The Fishermen is another story by Marcia Messier, who cooked for many years at our lodge. This story, as well as the other stories of hers I have posted, will all be part of our cookbook, Tales from the Kitchen at Munsey’s Bear Camp. I love this story, The Fishermen, and I think it is remarkable that Marcia captured the essence of what it is like to spend a day on a boat with a group of sport fishermen. Marcia was always busy in the kitchen and never went out with us on our fishing trips, but between listening to the fishermen spar as they sat around the dinner table and listening to Mike and I as we told her our tales of the day, she pictured our fishing days perfectly and describes it beautifully here.
by Marcia Messier
It’s not just about bears at Munsey’s Bear Camp. Some guests are passionate about fishing, only fishing! They don’t want to waste valuable time looking at bears. They aren’t interested in photographing the majestic mountains rising straight up out of the bay. They couldn’t care less as Bald Eagles swoop down over their heads. From the moment they excitedly pile out of the float plane, they are in a race to see who can lower their fishing line into the water first. All stare into the mesmerizing deep blue water anticipating the first tug on the pole, and then, “ZIP, ZING, WHIZ,” the sound of fishing line flies off the reel. Ah, the sweet music of Uyak Bay!
Each fisherman has his favorite spot to fish on the deck of the Mary Beth, and they closely guard these spots. Stories are told of how Robin and Mike occasionally suggest different positions for the fishermen when tempers flare, lines tangle, and “the big one” is lost. The arguments are in good fun, though, and they are part of the game plan as Robin and Mike quickly re-bait hooks and make gleeful observations and proclamations to keep the fires of competition burning.
Fish is what the fishermen want to eat. Halibut salad sandwiches for lunch, or maybe freshly caught, grilled fish on a nearby beach. For dinner, halibut and salmon, baked, grilled, or fried is the popular expectation. If dinner is running a little late, homemade, smoked salmon dip with crackers is put out, pleasing everyone and successfully buying the cook a little extra time. Occasionally, even the breakfast menu includes lightly fried fish fillets.
Along with meals come the fish stories. Descriptive techniques on how to successfully land a 100-lb. halibut are robustly and expertly discussed as well as the reasons these techniques sometimes fail, probably hampered by the swing of the boat or your neighbor’s lack of line control. Imaginative and complicated contests are mandatory and are made up daily. These involve specific fishing holes Mike might have in mind; the size of the fish caught, lost, or thrown back; and the time limits involved in all these maneuvers. Everyone has many opportunities to win! At the end of the day, there are many tales about the one that got away, maybe a mermaid sighting, and always laughter as the tired fisherman make their way to the cabins.
At the end of their fishing trip, as we are pushing and shoving boxes full of fresh fish into the float plane, I’m certain I can detect a faint line of bright silver fish scales creeping out from under the collars and cuffs of our fishermen.