rundige Inlet on the north
shore of Canada’s remote
Dundas Island, British
Columbia, points northeast
toward the unseen border
with the United States. Across the passage, low clouds on the horizon should
be hanging on the headlands of Alaska’s
Misty Fjords National Monument. As
the 72-foot converted commercial-fish-ing vessel Ocean Star reaches open
water, the captain nudges the throttle
up a few hundred revolutions.
“You know, skipper, this operation wouldn’t make a very good
reality show,” I say as he sets our course to round the island’s
The captain smiles and replies, “Oh, you mean not enough
arguing and conflict? Well, you haven’t seen us between trips,
We’re on the third day of a four-day, three-night trip in these
wilderness waters aboard an eminently seaworthy and very mobile
fishing headquarters. At the helm is her converted commercial-
fisherman owner, Willis Crosby. In 38 years of fishing for market
— salmon, herring, halibut, rockfish (you name it, he’s caught it,
dressed it, iced it, packed it) — Crosby has been up and down all
the British Columbia coast. But that’s changed; he’s turned his
restored, even gentrified, wooden working boat to a new line of
work. Now Willis Crosby and his family are catering to the sport-
fishing trade and he’s on the last trip of his sixth season operating
as Ocean Star Charters.
In the galley below, his wife Gayle is preparing lunch and
probably battening down. It could kick up once we round Holiday
Island and enter the broad Main Passage at the top of Chatham
Sound, where the forecast calls for southeast winds to 20 knots.
On the afterdeck, their son Shawn, the chief fishing guide, and
mate, Josh Pallister, are breaking out the halibut gear. Shawn’s got
15 years of commercial fishing behind him and Josh also grew up
in a fishing family. We’re “switching over,” and that means shifting
location after two solid days of the crew keeping the seven guests
squarely on coho salmon — and out of the way of humpback
whales — in the waters off Dundas. That’s the beauty of what I’ve
come to call “mothership fishing” because Ocean Star and her fleet
of four aluminum outboard skiffs is a floating lodge that takes you
where the fish are. And now that we’ve all limited on coho salmon,
we’re off to where the halibut hang out.
So far, Ocean Star Charters is living up to its slogan: Cheena
kwan, “lots of fish” in the language of the Haida, the native tribe in
this part of British Columbia, and Willis Crosby’s heritage. Come
to think of it, even without family squabbles and no dialog to bleep
The Crosby family celebrates season’s end.
out, this kind of fishing could still make great TV. The reality is,
this is a smooth-running family operation that falls somewhere
between “Deadliest Catch” and National Geographic.
Day One: The Old Man’s Hole
We’d left the Prince Rupert Yacht Club dock an hour before
noon two days earlier under a soggy sky. Wending a zigzag course
through tricky Venn Passage, Ocean Star passed the Tsimshian
native village of Metlakatla where our mate Josh had learned to
fish when not much taller than the sea boots of his grandfather.
By the time we entered Chatham Sound, and set a course toward
Dundas Island, we fishing guests were old friends: the father-son team of Ted and Randy Isaacson, with Rick Forster, all from
Tennessee; Californian Bob Martin, a longtime friend of Ted; Mike
Sommerville with his son Kyle, from Calgary, Alberta; and me.
Steaming north in light rain for four hours brought us to the
north side of Dundas, just a few miles from the international border. Once Crosby had tucked Ocean Star well inside long, narrow
Brundige Inlet, our leisurely cruising mind-set gave way to serious
angler attitude. As the crew loaded the skiffs rafted up at the stern
boarding platform and rigged them for coho trolling, guests suited
up in the commercial-grade “foulies” and knee boots provided.