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Fish on!

Posted by joeabbott on July 24, 2011

imageMy father-in-law, Richard, is turning 80 this year and, as a gift, his other son-in-law, Jim, organized a sons and sons-in-law fishing trip out of Westport!

After all the schedules were worked out, it ended up that in addition to Jim, Richard, and me, only his second-oldest son Tim was able to make the time. Jim supplemented our count by including his daughter, Alyssa, as well as a few family members from his side. And so began my very long day fishing.

It may not be fair to talk about Friday in a story about my Saturday fishing trip, but that’s where the story starts for me. I got up at 5AM, was heading to the bus by 6, and at my desk at 7. My days these days are on the longish side, with me leaving the office at 5PM for the return trip; I walk in the door at home sometime before 6:30.

Well, I told Richard I’d be home after 6 but he decided to “will me home” by force of showing up around 4. In all fairness, he lives 180 miles to the east and was coordinating his arrival with Seattle rush hour traffic. But, it allowed him a soup and salad meal at Denny’s while he waited.

Suzy took off early to meet him and when I got in at 6:15 or so, he was on the front porch, poking his thumb toward the garage; the message was clear: park that thing and let’s get going!

And he was right. We left within 15 minutes of my arrival home and headed into the traffic out of Seattle on a Friday. It was miserable and we made slow going to Ocean Shores, WA … some 130 miles south and west. We pulled in around 10PM.

imageBut, Tim and his family played host to us for the night in a room they rented (Tim would return to spend the remainder of his weekend with the family), but it was “home” for all of 5 hours or so, as we arose at 3 AM on Saturday morning.

Now, I like planning but we had a few too many planners working this one. First, the boat captain wanted to push off around 6:30AM so he had his passengers arrive by 6AM. Jim also likes to add some buffer so he told us to be there by 5:30AM. And Richard was hedging bets and added his own buffer. All told, we showed up in Westport, WA at 5AM wondering where everyone was.

But, that allowed for us to ease into the morning, claim a spot on on the boat from which to fish, and mentally prepare for what would come.

Truth time: I hate being on the ocean. Hate it. Hate.

I imageget seasick every time, it messes with my head, and all the remedies in the world only compound the problems I suffer. “The patch” deadens my head so it feels like I have a sponge for a brain, Dramamine is a placebo and supplement remedies like ginger just flavor the vomit. But, I ate some pills and had a pocket full of sugared ginger treats in hopes they’d work. But, to get this part of the story out of the way: yes, I got sick. It wasn’t crippling (one girl was huddled on a bench the entire trip) and I was only hit with a stomach churn once, but I chummed between fishing spot. Ick. Ginger. Ick.

Anyhow, the plan was to fish for rockfish first, limit out, then head to a lingcod spot before returning home. And we pretty much stuck to plan.

imageWe fished through Westport Charters on the Hula Girl under captain Steve and his first mate (and son) Jason. Both were genial and excellent at the jobs: Steve found us the fish and Chris baited hooks, untangled lines, and ended up fileting some 250 or so fish. It was a good time and I definitely recommend this boat if you’re looking for a fun trip.

As noted above, we were fishing bottom fish. I love salmon but we wanted a bit more action than you normally see with salmon. So we went for rockfish (also known as “sea bass”) first and while I wasn’t doing great, I pulled in one good sized fish, a couple mid-size, and then some smaller ones. We were definitely in a hot spot as folks all around were hooking in and pulling up. I had Richard on my left and Tim on my right. And, in the shoulder-to-shoulder setup, I definitely hooked into them sometimes.

Why do I get all the blame for being the one to mess up? Well, first, I’m the youngest (clearly a problem) and second, they’re Stapelmans … which means they’re doing it right! Sometimes being an in-law can be tough but I just reflect back on the “youngest” part and consider that my reward!

But, we were all catching so many fish there were no hard feelings and we’d just untangle and get back in there!

It was hard to say who fished the best on rockfish; we all caught so many. I likely did the “worst” but at that, I pulled in my share and was happy to have seen so much action.

imageAfter this, we fired up the motors and cruised to a new spot. I slept as much as possible but was just in that “I’m really tired, don’t feel well, wish I could just lay down and get some real rest” sort of state. But, soon enough we were given new rigging on our poles and dropping lines for lingcod!

Lingcod is a vicious looking fish that puts in a bit of a fight but I never hooked a big-enough fish to feel the pull. I got a 22” one and then some smaller guys (mostly non-keepers) but one guy on the boat caught a 24” lingcod … that another bigger lingcod had bitten into and wouldn’t let go! That’s right, as he was pulling in his 24” fish, a much larger lingcod chomped onto it and he pulled both fish in! It was awesome!

However, while I didn’t do great on catching either rockfish or lingcod, I did pull in only one of two halibut to hit the deck that day! I’ve already eaten it and let me tell you … fresh halibut is hard to beat. It was never fishy, tender as can be, and firm, moist meat. That was one delicious fish!

I also caught a salmon but ended up losing it as I brought it to the surface, it saw the boat, and fired off hard across about 6 other lines before breaking my line above the leader. That was a fighting fish. And I pulled in a brightly colored spiny bright orange-pink fish. I forget what it was called but it was a beauty … that wasn’t in season or had to be thrown back. Jason (the first mate) thought it was a nice enough fish that he even posed with it before tossing it back over the side.

But, that was it. After that we headed back to Westport. I found a spot on the deck where I could lean back and close my eyes, but upon nearing shore, I almost felt normal again. The seas had lost their chop, I’d already been sick, and we were heading home. It’s all good.

I ended up taking home 20 rockfish and four lingcod filets, then four more filets from my halibut. It was a LOT of fish and I’m happy for it. I’ll enjoy that for many a day. While the halibut is consumed, I’m eyeing a packet of vacuum-packed, frozen lingcod next!

The road trip home went much quicker with one small detour for a family vacation plot they once owned years ago. Nearly everything about the place was different and the nostalgia was crippled a bit by reality. Richard reminisced and I nodded and looked on. Before you know it, though, we were back in Seattle. It was probably 6PM and we asked Richard to stay the night. But, like me, he just wanted to be home and we could only keep him long enough for a beverage and to stretch his legs.

And then it was just Suzy and me.

After cleaning up I looked at the pictures I took; not many. She’s posted most of them here. I tried to get a few “action shots” but photographing them meant I wasn’t fishing! So, I just have a few and, like many of my trips, there’s little to prove I was there except knowing that someone had to be taking these pictures and that probably was me.



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