By Candy Clarke
It’s pouring rain outside; it’s 48 degrees; and everyone around is all smiles. Why? It’s play-time, and for many Alaskans, that translates into fishing time. True, it is a bit nippy and we need to wear gloves and a coat or heavy jacket, but what’s there to complain about? After all, the salmon are the ones swimming in the cold water and heading straight for our dinner table! We just get to whoop and holler as we reel them in. Then, of course, begins the work of preserving the catch. I am always happy to see the huge filets of a silver salmon going into my freezer.
For myself, and many others living in the Alaskan interior; play time involves a lot of work! First, camping supplies must be gathered and organized. Next, comes the fishing and boating equipment; every net, rod, reel, tackle box, cooler and life jacket should be cleaned and ready to go. Then, there is the matter of food — don’t count on being able to shop anywhere - take it with you (where I like to go, there is one grocery store in about 100 miles).
Once packed, load the family and pets and drive for nine hours to get to “that special place.” With gas prices running from $4.04 to $4.39 per gallon, this is not an easy treat on the pocketbook. Sometimes, we camp overnight on the way; other times, we drink coffee and switch drivers.
When we arrive at our destination, we walk the pets, set up camp, purchase ice for the coolers, check the tide book, and check out the bear situation. After all of this, we gear up and grab the fishing equipment as we head for the water. Sometimes, the trip last for 3 or 4 days; other times it last for a week or so. Day after day, rain or sun, we gear up and head for the water. So, what happens if the fish are not biting or the salmon run is just not as strong as usual? Does it mean a wasted trip? A ruined vacation? Not at all. It simply means time to do other things.
In the little community where I like to fish, you can see bunny rabbits on main street; watch little kids learn to ride bikes, discuss the fishing catch and weather with complete strangers, visit a museum, or stop by the library for some quiet time with yourself and a good book. This, though, is after you have taken care of any fish that have been caught. It all depends on the catch. Some years, we have been up to the wee hours of the morning processing fish. Then, we sleep for a few hours and start all over again!
For 14 years of doing the silver run, I have yet to be bored. There is always something happening. Two nights ago, a black bear wandered into camp. He stopped about three feet from me, stared at me long enough to take his picture, took another step forward, turned and headed away from camp. Maybe, he changed his mind about the tacos we were having for supper. Regardless of what changed his mind, I’m glad he decided to retreat.
The last time we were here, a grizzly decided to stroll through the downtown area. He was just loping along; neither fast nor slow; just out for a bit of a stroll. He headed into a residential area. The sheriff’s department was a minute behind, stopping only long enough for us to show which way the bear went.
Fishing may not be everyone’s idea of a fun vacation, but fishing and good friends certainly make it a fun time for me, even without the bears!