"Fish On" or "Fun with Idiot Fisherman Story"

Copyright Alan R. Henderson June 9, 2005 (minor revisions October 1, 2012)

One day I took my first fishing trip to get pink salmon to Talkeetna, Alaska.   There are 5 species of Salmon in Alaska - King "Chinook", Dog "Chum" , Silver "Coho" , Red "Sockeye" and Pink "Humpback". The Pink are typically the smallest, but with a limit of 10 you can end up with 20-30 pounds in a single day. This was my first time fishing for Pink salmon, but since I was all ready a seasoned salmon fisherman and "knew the secret", I didn't think there would be any problems. See the "Sushi story" for more info about my fishing abilities. I found a likely place with lots of other people early one Saturday morning. This was along the Talkeetna River at a junction with another small creek. The Talkeetna River is about a 1/4 mile wide at this point. Were the small creek entered there was a football field size cove. The people were stacked elbow to elbow or as they typically say "elbow to Asshole". I had to wait a half hour for someone to finish fishing, and then took there place. As with all salmon fishing in Alaska, as soon as you have a fish on, you are supposed to yell "Fish On" when you catch a fish. Then everyone within casting length is supposed to reel in their lures to allow you to catch the fish without tangling your line. Now, as with most times, there is always someone who doesn't follow the rules. That day was no exception. There was one guy who kept tangling people with his lures. Needless to say, he also wasn't catching any fish. After loosing 1 fish to this guy, like everyone around me, I was getting a little upset. A little while later, I had just cast my lure, when the jerk yelled "Fish On". With great reluctance I reeled my line in. The guy started yelling "wow, this must be a king, it's really pulling hard and heading downstream". About that time, I finally got my lure to shore when I noticed my lure was attached to another man's lure. I started to unhook the other lure when the man yelled "it's stopped, now maybe I'll be able to reel the fish in". At that point I had an epiphany. I told several people around me that I had the mans line in my hand. Several said "just cut the line". But I decided to play with the man instead. So, I started pulling the line, letting the line loose and jerking the line. The man went wild, yelling "it's huge". Of course I said in a voice just loud enough that he wouldn't hear "yeah, about 200 pounds". By this time half the people around the cove knew I had the idiot's line and were encouraging the man to catch that fish. I played the line for at least 15 minutes, then I started letting the line go until I was back to his lure. By this time he was yelling "I've almost got the fish in, there it is, it's huge". At this point I decided just to let the line go would be too easy, so I started pulling the line out as fast as possible. The man started yelling "Oh my God, there it goes, it's huge". I watched the man until I could tell I had almost all his line pulled out of the reel, then I stopped. Of course he yelled "Thank God, the fish stopped just before the end of my line". So, I couldn't resist, I yanked as hard as I could, almost pulling the fishing rod out of his hands, but finally breaking the line. The man almost wept and yelled "Wow, that was probably the biggest fish I ever had on". All the people in the area could barely contain their laughter. Everyone picked up the fishing rods and started fishing again. The man checked his tackle box and noticed he didn't have any spare fishing line. And when he started asking people if they had any spare line, miraculously no one had any spare line. So, he had to leave for the day.
I ended up with my 10 fish within the next hour and went off to clean the fish. Now, I had never caught Pink salmon before, so I had no idea how they smelled when cleaned. After filleting the first fish I was ready the throw it away, when a more seasoned fisherman told me that Pinks smelled that way. He gave me a piece of Pink that had been canned, bones and all. And it was delicious, especially the bones (they turn crunchy). Then he gave me a piece on smoked Pink and it was also great. He also gave his recipe for smoked salmon, see "Smoked Salmon". Thus one more salmon was added to the list of Alan's accomplishments. I never saw that same man again, but I did run into many of his brothers over the years. And still the fun never went away.

Moral of the story -
Reel in, because you never know what you might catch.
Reel in, because you only have so much line.  
Notes -
Text in italics is sidebar information about Alaska and Alan's adventures.