Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
May 2009

The Evolution of an Angler, Part II

By Fabienne Peter-Contesse
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The author with her first salmon of the season, a 31-pound king.

April finds many Juneau anglers chipping ice in driveways to get to their boats and salivating at the thought of that first king salmon on the grill. I chip and shovel my way into the shop to check on the baby (17’ Alumaweld) and I’m horrified to see what a mess I left last fall - grease gun, fogging oil, electrical grease left out to freeze & thaw all winter, tools strewn about, dirty rags left on the boat. Looks like I need an end of season checklist.

Fortunately I did take care of the engines. With guidance and help from a good friend, some great advice from a very willing teacher at Western Auto & Marine, and one trip to the boat mechanic, the main and kicker were properly winterized. Rumors were flying about kings being caught, though I wondered if it was the same salmon discussed ad nauseam. Didn’t matter, I still couldn’t wait to wet a line!

For those of you unfamiliar with my ‘evolution’, this is the second season of fishing on my own boat, a passion that has grown steadily over the past several years. (See Evolution of an Angler, part 1, in the February 2008 issue of Alaska Fish and Wildlife News). I’ve had the benefit of generous friends who give their time and experience, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary who offer a great boating safety course and vessel safety checks, and the good fortune to live in an area rich with outdoor opportunities.

We had a fine fishing year in 2008, in spite of the relatively poor salmon fishing. There were some memorable days halibut fishing on flat calm evenings, a few king salmon, and always the joy of being on the water, watching whales and sea lions, listening to eagles and having the conversations that evolve only when the pressures of life are set aside for a time.

The first day out on the water in 2009 went fairly well, aside from a few choice words I had for my mechanic when the kicker wouldn’t start. I launched the boat in one try; no snaking down the ramp this time. We trolled with the main engine for a while, no bites, but April is still early. The next day, after doing some troubleshooting (sparkplug, etc.), I noticed this little fuel valve switch on the kicker in the Off position. Who knew? I take back everything I said about my mechanic...


In mid April I took my birthday off to fish, and the day dawned perfectly. Glassy water, no wind, and not too cold. We headed to the backside of Douglas Island, but decided to fish False Outer Point for a bit first. Less than 30 minutes after dropping our lines there came a tap, tap, tapping on my rod. I slid the rod out of the holder to see what was up (“junker”, I thought), and soon realized it was no sculpin. Fifteen minutes and five or six runs later, we had a 31.3 lb white king on board!

There’s a tradition in Juneau, Tlingit I believe, that the first fish of the season is shared. My fishing partner and I estimated that more than thirty friends shared that fish (along with a few eagles), and we’re grateful for that. We’re also hopeful that this auspicious start bodes well for the season.

Getting into fishing can be a slippery slope. First you have a spinning reel and rod, a few pixies, and a couple favorite roadside spots to cast. Then you get a taste of fishing on a boat, and end up buying your own salmon or halibut rod for those days your friends with boats call you up. Maybe you’ll learn to tie your own leaders, or create a secret sauce for the herring you’ll use. Pretty soon you’ve signed the paperwork, and there’s a boat in your driveway. Gee, I might need a truck to haul that. Wouldn’t it be nice to have downriggers? Electric downriggers? Oh, and I must have a chart plotter. You’ve heard it, BOAT = Bring On Another Thousand.

But the beauty of fishing is that you don’t need all the ‘stuff’. Just a rod, reel, lure and a license, and you can participate in one of the most amazing activities Alaska has to offer: time outside with yourself, your friends, your family.

Fabienne works for the Division of Sport Fish in her spare time, and is currently pursuing her potential interest in deer hunting via the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. Could “Evolution of a Hunter” be next?

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