Cartoon by Scott Anthony

Jerry's View: Fishing tales from days gone by

Sunny days and warm winds put me back in time to days spent pestering fishes on the regions lakes, streams and saltwater. One memorable trip was to Neah Bay with a friend and his son and my son, Ken. The boys were about 14. We rented a 16-foot kicker boat and headed out toward Tatoosh Island near the mouth of the straits to chase silver salmon.

My friend, Jim Cardwell, was as ardent an angler as I. Ken and I soon began getting hookups with bright, frisky silvers. Cardwell could not seem to get a bite. He was running the motor, looking downcast and eating butterscotch cookies from the package without using his fingers. In frustration, after a couple of hours of watching us reel in our catch, Cardwell grumpily insisted we move to shallower water so he could at least dredge up some bottom fish.

It wasn't long before he was able to demonstrate his fishing skill and prove his manhood too by hooking and bringing to the boat a big halibut. He wore grin like a Cheshire cat as he gaffed the big fish and dragged it onboard.

It was beginning to look like his day after all. Then, luck betrayed him.

"Robinson," he said, in voice like Blackbeard the Pirate,"I am going to have to gaff that fish and lift it up and into the fish box. When I do that, you lift the lid, then close it real fast. These fish can flop around."

"Aye, aye, Captain Cookie Crumbs," I said, and readied to lift the lid.

"Okay, lift!" Cardwell commanded. And I lifted.

He swung the big fish on the gaff hook up and over the edge of the box. It dropped with a thud and echoed off the aluminum hull of the boat. I slammed the lid fast, too fast. The gaff got caught in the lid and was still in the fish.

Cardwell glowered at me and sputtered something unintelligible.

I lifted the lid again as Cardwell twisted the gaff out. The lid was still open.

The halibut apparently was not happy about being yarded out of the bay or about being gaffed. It made a powerful downward motion with its broad tail and flipped out of the box and over the side, swimming urgently away from it captors.

Cardwell's eyes bugged out likeBarney Google's and he began stomping on the bottom of the boat. This went on for several minutes before he could speak. Then he began sputtering something unintelligible. I suspect he was filtering his language because my son was in the boat and Cardwell knew we did not use coarse language in our family.

I tried to console him. It was no use. He broke off his lure and reeed in the line and threw the rod and reel into the bottom of the boat. He started the motor and cranked it wide open and we headed for the marina.

There were people on the dock waiting for us as we arrived. They had some bad news for our piscatorialist. We learned that his son, also 14 and not interested in fishing, also had bad luck while hanging back on shore when dad was fishing. It seems he had taken the keys to dad's station wagon and driven it back and forth between the cabins at the resort. In one of his passes, he struck a pedestrian, knocking him down but not seriously injuring him. The pedestrian was a doctor who also was a guest at the resort.

As a consolation, we offered Cardwell a salmon.

It was a quiet ride home to Seattle. I do not recall fishing with him again.

On Elliott Bay

In the fifties, Elliott Bay was haven for local salmon fishermen. We would roust a kid or two from sleep and head out with a terms of coffee and some sandwiches for Haury's Marina (near what is now Jack Block Park) on Alki. As the sun was coming up, we would head out in a small motorboat. A package of frozen herring would begin to thaw in the bottom of the boat as we searched the bay for the best place to begin dragging a line.

Our tactic for finding a salmon was to follow a Japanese fisherman, not close enough to be obvious, but close enough study technique. Those guys always seemed to know where the fish were. It seemed like they were always the once bringing a salmon to the net.

A popular lure in those days was the Pearl Wobbler. It was typically about two inches long and with a red dot on it. I think it was supposed to look like a minnow. It was about an inch deep and a 1/16th inch thick, made from an abalone shell, I believe. At any rate, it was an effective lure which couple with a shiny metal plate called a dodger. The Pearl Wobbler was at the terminal end of the setup.

Even a sunny summer morning on the bay could be chilly. One son or the other was usually hunkered down in the boat trying to stay warm, clutching a fishing rod in red fingers. The old gas motors were set on idle so we could put along at a slow trolling speed. But the side effect of this was that exhaust fumes always seem to hover over the boat. I had to watch for signs that the kids were turning green. When they did, I urged them to throw up overboard. This always seemed to attract fish.

Once in a while, we would actually catch a salmon. But mostly, we just enjoyed being out on the water, close to home, bobbing about in the bay in boat amidst the tugs and barges and ships.

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