Monday, July 2, 2012

Alaska: Homer's Halibut

On our last full day in Alaska, we again headed out into the water, this time on Bob's charter fishing boat to catch halibut. A ninety minute ride into the open ocean ended with Tino anchoring us to the ocean floor, and Richard showing us how to use our pre-baited rods. On the way out to the fishing grounds, both Tino and Richard chopped up the frozen herring we would use to bait our hooks. I had imagined little cubes of white fish - no scales, no fins, no guts. Certainly no eyes.

I was wrong. No, our bait was either the head half of a herring or the tail half of a herring. And if you were lucky, as you tossed your weighted hook over the side of the boat, lovely little pieces of fish guts would slide from the inside of the fish onto the boat, into the water, or, best of all, onto your shoe.

Now, I've never been a big fisher. I remember going as a kid with my Dad and kid brother in the pond behind our house. Live worms were the bait, so clearly it was Dad's job to take care of that step. We mostly caught brim, which were small, spiny little suckers that we always threw back. Except, of course, when that dumb little fish would get greedy and swallow the bait, hook and all. Mostly for my sake, I think, Dad would try to save the fish. In the event he actually was able to remove the hook and we threw it back in the water, our not-so-lucky catch was likely to float on the water. Sometimes resuscitation was just not to be. It was then the cats got a tasty treat, though to be honest, I think they turned their kitty noses up at brim, too.

Anyway...I've digressed, as I am apt to do. Me = not a big fisher. I love to eat fish, but killing them just seems so sad! But Jason and Dad were enthusiastic, and Mom and I were eager to eat fresh halibut. As it turns out, Mom was the best at it! She caught lots of halibut, but because we were each only allowed to keep two of our halibut catches, she had to throw quite a few back. And, unlike me, she reeled all of hers in by herself (to be clear, Jason and Dad did, too). You wouldn't believe how tough it was to pull up a 12 pound fish attached to a 3 pound sinker from the bottom of the ocean! I guess all that swimming over the years has really paid off.

At the end of the day, we ended up with 46 pounds of fish, most of which was halibut (we also caught two cod and kept both of them). It was a great day.

Conclusion? There will be lots of halibut and cod blogging over the next several months! Here are a couple of recipes so far:

Blackened Halibut with Peach Avocado Salsa

Grilled Fish Soft Tacos

Tino [right] and Richard [left] chopping up herring.
Frozen herring
Not a bad view as we left Homer and headed into the open waters.

Sea gulls followed us out to the fishing grounds and then back into the harbor.
On the way back from fishing, Tino and Richard filleted the halibut. They were amazingly deft at hand, as they used very sharp knifes to accurately filet a fish while the boat was bumping along. They had it down to a science!
Dinner at last.
Richard filleting cod.
Awww...poor little cod! Is Richard just playing at this point? No, by slicing open the fish's head, he's is able to remove the ear bones from the cod. Why? Because they sell the bones for $20 each to craftsmen who make them into earrings.
Ear bones

Back in the harbor.
What do you call a group of cute sea otters? A raft.
On our drive back to the house, we spotted this Bald Eagle starring down waiting for dinner.

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