A couple of weekends ago, my awesome Rooster took me Halibut fishing. Halibut, not unlike shrimp in Hood Canal, is only open a few days per year for fishing. The Saturday of the weekend we went was the second additional opening for 2017.
He had gone out to Neah Bay for Halibut fishing the previous weekend, with Maury and their fishing buddy Pat. That was my Rooster’s first time to Neah Bay.
Those boys (ahem, Men) took the boat out at 7 am, and were on their way home by 11 am. Now that’s the way I like to fish, in and out. It is rumored that they caught 7 Halibut in the first two hours, prior to moving on to Rock Fish and Ling Cod.
The limit for Halibut is one per person. Wait a minute you think to yourself, how did those three men catch seven Halibut, when they should have only caught three?
They were picking and choosing, something that isn’t necessarily encouraged, because you could hurt the fish, Halibut lay on the bottom of the ocean and suck up whatever little fish and squid happen by, between 300 and 400 feet down below. You are supposed to use a descender when you throw them back, to make sure that they make it to the bottom without substantial damage to their fishy lungs.
I don’t think the men had a descender, but by the power of Google, I can assure you that 95% of all Halibut that are released from the top live to swim another day. They are a pretty tough fish.
On that short morning of fishing my Rooster caught a FIFTY POUND HALIBUT!
I had been whining and sighing about how I wanted to catch a really big fish too. I love fishing, it is so magical, and also a little bit sinister, luring them up to their fishy death. Imagine that there was a big hook, hanging out of the sky with a giant hamburger on it. Would you grab it? I wouldn’t, but I know lots of people that would. I’m guessing it’s the same concept.
I haven’t gone Halibut fishing with them because they normally would have gone on a charter out of Westport. Westport charters drive for four hours out into the ocean to start fishing. My stomach can’t handle that. I’ve tried it once, with my Dad. Boy was I excited. I ended up throwing up for about twelve hours. That was the begining and end of my charter fishing days.
At Neah Bay however, you are already on the tip of the open ocean. You only have to drive the boat out about ten minutes.
Anyway, on with the story.
When Fish and Wildlife announced another additional day of Halibut fishing, my Rooster invited me to join him, so that I could fulfill my fishy dreams.
We left Friday afternoon in the RV, with the boat trailered off the back. It’s a five hour drive to Neah Bay, without traffic and without the slow moving RV with a boat trailered. It took us about six hours to get there.
We stopped at the Casino in Sequim for a bite to eat about halfway there.
The drive up the 101 was beautiful and worth the trip on it’s own. There are breathtaking ocean views, gorgeous trees and flowers.
Along the way we drove by Crescent Lake. Also beautiful in it’s own right.
On arrival, he arranged for a dock space for us and launched the boat with the RV. A daunting task? Not at all for my incredible Rooster.
We stayed at an RV Park right across the street from the Marina, it made for wonderful people, boat and truck watching. We got the RV settled in and built a fire.
We relaxed for the evening with a drink or two, knowing that we would be getting up early to head out onto the water. I myself went particularly light on the alcohol, I was a little nervous that I would be sick. Granted ten minutes out into the ocean is nothing like four hours, but the motion of the ocean…….. It’s been known to get me, especially if I’m tired and/or hungover.
The night was not without it’s own charm, we had an unexpected, yet welcome visitor. We called her Wolfie.
We are not dog people, or rather, we aren’t home often enough to have a dog. But Wolfie, she was different. She wandered up to our camp, she probably just smelled the hot dogs cooking, but she came in without any growling, barking or begging. We did end up feeding her several hot dogs, after which she laid down by the fire and stayed right at my Rooster’s feet. It was as if she had come home for the evening.
Wolfie was probably the best dog I’ve ever met, and we made plans to bring her home with us. She had no collar and was very matted from the neck down, making us believe that she was homeless. We told her all about our cats LB and Peep and invited her to join us on our journey.
Alas, in the morning Wolfie was gone. We didn’t see her again all weekend. It is my gut feeling that given the fact that we were camped on the Makah Indian Reservation, maybe Wolfie was an old Indian spirit, who came to us to figure out our intentions. We must have passed the test.
Saturday morning, we were up and running first thing. Being a cautious and paranoid person, the first thing I did was take two Dramamine, and eat a breakfast sandwich before we headed down to the boat.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining with just a few clouds in the sky. The water was very calm, which calmed me as well.
Sure enough, after driving about ten minutes out, we stopped to set in our lines.
Halibut fishing seems to work best with the copper pipe jig method, it was my first time fishing this way. It is made of a copper pipe about six inches long, with a three pronged hook set almost dead center, we also stuck a hunk of octopus on it, but I bet it would have worked without the bait. The copper reacts with the salt water, making an electrical reaction in the water. Ling Cod and Halibut especially like these.
On my very first drop, I got a bite (Hooray!). I really did think that it must have been a halibut just due to the speed that boys had caught them, but it ended up being a Ling Cod (Hooray anyway!). He was a good sized fish, maybe 15 pounds, probably the biggest I have ever caught, but I wanted more, I wanted a big, big, really big one.
We motored around a bit more and set up at the “Garbage Dump” section of Neah Bay. We were listening on the Marine Radio, and everyone was talking about catching Halibut, or But Fish as the fishermen were calling them at the “Garbage Dump”.
We fished for a while, then moved around, fished a while, moved around. The next bite on belonged to my Rooster. He got his Halibut, what a big fish! His weighed about 35 pounds. When he brought him up out of the ocean, my job was to gaffe him into the boat. It was a success! Halibut are bleeders though, and the boat deck almost immediately looked like a murder scene.
Once the excitement settled down some, we resumed dropping in lines. Then the moment hit me. The one I had hoped I was passed. I felt nauseous and my head began to pound. I had to take a break from fishing and just breathe. I am almost ashamed to admit, that it didn’t help.
My breakfast went rushing into the water.
The good news is, that I felt so much better afterwards that I immediately grabbed my pole and went back at it. I would not miss my chance again to get that big fish.
We had been out on the water for a couple of hours by then and I was beginning to wonder if I would get a Halibut. After all, the men were already on their way home at that time last week. I might have felt even more discouraged, except for the fact that I already had a Ling Cod.
Then it happened. Something struck my line. I wasn’t even sure anything was there, I had had a couple of false positives already. Once my Rooster verified that there was fish there, he handed me back the reel and I started bringing him in.
It’s tough work. I couldn’t stand and reel because the boat was rocking, I couldn’t keep my balance and reel at the same time, so I sat on the cooler. It was very hard work, and more than once I thought that I lost him.
I even needed to take a break and have my Rooster reel for a while because it was too much for my wrist to take, but eventually, I caught this beauty! You are looking at a 40 pound halibut! Once he was in the cooler, I instantly relaxed. I had caught my big fish.
We motored around for a couple of more hours, me taking in the beauty of Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, my Rooster catching many rock fish and even a Cabezon (delicious)!
We even came across a Sun Fish, floating up near the top of the water. That fish was almost as big as the boat! They are pretty tropical and are almost never seen as far north as Neah Bay. What luck that we were blessed by with that sighting!
Once we came back in to the docks and had all of our fish filleted by the handy dock guys, we were exhausted.
We debated making the trip home that night but decided to cook up some fish and relax. It was a beautiful evening, the fish was the freshest I’ve ever eaten.
Today’s moral……. Don’t ever give up on your dreams, no matter the obstacle (seasickness and a man sport in my case). You can do it.
After all, you heard it here first, I caught a big fish!