our Aussie friends who were watching with much interest as we continued to yard silvers out of the water.

“We might be a bit late for dinner,” I yelled over to them as I hooked into another fish and Bixler pulled it onto the boat.

Prince William Sound salmon 1

THE FISHING STAYED HOT for us, and with the low rumble of boats leaving the point in the distance, we approached our limit. I plugged in the small freezer while Bixler began to fillet the fish. Compared to past years’ catches, each silver was deeply red and the fillets seemed twice the size of normal.

I was starting to tire and lose fish. Even though the slip-tie rig is efficient, silvers have soft mouths and often strip bait off of the hooks. I lost two in a row, and when Bixler finished filleting he took over the fishing to finish out his limit.

Instantly he was on and I dipped the net into the water to nab an even larger silver that we at first misidentified as a king. We again dropped it into the cockpit and watched as it spit scales and blood all over our sailboat.

Prince William Salmon 3 Prince William Sound Salmon 4

 

I dropped down to finish out my limit of silvers and happened to look at the time. It was the dinner hour, but our Aussie friends were enjoying the show so much they did not seem to mind. Carefully, I managed to pull up the last fish, which we filleted for dinner.

At this point we were hardly acceptable dinner guests. Bixler and I smelled like fish and we were covered with scales. We frantically cleaned our boat to remove the blood and scales before it baked onto the surface.

Then, in more presentable attire, we hopped in the dinghy and headed over to the other boat with the day’s catch of fresh fish and shrimp. We were dead-tired from the long day, but our Aussie friends welcomed the entertainment and the catch. The last fishing boat droned in the distance as we barbecued up our catch and cooled off under their boat’s awning.

“Hey, I hear the silver fishing is hot right now!” I joked to the Aussies in the manner of the radio chatter that was saying the opposite of earlier in the day. They laughed, repeating to us how much they had enjoyed the entertainment and that Bixler and I were quite the team for pulling up a pile of fish.

As much as we would have liked to relax in the boat that afternoon, I’m glad we checked why that bell on the rod was jingling.ASJ

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