We started the season off catching a 400 pound Salmon Shark in the net. A close relative of the Great White it is an impressive thing to look over the stern and see. It had been swimming up and down the gear eating the salmon we were catching and in the process chomping gaping holes with every bite, before it wound up wrapped in the gill net. It could have been a lot worse, but it still made holes in our brand new net big enough for a grown man to walk through before we cut it loose. It swam away fat and happy leaving us with with some extra hassle mending the new gear.
The season started out looking as promising as any banner year. With the best price anyone in my generation has ever seen and the early returns looking healthy, we were lined up for success. But it was not to be. It takes a certain level of celestial alignment for a good salmon season, and as promising as things might have seemed early on, we were destined for disappointment. The run simply hasn't shown up. And while it certainly is possible that the fish could come in one big late push into the Inlet, it's looking less and less likely with every passing tide. The state has implemented more and more restrictions, the fish are coming home thinner, and the weather has been anything but agreeable. At one point a couple of weeks ago we were fishing in gale force winds. It was a vain ass beating. Our respective catch was nearly nothing.
Just when things were looking about as grim as they could a fresh disaster presented itself.
We were spending the night on the boat to get a jump on the fish in the morning. As my skipper was setting the anchor I stood in the doorway of the cabin to take a piss. I got light headed and saw a second and a half of flashy lights. When I came to I was at the other end of the cabin with my skipper bear hugging me from behind. I had no idea what had happened, and had only some vague half shot dream like memory of fighting and struggling with no context. He had me sit on the deck and the other deck hand brought me a bottle of water. After a couple of sips I opened my eyes to see them both staring down at me. I had just had two seizures. Had I been standing two feet to the right I would have fallen into water so dirty you can't see two inches deep, in a 6 knot current, in the middle of the night. Gone forever.
My skipper red lined it to the Kenai city dock and had an ambulance waiting for me. They checked me out and advised me to go to the emergency room the next day. Having a seizure on board a commercial fishing vessel is about as big a liability as a deckhand can be, so I went in. Because of the circumstances and importance of the season we were in the middle of, they put me on a super high powered anti seizure medication with ridiculous side effects. Most notably anxiety, depression, anger, drowsiness, suicidal tendencies, aggression, in short it has turned me into an antisocial ass hole. 6 pills a day. I've barely been able to function on the boat. The things that make my life worth living have become so lackluster they hardly warrant my attention. I am literally on crazy pills. The result of all of this is a loss of my skipper's confidence in me, personal relationships that are likely damaged beyond repair, two 4 foot sand sharks that I beat to death with my bare hands, and more than a few unnecessarily mutilated pink salmon. I've been over the deep end for nearly 2 weeks now. I even had my pistol hidden in my skippers camper for safety.
At a doctors appointment today I was told I need to take a medication for a minimum of 3 years to ensure I don't have another bad spell, and adjust my lifestyle according to this new health risk. All according to a neurologist that never even looked at my EEG.While I am very much aware that I should not be making any decisions while on this drug, my inclination is to throw these pills into the ocean and never see the inside of a doctors office again. I am so angry I'm having difficulty typing this right now.
I refuse to tiptoe on eggshells the rest of my life because of one bad night. My life is built on a foundation of dangerous behavior and occupations. Every breath I draw is a roll of the dice. I don't see one more risk making a damn bit of difference.
In spite of all this we must carve out what we can from a bust season. Things are a far cry from what we wanted them to be right now, but it is what it is, and we don't give up. I'm here to kill fish, and I'll keep it up as long as I have to. Crazy pills or not.