Fish This!

A day in the life of the food chain: Tagish Bridge, Yukon

It was 8:15 a.m. I’d been fishing for three hours along the southern shoreline of Tagish River perpendicular to the bridge. The morning was clam, quiet, sunny and warm.
Northern pike usually school up in the shallow water along this stretch. But even though it seemed like a perfect morning, the pike were not hungry. My stomach was starting to growl.
A light breeze began blowing from the south. Water which had displayed still reflections of the mountains all morning started to dance with a myriad sparkles of sunlight.
“Maybe I’d have better luck on the bridge,” I thought.
It’s no secret that big lake trout migrate through the channel in this shallow river, en route to deeper water for feeding and spawning.
Signs were good on the bridge. The light breeze was keeping the mosquitoes at bay. In the water below hundreds of ciscos (fresh water herring) were rolling in tight formation a few feet below the surface. They appeared to be engaged in a ritual dance around the pilings of the bridge.
Suddenly, the formation broke, a huge shadow appeared in the gap and just as quickly disappeared. As the school regrouped, something began to glisten on the surface. It was fish oil and tiny scales — telltale signs of a successful attack. The current quickly washed away the evidence and everything was back to normal.
I quickly rigged the largest flashing spoon in my tackle box to an 18-inch piece of 30-pound leader. I tied it to my line. The lure was grossly out of proportion to my setup. My rig was a lightweight, 5-foot rod on a small spinning reel with an 8-pound test line. The lure was 10 inches long by 3 inches wide with one barbless 6-ought hook dangling from its end.
I was hoping the old fisherman’s adage would hold true: “The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish.”
I cast softly. As the lure sank, the current rolled it side to side. Even as it penetrated deeper into the water, it was like a mirror reflecting bursts of sunlight with every twist and turn.
I spoke to myself out loud, “If I were a fish, I couldn’t resist.”
The rodtip twitched for a few minutes and then stopped. It was resting on the bottom. Slowly, I lifted my rod all the way back and quickly reeled down. The rodtip was fluttering again. I felt a light tap and then a tug. As I reared back to set the hook , the rod furiously bent over double – line peeling from the reel. Fast at first then faster.
I knew I had 160 yards of line, which seemed like plenty until I glanced down to see only 30 to 40 yards left on the spool. I put pressure directly on the spool to slow the fish down. Good idea – no effect. With only a few yards left the fish made a sharp left turn toward the shoreline, temporarily halting his escape. He was heading directly for a single pylon sticking up out of the water. This was obviously not the first time he’d been in this situation. A resident golden eagle swooped out of the tree line, eagerly peering into the water around him.
“I guess he’s been in this situation before too,” I mumbled to myself.
I suppose the eagle frightened the fish more than I did because he immediately turned away from the big bird and headed back toward me at full speed. I reeled fast to pick up the slack line.
Three-quarters of the way in, he stopped, then headed back out again, this time slowly. He was getting tired. It took another 20 minutes to work him in close, when our eyes met. He thrashed on the surface in one final gasp for freedom.
Five minutes before, a local man named Gunther had arrived on the bridge and was watching the battle.
As the fish lay sideways in the water, he said, “Big laker, he’s toast!”
I guided the fish to shore and Gunther pulled him from the water by the gills. The fish was listless. He had fought himself to exhaustion and death — a true warrior’s spirit.
The lake trout was 34 inches long and every bit of 20 pounds. It gave me real respect for a fish which until then, I knew nothing about. I cleaned the fish by the shoreline. I was going to eat a lot of fish in the coming weeks, which was fine with me.
Gunther took some home for his family and ambled onto the bridge, optimistic about his own prospects. As I walked away the golden eagle glided down from his perch to feast on the remnants.
Always take care of the members of your team.

A swing and a hit! Cory Thole of "Moe's knows" Frontier Bar softball team is in mid swing at July 23's tournament game against the NBA team. Photo by Jennifer Collins

League tourney underway

Skagway team takes third at Dustball

The end is near. At least for the 2001 softball season. Nine teams set to fight for championship in the postseason tournament will battle in one of the strongest field of teams in years.
John O’Daniel, manager and outfielder of the second place Masterbatters, said that the league crown isn’t guaranteed.
“ It’s up for grabs,” said O’Daniel. “ I think that right now the Vigilantes look like the darkhorse team, but we could also see the rubber match between Minnesota and the Masterbatters.”
The Skagway Softball Association tournament started July 23 and will end with the championship game on Aug. 3.
While eight of the local teams stayed for their own regularly scheduled games, the Masterbatters plus four “ringers” ventured north to Whitehorse’s annual Dustball Tournament July 13-15. It didn’t take long for “ Skagway Hardware’s Nipples and Nuts,” as they would be known in the Yukon, to mesh as a team.
In their debut Dustball game, Skagway Hardware got ahead early on defending champions RBI from Juneau. With an early 5-0 lead, it was just a matter of playing solid, fundamental baseball to walk away with a win. RBI self-destructed at key moments in the game and Skagway Hardware’s Mitchell Snyder and Jimme Powell didn’t make things any easier for the Juneau squad. Snyder hit three home runs in a row along with one from Powell.
Skagway’s play was beyond their original expectations – before the tourney the team had been seeded as a C bracket team.
“ We were listed to play in the lower bracket at first,” O’Daniel said. “But had we done that we would have killed the field. When we played a C Bracket team we won 35-2, so we were placed in the bracket with the A and B Bracket teams.”
Skagway played all the way to the semi-finals when they were sent to the losers bracket by a red-hot Team Coke, the winner of Skagway’s annual Fourth of July tournament.
“We couldn’t be upset with our play,” O’ Daniel said. “We just ran into a team (Coke) that had the game of their life.”
The loss put them in a survival rematch with Team RBI in the losers bracket. RBI won 15-10, and went on to take the tourney title. The only blemish on its Dustball record for the past two years was the earlier loss to the Skagway team.