Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The "Hired Gun" of Valdez

Those of you who have been following the trip to this point will know that, since arriving in Alaska a few weeks ago, the fish just haven’t been where I thought they would be, when I thought they would be there. Truthfully, it was getting me down a bit to be on the fishing trip of a lifetime and one I’ve wanted to make since I was about ten years old - and to not have anything all that terribly exciting to report on in that department. That problem has now been resolved!!!

It started out in Valdez the way it had been going as reported previously: Greg in Valdez, but not the fish (salmon). It became readily apparent that that situation would not right itself for a while if at all, so the search for a good halibut trip, a good boat and a good captain began in earnest. Basically, I would say we “interviewed” for the job. We spoke with charter services, fishermen on the docks, a few of the captains when they came in. We “worked” the docks when the 6 packs were coming in to see what the catch looked like. Met and spoke with some locals about who they liked and respected, and so on. And looked over the boats themselves for amenities, layout, ease of fishing from and the like.

After working out some scheduling detail, I opted to fish with Captain Scotty aboard the OUTLAW. I’ve made some good decisions in my life and perhaps more than a handful of bad ones too, but this was a great one!

Scotty has the qualities and abilities that I look for in a good captain: First, he has a no-holds-barred love of what he does for a living. Without this quality, ain’t nobody succeeds at anything in life. Secondly, he wants those fishing with him to have the same joyous experience he is obviously having himself. His enthusiasm is infectious. While I know for certain there are other good, maybe even great, captains out of Valdez, I am equally sure I could not have found one that would have worked harder for me and the rest of us on board this day. Already putting in 12 - 14 hour days on the water, involving a 70 mile run to the fishing grounds in the Gulf of Alaska taking two to three hours out (and again back) and a full day’s fishing once out there, Captain Scotty cleans the boat himself to make sure it meets his high standards of cleanliness (he likes the best smelling boat in the fleet) and then heads home for dinner and family- and then whatever time is necessary to make a float plan for the next day out, making sure that the weather he thinks will be a given, and the tide he knows will be a given create the best likelihood for a great catch the next day…and the next. It’s a short season here, but a long day, and a lot of long days in a row. So high energy is a super nice attribute to have to be a captain here- or anywhere. Besides, he’s got a fast boat, maybe the fastest here, so the run is shorter and the bottom time greater- a winning combination. Scotty runs a safe boat too, paying good attention to detail at all times, even when he’s busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger. But best of all, like all good captains (and most good fisherman) he has an unending supply of first rate fishing stories to keep the conversation going, the customers engaged and happy. Had I not caught ANY fish, I would still have had a good trip on the OUTLAW. And, oh yes, Captain Scotty has one thing most other captains do not. And on a boat named OUTLAW, it is only fitting that the fun loving renegade captain has a 410 gauge shotgun close at hand and ready to render the biggest fish still so they can quickly and safely be brought on board. It not only made for an efficient fishing tool, it made for an entire day of joking about the captain and his firearm. We did not “lose” a single fish the entire day!

At this point I am tempted to tell some of his best stories, but I won’t. For two reasons: One, because, while I can tell a story with the best of them, Scotty IS the best of them and who wants to compete with that action? And secondly, it is my firm conviction that all of you who fish need to come here and book a day or two with Captain Scotty aboard the OUTLAW. What I will tell you is that of the four guys on board fishing, there were two Gregs, a John and a Rich. As the two Gregs hooked up first (and often) we began (well OK, I began) a running “Team Greg” narration that lasted the day and survived the trip. When we all went our separate ways at the end of the day, we were each signing off as a member of Team Greg. It was a trip I won’t soon forget. Heck, it was trip I will NEVER forget.

The pictures and just a few captions should pretty much tell the rest of the story:

This was my first halibut and at 54 pounds, the one I COULD pick up for a photo...that's Greg #2 behind me, line in the water.
The "barn door" I've wanted to catch since I was knee high to a grasshopper, this is the one I could NOT pick up any higher than you see here- at least not by myself.
Captain Scotty, Rich and John get started cleaning their fish.
The other Greg of "Team Greg" and Captain Scotty take some monster fillets from Greg's fist halibut of the trip.
I hooked this trophy Ling Cod, but it was safely returned to the water, as the season does not open until July 1. Captain said it broke his heart to put it back, a fish of this quality; but it was sure fine with me.
Each fisherman aboard took home a nice pile of fillets.
Here's my two fish limit of YellowEye Rockfish.
It sure lifted up a lot easier on that winch and scale than when I tried to pick it up by myself!
Here's a look at the "white" side.
And here it is again after the weigh-in at the dock. That label reads 116.6 pounds, and at 66 inches long....was more than respectable.Four fisherman, each with a limit of YellowEyes and Halibut: 2 of each species. We caught some sea bass (black rockfish) as well. Filled two carts, we did, and attracted more than our share of attention strutting our stuff down the dock to the cleaning tables!
Captain Scotty hauls anchor to end a great day on the water.
Look real close! That fish of mine is the derby leader for the week- so far so good! This sign is posted a couple places around town. Geez, I like seeing that name up there. Go! Team Greg!
The tail of my whale!!!!! sticking out of the pail....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg-this is Greg #2. Nice blog. Hope this finds u still in the lead for the week in the derby. Are u still in Valdez or elsewhere? Or are u tryin for some salmon? Hope u do well at that also. Have u tried the yellow eyes yet? Just had some for dinner---YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Had a real good time out there that day hope u do well at all u do. I'll check back later to see how you do on the rest of your trip. Good luck-----Greg #2