An Outdoor View: Rod, Jenna and the whitefish

Author’s note: At the insistent request of a reader who must be losing it, I once again attempt to attract readers by spicing up some facts about fish with a chapter from my romance novel, a work in progress. — LP

The Kenai River guide with more curves than San Francisco’s Lombard Street was not having a good day.

Jenna had been fishing with four customers in her boat since 6 a.m., and they hadn’t boated a salmon in three hours of steady fishing. Not even the humpies were biting. What’s more, the conversation had turned to the presidential campaign, a turn for the worse. Her emotions had sailed past Point Hope, tacked through Anxiety Strait, and were steadily approaching Desperation Bay.

She had tried everything, but the silvers remained reluctant to cooperate. With her customers on the verge of mutiny, she was ready to refund their money and return them to the boat landing. She yearned to go home, strip off her tight-fitting waders and soak away her cares in a nice, hot bath.

Hearing the hum of an outboard, she looked up from baiting a hook and saw that it was the State Parks patrol boat. The sight of Rod at the controls tugged at her heart like a rainbow trout tugs at a size 2 egg-sucking leech.

Deftly steering his patrol boat toward hers, Rod yelled, “Prepare to be boarded, ma’am!”

Jenna’s knees went weak at the thought of the swarthy ranger being in the boat with her. Turning to her customers, she said, “Reel in your fishing licenses. Oh, my! I mean reel in and get out your licenses. He’ll want to check them.”

“Good morning,” Rod said, stepping from his boat into hers. “How’s fishing?”

Waves of heat coursed through her. He was close enough to touch, and it was all she could do to stop herself. Her body churned with need for him that was even stronger than her desire for one of the Sage Konnetic HD fly rods.

She managed to say, “Good morning. The fishing has been slow, but we’re hopeful.”

“I’ve had a productive morning,” Rod said, cheerily. “I’ve issued 11 citations to evildoers.”

“Hey! I’ve got something!” one of Jenna’s customers said. “It didn’t fight, so I didn’t even know it was there until I had it almost in. What is it?”

“It’s a whitefish,” Jenna said, lifting the silvery, foot-long fish into the boat. “It’s not a lake whitefish, the smoked one you see in grocery stores Outside, but it’s related. It’s a round whitefish. Eight species of whitefish are found in Alaskan waters. The largest is the sheefish. Only two, the round whitefish (Prosopium cylindraceum) and the Bering cisco (Coregonus laurettae) are native to the Kenai River drainage.

“All whitefish are salmonids, meaning they have an adipose fin, and all are anadromous, meaning they spawn in fresh water, but spend part of their lives in saltwater. Round whitefish in most streams seldom exceed 16 inches in length. Your fish is bigger than the average caught in this river.”

“Are they good to eat?” the customer asked.

“The thousands of people who buy smoked whitefish every year think so,” she said. “I’ll clean it for you, and you can take it home and try it.”

The muscular ranger moved closer to the helm, near enough that Jenna could feel the heat of his body and his warm breath on her face. Delicious shivers ran up and down her spine, despite the superior insulating qualities of her Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck long underwear top.

Smiling and gazing deeply into her eyes, Rod whispered, “You can take me home and try me any time you like.”

Les Palmer can be reached at lespalmer@rocketmail.com.

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