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