The captain and I couldn’t squander yesterday’s September sunshine so we made one last trip of the season to the North Pass for silver salmon. Since Aki would soon become bored on the captain’s old Sea Dory, I left the little dog home on Chicken Ridge.
We motored into a light north wind that barely rippled the open reaches of Favorite Channel. A Stellar sea lion battled a cloud of gulls for scrapes from a silver salmon he had just snatched from the cold current. When he barked at the birds, they dived for the salmon bits that flew from his mouth. Near the north end of Shelter Island a small pod of humpback whales worried a school of herring into a convenient ball of feed.
Sea lions and whales fished the pass. We tried to keep our distance from them, but a pair of sea lions swam around and under the boat. Twice our rod tips bent toward the water and then snapped back after a sea lion had snatched away our bait herring. Twice a hooked silver salmon jerked a rod tip up and down and then vanished along with the hooks and line that secured them to rod. Since we used strong test leaders, we blamed the sea lions for these losses.
Our luck improved after we passed through the sea lions’ territory and into Hand Troller’s Cove. In a few hours of trolling twirling herring around the cove we had six fish of size in the ice chest—enough for over 40 pounds of fresh or smoked salmon dinners. Like the seal lions, whales, and bears hunting on the spawning streams, the captain and I have come to rely on fish to help us through the winter.