WHERE WE FISH
The chart you see shows the areas of South East Alaska that we fish. North of Petersburg is Fredrick Sound. The Ocean comes in on the tide through Lower Chatham Strait and across Lower Stephen's Passage and into Fredrick Sound. It brings with it wild salmon bound for the Stikine River system. The Stikine River releases vast amounts of water continuously against this twice-daily incoming tide. With this water, sticks, trees, moss rafts and other debris wash out. The Le Conte Glacier reaches down to the sea unlike many land locked glaciers. It releases vast quantities of ice and is a favorite place for seals to bear their young. Crabbers lay their pots along the shores. Shrimpers trawl the waters. Longliners string their gear in search of the deep water halibut and gillnetters intercept the wild Alaskan Salmon on their homeward journey. It is a beautiful and wild area with a fabulous western sky for sunsets, mysterious ice bergs floating by, the deep waters of Horn Cliffs abutting the North American Continent to motor the bow of the boat right up to and a channel that goes dry at low tide separating Mitkoff Island from the Mainland called Dry Strait.
Bob and the boys work hard keeping the net clean and safe in Fredrick Sound but love every minute of fishing in this paradise. When the fishing is slow Bob will sometimes drop the boys off along Horn Cliffs and they will climb the wild terrain in search of red huckleberries and adventure.
South of Petersburg down the Wrangel Narrows and west of Wrangel is the east west channel Sumner Strait. At its entrance is the line where many gillnetters lay their nets during the Sumner wild salmon runs. There on the Northwest tip of Prince of Whales Island is the tiny settlement of Point Baker. It is a precious place to us because though much of the summer we would be rolling around on the fishing grounds, when the ebb tide was in full swing we would motor into Point Baker and tie to the Public Dock. Bob would take a nap and Melinda would take the boys up to pick blueberries. There is nothing so delicious as wild blueberries grown in muskeg, the predominant terrain of South East Alaska. There is a wonderful floating restaurant and store owned and run by Herb and Judy--they also have a bed and breakfast built from logs beach combed. There are showers and laundry for the commercial fishing community, the local residents and the boating traveler. If the weather was inclement Melinda often would take the children into the floating Community Center at the other end of the dock complete with sleeping bags and a days provisions and let Bob go out to brave the elements alone. The center is always open with a huge bookshelf and accommodations for the locals to cook crab or can fish. The summer Susannah learned to crawl was a windy one and Melinda remembers spending so much time at the Community Center she had time to completely scrub the floor. There is nothing like finding safe haven when you live a somewhat nomadic life and we have cherished that Center like it was made for us.
Bob likewise has cherished Sumner Strait. To the west it is like a shadow box of overlapping mountainous islands that provide the most exquisite sunsets. There is a whale who has played in the froth at the entrance to Pt. Baker for years. There are lovely beach sets and rocks to maneuver around including the famous East Rock at the mouth of the channel. There is an incoming tide called The Big Meany that comes sweeping and swirling in from the ocean bringing with it the most beautiful wild salmon in all the world, the Blue Back sockeye. They move at a terrific speed, often jumping for joy across the water. I have counted one jump eight times.
As this great influx of water surges into Sumner Strait, it is met by the constant massive waters of the Stikine River forever ebbing out to sea. The tides meet and compress; they slide along one another; they dive under and over each other; they draw away from one another; they carry entire trees and giant rafts of pop weed and bull kelp complete with cormorants perched atop drying their wings. One can actually hear the tide coming. The tide can stop a net which is ebbing westward at breakneck speeds towards the line beyond which gillnetting is not allowed and cause it to flood back eastward. This is when the fish hit the net. It is a time of heightened awareness for the fisherman who must use all his knowledge of tides and winds and currents coupled with manipulating of the boat and fishing gear to catch the fish but not get "in a pickle." This for Bob is fun. Bob's first year fishing found him in the middle of the Big Meany's wrath as he and his little boat the Mickey B attached to its 300 fathom net was spun around three times. Rafts of pop weed and driftwood folded into the net. Not knowing what to do but watch this terrible predicament transpire, he was surprised when the tide then spun him back around leaving his boat and net unscathed. There have been boats over the years that we have called "Poetry in Motion," but now this is what I call Bob as he plies his trade.