I was pretty spoiled as a kid.
The chest freezer in our garage was almost always stuffed to the brim with real Alaska salmon, and I grew up appreciating the richness of the fish that only needed a little salt and pepper for seasoning.
I have my dad to thank, who made expeditions to remote islands off the coast of Petersburg every year when I was a kid.
He didn’t grow up a fisherman. Sort of the opposite, actually.
Originally from the Bay Area, he didn’t have vast wilderness available at his fingertips. When he went to college he taught himself to hunt and fish (the extremes of surviving as a poor student), and began to appreciate the practice.
Eventually he decided to venture to Alaska, which nearly everyone agrees is the apex of adventure — the mother of all fishing.
He used to tell my sister and I harrowing tales of the Last Frontier: “I found myself cornered by a grizzly at the end of this tiny peninsula, harvested salmon in hand. Should I swim? Should I stomp? Should I get ready to shoot?”
The man has always had an affinity for storytelling, and I remember imagining him like a real-life Paul Bunyan whenever he’d relish in the suspenseful details of his travels throughout the Alaska wilderness.
So when I decided to move to the Last Frontier on a whim, my pops was so excited. He hadn’t been to the state to fish since 2011, and he never ventured all the way down the Kenai Peninsula.
Last month he finally decided to come back.
After he landed at the Kenai Municipal Airport, he went off to try his luck with some silvers in Soldotna, but the run was pretty sparse by early September.
The rest of the week we bounced around the peninsula, using our willpower to get lucky with some fish.
We awoke early before the sun rose one morning for a halibut and rockfish charter in Homer, getting to the harbor at 7 a.m., eating bagels and sipping on coffee to pass the time. After two hours of skimming the choppy water at 35 mph, we finally dropped our lures on top of some halibut.
The boat was a pretty traditionally masculine environment for the three retired guys with which we fished. Our guide even joked that one of the oldest mariner superstitions deemed women to be bad luck on boats.
It turns out he was right, for the men at least, since I limited out on halibut first.
The next day my dad and I headed from the south peninsula all the way to Seward in hopes of snagging a couple silvers.
One thing about my pops — he never really does anything halfway.
He’s not necessarily a master snagger, me even less so, but he stood out in Resurrection Bay for seven hours — even after the rain began to fall — in polarized sunglasses trying to hook a silver.
I would get distracted by the seals paddling around the bay and the cooler of snacks we brought for ourselves, but my dad’s focus was not to be tinkered with.
But the parts I loved most about my dad’s triumphant return to the Last Frontier after 10 years were the little moments in between. The early mornings in the car chatting about life, walking on sidewalks in some of the country’s most unique towns and laughing over seafood chowder.
Because my dad, he’s a fisherman. But I fish so I can spend time with my dad.