Catching the limit on an Alaskan fishing trip

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Pat and Pastor Pete Van Dyke are pictured with “Gilbert” the halibut. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke.

When I see a bargain, I’m going for it! I really hit the jackpot when I was searching for a deep-sea fishing trip to go on before our Alaska cruise last June.

While planning for our cruise, we decided that Pastor Pete and Bill would go deep-sea fishing for halibut; it was a life-long dream of Bill’s. He’s only 22 years old but he’s been an avid fisherman since the age of two. He practices “catch and release” from our Canyon Lake dock daily.

I immediately swung into action and did what I do best: research and plan the entire trip minute-by-minute, dollar by dollar. My first task was to reserve two places on a charter boat for a four-hour fishing trip. I contacted the cruise line and learned that they did have charter fishing boats available while we were in port in Juneau for a “nominal cost” of $1,300 per person!

My Dutch personality came forth and I knew that there was no way that either my Dutch piggy bank or Pastor Pete’s Dutch wallet were going to be able to handle this cost. I did the math! It would be $650 per hour for our two fishermen! No way I was going to pay that much for a fish that I could buy at Costco for $22 a pound! I wouldn’t even spend that for a chance to catch the “Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.”

The ship did “sort-of-guarantee” that Pastor Pete and Bill “might” catch a halibut, but not for sure. I had a feeling that the odds of coming out ahead in the ship’s casino would be better than the odds of catching a halibut on one of the ship’s charter fishing trips.

I continued my research and discovered “The Local Guys,” a family owned charter fishing company that worked out of Juneau. The cost for a party of two was just a little over half of what the ship charged for a party of one. Things were looking up.

Then, I noticed that the cost for a party of three was the same as the cost for a party of one. I booked Pastor Pete, Bill and myself at once. If the two of them were having a “party,” I wanted to be right there. Proudly, I convinced myself that I saved money by spending money.

Bill Van Dyke reeled in a halibut weighing 18 pounds during a fishing trip in Alaska. He fought the fish for 35 minutes. Bill is pictured with his grandfather Pastor Pete Van Dyke. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke.

Bill met the news that I was going along with a great deal of apprehension, but I explained to him that when I was eight years old, I had caught a bluegill on a bamboo pole and how could a halibut be much more difficult than that? That bluegill put up quite a struggle! Bill suggested that I continue my halibut research.

I soon learned that a female halibut can reach over 400 pounds and six feet in length while a male halibut reaches a mere 100 pounds and two feet in length. I was amazed by that fact until I read that a female halibut can produce two to four million eggs!  With that much responsibility, it’s no wonder that they are an “over-sized group of women.”

I scaled down my expectations and told Bill that I planned to land a 250-pound female halibut and leave the catching of the skinny and weak males to him.

When the day arrived for our deep-sea fishing adventure, I dressed for the task. I wore my oldest shoes and jeans but made sure my makeup and hair were perfect. I started to visualize myself standing on the dock with a 250-pound halibut hanging from a beam beside me. I knew that I would look skinny!  Standing beside a 250-pound female halibut would tend to do that.

Captain Adam was wonderful. While traveling to our fishing spot, he explained to us all about the glaciers, fishing techniques and other interesting local facts. Later, we saw dozens of seals and fed 24 bald eagles.

Soon we dropped anchor. The deckhands baited my pole (for which I was thankful) and dropped the line, but nothing prepared me for how I felt when Captain Adam shouted, “Pat, you have one!”

I had one! What was I to do?  I started running back and forth, tried to pull the pole out of the “thing-a-ma-jig” that held it but was totally confused. Pastor Pete grabbed the pole and handed it to me. I immediately began to pray for a male halibut because I knew that he would be much easier to handle.

I was told to “dip the pole and pull up.” That was impossible! The pole was much heavier than the bamboo pole that I had used as an eight-year-old. I found myself praying that I wouldn’t drop the entire thing in the ocean. I suspect that Captain Adam was doing the same; after all, it was his gear and it didn’t look cheap!

Several times, Bill came to my rescue and the fight went on. As “we” finally brought “Gilbert the Halibut” on deck, I looked at “Gil’s” eyes, both of his eyes: the ones that were on the same side of his head! I have seen pretty fish and ugly fish but this halibut beat them all. Eyes on the same side of its head! But it could be handy, especially if he wanted to watch TV while lying on the sofa.

I may have not caught my 250-pound female halibut, but I heard when they are that large, they are also tough and old. Kind of like me. At 72, I’m far from the 106 pounds that I weighed at 20, I’m tough to deal with, I’m old, but I can put up a fight!

Was the fishing trip worth it? Without a doubt, yes! The fishermen who chartered boats from the ship came back with nothing. We came back with our limit.

Was it cost effective? Not really, especially when the ship is charging $1,300 a person to catch something that you can buy frozen at Target for $14.99.

Would I do it again? In a minute!

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Pat Van Dyke