PUBLISHED: 3:48 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Passion for pinks

  Lee Leschper
I have a confession.

I know it will make me seem less of a true Alaskan.

You might lose all respect for me.

But I have to get it off my chest.

I love pink salmon.

I know. Real Alaskans don't catch pinks.

But I love 'em.

Now this doesn't take anything from the passion, nay downright obsession, with which I chase kings in May and June, silvers (if they ever show up in Juneau) from July through September. And halibut any time I can find them.

I love them, too.

We've been blessed with a good year on kings, a good start on halibut and enough silvers to fill the freezer more than adequately for the winter. We are now in the "fishing for friends down south" mode for the silvers and halibut.

But this is when hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of pink salmon flood into our local creeks and bays. Although this year they're late, they're now everywhere.

I don't look at a pink with the freezer in mind. Even though Cap City distribution guru Jack Marshall says nothing makes better chowder than a fresh hen pink.

We've eaten one or two over the years, but they'd don't freeze well and our limited space is reserved for other salmon.

When I need a day, an afternoon or even just an hour to just have fun fishing-not burning 50 gallons of gas trolling, or bouncing a couple of pounds of lead off the bottom at 400 feet-I go find the pinks.

As I'm writing this, I've just spent an hour catching fresh pinks on an 8-weight fly rod just a short walk from my house. I could have caught 100 given the time and determination.

Auke Bay was flat calm and shrouded with foggy clouds. A brief glimpse of sun would peek through every so often. And in the clear water just yards off the shoreline, a huge swirling mass of pinks cruised just under the surface.

Each one would slam a pink fly eagerly, rips yards of line off the fly reel, often jump clear of the water and come to hand only grudgingly, then jet away again when I worked the barbless hook free and pointed them back into the water.

If you've never seen a pink that was bright from the sea, marked with sea lice, still powerful and fast and shiny as a new dime, then you really haven't seen a pink.

It'd be like judging us at 65, instead of in our college prime.

Pinks also break fly rods like matchsticks-they got four from my family last year, luckily only one so far this year.

Catch and release if just for the fun of it, not ensuring food for the coming fall and winter.

It reminds us that life is short, bright days and fish are fleeting, and we need to celebrate each one.

Pinks are one of the magical bonuses of our country.

Like wild mushrooms that you may never pick, but see everywhere and know you could.

Or those trails to the roof of our world that you've never hiked, but feel better just knowing you could.

So I'll wave as I see you heading out or back in from a day trolling-and I'll likely be right behind you, if the silvers ever show up.

But in the meantime I'll just keep catching-and releasing-my fun fish and thanking God for every one.

Have a wonderful Labor Day. And be careful out there!

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire.

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