How We Gave a Grey Whale a Headache

We just returned from our annual trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island where we did some salmon fishing, relaxing at our campsite right on the beach, went for long walks down the beach, we ate fresh seafood whenever we felt like it….had a marvelous vacation!!

Many of you know that I’m an avid salmon fisherman, so true to “hard-core fisherman” form I was up at 4:30 on Thursday morning with my fishing partner Dave, to get out on the water by about 5:15 A.M. to get in on the morning bite. This was to be a most memorable morning.

Almost immediately we began catching fish…chinook salmon in the 20 to 30 lb. range. Action was fast and furious. We didn’t even get a chance to have our morning coffee. Knowing that the action can turn off as quickly as it turns on we kept fishing. That morning we had 3 “double headers” (where 2 salmon are on at one time) which added to the intensity. There were numerous boats fishing the same area…when word of good fishing gets out it travels fast!! so we had an audience for what I’m about to describe.

We were making a pass in ”the hole” and just coming up to the shallows at the kelp bed eagerly anticipating the next bite (the kelp bed was one of our hot spots), when Dave mentioned that he thought he saw a sea lion ahead. Now, sea lions and seals love eating salmon and the sound of a screaming reel is like a dinner bell to them. Many fish are inadvertedly fed to these animals every season…we’ve lost our share of fish to them!!

What happened next is a “once in a lifetime” occurance. Dave yelled out “Holy #%&$” and I looked up just in time to see a 30 foot long gray whale just a few feet from the bow of our 17 foot fishing boat. I guess the whale wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around him (too busy feeding in the kelp bed) Just seconds later I felt the whale bump the bow of our boat and just as quickly do an amazing u-turn to avoid the boat. In the process we were showered by a misting of stinky whale breath. We couldn’t believe what had just happened…Grey whales don’t hit boats. And the fishermen in the boats near us were just as incredulous….Did you see what just happened? That whale just rammed that boat!!

It was absolutely incredible to see the agility of such a large animal. The whole scene is etched in my memory forever. When I “replay the tapes” in my mind I can actually smell the whale breath….Wow!!

We were back at the beach by 9:30 AM with a boat full of fish and a great “whale tale”….just in time for breakfast. As Dave was heard to say a few times that day ” Yup, we had a good morning, eight salmon and got bonked by a grey whale”

What a fantastic day!

Peter

The one that got away

Is there something you could do for hours and not get tired of?  Something that you really love to do? Something that you get better at the more you do it?

There’s a few activities that come to mind that fit that description for me…One of them is going fishing. There’s something about being out on the water, away from my normal day to day routine, spending time with other fishermen, that I never seem to get tired of. And getting ”the big one” to take the fly (or lure, or bait) isn’t as easy as you may think. Fishing really is something that you get better at the more you do it. And it’s true that 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish…I want to be in the 10% club :)

Fishing is a great way to relax and unwind. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “The worst day fishing is better than the best day working”. Now, that may not be totally true for everyone, but there’s a lot of fishermen out there that are convinced it is. We all need periods of “R & R” to recharge our batteries. Going fishing is one way that works for me.

I don’t know if fish are really all that smart, but I do know they’ve outsmarted me on many occasions….I know that big fish don’t get that way by eating every flashy thing that comes by them. There’s been many times I’ve been out fishing where the number of fishermen has greatly exceeded the number of fish caught.

There’s something that most fishermen realize after a while….it may take many years, but I think it’s safe to say that most longtime fishermen eventually recognize that it’s not the “catching” but the “fishing” that they love. They also love to tell fish stories and it’s a well known fact that the size of “the one that got away” often gets embellished over time.

Over the years, I’ve had many memorable experiences and have met many interesting people while fishing. The following is a true story (not embellished) that happened while I was salmon fishing on the west coast of Vancouver Island a few years ago.

My fishing partner Greg and I had got up at 4:30 AM to get out early for the “morning bite” After getting to our destination at about 5:30 and bobbing around for about 3 hours without so much as a nibble, I suddenly had a savage strike on my rod. Almost immediately the fish went on a powerful run and by the time Greg had pulled in his line and got the boat turned around, the salmon had about 200 yards of line out. Doing my best to get the attention of a few boats that were heading our way to let them know we had a fish on, we started chasing the salmon. We did our best to keep away from the other boats, and once they realized what was happening, they gave us as much room as they could. But the salmon had other ideas…I think he was headed for Japan. So when all of a sudden my line stopped…and then went slack, I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach…I knew exactly what had happened. The fish had wrapped the fishing line around a downrigger cable of another boat and the line had snapped. The fish was gone, my flasher and teaserhead were gone, and most of the line on the reel was gone. @#&%$##$%*

Oh well, what could I do but get out another reel, put it on my rod, and get it set up so that I could resume fishing. So after the frustration of the moment had subsided, and Greg had got his line back in the water, I began getting my gear back together. As I was in the process of putting the reel on, another boat came close and someone yelled something like “That was a nice fish” to which I replied “Sure was a nice one”. To which he responded “No…I’ve got your fish!”

Whaaat? Did he say he’s got my fish? Still not quite believing what I had just heard, he said it again. “Hey, I’ve got your fish…come alongside and I’ll give it to you” He told us how how sorry he was for getting too close, not realizing how much line the fish had taken out. He told us how he was amazed that when he pulled up his downrigger and grabbed the line, the fish was still at the end, and after carefully handlining the fish in he managed to net the 30 pound spring salmon. First he handed me my flasher complete with my teaserhead setup. Then he handed me the net with the fish still in it. I was almost speechless I said something about there being honor among fishermen and thanked him for his noble gesture. As I handed his net back to him he asked if we were entered in the fishing derby that weekend…we were not…and he commented on how the salmon might be big enough to win a prize if we were entered. He joked about how happy he was that we weren’t in the derby so that he still had a chance of winning. (they had a salmon of about 25 pounds in the boat) We said goodbye, thanked him once again, and everyone resumed fishing.

Almost immediately after we began fishing again, we saw that our new friend had a nice fish on and commented on how it must be due to his good karma. We ended up having a great day, catching a couple more nice spring salmon, returning to the dock with big smiles on our face and a good fish story to tell.

But wait! It get’s even better!!

That night, when I asked another fishermen if he knew who had won the derby (He told me but I didn’t recognize his name), he recounted a ”fish story” told by the derby winner that evening. It was about a guy that had lost a salmon tangled  around his downrigger and how he had handlined the fish in and returned it to “the other guy” And how shortly afterwards he had hooked and landed the eventual  derby winner of 42 pounds….and how he thought it must have been the result of his good karma after giving the “one that got away” back.

Couldn’t have had a better ending!

Peter