While a normal response would have been to vomit, somehow, I had gotten used to the potpourri of fish, diesel, and body odors trapped within the walls of the warming cabin. After grinding through a steady 48 hours of picking 14,000 pounds of entangled Sockeye out of a gill net, slogging through the suck-muck, and hanging onto a bucking skiff in deteriorating weather, none of us cared. Covered in scales, dried blood and slime, we were more creature-like than human, moving around the salmon camp like a gaggle of dirty zombies ready to devour everything in our path. In the words of Lisa, a veteran set-netting colleague two cabins down, the transformation was complete…we had become “Men Of The Mud”.
Alaska has always been a draw for me, and growing up, I had every intention of living there. While life altered my course (which I have zero regrets over), the urge to experience the relative unspoiled condition of “The Last Frontier” continued to nag at me. The older I got, the more I was overcome by a foreboding “now or never” feeling. When I charged off last summer to check out the Bristol Bay salmon fishing scene my wife chalked it up as some type of mid-life-crisis. After four days, I was convinced the world’s greatest salmon factory offered a window into a serious outdoor adventure and a multitude of experiences I could share with my two daughters, Micah (17) and Echo (13). bonding experience with her dad…ok, so maybe I made her go. I left Echo behind to keep her Mother from spending all of our money.
Months later, opportunity knocked in the form of an available Bristol Bay set net operation. It was Ala Carte, in that almost everything I needed to survive the intensive 5-6 week sockeye season was included. Sporting a smashed front end and plexiglass windshield, the equipment list starred a Toyota pickup with known involvement in a rollover accident. Guaranteed to not overheat so long as the radiator cap was left loose, this fine machine met the Alaska standard – completely abused and worn out, but at least it ran…a theme that extended to my 4-wheelers, generator, boat, and motor. bonding experience with her dad…ok, so maybe I made her go. I left Echo behind to keep her Mother from spending all of our money.
Convincing two of my more intelligent buddies to sign on with a greenhorn outfitted with barely functioning equipment was my last step. I remember thinking that pulling this off was going to require the same level of salesmanship Tom Sawyer employed when he persuaded those lads to paint a picket fence for the fun of it. I did my best to conjure up an image of adventure and excitement. Mark committed to being there for three weeks, Tony for the full season. For my eldest daughter, Micah, the decision was easy…she was more than willing to sacrifice one of her last remaining summers as a youth, swear off the internet, and abandon her boyfriend for an incredible bonding experience with her dad…ok, so maybe I made her go. I left Echo behind to keep her Mother from spending all of our money.
“Go to our FISH FOR FUN page for the rest of this story.