Day 5 of the Healing Towers trip started like I’d always imagined Alaska to be. First thing you see when you wake up is a big ol’ grizzly. It was digging for clams during low tide, and I was kind of captivated by the whole process. It was just a cool thing to see. I managed to get a few shots of the bear.
And of course more eagles….
Yogi caught wind of something in the woods and that was all it took.
We ate a quick breakfast and headed out of the cove without fishing for salmon. Today would be mostly spent jigging for the big boys. I’m talkin big ol halibut. Garry had a section that always produces, so he said. He told us story after story of big ones taken here. Some so big the gaff couldn’t hold them. They had to be tagged with a buoy and retrieved after tiring themselves out. That’s what I wanted. The ones heavier than me. The misty ride out was as scenic as the days before.
Once we got to the shelf we’d be drifting through, the rain jackets went on and the butt juice came out.
We had been fishing for about 2 hours probably. We’d caught a couple rockfish. No halibut. Then it happened. I felt a wall during my millionth upward tug. I laid the hammer down. I didn’t want this elusive fish to get away. Thinking back on it, I probably set the hook 3 or 4 more times “just to be sure”. Reeling it in took some trickery. Even though the rod was seated in a Scotty rod holder, I was actually using a right handed reel. I can’t exactly switch hit, so I was forced to reel it with my left hand. At 200 ft, a blue gill would feel heavy. This thing felt like a ship. I kept questioning whether it was a mysterious branch in the ocean, but was reassured every 5 minutes by a zing of the line as it pulled back. After a few minutes of playing tug of war, Garry made the call to transfer the rod to the aft end of the boat. Once we got it there, I continued cranking while Cleve made sure the rod didn’t fly out of the holder. I was so scared of something happening, I took no time to play it out. I reeled as fast as I could. As we started getting it closer, Garry got the harpoon with the buoy tied to it. He assured us this fish wouldn’t be able to be lifted with the gaff and certainly wouldn’t fit in the net. And as heavy as this fish seemed, I believed him. Ed was behind me with his GoPro. What happened next was epic. I’ve done some editing to the video, but it’s pretty clear here things escalated quickly.
Needless to say, the beast took the ball down immediately. Garry cut the fishing line, and after a few minutes, Ed and I spotted it. I snapped a few pics while thinking of the jaws scene with the whiskey barrels.
Garry and I geared up and got in the dingy to get the buoy line and tow it back. Garry had done this plenty of times before. As we got in the dingy, I heard the words “Uh oh. That’s not good.” I turned to see what Garry was looking at. Way off at the entrance of the cove I saw it. A pile of mixed air and water shooting straight out of a blowhole. “Those are killer whales.” Of course they are, I thought. Nice. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught is headed towards a family of orcas.
We zigzagged towards the direction the halibut was headed, blindly. The buoy was no where to be seen. We got all the way to the orcas and still hadn’t found the fish. Ed and Cleve were searching in the HRB on the opposite end of the cove. We decided to at least get some nice pics of the orcas while they were putting on a show.
The orcas never found the halibut. And neither did we. What an awful feeling. We looked for 7 hours. But Garry was determined and assured me we’d continue our search in the morning. He also “made” me catch a few pinks before hitting the sack. So I went to sleep dreaming of my halibut.