This is my fifth week writing this fishing column. Some of you know who I am and some of you don’t. To everyone who reads this column, I sincerely hope you are enjoying it and maybe learning a little about fishing along the way. We are about to go into a few weeks period where fishing slows down in-between runs and I thought I would give a little history from the guy who has been writing it. (FYI the first run sockeye is still going hard on the Russian!)
I was lucky enough to be able to fish with two amazing grandpas. One of them was a lake fisherman while the other was a die-hard river guy. I think I was about 3 years old when I caught my first fish. Growing up in Southwest Washington, we had many of the same fishing opportunities as Alaska. One of my grandpas (Grandpa Junior) used to fish on the Columbia River every week for sturgeon. A sturgeon is a prehistoric fish that has survived for eons in the ecosystem. They are one of the toughest fish there is. My grandpa used to go down and catch a few of these fish and then throw them in the bed of his pickup truck and bring them back home and put them in a giant pond he dug in his back field. Even though they have been out of the water for a few hours they would still come back to life and swim around in the pond after a little bit. He did this so my sister and I could try to catch them all over again (even though half the time we would have to net them back out). This started my passion for fishing.
A lot of my teenage fishing buddies (who were mostly older, with vehicles) were met through fishing forums. I would attend school all week just so I could take off fishing for the weekend all over Washington. One time — the time I got in the most trouble for stealing my mother’s work car after they took off to Portland on a shopping trip — I thought by waiting 45 minutes after they left would have been long enough to make the trip. I just so happened to be on the other side of the river fighting a king salmon when I looked up and saw my parents standing there staring at me with a very pissed off look. I knew I was busted and the only thing that saved me just a little was the fact I was fighting a fish and the old boy next to me asked if I was their kid. My mother said, “Yes, that little shit is in deep trouble for stealing my work car to go fishing,” and “You better land that damn fish because it’s the last you will be catching for a while!”
The guy next to me then proceeded to tell them that I was one of the best fishermen on the river. I think the fact that this made my mother proud more so then mad sort of saved my butt a little bit. I was only grounded for a week and was back on the river fishing.
When I was around the age of 24 I was lucky enough to land a job at a fish hatchery. It was a privately run hatchery (supported by Trout Unlimited), located on the Satsop River. During spawning season this was one of the most fun jobs I have had. Some of the time when certain species of salmon didn’t travel up our fish ladder, we got paid to go down and snag the species we needed for spawning. We threw them in PVC tubes and then in an oxygenated tank in the back of a gold cart and took them to our holding ponds to wait for the spawning process. Besides the 3 months out of the year we did this — the rest was pretty boring; mostly maintenance work to the holding ponds and feeding fish three times a day. I got bored after a little while.
I decided to try my hand at the gear industry after this. I worked for a place called Sportco for some time. It was otherwise known as the fishing mall. I loved selling gear and giving advice and all the Freebies that came with it from the manufacturers. I did this for some time then decided I needed a break and wanted to travel to Alaska for a few weeks and fish. During the planning process for the trip somebody told me that I was good enough at fishing to guide and that I should try applying to fishing lodges. After some thought, I decided to apply to some lodges and got hired for one of them, Great Alaska Adventure Camp located at the mouth of the Moose River on the Kenai.
I spent a year-and-a-half working for them as a driftboat guide. I was still young and wasn’t exactly at the best point in my life. After I left them, I had nothing. They paid for everything including my vehicle, boat, licensing, gear, etc.
I was about to head back to Washington with my tail between my legs when one of my guide buddies I met (thank you Chet) told me, while fishing, I could use his driftboat for the rest of the season and he would send me clients until I could get my own.
The first set of clients he sent me ended up fishing all week that paid for my own guide license and vehicle. I met some clients who turned out to be some of my best friends up here and moved in with one of them (Thank you Matt and Hunter).
I’ve been in Alaska every since and fell in love with the fishing and the state. Although I break-up and make-up with Alaska every year after the winter, there is no other state that provides what Alaska has to offer.
So anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this weekly column because I look forward to writing it every week.