Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just for the halibut

Today I was finally indoctrinated into tourism side of Homer, which is known far and wide as the "Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World." (Note the addition of the word "Fishing" to that motto. If you just want to eat a halibut around here, you still have to dish out $12 a pound.) I hooked up with the Chamber of Commerce crew to tag some "little guys" for the annual halibut derby. After we tagged the requisite number of fish, they let us catch a couple of our own.

Compared to the rest of the boat, I had an awful morning. I caught three cod, had four incidents of snagging other peoples' lines, and then nothing - for hours. I just stood out there in the wind and blowing snow, wielding a fishing pole that weighs as much as my road bike and practically tap dancing to maintain an on-board (as opposed to overboard) position in the rising swells. I had taken two Dramamines to ward of seasickness but wound up feeling pitched and druggy instead. After a while it was hard not to ask myself - "and this is fun, why?"

At about noon, I was reeling up what I was certain was another cod, and I was thinking about the Popeye forearm muscles I could build if I did this kind of fishing everyday, when my first flatfish finally surfaced. No sooner had I reeled him in the boat and dropped my line back down when I felt another familiar tap-tap-tap. Second halibut, within seconds. And just like that, I was done. Four hours of nothing. Eight minutes of fishing. Done.

But there is a certain satisfaction, a feeling of warmth and independence, in pulling up your very own "little guy" - one that will net you a cool 10 pounds of moist, melt-in-your-mouth fillets. It makes the whole morning of mindlessly bouncing a four-pound sinker with frozen fingers seem entertaining - even exhilarating. In this way, fishing can be a lot like bicycling. Or mountaineering. Or hitting yourself repeatedly in the head with a hammer. It doesn't feel good until you stop.