by Stan Sinberg
I have now gone fishing twice in my life, both in the past three weeks, and I’m happy to report that I still haven’t caught anything. When it comes to food, my philosophy is: the further away I am from the "how" it arrived on my plate, the better. I like restaurants, where my animal generally arrives already diced, cooked, and smothered in sauce. Totally unrecognizable.
But I was in Alaska, and in Alaska, fishing is what men do. A great many men, anyway. Plus, as someone who is not a "sportsman" and is required by the FBI to register a hammer as a "dangerous weapon," every so often I get curious as to what it is that "Manly Men" do, anyway.
So at the crack of nothing, I took a Great Alaska "float boat" trip down the Kasilof River in the Kenai Peninsula, to slay the mighty King Salmon.
When it comes to King salmon, size matters. The Kenai Peninsula became a Mecca for King after someone pulled an eighty-plus pounder out of the Kenai River in the 80s. Ever since, the Kenai brags that it has the world’s largest salmon, and fisherman from all over the world have come hoping to net their trophy fish.
Even arriving at the launching off area at 5:30, the parking lot was full of overweight men in baseball caps and camouflage attire. I’m not sure why it’s necessary to camouflage yourself from a fish, especially fish that haven’t had their first cup of coffee, but so be it.
Well, we floated down the river for several hours, passing dozens of men wearing rubber pants and wading knee deep in water and casting lines, and many other fishermen in boats. It was apparently a slow day for fishing. When the biting is slow, fishers theorize a lot about why: the area’s fished out, something about the current, the area a quarter-mile away is better, etc. Finally, they rely on the old fishing adage, "That’s why they call it ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching.’"
My second time was out of Sitka on a power boat with Alaska Adventures and three other guys who immediately bonded. The guy from Wisconsin sported a Green Bay Packers jacket. That apparently, is all it takes. The other two guys were from Minnesota (a rival football town), and that was enough to ensure a few hours worth of sports talk, and ol’ boy ribbing about various shortfalls of the other’s state. The jokes were all variations on a theme ("you guys are wimps") but, judging by this group at least, it never grows stale.
To avoid our fishing lines entangling, Greg, the boat captain, had us take turns casting lines.
I was still ambivalent about actually catching a fish, so after a couple of "false pulls" when Greg mistakenly thought I had a bite, with relief, I gave my turn to the next guy. Before I could even sit down, guy #2 landed a 25-pound King. He proudly posed with it, like he was a big-game hunter who had wrestled his prey in hand-to-hand combat. Still, a part of me thought, "You know, that was really my fish."
When a second guy reeled one in, I suddenly got fish blood-lust. Alas, the fishing got slow, and neither I nor the fourth guy caught one. I was disappointed, but now that I’m back on dry land, I don’t think I’ll be back for awhile: I have other (filets of) fish to fry.
For info about Great Alaska fish trips and other trips, go to www.greatalaska.com
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