Work has a terrible way of interfering with holidays, which is why I’m not in Alaska right now. It’s also why I haven’t cooked anything in a few weeks or gotten around to trying to make gravlax. (That experiment is coming soon, I promise!)
It was almost this time last year that we were in Craig, Alaska for our second annual fishing trip. My mother and step-dad are there now for a 5 day trip to beautiful Shelter Cove. They’re catching up with Owner Dave, Fishcutters Taylor and Matt and of course Chef Neil.
They’re also catching up with the fish. This is a good thing since we’re relying on them to keep our freezer stocked this year!
Apparently the silvers are biting hard and fast. Last year we were on the water from 6:00am to 4:00pm. Most days we couldn’t fill the 6 fish quota per person. This morning Mum and Bernie caught their 12 fish limit by 9:30am. It’s worth noting they are not hardcore fisherpeople— they are almost always the last to leave the dock, usually around 7:45 or 8:00am.
The one that got away: 120lb halibut
When they’re not fishing for salmon, they head into the ocean for halibut. Halibuts don’t put up much of a fight— they sit on the ocean floor and take the bait. Then the struggle is bringing them to the surface. The 200-300 foot journey can take a while. Most fishermen don a special halibut belt which has a notch where you can hook your fishing rod for more leverage. While not a fashionable accessory, these belts come in handy when there’s a particularly big (therefore heavy) fish at the other end of the line.
This year this region in Alaska has changed the limits on halibut. Any halibut over 100lbs must be thrown back. While I’m sure this angers some fishermen, it makes us really happy to hear. The main reason is because the big halibut are the mamas, the breeders, the ones who keep producing more halibut (they lay between half a million to four million eggs annually). They weigh a lot (sometimes 200-300lbs with the biggest on record weighing 459lbs) and although they’re prized as a trophy fish and look good hanging on the scale, their flesh is tough and not really “good eatin’”.
Sometimes there’s a good reason for the one that got away…