Saturday, August 13, 2016

Grand Slam at Viner Sound anchorage

We wondered when we'd see sunshine, more wild bears, or catch fish. Everyone we talk to, everywhere, complains of lousy fishing this year, even friend Greg who used to be a Fishing Guide in Alaska and ALWAYS catches fish. He said he's gotten lots of crab and prawns, but no salmon as of two weeks ago in Ketchikan. Folks catch halibut, but we have lightweight salmon rods with small test line, not suitable for halibut. Most of the blame, we're told, goes to La NiƱa. 

So Weds a.m. we departed Drury Inlet headed east, looking for a next anchorage. Friend Robin on M/V Adventures, living in Alaska now, posts reviews on the Active Captain app, and we always find her posts to be "spot on", so when we saw one she'd written stating she and Jim love the Viner Sound anchorage, we headed there. 

This is another beautiful place with dense trees, steep mountains, and deep waterways, narrower and much more snug than most, with a 1,500 foot vertical  slope rising from the head of the cove.

All evening, schools of a half dozen dolphin zipped in view of the boat through the anchorage, presumably fishing.

Thurs morning Bob had a boat project he wanted to complete, so Cathryn took off in the dinghy with a fishing rod. She returned 5 minutes later needing fresh batteries for the portable depth sounder, and WOW: there was a black bear on the beach 100' away! 

We watched for 15 minutes with camera and binoculars in hand while the bear turned over rocks in search of crab, then ambled into the woods.

Cathryn resumed her first solo fishing expedition in the dinghy, out of sight of the mothership, so had low expectations. Instead, 20 minutes later, while idling near a rocky shore, two eagles flew 50' overhead, several pods of dolphins swam by, and another bear appeared on a different beach.

She watched in awe for 15 minutes until her fishing rod gave a jerk, and she wondered if she'd drifted too close to shore and snagged a rock. But then the "rock" swam away, pulling fishing line out along with it! 

It didn't take long to reel the fish in, but on seeing it, Cathryn (novice fisher) had no idea what it was. And uh oh: she'd forgotten to bring the fish net to land it! The fish looked too big for small test line, so she was reluctant to lift him aboard, figuring the line would break and she'd lose him. She tried to scoop him into a 5-gallon bucket, but that didn't work either. Big mouth! What to do???

Despite being more than a mile around the corner from Phoenix, she decided to slowly idle home with the fish in tow, still on the line. Then "Uh Oh" again. A sea lion surfaced, getting ever closer to the dinghy and clearly with an eye on the fish. Now Cathryn knew she could lose the fish by breaking the line or pulling the hook out, by towing it too fast, or to a sea lion on the hunt! So she lifted the fish on the line into the dinghy, and it didn't break! But it didn't land in the bucket either. She made a beeline back to Phoenix, called Bob on the VHF radio, asked him to have the fish net ready, and all ended well.

We don't know what this fish is (Bob guessed a lingcod, later confirmed by brothers-in-law David B and Bob S, and cousin Bill L). It weighed 9 lbs, and Cathryn made her best inexperienced effort at filleting it, so we've got 8 fillets, 4 dinners worth of fish in store and are happy to have finally caught something. And the sun came out!

After two nights and one day in this anchorage we remained mesmerized and decided to stay one more day. We dropped a crab pot,

and got 6 Dungeness crabs, but one was a huge female, 4 were "too-small males" (Canadian size requirements are 1/4 inch bigger than Washington State requirements), so we threw 5 back and kept one. 

And we both went fishing in the dinghy in the afternoon. Bob got 6 bites, 3 of those got away, and the fish he hauled in were some sort of rock fish which are illegal to keep in some areas, and he threw them back. But it was sunny and warm, and we had a good time.

We're in the middle of Nowhere here, and very oddly, Cathryn's phone would "ding" several times a day, signaling incoming email. Apparently a cell signal very occasionally bounces off the nearby mountain and finds its' way inside the anchorage. Hence the occasional Facebook post during our 3 days here. 

Viner Sound anchorage has been a good stop. 

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