Day Four: On the Road with Oregon Bounty – A Big Fish Tale
Video: Today, Greg visits the Oregon Coast for a deep sea fishing expedition.
I caught my first salmon in July of 1974, off the Oregon coast near Florence. A full 33 years would pass before I would again be out on the open ocean, looking back at Oregon’s rugged coastline clinging to the horizon. This time, I was there to shoot a segment for “On the Road with Oregon Bounty” highlighting sport fishing in Oregon. What a perfect idea, I thought. Call it work, and go catch a big one.
My guide on this adventure was Lars Robison (we spell our name differently, but pronounce it the same), a second-generation fishing guide who has operated Dockside Charters out of Depoe Bay since 1983. The fish in Lars’ blood was passed from his father, who started the family business in the early 1930s, rowing clients around Siletz bay in search of lunkers and Dungeness crab. Cost of an outing back then, lunch not included: a nickel a day.
Lars is right out of Hollywood casting. His leathery features are those of one who has weathered a storm or two, whether at sea or from the hardship of the fishing industry’s inevitable lean years. His quick smile is a sure sign that Lars loves what he’s doing.
We headed out the narrow channel that connects Depoe Bay to the ocean in the “Samson,” Dockside Charter’s 50-foot flagship. It was daybreak on a clear, still summer morning. Within 45 minutes, we arrived at the ordained spot about five miles out, and dropped our lines.
The buzz on the boat was at full throttle, with the dozen or so others jawing about who would land the inaugural fish. That’s when I heard that telltale sound of deep-sea fishing. It wasn’t a Coho or King hitting the deck. No, right next to me the big macho guy who looked like he’d been up all night decided to do some chumming. You know, feed the fish. Ok, already, he was puking overboard. This continued every 20 minutes or so for the next four hours. Fortunately, I’d heeded Lars’ advice to ramp up with motion sickness meds, and never felt as much as a tummy-rumble.
After watching what seemed like every other person on the boat bring in at least one salmon, I finally saw the telltale tug and began reeling. This was accompanied by a sudden jolt from the rolling swells, which sent me crashing into the railing and then back against the cabin. It felt like I was going overboard, but I was determined to land the fish first. We netted the salmon, which looked like it would tip the scales at around 15 pounds, dislodged the hook and sent it back on its way to swim another day. My prize had its dorsal fin intact, a sign that it was a native salmon (only hatchery fish are kept, so Oregon’s stock of endangered wild fish can be restored). It would be the only nibble on my line the entire day.
That was fine. I had just as much fun hanging out in the cabin, listening to the radio cackling with chatter of other skippers boasting of the their luck or lamenting their lack of fish that day. It was a warm, quiet sanctuary where I could soak up Lars’ fish tales while maintaining a safe distance from my chum buddy outside. Word to the wise: when the captain says “Dramamine,” do it!
Check out today’s video of me catching the kinda big one. And to see how you can make dishes like Oregon salmon with wild mushrooms and leeks or fennel-pear chutney, click on the Oregon Bounty recipe collection. Or, peruse the prix fixe menus available at over 50 restaurants during October and November. You’ll find them at “Cook” or “Dine” buttons on the homepage. See you tomorrow for another Oregon Bounty adventure.