First Hour Fish

Starting the trip off strong

By Raeanne O’Meara


We cruised down the channel with the lingering sun low along the horizon. A plan was crafted along the way – I would get dinner ready so that it could be thrown onto the barbeque once we began to troll, downriggers and lines would be let down within minutes of firing up the kicker. The seven hours or so on the road to get here meant there was not much daylight left in front of us, but it was too perfect of an evening to just go on anchor immediately upon arrival to the bay.



Sleeping out on a boat the size of ours is far from impossible; what it does require is that everything, crew of two included, run like a well-oiled machine. Whether it is in the preparation for lines to go into the water or in the moment a salmon pops the line off the downrigger, the sleeping gear, cooking supplies and two coolers leave minimal room for dallying around. Wild game kabobs tucked on the barbeque to sizzle out of our way, we waited with bated breath to see if luck would be on our side for the last hour of daylight.



Just as the sun dipped below the hillside surrounding the bay, and not long after proclaiming that we would troll our way up to where we would anchor for the night, a bouncing rod gave way to that anticipated first salmon popping it free from the downrigger.

The unspoken rule on the boat goes something like this: when fishing for chinook, once the line starts screaming from the reel all the other gear comes up out of the water. This is non-negotiable. Whoever is fighting the fish switches that downrigger so that the ball comes up to the surface (a huge advantage of the electric versions over the older hand-crank models, particularly when there is only two people on board); the other person brings in all the gear from the opposing side of the boat and then tucks in front of whoever is fighting the fish to pull that downrigger ball up the last couple feet and out of the way. Oh, and don’t forget to grab the net!


Mind you, it doesn’t always go as smoothly as that, but I would give credit to the system for resulting in a multitude of successful catches, and this evening was no exception. On the end of the line was a scrappy fish that went for a couple good runs before coming up to the boat and slipping into the net. No monster, yet a respectable catch all the same – in fact, those 10 to 15-pounders become the perfect table fare fillets.


While fishing isn’t always about catching (I remind myself over and over), we both were giddy about the fact that no matter what the fishing was like for the remainder of the trip, at least we wouldn’t be going home skunked. That first fish of the trip high was knocked down a few notches by the ungodly number of no-see-ums that descended upon us as soon as we had the anchor down, but despite that we drifted off to sleep with smiles on our faces.