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Ode to the Orca

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Ode to the Orca

Postby ericv » Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:25 pm

Back during my time as a handtroller, an event occurred that shall remain fixed forever in my mind. My first handtroller "Kydaka" (may she RIP in the weeds on DeGroff St. in Sitka) was an open 19' wood Carolina style dory. She had seen numerous owners during her life in Hoonah where I was living. I rigged her with 8' trolling poles that swung out, plastic kolstrands (all I could afford) and after many derelict outboards, finally a new 18hp Tohatsu. She was a fine, stable, economical troller set up just right for this Norsky waterhound.
The story is this. I was trolling out between Outer Point and Spasski Bay near Hoonah, not another vessel in sight, it was truly a great, calm summers day. I was working a small steady bite of coho's when movement close by in Icy Staits caught my eye. Unmistakable in appearance and action was a pod of killer whales inbound towards Chatham Straits. They numbered roughly a dozen, tall dorsal fins of the males mixed with the females and juveniles could clearly be seen with an occasional impressive leap or two. Needless to say, the bite died. I envisioned coho's bolting to what ever cover they could find to wait it out. I continued trolling along with gear in the water, enjoying the impressive show while regretting not having my camera. Oh how I would regret not having it that day!!
Soon, without warning, I caught glimpse of something large and dark that suddenly appeared off the port stern quarter of my dory. It moved at the same precise speed of my trolling, maybe half a fathom deep. The black and white colors told me who was visiting my humble operation. A dorsal fin surfaced quietly, identifying her gender as she showed her back. Her side, just off my port tag line (a mere 6' feet off the side of the dory) was actually slightly touching it. Okay so here I am; dragging 20 fathoms of gear, it's calm, sunny, water is clear, I have NO camera and I have this incredible escort that is longer than my dory just trolling beside me gently hazing my tag line. First impression; gotta gun it and get away from her 'cause she's gonna get tangled and wipe me out. Second impression; take a breath, stay on course at trolling speed and take it all in for the beauty it was. I chose option #2 and we stayed in this configuration for more than a few minutes. She would gently exhale out her breath and dip ever so slightly under water while staying right along side my tag line. I remember distinctly the gaze of her eye, she literally was watching me and the boat. It was not the look of a meal seeker, it was a connection of two inhabitants on this earth in mutual curiosity. Not once did I get any bad vibes and I am one who has a knack for picking up bad vibes. It's hard to explain, but I knew no harm would come, I knew I would never experience this again, I knew no one would ever truly believe me or be able to envision what I had experienced. No picture, no evidence.
After a few minutes of this, she very quietly slipped deeper in the water off my port tag line and slightly increased her speed as she dove at an angle heading off my bow. She surfaced about 10 yards in front of me, turned a sharp starboard turn and with the beauty and speed of an organic unlimited hydroplane, headed in the direction of the now fading family pod. I watched until they faded off northward on their journey. My mind came back to focus by the hum of my outboard. I gazed at my tote where the silvery dressed coho's rocked gently in their slush home, the sun gleamed off the calm waters, the Fairweathers were peaking way off on the horizon, clear and crisp. The bite was gone, I didn't care for my mind was being fueled by an ultimate natural high. I cranked in my spreads, stowed the leads and aimed my faithful dory for a slow mellow cruise home. What brought her so far away from the pod to see me? Was it the red lead bottom paint? the flat black painted sides? The red trim? who knows. What I do know is that she and I are the only witnesses to this wonderful event and I am grateful for that memory that has been forever imprinted in my mind.
Eric Van Cise F/V New Hope Sitka, AK
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Re: Ode to the Orca

Postby Salty » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:29 pm

Great story Eric
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Re: Ode to the Orca

Postby ashadu » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:36 pm

first ones I ever saw were on the tuna grounds during the nino of '83. the ocean was a desert-barren. I stumbled over a spot of bait 90 miles sw of morro bay, the depth alarm tweeked to get my attention and I turned into a slow circle as the first fish hit. got about a dozen at a slow but steady pace and was starting to feel optimistic. Fins! these two orcas slipped up behind the longlines and just slurped the albys off the hooks. no broken lines ,no jerks ,just limpness in what had been a taunt line. couple more circles without,and I started to get the picture. so I tacked off a mile or two and then returned to the plot mark. couple of bites , got one to the boat and there they were, slurp! after a few turns more with nothing, one of the orcas moved in close, then right under the pole and rolled looking up and slid across the stearn. I could sense an immensely intelligent creature checking me out. his message: "dont get off the spaceship, your way over your head out here" truly magnificent creatures, thanks for the story,ashadu
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Re: Ode to the Orca

Postby Bill M » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:47 pm

Two things in life that make me happiest in life are my fishing and photography. I caught this shot of a Madre and her calf last may while dragging around here in Ketchikan. I figure if the bite is going to be spooked for at least a few hours I might as well take a shot or two.
the site chops some of the shot off but you get the point =)
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