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Ocean or land, fishing is fishing

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Ocean or land, fishing is fishing

King salmon eat bait about the size of some of the trout in the rivers.

Photo by JEFF LUND/

POSTED June 23, 2010 3:12 a.m.
For the past seven days, I have alternated delicate fly fishing on rivers and ocean fishing for halibut and king salmon, alienating myself from the world in seven to ten hour increments.

My brother was the ocean fisherman, while I was more at home on the rivers.

I don’t know what it was, or if there was a specific occurrence that led to this uneven appreciation, but I decided to make a concerted effort to fish on the ocean as much as I could before my money ran out.

It’s easy to see why people can spend their whole lives fishing, but only river, or ocean specific.
Each is so unique it takes a completely different mindset. Hooking a perfectly colored 10-inch rainbow usually starts with a smile, and ends with a gentle release. A 25-pound king starts with a smoking reel and ends with a knife in the gills.
Expectations vary as well.

I am fairly certain when swimming a lure or drifting a fly on a river I am always relatively close to a hook up. I have some control over how close I get the ornament to the nose of the fish, and mistakes can be measured in inches, or feet if something goes horribly wrong.

If it’s pretty obvious that a river isn’t fishy, I don’t waste my time.

But when every river eventually empties into a body of water that was already pretty big to begin with, we get an ocean, and putting half a herring in front of king salmon takes a good deal of luck.

You can skip over waves for an hour, and be an hour in the wrong spot. You think Felix looks good for king salmon, so you grind there for five hours, while a dude got his kings a few miles away at Addington in 10 minutes.

You can pay thousands of dollars to go out with an experienced guide who puts you into a ton of little halibut, but no salmon, while on the same day, someone like me can go out with a science teacher who spent the morning teaching summer school and knock our limit in king salmon and get some halibut, too. It happens, though you don’t get a job guiding at a premium lodge if you are no good at it.

Sure gadgets, reputation and circumstances such as time of day and tide can help, but the ocean can counter with gargantuan sea lions that take off with your halibut just before it reaches the boat.

Simply put, there is nothing about ocean fishing that is easy.

It might seem a little easy when you don’t have to go out past the last cape that protects your boat from waves rolling in from the Gulf of Alaska, yet still are able to hook a 100-pound halibut, or catch three king salmon from the same spot in an hour and a half, when on average it takes almost 20 ocean hours to catch a king.

But things don’t take too long to balance back out and when you come in from 10 hours on the water, seven of which are spent going crest to trough in 6-10 foot swells with nothing in the hold, it’s a good reminder of the reality that comes with angling.

A good guide will get you near where the fish should be, but that doesn’t mean the suckers will cooperate. After all, they just want to eat, swim home and spawn.

Fish or no fish, everyone seems to repeat the same island tag-line, “Its paradise.”

I seem to recall those winter rain storms that lasted two months, 16 hours of darkness, three inches of rain on top of a foot of snow, and have my doubts. But right now, with the kings biting, and the salmon about to start up the rivers, huge cutthroats and rainbows for Steve the cook, Stephen and me, maybe it is.
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