Posted by: tlnemethy | June 4, 2012

Mooching for Salmon and Soaking for Halibut

Mooching is a term used for the specific fishing style attached to a certain type of bait. Japanese fisherman started Imageusing herring heads split in a certain way in the early 1920’s, the split allowing the bait to spin through the water, effectively attracting more salmon to a realistic and lifelike bait. Once the other boathouses of the area realized how much salmon the Japanese were bringing in, they started “mooching” for their leftover bait, creating a basic fishing style prevalent in Alaska.

I went mooching for some salmon and, in the mindset of a New Englander who’d been a reluctant angler most of her life, I figured I’d be bored out of my mind waiting for a random fish to swim by and catch sight of my bait. Maybe it’s because there are just so many fish in the area, or because this fishing style works so well, but I had only waited about half an hour for my rod to get nudged by a salmon. And I wasn’t the first to get hit either, we had really only cast down for a few minutes before my friend hooked a whopper.

It went really quickly from there, with five rods in the water we had all we could do to keep the bait running, especially since it took one to reel and at least one to net the bugger, sometimes even an extra to use the gaff hook. and I was quite surprised at how different each type of fish acted once we’d brought it to the surface. Sure, they were all fighters, but they did it so contrary to one another that it was definitely noticeable.

Lingcod will fight you tooth and nail for their tasty hunk of disgusting meat remnants. Keenly dubbed the “gutbomb,” this nasty substance consisted of rotting herring heads, random fish entrails, halibut skin, and tail flaps of any poor soul not deemed worthy enough to eat.Image I think the Lingcod are one of the creepiest fish on the face of the earth. They remind me of hauling a dragon from the depths of the ocean and their mouths are monstrous. They don’t want to be dragged to the surface, but once they’re there, they’ll just kinda mozy along by the side of the boat, not really caring that they’ve got a giant hook in their mouth.

That all changes when their head breaks the surface though. Apparently they don’t mind being near the surface, but air really freaks them out. They’ll thrash and fight for their lives once they feel the breeze. I got splashed pretty hardcore by one of mine when he decided to do a death roll, and I’m pretty sure salt crusted in my hair because of it.You better Imagegaff those buggers or release em real quick, there’s definitely not enough time to take while making decisions on the open sea.

I didn’t see any rockfish come up though, which was unfortunate because they look like fake anime fish or something. They’re extremely brightly colored and have huge eyes. Because they live on the bottom of the ocean the pressure change gets to them when you drag them up and they actually turn their stomachs inside out and push them out of their mouths. It is kinda weird to imagine a fish chewing bubblegum, but that’s what it looks like when you see their stomachs like that. They have poisonous barbs on their backs that are rumored to be able to go through any type of boot. If you touch one, you get a horrible pain that actually immobilizes you for a while and some people will pass out. I’m sure if you got one of their darts to the heart you might even die. The ones in the picture are named China’s. I’ve seen a lot more of the Yelloweye Rockfish than the China’s though.

The Halibut is a flatfish with a dark side and a light side. They have evolved this way over time to avoid being eaten. The fish below them only see the light side and it camouflages them with the surface and the sky. Those swimming above only see the dark side, which blends with the bottom of the ocean. Quite an ingenious design if you ask me. When you wan to catch Halibut you go “soaking.” ImageSoaking is basically a scent driven means of fishing in which a gutbomb is lowered down to the ocean floor and then raised a few feet up. You leave these hooked to rods I’ve become familiar with known as “meat sticks.” The meat sticks never leave the rod holders because you’ll catch some monsters with the gutbombs. I’ve heard of two varieties of Halibut; the chicken and the barn-door. Obviously, the chicken halibut is small and tender while the bar-doors can reach enormous proportions. The day I caught my chicken was the day a 10-year old caught a near 200lb beast. I was no longer proud of my chicken when I heard the news.

The flatfish just kind of meander along the bottom hoping to find a tasty morsel and lay on it. I find my future to be of similar goals. It’s just a waiting game from then on though, and usually takes about 45 minutes before you’ll get a bite, but when you do, you’d better hold on tight. The swim awkwardly through the water, but I’m of the understanding that they have just as much fight as some of the Imagebigger buggers of the ocean. Once you get them on deck they flop around a lot, but I was told that you can hypnotize them by flipping them light-side up and rubbing their bellies. Next time I go out I’ll have to try it and report back.

Unfortunately, I forgot to eat the heart of my first salmon, as is apparently the tradition. I’ve been told that it doesn’t taste bad, but getting over the heart beat is more difficult to do. Maybe next time, for this round I did take a bite off of a halibut, earning myself a round of applause in the Processing Room. This cowgirl is getting more adventurous every day, but hopefully that doesn’t include a tapeworm.

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