Boy, the years just seem to get busier and busier, with no end in sight! Steelhead are starting into the Situk again as of yesterday – the water temperature stayed warm overnight, so we seem to have a run starting finally! That means the shop should finally start to see some business. Good thing, since our spring orders are arriving and at some point, I’ll need to pay for them.
Tanis and the outboard in the back of the plane
Not content to just while away my time at the fly shop, Tanis and I also need to get ready for our commercial season coming up this summer. Our outboard crapped out on us toward the end of last season, so we need to get it sent off to Petersburg to the repair shop. Last night, we loaded the recently repaired Yamaha Enduro 75 into the plane, so we can swap it out with the dead one still out at the cabin on the boat.
A nice and calm evening, we flew out – just Chris, Tanis and I for a quick overnighter. Haven’t been out to the cabin since January when the big storm hit. The cabin is holding up OK. Lost a little more of our roof, but at least no critters had been inside and cuddling on my bunk – this time.
OK, one giant rodent trapped inside the cabin, but it didn’t have a chance to make a mess this time!
In the shed, something ate the buttons out of my Honda! Never seen that before!
First things first… we pulled the Honda ATV out of the shed and ran down the beach for a beachcombing trip. I promised Chris he could have the first glass ball (unless it was really cool). No glass “balls”. Just a single rolling pin up in the dunes and that was technically NOT a “ball”. Sorry Chris! We didn’t check things too closely because the Stellar Sea Lion colony had camped out at the Akwe Mouth.
One of two groups of sea lions, fat and feeding on the eulachon run at the Akwe Mouth
Fun to watch – from a distance! They like to fight more than my kids!
We crept out onto the edge of the bluff and watched them for a while. Stinky, noisy and testy… If slugs were higher on the evolutionary chain, this is what they would probably look like!
We didn’t notice this until we looked at the pictures… This sea lion has “BEER” shaved into his side (I think)… Other than the arrow I just added, this is an undoctored image! Weird!
This morning, we went back out intending to paddle my little Jon Boat across the mouth, in search of more glass balls. To our surprise, the sea lions were GONE! Not a single one on the beach. Just about 5 or 6 in the water swimming around. There had been two groups totaling about 300 just a few hours before.
No more sea lions (or beer), but Tanis found a couple of these!
The Stellar Sea Lion is dwindling in numbers pretty dramatically, but two of the biggest concentrations around are at the mouths of the Akwe and Alsek Rivers when the Eulachon are in. The Situk still has a LOT of Eulachon right now, but the run on the Akwe is definitely done! Just a handful still swimming around, but evidence of the run is everywhere!
Death as far as you can see!
The sea lions smelled worse than the dead fish, but this just gets “better” as the summer approaches
All along the shoreline of the river, the sand is absolutely covered with dead fish! Miles and miles of beach on both sides of the river are coated with drying stinky smelt. Farther upstream where the Akwe zigzags back and forth, every little pothole is filled with carcasses up to a foot thick. What a mess!
Last year was a huge run of Eulachon on the Situk and Lost Rivers. This year, the massive run hit the Akwe. These fish are extremely oily and don’t break down easily. The deep holes in the river will sit and perk with the decaying sludge throughout most of the summer. A big tide, or summer flood will wash some of it out a little at a time and it’ll get into our nets. When shaking the moss out of the gill-net web, it’ll fling 3-month-old rotten Eulachon spooge all over us. Yum!
Even more dead fish in the water than along the bank and I thought there was a lot on shore!
These are just the little low spots along the edge. I bet there are 3-4 feet of them in the deep holes.
I have never seen this much of a mess before!
No eagles anywhere! They had already repeatedly gorged themselves and left.
With a strong El Nino year expected, our summer should be warmer and drier than usual. If that is the case, this big run will make for an extra special rotten mess in the river. Something to look forward to in June and July…
The amount of biomass these rivers sustain is truly incredible. Beyond the hundreds of thousands of trout and salmon that return here each year, the sheer weight of the Eulachon lying in and around the Akwe is unbelievable.
I think I figured out why the sea lion colony disappeared… Besides the run being over and the fresh fish done, the wolves seemed to arrive last night as well… Plenty for them to eat without having to wrestle a giant testy slug, but I’m pretty sure it was time for the colony to head back out to sea…
That’s a really big dog!
What a mess!