Fishing is something to celebrate when you’re 61-year-old Leroy Dabaluz, even when you’re not the one catching the fish.
“Nice one, look at that, strong one!” Dabaluz shouted as the slight fisherman to his right, Chirly Chup, reeled in a roughly 30-pound king salmon Thursday afternoon. “Seen him swimming? It’s like a torpedo.”
Chup carefully walked down the shoreline, continuing to reel in the large fish until his fishing partner could swing the net underneath the silvery surprise. Chup knows fishing is a fickle sport, and this was just one of his lucky days.
“I’ve been a couple days — nothing for me, my friend here, nothing, the same thing,” Chup said. “But last year I was doing good, the same spot. So it’s no matter for me. Sometimes you’re lucky.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened sport fishing for king salmon in the Juneau area last Saturday, and Dabaluz and Chup were two of the dozens of active anglers who basked in the sunny weather Thursday and Friday at Wayside Park.
In Juneau waters, such as those outside the Ladd Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, locals may bag two kings 28 inches or longer per day.
Kings caught in freshwater on Juneau road system drainages or in Fish Creek Pond on Douglas Island do not carry the same size and baggage regulations. For both these areas, four kings of any size may be caught per day. Snagging fish at Wayside park is illegal, but allowed at Fish Creek Pond.
Dabaluz hadn’t done too bad for himself either, catching one king salmon on Thursday night and another on Friday morning. Dabaluz comes from a fish background: he was once a commercial fisherman and makes his own custom lures. Dabaluz uses a Blue Fox spinner, the same lure used by Chup, except Dabaluz removes the treble hook and puts on a single hook. That’s what he used when he lived in Yakutat, and he sticks by it.
“That’s the edge,” Dabaluz said.
He knows his odds of catching a fish are decreased when the sun is out, but said still fishes because “there’s nothing else to do.”
“When the sun’s out, the fish dive deep,” he said. “When it’s cloudy, the fish come up higher.”
Richard Carrillo was also fishing on Friday afternoon at Wayside, but unlike Dabaluz or Chup hadn’t caught anything yet. He wasn’t going anywhere though. He caught a king salmon at Fish Creek earlier in the season, and is fueled by the memory of pulling in a future dinner.
“It’s good to have that first king of the season,” Carrillo said. “It’s dinner. It’s more than 150 bucks for sure.”
“It’s relaxing, considering with the all the tourists coming downtown, it’s kind of nice to be out in nature, just relaxing, hearing the water go by,” he said.