If John was surprised I wanted to go fishing, Hunter was downright stunned. He thought it was an awful idea. He reminded me that I hate killing anything. As kids the boys were told “you kill it you eat it”… and I meant it. Everything except mosquitos. I spent my youth bringing home stray dogs, half dead birds and rescuing bugs floating in the pool. He advised me not to go…. I would turn a wonderful adventure into a miserable experience for basically any human I came in contact with.
But isn’t it important to know where your food comes from; not just the supermarket? I would go, I would be cheerful and I would catch and release.
My guide and fishing partner for the first afternoon soon discovered they had drawn the short straw. Nancy, my fellow fisherwoman wasn’t thrilled to be asked if she planned to murder her catch. Keith, usually the manager of the resort was pinch guiding, the assigned guide was out with an injury. He was unfailingly gracious and patient and answered more questions than he thought possible to be asked.
He taught me the history of Haida Gwaii, the First Nations People and the Spanish explorers. The Spanish named Langara after their commander and left a few old tombstones. The Haida people made it home. About 10,000 people lived here before the diseases carried by Europeans decimated their population. 90 % died.
He showed me how to decapitate a herring and attach it properly to the barbless hook; it would mimic a live fish once in the water. He explained that salmon have no nerve endings in their mouths, if hooks cannot be removed the acid in their saliva dissolves them in a few days and the fish are fine. I watched Nancy work hard to make her fist catch only to have it stolen at the last minute by a sea lion.
Sea lions have become the bane of fishermen. They are not fast enough to catch a salmon in the wild, but have figured out how to steal them off lines. They are a protected species so cannot be interfered with. I was alone in admiring their cleverness. Everyone else wished they could shoot them. Turns out catching fish is more challenging than expected.
There is a lot of waiting. Easily done as Haida Gwaii is one of the most beautiful places to just hang out on the water. Very Zen. But once that rod jiggles you need to move fast… you jerk it hard to set the fish and then the battle begins. Salmon are strong and pull hard. Most get away.
Over our three days I did manage to reel in a few. And poor Keith, who was stuck being my guide every day, dutifully tried to release each and every one. This required leaning far over the side; holding the fish in the water until it got over the shock of being caught and could swim away. I would hear him praying under his breath hoping the sea lions would stay away and not bite off his arm. Sadly, some fish were too injured to release; it was more humane to kill them.
Langara Island Lodge asks guests to only take as many fish as they will eat. For John and me this was well below our allowed amount. We sent our catch off to be cleaned, packaged and frozen. It arrived this week. Guess what we are having for dinner…. forever!!