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June 10, 2013
A “Fisher” by Any Other Name
By Don Kohlmann
Zzzzzzzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii – my reel started to scream as it spooled faster and faster – “what the?” – I managed to get out, thinking that I had grossly underestimated the fight of a king salmon, my first king salmon. That’s Herschel, he’s got your fish, Jerome said grinning. Herschel I quickly learned, is one of the well-fed sea lions roaming the Pacific just off the coast of Sitka, Alaska.
Jerome is Jerome Fisher who along with his wife, Karen, took delivery of a new Nordhavn 60 called Daybreak in March of 2012. Actually, I had a brief warning as Karen called out “Herschel’s here!” from the pilothouse where she was running Daybreak, as we trolled over some prime fishing grounds a few miles offshore. I just didn’t know exactly what she meant until that moment.
“Break him off” Jerome said, but before I could do that, a head that could have fallen off Mount Rushmore, and sporting a wicked-sharp looking outsized set of teeth, immerged from the deep, eyes staring back at us briefly, and then with an indignant twitch, neatly parted all of the meat aft of the fish’s gill plates, and I reeled in my first king salmon head.
Despite the result, it was all pretty thrilling. I was back in Alaska, a place that I had visited for the first time in July of the previous year, cruising with some good friends who had chartered the Nordhavn 47 Sandstone. I was smitten by it then and began to contemplate my next trip there. I love flying home to the Pacific Northwest, but there is something about heading north from here that is even more inviting.
I couldn’t have had a better introduction to fishing for salmon from a boat, and I was very happy to see how well the cockpit worked for fishing with downriggers in particular. Jerome was practiced in the technique of rigging the rods for success. He laced the frozen herring artfully onto each hook, gave it a bend for just the right amount of “action”, and then we set the rods to the depths where bait balls or fish showed on the fish finder mounted on the cockpit bulkhead. We were trolling at 2-3 knots with the wing engine throttled back. The Fishers have racked up over 400 hours on the wing engine to date, likely a wing engine record for a given period.
After hooking a fish, the challenge was clear – we had to somehow work the hooked fish past the omnipresent Herschel. The most effective method was a textbook demonstration of the schooling theory – troll where there is a group of any other boats fishing. Fortunately, there was a small fleet of guide boats in the area. While Hershel stalked them, we could usually sneak a fish all the way to our net. The extended swim platform, and whether to include it, was the subject of discussion regarding its possible interference in boating fish. In fact, it works very well for netting fish and later, for standing on when cleaning fish, keeping the operation clear of the cockpit.
From the day that we started talking about building a new Nordhavn for the Fishers in 2006, Jerome looked forward to the time that he could spend aboard following his retirement as the CEO of a large commercial construction company here in Washington State. Throughout his years, Jerome has been an avid outdoorsman, sport fisherman, sometime commercial fishing crewman, hunter, diver, and horseman, who also enjoys organizing pack trips using his own team of mules and horses. Over the years he had made many trips to Alaska with his father. Our early discussions focused on the Nordhavn 64, with delivery to coincide with Jerome’s retirement date. Over the few years that we talked, the Nordhavn 60 came into the line, and he and Karen deemed it perfect for what they wanted to do – cruise Alaska, and then points south and either east or west. Leading up to and during the construction process, we worked with project manager Dave Harlow and assistant Philippa Morrow, to develop the specifications for hull #65. Jerome and Karen had some fundamental ideas about what they were looking for in the interior – a seven foot long settee on one side of the salon where Jerome could stretch out his 6’-4” frame for the occasional nap, though I never really saw him approach anything like nap speed during my time onboard. He is a man on many missions. He wouldn’t have a TV in the salon. “It’s what’s outside” that interests him most, he says. It was conceded that Karen would have a TV in the master stateroom. Karen wanted to be sure that the galley functioned the way that they use their kitchen at home. The Fishers are very hospitable people, and during the course of the summer they hosted over 45 guests onboard, moving Daybreak from harbor to harbor to meet or drop people off, and treat them to great fishing, as they did for me. The galley is always in use and it functions well for them. It has a stainless steel sink large enough to handle a pot for boiling crabs. The galley also had to have a social connection with the salon and guests, which the 60’s galley does very well.
From the very outset, Jerome wanted to carry a rigid hull tender in order to mount downriggers on it. The tender turned out to be a 13' Boston Whaler Dauntless. The surface of the boat deck accommodated the Whaler on chocks on the starboard side and a handy 9' inflatable tender on the port side. The Steelhead davit handles either of them smoothly.
The cockpit is a dream – it’s large, unobstructed and it fishes beautifully. There is an aft control station, though Karen did most of the boat handling from the helm seat in the pilothouse. There is also a cavernous lazarette attendant with the cockpit space, that accommodates a secondary generator, a bait (secondary) freezer, rod racks, an Eskimo icemaker, tool chest and a lot of other boat and dive gear. The yard did a beautiful job integrating the bin for the Eskimo into the module with an insulated stainless steel liner. The Eskimo pumps out ice at the rate of 600 lbs. per day. Plenty to fill ice chests and keep the catch cooled down until cleaning time.
Jerome is also masterful at cleaning and filleting. He has the right collection of knives, and working on a cleaning table of his own design and fabrication, he processes each fish in short order. The saltwater pump runs continuously for rinsing and flushing the cleaning table and cockpit.
In a few days I had my non-resident limit of kings. We then cruised south to fish for halibut. After a few rockfish (perfect for fish tacos) and no halibut, we decided to head for some hot springs close by. We entered a cove with a rock-lined, tricky little channel and anchored. It was beautiful, serene, and in the late afternoon the sun revealed itself. We took the smaller tender to shore and had a short, pleasant walk up a hill where the springs were perched.
Some very benevolent souls have built a series of tubs terraced on the hillside, each with a shed covering it. The closer to the spring, the warmer the tub. From the upper reaches of the slope there is a great view of the landscape. It was just one of those Alaska-beautiful settings that inspires the memories that draw you back again to such incredible country.
The week flew by, and before I knew it, I was headed for the airport hauling my 40-plus pounds of salmon along as baggage in one of the Alaska Airlines approved waxed cardboard boxes. The box and its contents fit neatly into Daybreak’s chest freezer in the lower utility room. Once frozen, the box and fish were good for the trip back to Seattle, and all the way to my freezer. I was in king salmon heaven – at least for a little while.
It’s now June, and the Fishers have been in Alaska since March. My schedule this summer precluded me from accepting their invitation, but perhaps we’ll catch up later as they head south to prepare for this year’s Fubar Rally to Mexico. One thing is for sure; Jerome is perhaps the most aptly named client I have ever had.