Day 52 - Wednesday, May 22 - Milepost 5542 - Birdcount 230 - Homer Spit, Alaska

(BF's Journal). The weatherman is wrong. Today is beautiful, the sky sunny and bright, the mountains clear, the ocean calm. We move our motor home up one row in the RV park, putting us within a few feet of the water’s edge. The view is incredible and ever changing. This has got to be the best campground location of any we have stayed at.

This afternoon we try our hand at fishing. Shari has a "play dumb" routine she uses to get information. She walks up to a sales clerk or information staff person or fisherman and explains how she doesn’t know anything about fishing even though she has a fishing license, rod and reel. They volunteer all sorts of information like where to fish, what to expect to catch, how big they are, what to use for bait, what color socks to wear ... She asks the Chamber of Commerce information hostess where she can catch little fish because she’s afraid to catch a big one. After a brief pause (you can hear the lady’s brain asking what fisherman goes after little fish?) she tells Shari about Dolly Varden who sounds to me like a Nashville Grand Ole Opre singer but is actually a fish which isn’t caught on Homer Spit and this isn’t the right season anyway. She asks everyone whether she can throw back a King Salmon if she hooks one since she doesn’t have an addendum to her license to let her legally keep one. All the fisherman would die to catch this crown jewel of salmon and spend days trying their gambler’s luck to snare one, so they get this puzzled look on their faces and slowly studder "Yeesss, I supppooossse youuu coouuld." One young man, with a beat up worthless rusty trailer ruthlessly guarded by a chained and growling German Shepard, is working on a grease laden transmission forlornly lying below his truck on the sand as he warns Shari about the penalties of keeping a King Salmon without a license and he enumerates all the possessions the Fish & Wildlife officer will confiscate if he finds the fishy evidence, including motor home, truck, fishing gear, fish, as if this happened once to him.

In a bait store, when Shari goes into her dumb beginner routine and asks for bait for little fish, she is overheard by a gaunt young man formerly from Milwaukee who offers to help. He leads us across the street to his Espresso Coffee shop (where their new espresso machine died and they cannot get an espresso mechanic to fly in for repair before the big Memorial Day holiday) and cuts a big chunk of flesh out of a fish his kids caught earlier in the day. His wife tells about her kids’ first day at fishing: she baited their hooks, watched them cast offshore and turned around to walk off the beach when she hears them shout about getting a fish. In amazement she turns to see a big flounder flopping on the shore beside them. They tell her a big bird gave it to them and she eventually deduces from the claw marks that a Bald Eagle dropped his catch at their feet. Handing us a dead fish in a garbage bag, her husband suggests we hang a hunk of this fish on a big hook and cast off the shore close to where we parked in the RV campground. Finally, a game plan!

We take his advice, get our equipment, walk to the gravel beach, assemble our bass rods and reels (noticeably smaller than what everyone else is using) and cast off. After casting and winding and casting and winding a few dozen times, Shari decides she needs more ammunition, so she attaches a big red and white lure with lots of hooks to the same line she already has a fist-sized chunk of raw fish covering a wicked hook attached to a giant bobber. This gives her more to cast, but has no noticable change in attitude on whatever is watching it from underwater. I comment on her casting style and suggest she cast sideways instead of overhead to get the line out further. She tries it once or twice with little difference in distance and then reverts back to overhead since her father told her only sissies cast sideways. Then she notices the two older fishermen reel in a rock cod a few hundred feet from her. They advise her to stick with the fish bait on a single hook. She also decides to do away with the red and white bobber since they aren’t using one.

While she is restringing her line, I am not having any more luck than she. Although I can cast further off shore than Shari, the only thing I’ve caught is sea weeds. As I try my 136th cast, my bait and bobber fly out with the line, followed by the front half of my reel which promptly plops in the ocean twenty feet from shore and snaps the line leaving me staring in disbelief at my barren rod and a remnant of the back half of the reel firmly attached. The tide is coming in along with waves from passing boats and the water is deeper than my rubber boots, so retrieval is doomed, but with chagrin my bobber floats to shore like a naughty child returning without its line.

Then our luck changes. The two veteran fishermen are ready to call it quits for the day and offer us their three cod plus one given them by another fishermen since they are after the King Salmon and already have a freezer full of cod. We pack up our gear and happily carry our cod catch home. Shari spreads the 18" five pound fish across a log and I snap a Polaroid picture of the proud fisherman sitting on the log with the ocean as background; this we will send to her father as a reminder of the thousands of similar photos we have seen with him in the picture. Then we take the four fish to a cleaning house and I brutally dissect the first, carve out two chunks of flesh from the second, carefully detach the meat from the third and professionally fillet the fourth. For tonight’s dinner we dine on "catch of the day" and corn on the cob.

(SF's Journal). Fresh fish. After taking pictures of four beautiful cod, we went to the city fish cleaning tables and cleaned them in preparation for tonight’s supper. This is how the day ended; it began with a blue morning sky, a shining sun, and sparkling snowcapped mountains. We went to a bait store and asked for bait and a fellow from Wisconsin said he’d chop off some pollack for us to use. Just put it on a hook, he said and throw it out at the end of the spit. So we got our poles and tackle box and walked along the beach to where some others were fishing. First we put our collapsible rods together. Then we fastened the reel on it, tied on the hook and added a chunk of yummy bait. Out we casted, waiting for our first nibble. About an hour into this casting stuff, I heard a plop and an " Oh My" coming from Bert. He had cast his reel 15 feet right into the bay. Apparently it was not screwed on tight and that ended his fishing for the day. Not 15 minutes later, I cast out and the top of my pole went sailing along with the bait and the hook. Luckily as I reeled in, it came also, unable to get past the bait at the end of the line. The two men next to us must have taken us for neophytes, for it was about this time they offered their fish to us. We eagerly accepted, thanked them, put our fishing gear away, minus a piece or two, and headed to R TENT. We laid the fish out nicely on a log, just like my Dad used to do with the fish he caught, and snapped a few proud pictures. Then we headed to the fish cleaning tables and tried to look like pros cleaning our four fish. We chose a spot way at the end of a L-shaped cleaning area, so fewer people could watch us and I stood between Bert who was directing the knife and the man next to us . Luckily everyone minded their own business and were intent on cleaning the 30 pound flounder they had caught and were not looking at our four fish. Well I must say we did a pretty fine job of it and had a good meal of fresh cod.

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