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Personal Fishing Notes of a Beginner

by Douglas Ault

The Seward Silver Salmon Derby runs during the Month of August and 2004 was going to be my 1st
Successful day of silver salmon fishing near Seward, Alaska
year with a boat!  Man, I couldn’t wait. This was going to be great! Lots of fish being caught, the weather has been fantastic, all indicators are pointing towards silver!

August 14th, 6:30 a.m., we (my neighbor and brother-in-law) launch at the North boat launch and we quickly review our life/safety wherewithal: life jackets, VHF, flares, first aid kit, whistle, oars, fire extinguisher, throwable floatation device…well, we’ll just use this extra lifejacket. Safety - check! Now the essentials list: full fuel & oil tanks, poles, tackle, herring, camera, food and beverage. Weaponry - check! We’re all set. Pony Cove, here we come!

Silver salmon fishing outside of Seward, Alaska
We head out of the harbor in light winds and small chop. We’re soon into a swarm of charter and private boats, all heading South. We navigate through the wakes of slower, bigger, boats and find a home behind a boat cruising the same speed. I have been out here twice before, and know Pony Cove sits on the West side of the bay, just past the first Island. We were out just two weeks before and fished just North of there, close to Bear Glacier. We saw the Island, but jumping fish made us stop. Primal instinct. We couldn’t help ourselves. We caught several, but, for this trip, I vowed…Pony Cove or bust.

After an hour of run time, we approach the Island, which up close, looked nothing like the map’s image - must be some mistake - let’s follow our lead boat to the next island and see what that looks like. Over to the right I notice some seagulls flocking around (baitfish signal) and make my 1st Note to self: hit that spot on the way back. We continue to try and match the coastline to the map obviously created by Mr. Magoo, when we realize we are now heading west and are in a gentle rolling swell. We soon realize we’re in the open Gulf of Alaska and had passed our objective. I look at the fuel gauge, which reads ¾ full. No sweat. We turn about and head back from whence we came.

As skipper of our wayward vessel, I decide to return to the frenzy of seabirds (which turns out to be the elusive Pony Cove), and take our chances there. When we arrive, we find what was thought to be a straight coastline, was in-fact a cove. A small cove, but a cove just the same. 2nd Note to self: coastline view from sea level is 2 dimensional. Depth perception is difficult at best. Need to buy a Mapped GPS.

Hooked a silver in Resurrection Bay Alaska
Realizing, by now, that this is Pony Cove, explains why there are now boats all over the place. I shut the boat down and tell the crew to bait up. I glance at the fuel gauge again and …..WHAT THE …..! My reading was now only ¼ full. 3rd Note to self: Fuel readings underway are NOT actual. Slight angle of boat makes big difference. I inform the crew to remove the divers and flashers. We’re going to mooch for our dinner. No fuel for trolling.

And so we begin. Vinny (my neighbor), is the first to hook up. Then Sam (Brother –in-Law) and, almost simultaneously, myself. Vinny’s and mine are around 7-8 lbs. Sam’s looks to be a bit bigger, around 12 lbs. He’s using a green hootchie skirt over the herring. We notice the fish are about 25-30’ down (just beyond sight of our bait). We continue this routine: Vinny & I reel in 7-8 pounders, and Sam’s hooking up with
Saltwater silver salmon fishing in Alaska
double digits. Insult to injury: Sam is snoozing in between hookups, while Vin & I are actively moving the bait in gentle up & down motion. Must be the hootchie. Must find hootchies. 4th Note to self: Bring more hootchies.

By 2 pm the bite is off. Tally: 12 fish. 3 for Vinny, 3 for me, and Sam has his limit of 6 and not one under 10 lbs! Plus he appears well rested. Humiliated, I figure it’s time to head back before the afternoon winds/chop increase just outside of the harbor. I look at the gauge, and inform the crew “it’s gonna be close”, and off we go. I settle in at 4000 rpm (2 stroke 40hp Johnson), which hopefully gets us the best mileage. We round Calisto Head, and just as I figured, the chop is up at 2ft. The gauge now reads less than ¼ full. And this is underway (see 3rd Note to self above). We round Caines Head, and we’re in to the home stretch with 1/8th showing (underway). Enter: Coast Guard safety check.

The Coast Guard cutter “Mustang” was anchored in the middle of the bay, with a little orange Zodiac running from boat, to boat, just like a bee pollinating flowers. We watch them leave a boat about 1,000 yds to our East. I continue to head North to the harbor when Vinny informs me that they are making a “beeline” straight for us. So I figure, what-the-hey, we’re good for a safety check. Maybe our boys in orange could spare some fuel. We shut down and wait for them to arrive.

After verifying we have no weapons (besides Sam’s hootchie) and are not terrorists, they board our vessel and commence their safety check. To keep them in high spirits and, hopefully, put them in a helpful mood, Sam cunningly displays his “Derby Winning” fish and gets them to pose for a picture (inset), while I promptly display our safety gear. 5th Note to self: Flares have an expiration date, and an extra lifejacket is not considered a USCG certified throwable cushion.

After writing me a “fix it” ticket, I inform our boarding party of our fuel situation, or lack thereof. The sailor in charge aptly replies: “ahhhh, just go as far as you can. If you run out, flag someone down. If nobody stops, pop a flare”. And off they go. 6th Note to self: Expired flares still work.
Saltwater fishing near Resurrection Bay, Alaska
We move ahead at 3,500 rpm. We’re still 3 miles out and are catching quite a bit of chop (I hate this part of Seward fishing). We are still making progress and I can swear the needle has quit moving. We are about 500 yds away from the harbor and the motor starts to spit. I promptly shut it down. Sam goes “well this is embarrassing, do we really have to pop a flare?” Luckily, a boat was just leaving the harbor and sold us a couple gallons of fuel. 7th and final Note to self: Pack extra fuel and a few extra bucks.

Tight Lines & God Speed

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