August 31, 2016

Hi Ya

Simon got home from work today around 10:30am. He did indeed like the reorganizing that I did in the kitchen and loves the curtain (after I pointed it out). He also was very surprised with his reorganized closet.  But, what I didn’t know while I showed him around was that he had a surprise adventure planned for us this afternoon that would blow these tiny surprises out of the water.

He told me that we were gonna go fishing, but not like we normally do. We were headed out halibut fishing!! When Simon first asked if I wanted to/could go fishing in a boat, I was a bit worried (as he was) because I still have the wear a full leg brace. But once Simon told me that the boat isn’t tippy and doesn’t require manual rowing, I figured we had to give it a shot, after all, I’m in Alaska and wouldn’t dare turn down an adventure like this! I managed to put on a pair of jeans even with my leg brace and layered a sweatshirt over a long sleeve shirt because it looked a bit like rain.

We loaded into his truck and were off to buy my fishing license and some bait. We also picked up sandwiches for lunch. Then, we went to a friend’s house who was loaning us their boat for the afternoon. When we got there, Simon’s friend Zac was hitching the boat up. It started to sprinkle just a bit as Simon helped him finish. I hoped that the rain would go away or at least not get any worse as we headed to the boat ramp only a few minutes away.

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The guys quickly got the boat into the water and we were ready to go. Another perk of having a boyfriend in the Coast Guard is that he knows his way around a boat very well. Once we all were aboard, Zac took the driver’s seat and we were off! About 40 minutes later we reached the super-secret fishing spot that Zac had in mind and dropped the anchor 230 feet below.  There had not been a drop of rain since we left the dock and the water was as flat as glass. Simon says that he has almost never seen better weather out there than we had today. If you would have plopped a penny into the water, the ripples it would cause would be rougher than the conditions this afternoon.0831161241_HDR~2Simon showed me how to set up the crazy rigging for my halibut rod. The weights on it were heavy! Once my hook was baited, over the side of the boat it went zooming down to join the anchor at the bottom. After all of us three had just gotten our hooks into the water, Simon was the first with a bite. It didn’t seem like it had taken him long at all. Next, his bite got bigger and he was ready to strike.

The next second, the fight was on! Simon had his rod out of the holder and was reeling like his life depended on it. The rod tip was so curved I thought it may snap. Simon leaned over and stood up straight over and over, a while reeling like mad. He said it was a big one and it looked as though it must be with the fight it was giving. When we could just begin to see it swirling in the water below, Zac grabbed the gaff (big hook on a stick) and helped Simon pull the halibut onto the boat.

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It was huge! The biggest halibut that I have ever seen in person! A couple stiff whacks with the gaff, and it didn’t flop much. After high fives all around, I had Simon hold it up as high as he could for his Christmas card worthy Kodak moment.

After Simon got his fish in the storage hatch in the front of the boat, it was back to staring at the tips of our rods. Thankfully, the water was so smooth it wasn’t hard for me to determine what was just the hook bouncing on the bottom from a bite.

All around we seemed to take turns getting bites and tried reeling in without a fish that stayed on the hook long. We checked our bait after every couple bites because fresh bait got the most action.

0831161353~2The limit for halibut is two per person. Simon limited out first. He caught the second fish of the day even easier than the first. This one was smaller, but the guys said they are better eating. Now, it was all Zac and I. Before we even got on the water, I was telling Simon (like always) that I was going to catch the bigger fish. And now I was really running my mouth. To say I am a bit competitive is an understatement. I am very competitive and love challenging Simon. I was a bit worried though. His first halibut was really big. And so far I hadn’t even hooked one good.

As I stared at my rod tip for longer and longer, finally I saw a big twitch and knew it was time. I began reeling and reeling and reeling, but the fish was pulling and pulling and pulling. I couldn’t take the rod out of the holder because it would surely be torn out of my hands. My leg brace wasn’t making things any easier but I kept reeling and hanging on as strong as I could. Two hundred-thirty feet takes a while to pass when the line is going down. And when there’s a fish attached to it and you’re trying to reel 230 feet the other way, it feels like forever. I was only making gains in fractions of an inch though. There was no way this could continue for 230 feet. As the fish fought harder the drag let line out, all my progress gone.

Simon was trying to hang onto me to make it easier for me to stay steady and reel when Zac had an idea. He got Simon a pair of gloves and Simon pulling line toward the reel a few inches at a time as I kept reeling. Over and over he pulled and I reeled. Finally we were making progress, but I was getting so tired. Determination to land this fish was what kept me going. As soon as I could see the halibut in the water, I knew it was big. But would it be big enough? I wondered. Zac gaffed the halibut and heaved it into the boat. It was huge! The biggest I had ever seen! I actually couldn’t tell if it was bigger than Simon’s or not, but I figured it’s all in the mind set.

I practically had to give the halibut a hug and I held it as high as I could for a few photos. Simon got it into the hatch for me. I was totally covered in slime from chest to knee and smiling ear to ear. I gave Simon a slime-hug and told him thanks for his help; and that mine was bigger.

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Zac got the next several bites, but they didn’t like him much. As soon as he had reeled to the point that it seemed like he had them, his line would go slack in an instant. Eventually he did get one in, about the size of Simon’s second one.

Then, I caught my second one. Another nice sized smaller one. More “good eating” fish as the guys kept saying. The front hatch was filling up. But we weren’t in a hurry to head back quite yet. Zac kept fishing and caught his second, officially completing our three filled limits, about half an hour later.

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We headed back to the dock at little after 5pm. The day was still gorgeous. The sunset would be spectacular in a bit. After the boat was loaded, we filled up the gas tank on the way back. Once we were back, we unloaded the fish and got serious. I watched to be sure that Simon didn’t try to swap my halibut for his and he told me his was bigger. Thankfully, Zac was the official third party who took the photographic proof and made the official call that my halibut was bigger. While I am stoked to have this as another tally to the list of times that I have now out fished Simon during our adventures together, when it comes down to it, I couldn’t have landed the fish without the help from both him and Zac and I am so incredibly thankful that I even had the opportunity to get out on a boat this afternoon.

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Even though the official results were in, we still had tons of work to do. Simon scrubbed the boat spotless while Zac filleted the first four fish. I watched his technique and kept getting my hands slimy as I repeatedly got curious about the anatomy of a halibut. Before he started the next fish, I asked Zac if he would mind if I tried. He said not at all and was super helpful at talking me through how to fillet the fish from start to finish. I definitely wasn’t as smooth or fast as he was, but I think I did well. He must have thought so too, because he let me fillet the last one, too.

0831161943_HDR~2~2Once the fish was in an ice chest and the scraps were in buckets, we thanked Zac for driving the boat and wished him a good evening. On the way home, Simon and I were going to stop by Safeway to pick up more vacuum sealer bags until we changed our minds since we were dressed more appropriately for Walmart with all the slime and grime.  

0831162209~2Once we got our routine figured out of me cutting bags to size, rinsing fish, and making runs to the freezer while Simon cut the fish to size, packed the bags, and sealed everything tight, it “only” took us nearly two hours to put away all the fish we had caught. In the end we added 28 packages of halibut to Simon’s chest freezer!

Although it was late, and we were super tired, we had to try some of the halibut. Simon got the charcoal going and we season the fish with butter, my family’s favorite spice blend, and Simon’s favorite secret ingredient for all his meats. While the fish cooked, we took showers and got our stinky laundry in the wash. Once the halibut was done, we split the fillet and counted to three together before taking our first tastes. We both weren’t exactly sure what to expect since neither of us had really eaten halibut before. After that first fork full, our minds were both blown. We both have previously agreed that we are not sure if there is anything better than salmon when it comes to fish, but now we aren’t so sure. The halibut tasted smoky, rich, flavorful, and amazing.

We cleaned our plates fast and were asleep even faster as soon as we laid down. This afternoon was an incredible Alaska adventure and great surprise. I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon outside with Simon and his friend after spending the majority of the previous two days inside while he was at work. Since Simon and I met, every adventure we have gone on has been new, unique, and amazing. I could not be more thankful for our time together here in Alaska and all the time we have to come.

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