Gallion gives up the gavel | Bayview angler and fishing legend sets sights on new fishing grounds

Mike Gallion has stepped aside from running The Fishin’ Club, a group of anglers that discuss fishing techniques, gear and stories every month on South Whidbey. He founded the club and ran it as the president for 25 years.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Mike Gallion has stepped aside from running The Fishin’ Club, a group of anglers that discuss fishing techniques, gear and stories every month on South Whidbey. He founded the club and ran it as the president for 25 years.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

These days, lifelong leisure angler Mike Gallion is off the hook.

After founding and running The Fishin’ Club for 25 years, the 69-year-old Bayview man has stepped down from the position of president, saying it was time to let somebody else run the show.

“The best thing I could do for the club is stay out of their way,” he laughed.

In his stead, Kevin Lungren was nominated as president, and Mike Price as vice president of the fishing fellowship. On Thursday, Feb. 6, they celebrated Gallion’s last night as the official president. Lungren said the club, with an official membership of about 90 — each membership is for a family, so the numbers can reach up to 200 — plans to present Gallion with a custom-built rod at a later meeting. It’s not like Gallion, who owns an estimated 60 rods, needs another, so he planned to donate it back to the club so it could be raffled  off as a fund-raiser.

“Mike, as an angler, is much like Mike in life; he doesn’t take anything too seriously,” Lungren said, adding: “He didn’t name it the ‘Catchin’ Club.’"

Like all anglers, Gallion has plenty of fishing tales.

That’s what happens after a lifetime spent angling in Washington and Alaska, and 25 years running the Fishin’ Club. There’s the story about strapping a 2.5 horsepower Sears, Roebuck & Co. Elgin boat motor to a 10-foot rowboat so he could motor around Mutiny Bay as a young boy. Or the time he set a record for fly fishing in 1998 when he landed a 14 pound, 12-ounce chum salmon in Alaska. Then there was the time he was salmon fishing in Alaska and stopped a charging brown bear in the middle of a river just by loading a shotgun slug. Of course, he says after taking a sip of black coffee at his Bayview home - the same one he grew up in as a teenager - his best story is of the fish that got away.

Many years ago, he was fly fishing in Juneau, Alaska and in a float tube. Something struck his lure in a saltwater lagoon — “fish on,” as anglers holler — and rolled on the surface. The sight of the salmon had him and others with him swearing it to be a 50-pound king salmon. At the mercy of the fish’s strength and will, he floated along the top as the salmon towed him around the lagoon.

“You could see the wake of my swim fins,” he said.

The fight lasted more than three hours, and in the end the hook wore through the fish’s mouth. Fish off.

“Even at the time, I think the fish and I were both glad to be rid of each other,” he laughed.

Catching fish has never been the point of the club. Subsistence fishing has its place, he says, but mostly people need to take angling as an outdoor experience: a time to work on a craft, like casting, trying flies, playing a fish.

“Never confuse catching with fishing,” he said. “There’s something philosophical in there about the journey and destination, but it’s beyond my intelligence.”

Despite living near several fishing hotspots on Whidbey Island, Gallion said he only went out a few times this past fall during the pink salmon run. Mostly, he came home empty-handed.

Gallion, who is legally blind because of presbyopia, is also known as a champion competitive pistol marksman. Using .22-caliber pistols, he has spent more time lately at gun ranges than fishing holes. He drew similarities between his two hobbies in that they require focus, the ability to settle one’s adrenaline and nerves and lots of time. Whereas good shooting takes time on a range, good fishing takes time on the water.

“People ask, ‘When’s the best time to go fishing?’ When you can,” Gallion said.

With his two businesses in computer repair and commercial equipment repair, he will be plenty busy. But now that the club is in someone else’s hands, Gallion may have time this year for more fishing.


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