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 trolling line was taut and leading away from the boat’s starboard side. It was a huge fish and the fisherman tensed up, gripping the gaff hook tighter in his right hand. This had to be the granddaddy of them all, he thought, as he held the line in his hands. Gradually he eased the fish closer to the boat hoping to get a clear hit with the back of the gaff hook on the head of the huge fish. It had to be just right; a hard hit just behind the eyes and directly on top of the head. If I screw up, he thought, the fish will go crazy and I'll lose him. Suddenly, the fish dove and started to run to the other side of the boat. The fishing line burned and bit into his hand but the fisherman kept his hands tight on the line trying to slow down the run the fish was making. The fish suddenly stopped his run just as the man thought surely the line would break. Slowly he pulled in what line he could, again leading the fish back closer to the boat. As the huge fish came closer the fisherman could see it swimming parallel to the boat. It looked like a nuke sub and the man caught his breath as he thought, “this has to be the biggest salmon ever. Please, please salmon, don't break the line.” “I want you and you’re mine,” he thought as he carefully gathered up a few inches of line bringing the fish a little closer. Again, the fish made a tremendous run, diving and heading under the boat towards the rudder and propeller. “No, no,no not that,” he thought. He knew if the line tangled up in the propeller or rudder there wouldn’t be a chance in hell he would get that fish. He noticed that there was blood on his hands; the line had cut into two of his fingers on his right hand and they burned like crazy. Suddenly the fish came out from under the boat running straight off the stern. The line seemed to scream through his hands cutting again into the bleeding fingers. It didn’t seem to matter now and he tried to ignore the pain in his hand and when the fish stoped his run. He started slowly to work the fish back towards the boat. It seemed like the fish was tiring a bit and its diving runs were slower. The fisherman felt more confident that he could bring it in close enough to stun it with his gaff hook and bring it into the boat. “It’s going to be worth a lot of money,” he thought. At 50 cents a pound, it had to be worth at least $50.00. He felt a surge of happiness and thought when he got back into town that night, he might even celebrate at the bar. He could tell his friends all about the battle with the great salmon and show them his cut hand. He suddenly felt warm and almost glad about his hurting hand and resumed pulling in the fishing line. The salmon came closer to the boat. “Yes, yes, its time. Its my time, get ready with the gaff hook,” he told himself, “keep the fish coming towards the boat. Just stay calm for God’s sake. You have just this one chance. A good hard hit right between the eyes on top of the head and then a quick twist of the gaff, quickly sinking the steel hook into the head.” As the salmon’s head was lifted slightly above the water he quickly brought the gaff hook down, hitting the fish hard. In an instant he twisted the gaff around in his hand and drove the steel point deep into the cheek plate and, grabbing the gaff hook with both hands, pulled upwards in order to lift the fish into the boat. Suddenly, the steel point of the gaff hook straightened out and the fish fell back into the water. The fisherman looked at the useless gaff in disbelief but saw that the fish had not broken off from the fishing line or the lure hooked into the side of its mouth. Quickly, he grabbed a spare gaff hook and swinging downwards he sent the point deep into the side of its head. Lifting upwards, but at the same time leaning backwards and holding the gaff close to his body, both he and the giant salmon fell backwards into the bottom of the boat. “At last, I have it,” he thought. As he lay in the bottom of the boat with the fish, he smiled and thought that it was a beautiful day. Maybe there was enough daylight left to troll a few more hours. Where there’s one fish, there might be one more.
By Paul Corbin