The wind and waves had settled down, as had the rain. The sun could be seen behind the occasional lifting cloud. David and I donned our wet weather gear and our personal flotation devices (PFDs) and loaded ourselves and the fishing rod into the skiff. We were headed out for rockfish, the only allowable catch other than halibut in our zone at this time of year.
We zipped west across the channel to the coast of Balaklava Island, looking for kelp that would indicate rock mounts far below the surface. My job was to sit in the front of the skiff, looking out for logs and other detritus that we should avoid hitting. The water up here is replete with huge drifting logs, pushed and pulled by current and wind, headed eventually to some shore. Drawn to investigate one large rusty propane tank floating ahead of us, we noticed a very long log nearby. We decided then and there to lasso the log for firewood! Our skiff is about 12 feet long, and the log was probably longer than 20 feet. We first tried to tie the log to the side of the skiff, but it was unwieldly and kept swinging sideways back toward the outboard motor. So we settled for tying it off the back to drag it home. It wasn’t exactly Moby Dick, but it proved to have a pull of its own in the water as we wrestled with tying it up, and as we resumed our fishing expedition.
We found our kelp near a spot called “George’s Rock.” We – and the rod – bobbed up and down while drifting out into the deeper channel, and then we returned again and again to the kelp, log in tow. Our lure was a multi-color plastic squid about 2 inches long… nothing I would have fallen for, mind you, but fish are clearly different. An exciting moment later, the rod bent strongly toward the bottom, and we began to reel in what we were certain was a fish. We joked about all the fish it might be that we’d have to throw back, hoping it was in fact a rockfish. We were close but not quite: it was a rock, complete with attached clam! No fish to be had: after the next cast got snagged on the bottom, and in spite of clever boat maneuvers to free it, the line snapped, complete with weights and ugly lure.
Just then, we noticed a marine mammal – sea lion? seal? – heading our way. While fishing, I had been trying to identify with unsteady binoculars what I thought was an otter close to shore, lying on its back with head the feet up. And sure enough, it was the otter that surfaced not far from us, lifting its head and upper body out of the waves to see us. This was no small creature, and it took a few beats to recognize it as something different from the sea lions, with their pointy heads, and harbor seals, with their big eyes and round heads, that are more common. It was a large, very healthy and very curious otter! We have seen more and more of them in these waters over the past few years, albeit at a distance. It is both heartening and exciting to see the otter population rebound. After his quick investigation while I fumbled with my camera, he dove and disappeared.
So instead of fish, we caught a fish-stick, and a glimpse of an otter!
When we got back to God’s Pocket, we wedged the log onto the rocks near the deck as the tide was receding. An hour later the log was well out of the water resting on the rocks at low tide. We took the chainsaw down to turn it into firewood.