Life In Reel Time – Goodbye To A Brother

A tribute to a beloved friend

By Steve Hamilton

If you know what it means to have someone who’s not biologically related to you call you “brother” or “sister,” and you know that they would and do the same things and more sometimes that your non-blood does, you are blessed.


I am lucky to have a few close friends like that, and when one said to me on a Tuesday, “Hey, come out to Prince Rupert on Thursday and we can go fishing on Friday on my boat,” I didn’t hesitate.

I juggled the work schedule to make time for the play schedule, and it was set.


I’d never fished Prince Rupert before, but Mark runs his charter out there and was gearing up for the season, so I had no concerns about being able to get into fish.

Leaving Prince George for the eight-hour drive at the crack of crow on Thursday gave us enough time to form a game plan for Friday over some wings at the local pub once I got there. We grabbed the crab traps and ran them out to a honey hole to wait for us the next day.


The plan for Friday was just like every other one we’ve made, hunting or otherwise: “I dunno, let’s just see where the day takes us.”

As we boarded his boat bright and early, I pulled something out of my hoodie and placed it over the co-pilots chair, for good luck.

A tribute to a dear friend and a good luck charm.

Out on the water for 5:30 a.m., with the lines on the bottom for just after 6 a.m.

Boom. Fish on. A quick reel in and the first fish of the day was in the box – a nice Pacific cod, followed by a couple more, then a couple halibut, and a skate released for good measure. All before 8 a.m.

A blue blazer, flat calm. This day was shaping up to be epic.

From talking to other guides, salmon was off the table because no one was catching this week, and I was just fine with that. I don’t think it was the fish we were chasing, but just the friendship and time spent with a ‘brother.’

We reeled up and moved spots, this time looking for some rockfish and lingcod.

Quickly, we hit some rockfish and swapped spots again to a 50-foot-deep shelf that dropped to 250 feet within 100 yards or so. If you’ve bottom fished, you know this has some serious potential.

And like that, it was on.

I’ve had some great days of fishing in the past, but this must be right up there with the most memorable.

Our arms were tired by 2 p.m. and we had more than enough fish to keep us busy processing for legal transport back to Prince George on Saturday, so in we went.

The last stop was to check the traps we dropped the night before. On the first pull, my limit plus some of Mark’s was in it. The remaining traps were checked, released and re-baited for Mark’s guests the next morning.

We had 14 fish in the box, with four or five released, and eight keeper Dungeness crab. Not a bad day at all!

I fished with Mark as a friend this trip, but I’ve already booked two days for next summer with him and Mad Gaffer Fishing Adventures.

Into the pub we went for supper and a well-earned beer. We got to chatting about the day, as guys do.

No lost lures, a cooler so full I had to buy another one, a crab trap full of a limit of keepers on one pull, a blue blazer, flat calm day – and if you’ve fished on the ocean, these don’t happen – someone was watching over us.

On April 16, one of our brothers tragically took his own life.

John Willimont was a brother to me and Mark through choice. He had a passion for hunting, and especially fishing, like I’ve never seen before. He never got to make it out to Prince Rupert with us, and we know he wanted to. Ocean fishing was a bucket list item for him.

When I was packing to leave, I knew he had to come with me, in spirit.

I placed the jersey he had created for a select few of us on the co-pilot’s chair, so he could join us for the day for a bit of good luck, and perhaps a bit of closure.

Steve’s friend, John.

Thanks, Mark, for an epic day.

And thanks, Johnny, for watching over us, for being more than a friend, but also a brother, and for truly teaching us what it meant to live “life in reel time.” I will miss you forever.


Steve Hamilton calls Prince George home and is the conservation, hunting, angling and firearms policy and engagement co-ordinator for the BC Wildlife Federation.