Fish On! Fishing on the Homestead

By , September 22, 2009

A large part of my family’s success on the homestead is directly due to the abundance of free, highly nutritious food. Perhaps the most valuable, and most fun to gather, is fish.

15 minutes from first cast to landing net. Next stop: the oven! (Photo by Aly.)

15 minutes from first cast to landing net. Next stop: the oven! (Photo by Aly.)

Our key food strategy involves eliminating costs to the extent possible. This means finding our food as close to home as possible. Other than our garden, there’s no place closer than the ocean’s edge, mere yards from the cabin’s front door.

Our beach includes sections of rocky cliff that rise steeply about 20 feet from the shelving cobble beach below. The shelf slopes quickly to the drop off, which soon reaches Lynn Canal’s depths of more than 2000 feet. This allows humpback whales to pass alarmingly close to our rocks, and makes for excellent fishing. Smaller fish hug the rocky edge, and bigger fish come out of the depths to feed on them. The Chilkoot River, north of our property, hosts runs of every salmon except kings (Chinooks), which spawn on the Chilkat River, on the other side of the peninsula. Recently, hatchery kings have been established on the Chilkoot side, so now there’s a chance of getting a king on our side too. In addition, dolly varden char frequent the coast from June to early August; kelp greenling and Tom cod seem to be here year round. Farther out we get flatfish: flounder, sole, and halibut. It’s a likely environment for rock fish, too, although I have yet to catch any.

In theory, we should be able to fish all year, but the edge is a dangerous place at the best of times. The rocks are coated by a black algae that becomes extremely slick when even slightly moist. Walking on the rocks, we avoid stepping in any water, as what’s left on our shoe soles can make us slip and fall painfully. In the winter, sea spray coats the rocks in inches of ice.

But when the fishing’s good, it’s excellent. Many of our meals are so fresh, the fish is literally still twitching as heat is applied to the pan. For at least two months each summer, I have been able to go down to the water a half hour before mealtime and bring home a catch. I must qualify this fish tale: for the three of us, a small fish with side dishes makes a satisfying meal. No need for record-size sport catches here, since we have no refrigerator or freezer.

Like most fishermen, I love to talk about fishing. You’ll read a lot about fish in its proper season on this blog.

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