Night Moves

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The thing about an overnight fishing charter that should be abundantly obvious, but sometimes isn’t, is that it lasts all night and into the next day.

By the time Keith and I set out on the Outer Coast into Resurrection Bay it was noon on a Sunday, and then we motored for three hours to a distant fishing spot, brimming with excitement. The fish bit immediately and consistently, and because this was Alaska in the sweet summer time, there was no way to gauge that evening had arrived. Finally, at 9pm – which was effectively 1am for me, since I’d been on east coast time a day earlier – the captain made us dinner.

When the lights finally turned down about 11, I vowed to stay up all night, but old age and sloth caught up with me, and I fell asleep in a deck chair. An hour later, it finally got a little cold, so I moved into a sleeping bag in the cabin.

Captain Chris had told us that the brief hours of darkness were usually the slowest time, but apparently he’s either a sandbagger or just too good at his own job, because at 3:30am, the drag starting screaming on one of his big bait rods.

“Who wants to catch a fish?” he yelled out.

Neither of us answered.

“Big fish on the line,” he screamed again, this time banging thrice on the cabin.

Neither of us moved. Keith might’ve been dead for all I knew.

“Get up and reel it in,” Chris implored again.

I prayed that Keith would get up and reel it in. He did not, so I got up, struggled to put on my shoes, and stumbled out onto the deck. I never thought I’d despise reeling in a fish – but at that moment I did. There is literally no worse taste than the stink of morning breath and fish tacos in your mouth as you struggle to shake off two days of travel and battle a fish that doesn’t want to give in. The feeling persisted for the next 20 minutes as the big halibut thrashed and stripped drag, before eventually succumbing. We unhooked the fish, celebrated briefly, then I had to steal away the first chance I could. I was back asleep in 10 or 15 minutes.

Keith did manage to wake up about 5 or 6 and had an epic period of jigging 10-inch grubs on 16 ounce jig heads, with arm-jarring strikes and fair fight battles aided by a semi-good night’s sleep. Nothing was going to wake me up at that point – not the stink of a slimy flatfish on the deck, not the loudest knocking possible – nothing until Chris got his breakfast burritos fully cooked.

We came back to the dock in the early afternoon, cleaned up, got some grub, set the alarms, and then closed the hotel room blinds at 8. It was still light out, but we were whipped. I’m blaming the time change, the crazy schedule, and the thrill of being in the last frontier. Mostly, though, it was those damn fish, who don’t know night from day, and don’t seem to care.