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5.
Fishing

The pastor's sermon one Sunday started out "And Peter told them, îI'm going fishing.' " Fishing in lowland lakes started on this particular Sunday so it was an appropriate topic for his sermon. Later in the day, TV news-casters reported on the fishermen's "luck" and showed their catches. The urge to go fishing hadn't haunted me for many years, but I went several times because of a friend, Pastor Les Peter who was an ardent fisherman. He visited me one afternnoon after his doctor's appointment and wondered if I would be interested in his pickup truck, fishing boat, rods, reels and and fishing gear. He said he no longer had use for them and felt I could use them -- I said I would like to have them.

When I was young, I often told my parents or friends that I had the urge to go fishing, and if the conditions were right my father, an ardent fisherman too, and my mother would pack up the car and we'd go fishing, or my friends and I would hike up to mountain lakes and streams around Mullan or in Montana just over Lookout Pass. My parents took me on many fishing and camping trips and often included a friend or two of mine.

Trout fishing was possible east of Mullan in a little creek, and many times my friends and I would walk up to Pottsville (now Shoshone County Park) and fish downstream through the park and Hendrickson's farm. It was all right to trespass because trough Hendrickson's farm because they delivered milk to us every day, and Walter Hendrickson was my friend and my classmate in school. There were only a few miles of fishing available, but it seemed to be long enough. EPA wasn't active in those days, and so the effluent from mill operations was dumped into the waters below the Hunter and the Morning Mine mills which made the waters slate colored, and unsuitable for fishing, swimming or drinking. The North Fork of the Couer d'Alene River was called "Lead Crick" by those living around it. Today the mills run their washings into cofferdams, and Lead Creek is clear all the way to Couer d'Alene Lake though I don't know if fishing is any good. Kids (only )are allowed to fish in the creek, and fishing is good when fish are released from the hatchery above Larson after spawning operations.

Fishing is a favorite sport around Bremerton, and I have been out for salmon and trout, and even for bass on a few occasions.

Once, about 1950, my friend Bill Mortland and I went to Lake Cushman to try our luck. I should have known it would be a mistake because from association with Bill at the shipyard and around Bremerton, I knew he was prone to having things happen to him. The expression was "If anything will happen, it will happen to Bill." This time "anything" happened and I was involved.

Lake Cushman had been dammed by Tacoma Power and Light and raised to its present level to provide a source of power for Tacoma. The trees hadn't been completely cleared from the fiooded area at that time and some snags and logs were still in the waters at the upper end of the lake. A log boom had been stretched across the lake to prevent the trash from fioating into the main portion of the lake and to the dam.

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Bill and I rented a boat from a fellow near Staircase, and loaded our fishing gear aboard. We also included a small gas stove, coffee pot, coffee and lunch--we intended making a full day of it. To get to the fishing area, we had to maneuver the boat around the snags and logs, sometimes using the oars to push off from the logs. Near the log boom, one end of a fioating tree had lodged itself on the top of standing snag. To get clear of it, I reached over and pushed on the log, just enough to make it fall off and right on to our boat where I was standing. I jumped out of the boat and onto another log fioating against the snag and balanced myself by holding on to the snag. Bill was standing at the rear of the boat and as it was tipping over, he started walking around it. When everything was settled down he was standing on the bottom side of the boat and asked what had happened.

After Bill managed to get on my log, I told him that our fishing for the day was over because our gear was down at the bottom of the lake, about twenty feet down. One oar of the boat was still within reach, but the other was lost. Somehow, except for our legs, we had managed to stay dry but we were a long way from shore. The thought of swimming in the cold water didn't appeal to us and so with a lot of effort we righted the boat and bailed most of the water out of it using Bill's felt hat. When we were afioat again, we headed back to the landing and arrived without problems. The owner of the facility at Staircase was nice and wasn't concerned about the lost oar--he was glad we were back to tell him of our experience.

On our way home we stopped long enough to pinpoint the place where we had capsized. We planned to come back, since we didn't like the idea of going home empty-handed from a fishing trip and I mean really empty-handed! We marked some stumps with arrows pointing to our snag and continued home. When I got to the Carters' (where I lived in my bachelor days in Bremerton) they asked me where my fish were. The master rigger from the navy yard was visiting, and when he heard my story, he suggested some ways of salvaging our gear. He asked me to come to his office the next day to pick up some triple shark hooks, some strong magnets used for holding small boats alongside the big ships, and some rope for our recovery operations.

A day or so later, Bill and I returned to Lake Cushman, rented the boat again and paddled our way back to our lost gear, being careful not to dislodge any more logs. We could see our outfits resting on the bottom and started recovering the poles, reels, bait cans, tackle boxes and camping things. The first thing recovered, using the shark hooks, was the camping stove and then the coffee pot. While I was pouring out the water from the burners, and getting the fire going, Bill fished out the coffee can with the magnets. We had coffee in a short time and actually enjoyed fishing for fishing gear. When we inventoried our catches, we found we had everything except a Surplus Store Navy parka, and the oar. I can't remember if we caught any fish or if we even tried fishing this time.

I wrote to the American Gas Company about our experience with the gas stove. They sent me an outdoors cook book and asked if they could print my letter in their weekly newspaper. A copy of the letter and the cook book is in our book case, but I haven't found the copy of their newspaper. Its probable loss is the result of cleaning out the basement again and again during the past 20 to 30 years.

I fished Lake Cushman with Bill at other times when nothing happened and we actually caught trout. One time while camping near Staircase, we hiked up to Flapjack Lakes, carrying a small rubber boat so we could do some trolling in the small mountain lakes. When we arrived at one lake, we blew up the boat and walked out on the lake. Some distance from the shore, we climbed into the boat and had our picture taken. The lake was frozen over, and we did no fishing. At the ranger cabin near Lake Cushman we saw a little sign that said, "NO FISHING IN PARK LAKES UNTIL JULY 4." We were there in May.

Salmon fishing in Puget Sound is a sport that many enjoy, especially when salmon derbies are held. Then, if you are lucky, you not only catch a fish to grace the dinner table at home, but you might get a prize, the value of which was determined by the size of the derby and the size of the fish caught. I landed a winning salmon one year, but it was my partner, Joe Lambert, who actually caught the fish and brought home the bacon, or in this case, the outboard motor. Maybe I should have said I netted the largest salmon.

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One other time my landlord and landlady took me fishing to Dabob Bay. We fished most of the day, and although we could see large silvers jumping near the shore, our fishing was in the deeper waters and we had no strikes. We fished in deeper waters because another bottle of wine was available in Brinnon and Brinnon was on the other side of the bay and there would be no danger in losing our gear in deeper waters. That evening we camped on a spit near where the Zelatched Point Computer Station is now located. It was warm weather, and my hosts were somewhat under the weather, so we placed our sleeping bags on ground among the driftwood (logs). My landlord made a small fire on the other side of the log where he planned to sleep, "to keep himself warm when the early morning mist rolled in." He did keep warm but his shorts and pants suffered a bit--it's a wonder he didn't burn himself.

In the morning I took off in the boat to fish where the salmon were jumping the day before. No big weights on the line so I wouldn't lose the borrowed gear. I caught the first two salmon of my fishing career in about a half hour. These I placed on the bow of the boat when I returned to our camp, and then went for a hike in the woods. It felt good to be able to prove my point about fishing where the fish were, and not in the middle of the bay. Besides, I don't like wine.