<strong>Jeff Lund </strong>| For the Juneau Empire
                                Add shrimping to the list of things Jeff Lund is trying to learn in order to be a better Alaskan.

Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire Add shrimping to the list of things Jeff Lund is trying to learn in order to be a better Alaskan.

Don’t be afraid to fail, especially at shrimping

A life lesson on the ocean.

I try to talk myself out of a lot of things. One might mistake it for being cautious or safe, but I know that’s not always true.

My childhood memories on the ocean are always synonymous with some level of disaster. My brother and I look back and laugh, but I wonder how dad felt.

The old motor on the old boat undulated between not working and almost not working. So, we covered a lot of water in the kicker. Shrimping started off poorly, but eventually we ended up with a couple gallons here and there. We never got king salmon fishing down and only managed a couple halibut. As a result, I spent my teenage years at the river or in the woods though I didn’t hunt.

So there’s a lot I haven’t done on the ocean. A lot. It’s different when you have buddies who take you out because though you’re checking shrimp pots — they aren’t yours. You didn’t bait them, you didn’t set them, you didn’t decide how long to let them soak. I wanted that responsibility. I wanted a new and interesting thing at which to fail.

[When the going gets relaxing, the weak take naps]

I’ve found that spring is maybe the most overwhelming season because it’s hard to pursue steelhead, hooters and bear well, if I’m dividing my attention between the three. I’ve added shrimping to that.

I was talking to a buddy who was on his way to Prince of Wales for a bear hunt. I looked at the water and thought about what a disaster it would be to try and feed out 400 feet of line in a wind that would drift my 15-foot skiff well off the spot in which I wanted to set. This compounded further because I don’t have a depth finder and with no one else on board to help keep the program together.

I wonder more about the times I didn’t try than the times I failed. I also stopped worrying so much about looking like someone who has everything figured out. Then you have to worry about trying to keep everybody fooled even though they probably know you’ve missed, lost, forgot or otherwise fouled up.

[Finding solace in nature amid grief and despair]

I learned a lot about people who were quick to throw others under the bus or otherwise deflect responsibility. What they say about what happened is one thing, what they communicate about themselves is another.

Anyway, the next morning I woke up, put on the float coat, grabbed the inReach (satellite communication device) and was on the water by 6:30. I figured the bigger disaster would be to keep thinking about how badly everything could go and be so afraid of looking stupid or failing that I didn’t go through with it.

It was beautiful but breezy as I bounced my way across the water. I checked the chart app on my cell phone when I approached where a buddy had showed me, shifted to neutral, threw the first pot over and started feeding the line.

Predictably, the wind pushed me way off where I wanted to be, but the pot hit. The next pot I planned more for the drift and started deeper, hoping I’d get pushed right to the sweet spot. Everything worked great until the line nested and I had to figure out the mess of loops, while drifting toward shore, in order to continue.

So, who knows what will happen. I could be at 350 feet, I could be at 150. At least they are out there, and tomorrow I will be, too.


• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.


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