The first time I fished with Rob Jackson was close to a decade ago.
The outboard on his 25-foot Bayliner died on a windy day with intermittent rain. As waves funneled in between two small islands, the lifeless boat rolled on top of the ocean swell. A local charter fisherman backed up his boat and gave us a jump. On the way in, the engine died again we lost power and were left with a 15-horsepower kicker.
Two hours later, with town in sight, the kicker started losing the battle against the wind, waves and outgoing tide. With one bar on his cell phone, Rob called a friend who came out, attached a rope from his boat and towed us in.
Sunday was much better.
When Rob, Vanessa, Vanessa’s mom Denise and I passed Chicken Hole, site of the aforementioned drama on the high seas, the sun came out and we encountered little oceanic resistance. The west side of Noyes Island was free of even the typical open-ocean swell. There wasn’t even enough wind to whip the wave crests into little white caps so water was smoothly polished and friendly.
We joined two boats at a spot usually decent for king salmon and rank with small halibut. Within ten minutes Denise had the first king of the day. We stayed there for maybe half an hour, then headed to the spot everyone was talking about.
There ended up being enough boats to make that spot the third most populated community on the island. It didn’t matter — the king salmon were everywhere. If we weren’t reeling in our own fish, we were watching locals or excited tourists net theirs.
Vanessa caught the next king and Denise lost another before Rob or I hooked into our first.
Since nothing can ever be simple and easy with me, one of the kings I eventually hooked went under the boat. I plunged the rod tip into the water and held it away from the boat trying to get the fish to turn its head, but after a brief pause, it continued. I scrambled along the side of the boat, not holding on to anything and almost taking a dive into the water in the process. It might have been funny, but there were a few prowling sea lions taking halibut and king salmon off lines then eating the fish in front of the angry angler.
Anyway, I stumbled but stayed on board, made it to the bow and worked the fish all the way back to the stern again, where we decided 25 pounds wasn’t big enough and let it go.
It was one of those light-hearted, fun days you stop for a minute or two to eat salmon dip on pilot bread even though the king bite is still on, and when you can hear the music playing.
Rob’s fishing soundtrack was an eclectic mix that had no discernible direction.
It just so happened that when we were looking for one last good-sized halibut to fill the box (we released close to 30), Sir Mix-a-lot was playing. Nelly’s Pimp Juice and Zac Brown Band’s Chicken Fried ended up being the most productive songs as we had three triples during those songs.
The fish did not respond well to Alison Krauss.
It’s at times like that you wonder who has influenced the iPod, his wife, maybe his college-aged son. You also start to consider the karaoke career of the playlist assembler.
We arrived at the sun-baked dock with limits of king salmon, halibut and half a dozen Dungeness crab.
Taking people fishing is the currency of the magnanimous, and in keeping with the tradition of being a member of a close community, Rob was content letting us take most of the loot. All he wanted from the slimy tote was a few slabs of halibut and one crab.
It’s smart on his part. The emptier his freezer stays, the more his wife will probably let him go fish.
To contact Jeff Lund, email firstname.lastname@example.org.