Unhinged Alaska: The fish assassin

When the fish are running, I have two friends who come close to losing their collective minds.

Turk’s a river runner while Willie is a saltwater man.

That’s a good thing because they tend to bicker a bit when we fish together, especially at the Homer Spit’s Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

About a week and a half ago, the king run at the lagoon had fallen off a wet cliff and was on the edge of lacking a discernable heartbeat.

No problem. Blackmouth trolling was still good plus there were reds to can, rockfish to harvest and halibut to fillet. It was the piscatorian paradise of midsummer.

We’ve accepted the fact that Alaska has sashayed over the apogee of daylight hours while the stealthy pilfering of the sun’s influence signals our slide toward the autumnal equinox.

Personally, I have no qualms about this turn of the seasons because the fishing gets hotter as the coho commence their dance and heftier halibut move in to do battle.

Sounds like a peaceful transition, doesn’t it?

Well, it was until the rumors started flying that the silvers were quietly starting to get their finny freak on at the infamous fishing hole.

Jumpers had been spotted along the western rocky edge of the spit and offshore of the lagoon’s entrance.

Last Monday, several small schools of the scrappy acrobats were still patrolling the outer saltwater. Then on Tuesday, as a diminutive daytime tide rolled in, the lucky fishermen there to greet it were able to snap a few on their stringers.

Turk and Willie, who were in the Kenai area braving the invasion of net-swoopers, called asking if I would check out the coho buzz.

Turk ended the call by saying that W. would probably be hitching back if he kept giving the term “dip” in dipnetting a new meaning.

As long as they weren’t in jail, I wasn’t interested in their latest squabble but more than happy to oblige their request.

Trusting the forecast of clear skies, I geared up and was primed to hit the hole when dawn gradually opened its groggy eyes on the bay.

It was not to be. When I stepped onto the deck, the bygone midnight skies were darkled by a saturated overcast drooping a petticoat of mist over the landscape.

Fortunately, the wind was restraining itself to slight puffs infused with the subtle fragrance of Sitka roses so I got my lure-flipping swagger on, grabbed a rain poncho, and headed out.

I’m chagrined to admit that my initial soiree into the pit began with mortifying results and expletives worthy of exorcism.

I threw everything at those at those persnickety jackasses but my dog Howard who decided to take precautionary cover under the truck after my initial outburst bellyaching that the pernicious little $&*^#%$ had me on “ignore.”

Just as an annoying fog swathed itself across the mere, one of my vet buddies from Anchorage ambled down from the campground. He had recognized my voice through the drizzly haze as I soundly besmirched the birth lineage of the fish.

I grumpily admitted that I was getting flat skunked using techniques that have worked since I was old enough to hold a pole and not blast off body surfing if a lunker hit.

He simply smiled, sat his butt on a bucket and fired his lure and bobber into the pond.

He landed three nice fish in the space of 30 minutes while I stood there soaking a masterfully plug-cut herring like a clueless dork trying to keep deranged Irish lords from stealing my bait.

After his fifth fish, he finally took pity watching me flog the salt with herring corpses, cuts of home-cured roe and spinners that did everything but play “Another one bites the dust.”

He quietly inquired if I would like to try using some of his mackerel chunks beneath my float set up.

By that time, I would have used M-80s with waterproof fuses if half of the campground hadn’t been staring down at me over their morning coffee.

The mackerel turned the aging morning into an abrupt fishing fracas with summersaulting silvers pirouetting through the air until the bite was suddenly over and four beauties lay at my feet.

Needless to say, I bought the fish assassin breakfast and he payed it even farther forward by leaving a stash of his golden bait behind.

By the time you read this, Turk, Willie and myself will have invaded the hole together.

If there hasn’t been a story in the news about a major dust up at the spit’s lagoon, you can figure I shared. They hate looking like clueless dorks even more than I do.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t wandering the peninsula in search of bait mackerel.

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