I had never caught a king (chinook) salmon before this past week. I have tried, but up until I reeled in this 25 pounder last Tuesday morning, I never knew what one felt like to hold.
(Dang, that boy was heavy!)
I was hoping my first King would be caught on a swung fly, but this was an epic day of its own…
My husband had just finished his Step 1 Medical Board exam the day before– it’s set to be an 8 hour exam, but Andrew finished it in 6 1/2. I have no doubt he is intelligent and has found his groove with mastering his test-taking skills over the last two years of med school, but even he said himself that he was driven that day by the motivation to get to the cabin in the San Juan Islands ASAP. So, I swooped my exuberant and anxious husband up at the testing center at a little after 2pm, and we were off. “To the islands!” as Andrew likes to say with this childlike energy bursting out the seams.
One stop at the firework stand on the way to Anacortes, and we were off to the cabin (fully-loaded). Andrew fully admits his slight pyro-manic tendencies when the 4th of July comes around.
Between the two of us (as we like to call ourselves “Team Schweitzer”), we had been on a bit of the dry side when it came to catching any fish lately. So, we were both anxious to get out on the water again. My parents recently invested in a boat for the family cabin, which has basically made that place the ideal vacation spot for Andrew and I. With all the crabbing and fishing there is, a boat was the only thing that beach-front abode needed to make it just about perfect.
Here’s the thing: Andrew and I are not super savvy with trolling gear and/or using a motorized vehicle to catch fish. We had gone with other people who have a lot of experience plenty of times before (mostly in Andrew’s case), but this was the first time we would be doing it with just the two of us– “Team Schweitzer”: A duo with a pretty decent track record for tackling steelhead with our spey rods. Not “slaying” kings with down riggers trolling flashers off a boat… Until today.
Okay, so I am a total wuss when it comes to boating if there are any waves larger than a couple feet, so it being a perfectly calm morning, meant I had no excuse not to go. I decided to drive while we trolled since that would probably also help prevent any chance of sea-sickness. I found I was pretty good at keeping the boat going in a relatively straight line, while looking at the “fish finder” and GPS, and also checking the rods for action.
It wasn’t more than 30 minutes before I looked back after seeing a few nice sized fish marking the screen and saw one of the two rods jerking up and down. “Fish!! Rod!! Fish!!”, was out of my mouth and Andrew was immediately on it. He set the hook and handed the rod over to the crazy lady who screamed at him. I was pretty much squealing with joy the entire time as I tried to keep tension on the line while what felt like a 50 lb fish kept trying to swim down deeper away from the boat. Eventually, a flash of chrome came close enough to the surface to notice it wasn’t 50 lbs, but certainly not of questionable keeping size either. Andrew was ready with the net, as I carefully reeled the fish around the motor and into the net. We both sighed huge breaths of relief as we successfully brought the net with fish in it into the boat. That was the biggest salmon I had ever seen in person alive (not for long, as Andrew quickly put it out of its misery not long after removing it from the water).
With my limit being stamped on my catch card for the day, we brought the fish back to clean at the cabin before we would go back out to try and get Andrew his limit for the day. At this point, we felt like we had conquered more than expected between the two of us, but we figured we would test our luck and try for a second king.
After having lunch, we embarked back out to “our spot”.
We followed a similar path as that morning, figuring that was our best bet knowing that we didn’t know a lot of other options.
I kid you not, not even 20 minutes after beginning our “troll” through the money spot, the same rod the last fish hit made a solid jerk and popped the line out of the down rigger. Andrew “whooped” and grabbed the rod to fight what we hoped was indeed a fish on the end of the line versus kelp or any other possibility that happens often. I kept the motor going and waited for the call from my partner-in-fishing crime to let me know otherwise. “Okay! Grab the net!”, was my cue to put the motor on neutral and do what Andrew had done for me just hours earlier.
I waited until we got back to shore with Andrew’s limit for the day to tell him my opinion on whose fish was bigger. 🙂 Thankfully, our neighbor (one of the original residents of the beach, along with my grandparents) did the honors, as he decided to coin me as “Mayor of the Beach”, because apparently, I had caught the biggest fish so far that season out of the group (ie the handful of cabin inhabitants our neighbor talks to). It really didn’t matter to us, because we had each caught both of our record salmon ever that day, and as fly-fishermen trying something new together for the first time, the whole day was a success.
Between our two catches, we had over 30 lbs of meat fillets to bring home. And, to make it even better for wild fish conservationists as ourselves, the two kings we caught happened to be hatchery fish. Even though you can keep wild salmon in that area, we were happier knowing they weren’t. 🙂
If only the time we were able to spend at the cabin could have been longer than 5 days. Why is it that time always flies when you’re having fun?
Until the next fishing adventure…
-L.S. aka “The Mayor” (for now)