Am I a fishing fanatic? Absolutely! From the very first time I picked up a fishing rod and caught my first fish, I wasn’t just hooked — I was hopelessly hooked.
It interfered with my schooling, my thought patterns and even my love life. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard “you care more about fishing than you care about me” I would be a very wealthy man. With this in mind, I thought you might enjoy reading about one of my fishing adventures that happened during my younger years that have forever defined me as a true fishing fool.
I had just finished a non-productive stint at the University of South Carolina and decided to take a year off to “find myself.” God bless my mother because she had the foresight to know that I was spinning my wheels, so in an attempt to keep me from going off the deep end, she asked me if I wanted to go to Alaska. I’m sure you guess what my answer was, so off I went on a train across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Arriving in Vancouver, I had a few days to wait before I was due to board a small ship that would take me up Alaska’s inside passage, and like any true fisherman, I couldn’t look at the water there in Vancouver without thinking about fishing. I could see boats fishing not far off the shoreline, and after two days of sitting there watching, I decided that I had to give it a shot.
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Knowing absolutely nothing about salmon fishing, I finally found a little tackle shop and start asking questions about the “how-tos” of catching salmon. The man that owned the tackle shop told me about a place where I could rent a small boat outfitted with the right rods and reels, but before I went there I had to find herring for bait.
Now remember, I was in downtown Vancouver, so finding a place that sold a few herring wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it turned into an all-day affair. The cab driver that was chauffeuring me around could sense my frustration and told me about a large fish house that might have herring, so off we went.
Arriving at the fish house, I was told that the smallest amount of herring they would sell came in a 50-pound block. With all other options exhausted, I bought the block, and to say the least, my cabbie wasn’t too thrilled to put this huge block of fish in his cab. But after a fair amount of pleading, he finally gave in and into the trunk it went. I was finally going to get to go salmon fishing!
Arriving at the boat rental marina, the folks there got quite the chuckle when they saw me unload this monster block of bait. I should have known that if they rented boats and tackle they would also have bait, but I’ll just leave that part alone.
Anyway, I fired up the engine, and off I went out into the cold Pacific Ocean. Using rods and reels that look like overgrown fly rods, I kind of figured out the premise of salmon fishing. About two feet above the bait — yes, herring — is this large chunk of shiny metal called a flasher. As you troll along, the flasher spins and acts like an attractor to the fish, and if my memory serves me correctly, I was given three rods so I could stagger the baits at different depths. Not having any idea about where I should go, I headed to where I had seen boats the previous two days. Being young and dumb, that area was way further out than I was told I could take this small boat, but by gum, I was going to catch a salmon, my first salmon.
After getting the snot kicked out of me by some fairly hefty seas, I made to the place where the other boats were trolling. I tried to match their speed but after an hour or so, I hadn’t taken so much as a nibble. It was then that I decided to troll at the same speed I trolled for Spanish mackerel at home and within 10 minutes I had two slob king salmon flopping on the deck. In the next two hours I put six more salmon and a halibut in the boat, and from observing the other boats, it appeared I was the only one catching anything.
Proud as peacock, I made it back to the marina and dumped all eight fish on the dock. It was a “look at me” moment until the dock master told me there was a two-fish limit. I guess he felt sorry for this dumb kid from South Carolina because he told me to take my fish and get the heck out of there as quick as I could. When my cabbie showed up, you can only imagine his attitude about putting eight big salmon in his cab, but after some skillful pleading (I would give him two fish) and several layers of newspaper, he agreed to take me to my hotel. I gave the rest of the fish to the hotel while making a hefty tip in the process.
I haven’t done much salmon fishing since, but one thing is for sure, I will never forget my one and only “Vancouver Salmon Massacre.”