4 July 2012 Viner Sound, BC
We were moored to a Forestry Service buoy in Viner Sound and our provisions were running low. A fresh fish would be lovely, we thought.
Our friend Rick, who had persuaded us to come here, invited us to take our dinghy and accompany him out to the entrance to the Sound. “Sure,” we said, “we’ll come along soon. But first we have some writing to do.”
Writing, however, does not feed you, so when Rick returned—“Hey, I thought you said you were coming along! The wall out there is lined with lingcod”—and held up an enormous fish, we too were hooked. We jumped into our dinghy and rushed off.
Marike dropped our line in the water and it was struck again and again on the way down by rockfish of various kinds; one or two of them might have been large enough to keep if we had wanted them, but we hooked not a single lingcod.
Rick returned then, and showed us “the place;” for of course, we were fishing in front of the wrong steep cliff. We watched as he hooked a heavy fish and took his time to reel it in. As he brought it to the surface, he invited us to dinghy over and net it, which we did. We tried then to load the fish into his boat—it was huge!—but he wouldn’t let us.
“No; it’s yours now. You netted it; you kill it.”
Yikes. Practice; not theory.
We looked down at the enormous head and mouth of this unhappy large lingcod, and took up our shot hammer, which we’d brought for the most unlikely occasion of needing to brain a fish.
Karin wielded the hammer and banged the cod on the head just enough to make it thrash more. Not good. Marike then seized the hammer and whacked the poor thing right between the eyes several times. That did it. A death throe and then the fish was still.
We removed the hook from the toothy mouth, lifted the fish from the net and settled it, headfirst, into our bucket. It was 3 feet long! And slippery.
We headed back to the anchorage with Rick and pulled our dinghies up a grassy incline. He taught Karin how to fillet the fish—laying it out on a flat spot on the grass, slipping the sharpened narrow blade along the flesh just above the spine, pulling the meat away from the bone, gently, slice by slice with the knife, cutting around the tail, being careful not to pierce the gut and intestines or your own finger as it slipped in the fish blood. We remembered what a delicacy the cheeks of Atlantic cod were, and, though lingcod are another species, this memory induced us to slice out these large (and delicious) cheeks too. (After peering into the fish’s mouth for awhile, we decided to leave the tongue; it probably wouldn’t be, we thought, anything like Atlantic cod tongue.)
We ferried the carcass to another rock where we left it for the eagles and ravens and bears.
Thus, for the 4th of July this year, thanks to our generous friend and marvelous teacher, Rick Burkmar, we had fresh barbecued lingcod fillets. We were finally hungry enough for them.
An afterthought which cannot ever really be an afterthought: Rick and his wife Dawn are adamant that fish must only ever be seasoned with “the holy trinity”–salt, pepper, garlic. And always buttered, no oil. We followed their instructions and were, indeed, pitched by palate into zones transcendental.