Thursday, August 13, 2009

If There Is No Fishing In Heaven, Do I Really Want To Go?

Today I got to go fishing with my mom. Now, I am a truly slothful person at heart and hate like the dickens to get up early in the morning, and the boat loads at 4:45 a.m. Even dragging myself upright at 6:30 to get the kids off to school can be a challenge, because sleeping is cool and getting up out of the bed sucks.

But the secret is that I will get up at any time, no matter how early, to go fishing. It's one of the best things ever, in life.

When we get to the port it's still dark, but there's a buzz of activity on all the boats as the deckhands prep bait and check gear. The seagulls are quiet this early; they know there's no point in getting excited till the boats start coming back in. Check in at the charter office, get a license, jaw a little with the lady at the desk who knows us by first name now. When we get down to the boat there's coffee, and people to visit with. Pretty soon it's time to get underway and the skipper gives a quick talk on how to get 'em in the boat.

By this time the sky's just starting to turn, but sunup is still at least an hour away. As we pull out, several other boats are leaving too and it's like a parade. Looking out over the stern I can see at least half a dozen sets of running lights fanned out and we pick up speed leaving the port. Look out salmon, here we come.

It's quite a trip out to the good fishing grounds, but there's plenty to see as we go. Here's the Coast Guard station, with lots of blue-clad men and women hurrying to Motor Lifeboat School. They wave as we go by and I can tell they'd love to cut class and come out with us for a few hours. Another boat comes up next to us and the skippers do a little racing to the next buoy. We motor past the lighthouse at Cape D and the water's getting a little choppy. Crossing the bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean is sometimes smooth, sometimes torn with huge troughs and swells. Today's not bad and soon we're past the second lighthouse at North Head. We can hear the gentle "ding" of the buoys as we speed by, and huge flocks of brown pelicans seem to be racing us to the fish. Hey, look...three seals playing in the water! And the sunrise is just gorgeous today. Fishing is great but I like the getting-there part too.

Now the boat slows and it's time to grab a pole. Immediately a fish hits at the bow and the shout "Fish On!" rings all around the deck. Too bad, this one's not a keeper but we have plenty of time. Sometimes it's slow, with the wily fish slipping up long enough to steal your bait and leave just a smelt head on the hook. Skipper comes by and tells us "Now this isn't a petting zoo, folks..we're here to catch 'em not feed 'em." It's our first trip with this new skipper and he's good. Patient, funny and full of witticisms. After fixing one pole up he gets it back in water and says "All set now, next time one hits you'll be fartin' through silk." Must be a good thing.

And we fish, and fish, and fish some more. It's a fabulous day. Not too much chop, warm but not blistering hot, and I can see that Mom already has two fish. And a green face. I go to check her out and her scop patch is partly on her skin, partly in her hair. Ooh, no wonder she's feeling queasy. But boy, she's fishing like a champ. We fix the patch and I go back to my pole. Haven't caught one yet, but I've fed several fish. And I swear that every time I pull up an empty hook a fish jumps out of the water about ten feet away. I think he's giving me the bird, fish-style.

But finally, there's a good twitch, then a hard jerk and it's my turn. Get the pole set, reel, reel, reel, and here comes the net. It's a beauty, and the deckhand says the magic words "It's a keeper! Nice one!" Ahh, feels good.

But they're whipping our butts at the stern. The best fisherman today is a white-haired lady in yellow rain gear. She looks like the Gorton's fisherman and she's just haulin' those bad boys in. When she catches her fifth fish we can hear her joyful yell "This is my best fishing day EVER!" Mom tells me later she's been fishing for 40 years. She ends up with six fish; two for herself, two for her seasick granddaughter, and two for the boat. Salmon fear Mrs. Gorton...

With that we've limited and it's time to head in. As we turn toward the port and pick up speed the gulls start gathering. It's fish-cleaning time! The deckhand gets busy at the side, chucking all the insides overboard and as he does the gulls start shouting "MINE! MINE! MINE!" I nod off for a bit, but wake as we pass a chiming buoy. On top of it, bobbing in the wake from the boat, are three loud-barking seals. Lots of boats are coming in and it's only 8:30. What a day!

All too soon we're backing into our slip and the deckhand is passing out the fish. Another trip is over, and now we get to enjoy our catch. That's good. I like fish. But I LOVE fishing!

1 comment:

  1. I used to go ice-fishing with my grandma when I was a kid - she fished every day, year round, and the ice-fishing was fascinating to me. I learned how to clean and cut and cook the bluegill, and she made the best beer battered fish. Now I'm hungry . . .