Paul Corbin came to Alaska many years ago to commercially fish for salmon. The lifestyle suited him and he had many boats, caught many fish, raised a family and maintained a wilderness homestead in a remote area of southeast Alaska that would become Lisianski Inlet Lodge. Here is his story, enjoy!
The fisherman could see the mast lights shining from the other trollers still anchored up in the protected harbor on the rugged coast of southeast Alaska. Some of the mast lights were moving now, looking like fireflies in the night, flying single file one after another. It was time to get the fishing gear in. The fisherman went back to the trolling pit and pulled back the wet gunny sacks that covered coils of 12 to 16 foot long monofilament leaders. Each leader had a big“snap on” clamp on one end and a flasher or spoon at the other. He checked the herring bucket to make sure his baited hooks were ready to snap on, one herring for each flasher. He lifted the first 30 lb. lead ball up from its holder and slowly let the lead down with the hydraulic gurdey. The lead ball was attached to a spool of steel trolling cable which had small stops crimped on the line every three fathoms. As the cable descended into the dark ocean water and a crimped stop would appear the fisherman snapped on a leader with a flasher and a herring or a colored hoochey on it. One by one he got his hooks in the water. Occasionally the fisherman would check his fathometer to make sure he was staying in the right depth of water. He repeated this process until he had four trolling lines set in the ocean, each at about 30 fathoms in depth.
He went up to the pilot house and picked up his cold cup of coffee and lit up a cigarette, now it would be time to wait for that first morning bite. The diesel engine chugged away as the boat worked its way along the shoreline. It wouldn't be long now before daylight comes he thought. He looked again at the trolling pole tips, nothing, where in the hell are the fish he thought? Today it would be a nice ocean, just a gentle swell from the southwest and no wind. A couple of seagull lifted off the ocean to get out of the trollers' way and set down again just off the boats stern, hoping to get a handout of discarded herring. Other fishing boats were beginning to arrive on the fishing drag and started to put out their gear. The ocean was still. As the fisherman watched the fathometer he suddenly had to turn out to avoid some shallow ground. No use in losing a line and expensive fishing gear he thought, got to be more careful, come on fish, BITE!!!
The sun was just casting its first morning rays on the calm ocean when the salmon struck the herring. The trolling pole started to shake as the huge salmon tugged away trying to escape the herring that had the hidden hooks in it. The fisherman waited awhile before going back to the fishing pit to pull the salmon in. You could never tell, another one might hit the trolling line and then another, why pull all that gear in for just one fish when instead you could catch three or four in one pull. He waited and was about to bring in the trolling line which had the fish on when the trolling pole on the opposite side of the boat started to shake. YES!!!! he thought. He started to pull in the first line when another trolling line started to yank and pulled way back behind the stern of the troller. “Holy Shit!!!!” he thought, the bite is on.
By midmorning two fish bins were full of large king salmon. The deck of the troller was wet with salt water from the wash down hose and blood was flowing out of the boat's scuppers. The fisherman was getting pretty tired and wanted a cup of hot coffee and a cigarette but knew he couldn't quit working, at least not while the morning bite was on. He just had to keep pulling in King salmon as long as they were biting. All day he worked the lines, pulling them in to gaff a salmon and bring it onboard or just to replace old
herring with a new herring and then let the fishing gear back down again. It was almost sunset when he finally pulled in the last of the fishing gear and ran the troller into a nearby harbor for the night. He still had to ice all the salmon in the ice hold and then maybe rustle up a little something to eat for his dinner before falling into the bunk. It had been a long day and as he laid in his bunk that night drifting off to sleep, he remembered the days when he was attending law school at the university. I could have gone into law he thought, but somehow this was okay too, and he smiled, thinking that this hadn't been such a bad day at all.
By Paul Corbin