Notes from the Fishing Grounds

Captain Marsh Skeele describes a day of fishing for king salmon aboard the Loon.

Notes from the Fishing Grounds

Marsh Skeele is captain of the F/V Loon and our vice president. He wrote this essay in July 2014, as the king salmon season opened.

As commercial salmon trollers, we nervously await the king salmon season. King salmon are not only the biggest and most exciting salmon to catch, they are worth the most per fish. There are a million choices to make that can determine our success: What kind of lures do I use? How deep? Where do I fish? By the end of June, we are a stressed out bunch and second guess all the choices we thought we felt good about a week ago. And then July comes and king season is here!

I get up as early as I can to have the fishing gear in the water at daylight on July 1st. In many cases, that means getting up before 3am to get the gear in the water before sunrise. The first hours are tense: Am I in the right spot? Why aren’t they biting? It’s still too dark for fish to see the lures.

Soon, sometime after 4am, I see the first line start shaking with the distinctive tug of a hefty king salmon. Adrenaline starts pumping as I scramble out to start running through my lines. Reeling up empty spread after empty spread, one line is taut and angled out perpendicular to the boat. One hand on the leader tells me it’s something big, and as I grab my gaff hook I start pulling the line by hand. Shining purple, gold, silver, the king emerges from the water, thrashing as I try to corral it.

Before it has time to react—whack! I bring the gaff hook down and bonk the salmon on the head. The stun allows me to safely lift its 20-pound body aboard without bruising the flesh. One stab to let it bleed and I proceed to set out the line again for more kings. My crewman cleans the fish and slides it into a slush ice slurry. I look over and see the other lines starting to shake. Alright! I chose the right spot: better make some room in your freezer!

I really love hearing about how you guys enjoy the fish—it makes all the hard work out here on the grounds totally worth it. Thanks for the support!

Marsh can be reached at: marsh@sitkasalmonshares.com

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