The Power of Self Pity

By , September 12, 2014

“I haven’t caught a fish in at least two weeks!” I complained to our neighbor, Nancy.

She had just eased up alongside the rock on which I stood, casting into the swiftly flowing current she’d pushed through in her kayak on her way to her property north of us. When she paddled within speaking distance, she had told me of seeing fish jump on her way around the peninsula. I’d seen a few, too, in the lats day or so, but, like the one she’d seen, they were too far out in the fjord for my lure to reach.

I’ve been so focused on getting in the winter firewood, I haven’t fished much at all recently. The few times I did, I’d gotten skunked. I’d only started casting shortly before Nancy arrived. Pessimistic and surrounded by a cloud of biting flies, I didn’t plan to keep up the effort much longer. Components of my planned meal for the evening simmered on the wood stove; I didn’t really need a fish to complicate dinner plans.

But, as Nancy continued on her way, I shifted position on the rocks to throw a few casts into the eddy in front of the cabin, where fish might choose to rest before striking out once again against the current.

On the second cast, something struck my lure and fought back hard.

After a brief but thrilling fight that included a few excellent, reel-ratcheting runs, I netted a fish I’ve seen so rarely I couldn’t identify it without consulting a few books. Even then, I couldn’t be positive until I cleaned it, and saw the distinctive, succulent red flesh beneath its skin.

I’d caught a 27″ sockeye salmon!

Possibly my first sockeye salmon ever (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Possibly my first sockeye salmon ever (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’ve always regarded sockeye as an unobtainable fish for us. Despite their strong annual runs past our rocks each year (as mentioned in our post, Northern Exposure). They largely feed on zooplankton, insects, and occasional small fish or squid. Supposedly, they can only be relied on to strike lures near the mouth of their spawning stream.

I have a few lures that might attract a sockeye, but I would only try one of those on a day when I’d already caught the day’s dinner. Once I put meat on the table, I figure I can experiment, but not before then. This fish, for reasons known only to itself, struck the lure that usually harvests our Dolly Varden char and pink salmon.

So be it! The original plan would have to wait. I made up a pot of rice, sauteed a few chanterelle mushrooms, and opened a special bottle of wine to accompany this, the first sockeye I’ve caught since moving here—in fact, the only one in all my years of fishing in Alaska.

I try not to complain. In fact, my previous post even took whiners to task. But, I tell you what: if complaining to my neighbor helped me get that fish in any way, I’m going to indulge in self pity a heck of a lot more often from now on!

2 Responses to “The Power of Self Pity”

  1. Joanna says:

    Sounds exciting and delicious! When we were in Alaska, in Seward, to be specific, we spent some time touring a fishery (long story) and I was disappointed that there was no sashimi to be had. Is it unsafe to eat raw fish in Alaska? Honestly, I guess I know little about how raw fish is EVER actually safe…but it seemed like little could be fresher than fish just pulled from the water. In any case, congrats on the catch! And enjoy your time with Aly!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Joanna, Alaska seems to have its share of sushi restaurants. I don’t know the Seward area, but the Alyeska Lodge in Girdwood has (had?) an excellent sushi bar. I’m sorry you missed out! Although, supply being what it is, I wonder where any sushimi you tasted there might have actually come from? Were we to buy our fish in the local store, we could probably get locally caught, but we’d have to check to make sure we weren’t buying Atlantic salmon. It’s a funny old world.

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