Russell, Marty's dad, is an avid fisherman back in Harrold Harbor (near the Chesapeake Bay) in Maryland. So Marty suggested that I take him fishing while he was visiting. She made reservations for us on "Jaws", a sport fishing party boat out of Bodega Harbor. We had to get up at 4:00 am Sunday morning to get there in time to get aboard, only to discover that Marty had told us the wrong time to make sure we got there before they left. We were an hour early! We stopped at the little store and restaurant on highway one that has the "Jaws" sign on it. Someone was just opening up, but got out about $15 dollars worth of equipment (each) that he said we would need for the trip. Then he gave us directions to the boat, and told us we would have to stop at another store down by the water to get Russell a fishing license. On the trip down, I began to fear that this guy had nothing to do with the boat, but had just made $30 off of two gullible tourists. But when we got the license and went to the boat we found out that we did have the correct expendable pieces of equipment that they do not supply; leaders, hooks, lead weights, and a gunny sack to take home all the fish we were going to catch. I still think we paid too much for them.
I had checked the Weather Underground TELNET page before we left and read a prediction for mild waves, although the wind would pick up to 20 knots after noon. I figured we would be back by then, so it wouldn't be a problem. The boat headed out through the harbor, out through the breakwater, and past Seal Rock (yes, another "Seal Rock"). The boat went across Bodega Bay, past Tomales Point, and out into a fog bank. I had looked into the bridge before we left and counted a radar screen, a sonar fish finder, two Loran C receivers, two marine radios (three counting mine in my pocket) and a public address system with a bunch of sound effect buttons (3 fog horn sounds, etc.). Russell camped out on the back corner where he thought the fishing would be best, and I took a nap in the cabin while the boat headed out to sea.
I didn't find out until later, but Russell paid extra to borrow two fishing poles for us, which I thought were part of the expensive entry fee. We got a lesson in how to rig the equipment. There was this little copper and brass thing called a "weight release" that attached to the line first, then a leader, and then the bait and hooks would be provided for us. The hooks we had been sold were for "mooching" and might not be used. We were going "trolling" first. I had to ask and clarify the functioning of the weight release: You hook one of the 2.5 LB weights in it, and a spring holds it in place. But when a big fish tugs on the line, a pin pulls back and releases the weight. The weight sinks to the bottom and is lost forever. If the weight stayed on the line, it would allow the fish to generate some slack and slip off the non-barbed salmon hook. I'm amused that a fishing regulation designed to "protect the fish" (non-barbed hooks) has resulted in tones of lead being dropped to the bottom of the ocean. I'm not a "deep green" environmentalist. I figure that all that lead will just get subucted and belched back up in a mountain-building era millions of years from now. Whatever evolves to take our place will dig it back up again and make new weights from it. Now that's my kind of recycling!
I looked up salmon fishing in a book at home later, and saw several different systems for dealing with this weight-loss program. The book talked about pig-iron weights and never mentioned using lead at all. I assume that the increased cost of the energy to manufacture weights from iron has risen above the cost of the more expensive lead in recent years. There was also a diagram in the book of s system with two lines: One for the weight and one for the hook. The fish releases the weight, and gets pulled up with one pole, then you recover the weight with a second reel. There was also a clever little latched diving plane thing. This plane pulls the bait down when towed behind the boat. When the fish pulls hard enough, the latch triggers, the plane folds up, and offers no resistance to being pulled back up. I'll bet those diving planes fly back and forth a lot and cannot be used on a party boat with 20 lines dragging in the water 2 meters apart.
When the boat slowed for us to start fishing, visibility was a few kilometers, but we could not see shore. After an hour or so, the fog started to clear and I could see a point of land in the distance. I asked our deck hand if that was Point Reyes. He laughed and told me "Boy have you gotten turned around! That's Hawaii over there"! Then he told me that it was actually Bodega head, and I was confused because we had traveled south past Tomales Point, then turned and headed north again as we went out to sea. Eventually the sky cleared up completely and we had a beautiful day on the ocean. The swells were as mild as NOAA had promised, and the wind did not come up until late in the afternoon. I could see Point Reyes in the south, but haze prevented me from recognizing Fort Ross Reef in the north.
I caught a 27 inch salmon, and Russell caught a 24 inch one (just barely legal). Almost everyone on the boat caught one legal fish, and most of us caught a few undersized ones. One guy caught three keepers, but gave one to his friend who caught none (the legal limit is two salmon). When I caught the first fish, I told Russell that this fish had cost us $150, and we had better catch some more if we wanted to get our moneys worth! On the second fish, the cost went down to $75 each. Russell says its not the fish you are paying for, but for the outing on the ocean. The fish are just an extra bonus (he sounds like my brother Paul). We had paid extra to go on a "salmon crab combo" trip, and this meant that the boat picked up a line of crab traps on the way back to the harbor. "Fishing for crabs" in our case meant watching the deck hand run the hydraulic winch to pull up crab traps that had been out all night. Enough crabs were dumped out of the traps so everybody got at least one dungenes crab and several rock crabs.
I was especially interested to taste rock crab, because my brother Paul has caught them when diving. They taste about the same, but are a lot harder to crack and eat. We had the crabs for dinner that night, saved the smaller salmon for the following night, and froze the big one to barbecue on Mothers Day.