About the time we were seriously contemplating cutting the fishing line, we began to see a dark, looming figure begin to emerge from underneath the boat.
We pushed the Zodiac into the surf, fired up the motor, angled the nose into the oncoming waves, and skipped the motorized raft toward the smoking volcano, some 26 miles straight across the frigid, moving waters of Cook Inlet. We dropped anchor for the first time only three miles from shore. The tide was slack and the 16-ounce sinkers quickly found the bottom of the ocean in about 60 feet of water.
Within a few minutes I landed my first days halibut, and could only imagine what other huge fish lay at the bottom somewhere in the murky depths below us. As we had been placing the halibut on the stringer and getting our lines baited and readied, the tide had been picking up speed with incredible force. I was bent over getting some squid out of the cooler, when the anchor I thought was securely wedged on the ocean bottom suddenly, and violently caught in a group of rocks, thrusting the nose of the boat down and into an oncoming eight foot wave.
Had this been an aluminum river boat, we would have been in the drink on the count of two, but the inflatable Zodiac, rope stretched taut pulled through the wave and bounced back up like letting go of a beach ball from the bottom of a swimming pool. The next thing I saw were the black, wooden floor boards at the opposite end of the Zodiac pressed against my nose, as the forceful wave had thrown me from one end of the boat to the other.
My first thought was; “Did a whale just grab our anchor line?”
I quickly scrambled back to the front of the boat to try and untie the anchor rope as we didn’t have enough rope let out to keep the angle of the boat from pulling us straight down in the riptide. The tide was so strong, and the anchor was so securely lodged, there was nothing I could do to get it to budge. As I pulled on the rope to move the raft forward, another wave suddenly hit us and pinned my hand between the nylon anchor rope, and the nose of the boat.
Had I not had on heavy, rubber gloves, the skin on my hand certainly would have peeled off like hot wax. Somehow the anchor let loose, and we were able to let out more rope, and get back to fishing.
Within an hour I hooked what I thought must have been a 200-pound halibut. I fought that fish on 130-pound test line for over 30 minutes! As I looked into the waters below the tip of my halibut pole, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. About three-quarters of a mile away, coming straight at us, was a massive cargo ship about a hundred yards in length.
Three quarters of a mile away may seem like a long way out, but when moving with Cook Inlet’s powerful rip tides, the distance can be covered in about two minutes. I still hadn’t been able to bring the fish close enough to the boat to tell what it was, but we knew that it had better surface, and like right now or that boat would be on us before we could get our anchor rope up. What should have been happening was that commercial boat was required by law to give the anchored boat the right of way. The problem was…it hadn’t seen us.
About the time we were seriously contemplating cutting the fishing line, we began to see a dark, looming figure begin to emerge from underneath the boat. The moment the massive fish caught site of our boat, it took off like a shot back towards the bottom, and left the drag on my reel screaming like a stuck pig.
Thinking the boat would surely change its course, and also thinking we had a once in a lifetime halibut on, we continued to fight the large fish.
Slowly, the intensity of the fight began to lessen and I quickly began reeling it towards the Zodiac. When the huge fish got within about seven feet of the surface, we realized that what we’d caught was not a huge halibut, but instead a massive skate that resembles a stingray, and not something we were interested in keeping.
Tired and frustrated, I began to raise my head to tell my friend it wasn’t a halibut, but he wasn’t looking at me or the fish, he was looking at the massive ship now only a hundred yards away and coming fast. If we didn’t move, that ship would crush us in a matter of seconds. My buddy began to feverishly pull the anchor rope us as I reached over the side of the boat to cut the line. It was going to be close. At the last possible second, the giant oncoming ship changed its course, and veered to our left. The wake of the vessel threw our tiny raft around like a child’s toy boat in a bathtub. All we could do was ride out the giant waves as trying to speed out of there would have resulted in dumping us into the drink.
After our close call we decided we’d had enough adventure for one day, so we secured the anchor, our hooks and poles, fired up the outboard and began heading back towards shore. As we approached the beach, I was never so happy to set my feet on dry land, and we ended the day with cooking fresh halibut over a portable gas stove, along with some potatoes and onions in an open fire pit. There’s no restaurant on earth I’d rather eat at than at Mother Nature’s table.
So, what did I learn that day? I learned that I can become so focused on the things I want and choose to put in front of me that I can’t see the very things that are about to take me under. Had I not had a friend who was watching my back, I’d never be back to fish the target rich environment of Cook Inlet ever again. God was watching over us that day.
Where in my life are these verses connecting right now, and what revelations in my life is the Holy Spirit showing me through these verses?
. . . “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” (Proverbs 18:24, MSG)
. . . “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5, ESV)
. . . “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16, ESV)