“Honey,” I said in my sweetest, nicest, I want something voice, “Can we go halibut fishing?”
“Ummm, isn’t it expensive?” Kyle remarked.
“Well, yes” I replied softly, giving Kyle my best puppy dog eyes.
“Ok, ok, we might be able to make the money work…But how in the world can we get our fish back home?” Kyle asked.
Hmm, we were both perplexed on that one for a good two days. Tourists often come to Alaska to fish. Then, to get their fish back home they have two options. First option: take your fish with you as you continue to travel and bring it on the plane with you. Well, that was out—our tent does not come equipped with a freezer! Second option: They’ll pack it up and fedex it home for you. Well, that was out—Fedex doesn’t deliver to our village.
Fast forward to a few days later. I had nearly given up on my dream of halibut fishing, when all of a sudden Kyle lights up. “I have an idea!” he exclaimed as he picked up the cell phone.
A few minutes and a few phone calls later a solution was reached. We could get our fish, drive it to Anchorage, send it on Northern Air Cargo to Unalakleet, leave it in a freezer in Unalakleet for a week, and then have them deliver it when we were finally back home. The plan was in place.
So, out we went for our halibut. If you don’t know much about halibut, here’s your primer: Halibut are bottom feeders. Because they swim along the bottom of the ocean, they have two eyes on the top of their body, rather than eyes on both sides as most fish do. They prefer deeper water, it’s gotta be at least 200 feet deep. Halibut range in size from about 10 pounds to over 300 pounds.
Our captain drove us 25 miles out of the Homer Marina, where he anchored and they geared us up. One of the staff (we’ll call him Mr. Fish Dude from here on out) gives us a quick overview of how to drop the line in, how to reel it up, and then we’re off. I choose a spot up on the front of the boat so that my line wouldn’t get tangled with others. Kyle and I get separated and he is at the back of the boat.
I dropped my line in, let it sink all the way to the bottom, and then nearly instantly felt a tug on the line. I began reeling and reeling. Two hundred feet of line is a lot to reel up! Just as my hand begins to cramp, I finally see the fish coming to the surface. Oh, but wait. That’s no halibut! That’s a shark! Mr. Fish Dude comes over, explains to me that I’ve caught a shark, and throws it back in.
No sooner have I thrown my line back in when I feel another big tug. This time I’m a little less enthusiastic about the reeling, but I put my muschles to work. After what seems like forever, the fish crests to the top. Oh, but wait. That’s no halibut! That’s a spiny dogfish! Mr. Fish Dude comes over, laughingly berates me for my bad lack, throws the spiny dogfish back, and gives me some new bait. I sink the line down again, and patiently await my halbut.
By this time Kyle has already caught his limit and is wondering what in the world I’m doing just standing up there at the front without any fish. At this point he has already reeled in over 8 fish (throwing most of them back—we follow the law around here). After some urging, I return to the back of the boat, where he says the fishing is better. Again, I drop my line in and feel something tug right away. I reel and reel, and then it feels like my arms are about to fall off, so I hand the pole to Kyle. He finishes reeling it back up, and lo and behold, a halibut!!! Wahoo, I got my first one!
By this time it was getting late, and I needed to get my other halibut so that we could journey back to shore. I drop the line in again, instantly feel something tug, and pull it all the way in myself. Phew, what a workout that was. I can’t even imagine pulling in a 300 pound one!
On the way back, I stare as Mr. Fish Dude fillets our fish. The dexterity and coordination that it takes to move a knife that fast on a moving boat. Wow!
When all was said and done, we each got our two halibut and now have enough to have it once a week for the whole school year!
(PS- There were 4 foot swells the whole time we were out there and nearly everyone on the boat got seasick. That part sucked a lot.)