This Week’s Saturday Market Selection

This Saturday July 26th,  we will again be hosting our Yakutat Saturday Market out at the WWII Hangar.  This is the second market of three we will be having this summer.  The last Saturday Market will be August 30th,  2014.

Teen and I will have fresh Blackberries and Blueberries,  along with pickling cucumbers and fresh dill.  Shannon Negus is bringing in produce from the Mat-Su Valley,  featuring potatoes, broccoli,  zucchini and salad onions from Vander Weele and Glacier Valley Farms.

Eden will be up all night Friday baking fresh home-made bread loaves,  since another family is talking about selling cookies this time.  There are also supposed to be two lunch options as well,  but I haven’t had confirmation on that yet.

See you this weekend…

Prepping for last month's Saturday Market

Prepping for last month’s Saturday Market

New location inside the "almost finished" new retail shop spaces (ready for spring 2015)

New location inside the “almost finished” new retail shop spaces (ready for spring 2015)

July 24th Assembly Attachments

Police Report July 24th

DC-3′s

I have our DC-3 out on the ramp this summer getting a wash when it rains.  She needed some daylight,  after being cooped up inside the hangar for the past couple years.  Gave two tours of her today and pointed out her WWII bullet hole patches.  Next month,  my friend Rod will be coming up to play and hopefully we’ll get to fire her up again like last year.  In the meantime…

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Every fall,  the fish plant hires a DC-3 to come in and fly fish off the Tsiu River.  July is a little early in the season to hear that distinctive rumble in the skies,  but here she came anyway…

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The TransNorthern Super DC-3 came in today to haul a load out to Tsiu for Dierick’s Tsiu River Lodge.  From my windows in the hangar,  it looked like they are getting a really nice new people trailer for transporting fishermen around the river.  That’ll be nice.  And nice to see a great plane in Yakutat!

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A Sad Day Around Here

Yes,  we’re all sad to see Chris leaving us.  He is flying “home” to Colorado on tonight’s jet.

Chris,  with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

Chris, with his first salmon of the 2014 season!

It has been a wonderful season with Chris around to help and share his fly fishing wisdom,  but all good things must come to an end.  He couldn’t even make it a full year – he arrived in Yakutat August 1st 2013 and he is abandoning ship with just a week and a half to go before he hits a year.  OK,  so he is really just going “home” to see his parents.  He swears he’ll be back next month.  If not,  we’ll have a bunch of cool stuff from his room up for sale…

Sea Lion skull,  plus some really exquisitely tied flies

Sea Lion skull, plus some really exquisitely tied flies

See anything here you want?  I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

See anything here you want? I have dibbs on the refrigerator.

This is where all the true magic happens

This is where all the true magic happens

Chris always wanted to be a fly fishing guide.  Nothing I said could dissuade him from a life of destitution and hardship that is “fly fishing bum”.  Day before yesterday was his last day on the river for the sockeye season and it was a pretty good one.  Three really nice people who had never held fly rods before.  So…  nothing to unlearn…  They flew out of Yakutat this morning and I had a chance to meet them and say hello.  These are the kind of people that makes being a guide worth it.  A true delight!

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Chris said they landed 6 foul-hooked sockeye and 21 fair-hooked.  It took a little time for them to get all the nuances down,  but they did it and seemed to have a great day.  It would be Chris’ luck that Fish and Game doubled the limit,  but they didn’t have any problems.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

Happy fishermen with their increased limits by noon.

I just dropped Chris off at the terminal.  I couldn’t get out of the car because there were two other assemblymen there…  We’d have a quorum if we weren’t careful…  Bye Chris.  See you next month!  There is a “never been fished” stream I have my eyes on right now and Chris won’t be back in time to be there first…

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Weeks 3 and 4

And for those of you following along at home…  here is our last two weeks of commercial fishing on the Akwe in a word – bad.  More specifically – “bad to worse”.

We’ve been having a slow season anyway.  A week ago,  things picked up a little bit over the first two weeks.  Tanis and I managed to land about 1400lbs of salmon each,  which would be what we should expect for the worst week of the season,  not the “peak”.  This past week,  we landed about 600lbs total between our two nets.  We had some rain,  which brought the rivers up quite a bit.  The Situk never broke 180 CFS,  but both the New Italio and Akwe Rivers were flooded.  Running dark and flushing a tremendous amount of debris downstream.

It appeared that a beaver dam or two on the Ustay washed out and into the Akwe.  Our nets – even 10 miles downstream from the Ustay confluence – were constantly filling with beaver sticks and branches.  We were also blessed with big full moon tides this weekend,  making it impossible to leave the nets in the river through the strong outgoing tides.  The best we could do was set our gear up in some of the ordinarily dry lagoons somewhat protected by the sandbars.  The one time we left my net in the current through the outgoing tide,  the anchor dragged and swung the net downstream.

We may have one last chance for catching something this season next weekend,  but it appears the weak run of 2014 is basically over now.  94 sockeye,  one chum and two humpies were our take in week #4.  Not quite enough to cover the week’s flights,  fuel and food.  Certainly not enough to attempt to make a dent in the permit fees,  cabin fees,  or aircraft insurance and annual costs.  Oh well.  That’s fishing.

I know I’m not about to garner any sympathy from anyone out there…  Even if fishing was terrible and we’re so far losing money on the season,  I still get to play with planes and boats and ATV’s without seeing any other human beings,  except for my son.  Living a few days each week in a remote cabin far from phones and electricity and cars…  The horror…

And since I seem to be the only “commercial fishing” fly shop owner in the world…  And some of the fishermen coming to Yakutat are not exactly “fans” of the commercial fishing industry…  Last week,  we inadvertently caught a wild steelhead in Tanis’ net.  We ate it.

Bi-catch can be a really big problem with many fisheries.  Net fishing in general gets a really bad rep because of the way some net fisheries scoop up everything in their path…  The set-net fishing we do in the Yakutat area has probably the lowest bi-catch rate of any fishery in the world.  We are not intercepting fish bound for other regions or river systems farther south with endangered runs.  We’re up inside the river that is the species destination.  Runs can be managed based on what the river escapement actually is,  as opposed to ocean intercept fisheries where you have no idea where the fish are really bound.

We do catch a handful of dolly varden char and an occasional sea-run cutthroat though.  Most of the cuts are small enough to slip through the web and if they do get caught,  it is because they are swimming with their mouth open and get flossed.  Those can almost always be released without harming their gills for easy survival.  Many of the bigger dollies get gilled and die,  so we eat one or two every week while out there.  Last week,  we caught a smallish steelhead hen and she was dead when we came to her.  We usually catch two steelhead a year,  which is pretty incidental an has absolutely zero effect on the run.

We baked her along with a nice dolly,  for a taste test.  The dolly was nearly white when cooked,  but still firm.  Had a light flavor,  but mostly tasted like the butter and garlic.  The steelhead hen was mushy and flavorless.  I would honestly rather avoid eating one of our local steelhead – not because of any environmental love for the species – but because they are an awful eating fish.  I’d rather eat a humpie!  I think I’d rather eat a spawned-out humpie.

There’s another reason for steelheaders to hate me…  :-)

I’ll try and get some photos posted tomorrow before we fly out for what will probably be our last week of the season.

19 Earthquakes This Morning

Yakutat has been rocked repeatedly this morning by a series of earthquakes centered right around Mt St Elias.  The largest quake hit just before 4am registering a 6.0 and really rocked the 2nd floor of the hangar.  Tanis managed to sleep right through it,  but it rolled Eden,  Teen  and I out of bed.  No sudden jerks,  just dramatic swaying that seemed to last for a full minute.

No damage reported anywhere…

Location of today's earthquake activity around Yakutat

Location of today’s earthquake activity around Yakutat

2014 Sockeye Limit Increased!

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…

SITUK RIVER SOCKEYE SALMON SPORT FISHING HARVEST LIMITS INCREASED

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon on the Situk River will be increased to 6 per day, 12 in possession effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014. The biological escapement goal for sockeye salmon in the Situk River is 30,000 to 70,000 fish.  As of July 14, 2014 more than 52,000 sockeye salmon have been counted through the Situk River weir. Average run timing data for sockeye salmon on the Situk River indicates that 40% of the run is still to come, and the escapement goal range will be exceeded.  Increasing the sockeye salmon bag and possession limits will provide additional opportunity to harvest fish surplus to the escapement goal without putting achievement of the escapement goal in jeopardy.

Click Here to download PDF of ADF&G EO

ADF&G Emergency Order increasing the sockeye bag limit on the Situk River to 6 fish daily

ADF&G Emergency Order increasing the sockeye bag limit on the Situk River to 6 fish daily

2nd Week of Commercial Fishing

Our first week on the Akwe was basically a financial disaster.  Week #2 was a little better and starting to cover a few of our bills.  Here is a quick rundown,  before I fly out this afternoon to begin week three…

Half a tote on ice

Half a tote on ice

The week started off a little better than the previous,  but took a quick turn south.  Again,  the water conditions and weather were perfect,  but the fish just didn’t want to cooperate.  Definitely more fish in the river system,  but the majority of the early run seems to hang out at the confluence for a while,  then push up the New Italio instead of the Akwe.

High tide at the lower marker...  we can't fish below this point,  so the Italio fish are protected from us mean-nasty commercial fishermen...

High tide at the lower marker… we can’t fish below this point, so the Italio fish are protected from us mean-nasty commercial fishermen…

Looking upstream from the end of the net,  with wall-to-wall water for any fish to go around us.  There just weren't any to go around the net either...

Looking upstream from the end of the net, with wall-to-wall water for any fish to go around us. There just weren’t any to go around the net either…

We did our usual of cleaning out the two sweepable holes,  then settled in to see what the tide brings in.  Just as last week,  the tide brought literally nothing in.  And again,  we waited for the darkness to come with the hope that a few of those Italio-bound fish would mill around high enough into the Akwe that we would have a chance to catch a few.

Taking a break from our action-packed fishing,  Tanis found this really neat Japanese Glass Float with center groove for a string to be tied around.  This is the first one of this kind that we have ever found.

Taking a break from our action-packed fishing, Tanis found this really neat Japanese Glass Float with center groove for a string to be tied around. This is the first one of this kind that we have ever found.

Dinner of dolly...  Just look at that deep red meat!  Tasted like garlic-butter,  since dolly varden has no flavor of its own...

Dinner of dolly… Just look at that deep red meat! Tastes like garlic-butter, since dolly varden has no flavor of its own…

We did catch a few more fish on the night tide,  but not many.  Nothing again on the day tide,  then it was time to pull the gear.  Well,  not “nothing”…  I did manage 3 fish in my net the entire second day!

I won the award for smallest salmon this week and Tanis was "kind" enough to document it for us...

I won the award for smallest salmon this week and Tanis was “kind” enough to document it for us…

All those little white blobs in the net are rotten eulachon - attempting to shake them as far from the boat as possible!

All those little white blobs in the net are rotten eulachon – attempting to shake them as far from the boat as possible!

So far this season,  a total of 2,000lbs have been sold off the Akwe River all nets combined.  That’s a far cry from the usual we’d see.  Oh well.  That’s fishing.  I like to say that if I can at least cover my expenses,  then I’ll be happy,  but that is what I say when we are doing significantly better than just covering expenses.  We have a long way to go this season till we break even…  Hopefully this week,  but I just flew over the river and there were no fish at all in the confluence hole.  A couple small pockets lower toward the mouth,  but nothing above.  Bummer.

Taking another break between frenzied tides...

Taking another break between frenzied tides…

Back out shaking eulachon instead of salmon,  with one net already pulled

Back out shaking eulachon instead of salmon, with one net already pulled

Last week flying back to town,  I flew over the Dangerous Mouth and someone was fishing it.  Unfortunately they were unfamiliar with the Dangerous and how to make that work.  They had swung their net to the shore and barely any of it was in the water when I flew over.  There were fish all the way up the dry bank that had been caught before the tide dropped out.  Most of the fish in the Dangerous come in on the outgoing tide,  so they missed out on the bulk of them.  On the Ahrnklin,  they pull up on the outgoing because so much water gets sucked out of the mouth.  On the Dangerous,  you need to strategically place your gear so you can keep fishing through the outgoing and not lose your gear in the currents.  Smaller tides are most productive,  with less water exchange.  Hopefully they will get that down if they try it again.  Commercial fishing has been extremely slow on the Situk/Ahrnklin just as it has been on the Akwe unfortunately.  It is going to be a tough winter around here,  me thinks…

The plane lightly loaded with three garbage cans of fish

The plane lightly loaded with three garbage cans of fish (a full load is 7 cans)

Visibility once again drops (but not too bad) as we approach Yakutat International Airport

Visibility once again drops (but not too bad) as we approach Yakutat International Airport