Our First Week of Fishing

The Akwe River opens to commercial fishing the 4th Sunday in June.  Last weekend,  we had Chris cover the fly shop,  while Teen and Eden joined Tanis and I for the opening week.  Unfortunately it was yet another underwhelming opener for us…

It was a busy Saturday last weekend,  with Family Fishing Day at the harbor.  Tanis and Eden wanted to participate in that,  so we didn’t exactly get out to the river early…  Tanis brought out a cod he caught off the dock,  so our dinner ended up being one of those nice little bottom feeders from there in the greasy-oily boat harbor…  Yum…

A victim of Family Fishing Day at the Yakutat Boat Harbor

A victim of Family Fishing Day at the Yakutat Boat Harbor

Tanis had spend a week out at the cabin alone last month getting the nets ready,  so there wasn’t much for us to do to prep for the next morning.  Just getting the skiff down to the Akwe and into the water.  That went smoothly,  so we took some time running up the Akwe to see how many fish were in the river.  Greg from the fish plant had told me there were “thousands” of fish in the river,  so it was a bit disappointing to see “hundreds” in the Akwe/Italio confluence and then nothing…  Literally NOTHING in the rest of the river.  We blasted upstream about 5 miles from the mouth and spotted only one small pod of maybe a dozen.  That’s it.

Italio ahead

Italio ahead

Coming in for our approach

Coming in for our approach

With our lowered expectations in hand,  we went to bed early and got up Sunday morning.  The river constantly changes and this year,  we really have only two spots where we can set.  The rest of “our zone” is braided with multiple channels and very little water.  Out on the Akwe,  we have a gentleman’s agreement with Dave Brown – the other fisherman,  where we have divided up the river into “his zone” and “our zone”,  so we don’t have any arguments and bickering.  Our zone isn’t very good this year,  but other years we end up with a few holes that will hold fish and we spend our week sweeping them repeatedly.  Not in the cards this year,  but we’ll definitely save on gas.

Getting the skiff ready to tow down the beach

Getting the skiff ready to tow down the beach

Pulling the gas cans out of the tote

Pulling the gas cans out of the tote

Eating our wormy little guest from Family Fishing Day

Eating our wormy little guest from Family Fishing Day

We set Tanis’ net,  but the anchor dragged off the shore.  Had to pick it back up again and try again.  My set went uneventfully.  We swept the two holes (which consists of taking the jet-boat and doing circles starting at the top to sweep the fish downstream into the net.  Tanis’ caught about a dozen.  Mine netted us only 4.  Not quite enough to pay for the gas we burned sweeping.  Oh well.

The sun was out and the day tide was a small 6 footer.  There wasn’t going to be any big push of sockeye on Sunday,  so all we could do is try to rest as best we could and keep the nets as clean as possible.  With all this sun all spring,  keeping the nets clean isn’t such an easy task…

My set

My set

Tanis' set

Tanis’ set

Teen and Eden trying to hide from the flying slop

Teen and Eden trying to hide from the flying slop

Lots of shaping and shaking.  The moss builds up on the web pretty quickly,  making it very easy for the salmon to see the net.  You have to constantly shake and shake.  Some types of moss shakes pretty easily,  but there is one type that does NOT shake at all.  We had a mix of types.  We spend far more time shaking moss than picking fish this time of year.  Usually by September,  the constant floods of fall and lack of sun tends to keep the moss under control.  Not so during the sockeye run.

https://vimeo.com/132579718

The 11pm night tide was a good 9 footer,  but I expected to see a little action after the tide,  when it starts to get dark.  We did finally see some fish push in on that outgoing tide,  but not a whole lot.  We had a planeload by morning and I flew that to town at first light.  A little groggy,  but I’d rather get the fish out of there than have them sitting around in the sun,  with our problem juvenile bear.  We have a 3 year old who has been biting tires and gas jugs and ATV seats,  digging holes under the cabin and being a nuisance.

One of our kings...  Usually the king run has gone by us by the time our season opens.  This year,  we seem to still have them coming in fresh.  We caught 15 total between the two nets including jacks for the week.

One of our kings… Usually the king run has gone by us by the time our season opens. This year, we seem to still have them coming in fresh. We caught 15 total between the two nets including jacks for the week.

After my return from delivering fish,  our week was pretty much over.  We only caught another dozen or so fish all day.  Nets come out at 6pm Monday,  so it is a short 36 hours of fishing.  We essentially stay up the entire day and a half and fish continuously,  except for any brief chance to get an hour’s nap in somewhere.

It was great to have the chicks out there through the week.  Teen would have lunch ready for us when we came back to the cabin,  so that was sure a blessing.  Although with as slow as it was,  we had plenty of time to relax and rest between shaking episodes.

It was a quiet and relaxing week with lots of reading and cards and naps

It was a quiet and relaxing week with lots of reading and cards and naps

Contemplative

Contemplative

With our two nets,  we had about 1,800lbs total for the week.  We covered expenses for the week,  but have a long way to do to dig out of the financial hole of cabin permit fees and fuel expenses.  It usually takes till week #3 or 4 before we start actually making a bit of profit,  but some years (like last year) we never reach that threshold.  Last year was our worst sockeye season ever,  but I still get to go out and spend quality time with Tanis,  playing with ATV’s and jet-boats.  It isn’t all about the money…  It is about living a quality life and sharing it with those you love.

https://vimeo.com/132580667

And I’m very blessed in that department.  Even if the bank account doesn’t always show that.

And the footnote...  Usually we catch around 2 steelhead each year in the nets.  Last week,  we caught three.  One we were able to release successfully,  but two died.  We ate her.  She was very ripe,   but should have been long gone by the last week of June!

And the footnote… Usually we catch around 2 steelhead each year in the nets. Last week, we caught three. One we were able to release successfully, but two died. We ate her. It was nasty. She was very ripe, but should have been long gone by the last week of June! We have very little by-catch, but this week, we unfortunately had two steelhead we couldn’t revive. It happens.

P6290196

As I mentioned, we had a whopping 15 kings, but also three steelhead, one nice cutthroat (that we sent to town in case the fish plant would think it is a jack) and around 8 dollies. And three humpies! I have never caught a humpy opening week, so that’s not a good sign! We may only get 4 weeks of fishing in before the humpies take over and drive us off the river. I’ll keep you posted on that later…

Nearly 18,000 Sockeye now

With another 3,000+ sockeye counted through the weir last night,  we are well on our way toward catching up to at least an average season…  It has been a slow run so far,  but over the past week it changed to 1,000-3,000 through nightly.  The run is finally on!

If you look back at past years for this date,  we have been running about two weeks behind “normal”.  With 17,765 through last night,  that compares to 25,018 in 2014,  59,766 in 2013,  but 2012 only had 15,622…  We overtook the 2012 number with last night’s big count!  They ended that season with 62,411 counted by the second week of August,  so that is our bottom end number to expect…

Only 58 kings so far,  which is at the low end of the scale too.  Better than 2012’s 29 by this date,  but way off from 2014’s 247 and the 416 we saw by now in 2013.  Don’t expect them to open kings to retention this year at all and we may not reach the magic number to increase the sockeye limit either.

As for fly-outs…  I have been told that the East has NOT been seeing any kings the past couple weeks.  They just don’t seem to be nosing their way into the mouth this season like they normally do.  Akwe on the other hand is running late,  with that king run usually over by now for incoming fresh fish,  but Tanis and I caught 15 last weekend in our commercial opener.  A LOT of fish holding in the Italio/Akwe confluence,  but not many farther upstream.  I flew it on Thursday and did not see ANY pods of fish in the low/clear water above the confluence for several miles of river.

On the Akwe,  normally the kings come in before it opens to gill-netting and they are already past where we fish by the time we start.  They settle into the deep/dark holes upstream at least 5 miles where the grass islands begin and settle in to ripen up over the following couple months.  There are a few up there,  but not a lot.  Still early in the king run I think.

I’ll post more detail and photos from our opening week,  if I have time today before we fly out for week #2 later this afternoon…

Happy Birthday America

Hope you are all having a wonderful Independence Day!  It is supposed to be sunny in good ol’ Yakutat tomorrow for the parade and fireworks.  The parade theme is “American Super Heroes”…  Tanis and Eden are going in some of our WWII uniform pieces.  In honor of those who served the cause of freedom and continue to serve,  here is a little engine noise for you:

And we had a visit a couple weeks ago from a C-17.  They practiced missed approaches for about an hour into Yakutat on runway 29,  with a few touch-and-goes.  It was a beautiful thing.

P6150038 P6150039 P6150040

Here are some more engine sounds from a more modern aircraft:

https://vimeo.com/132577699

An appropriately themed propaganda poster from our collection

An appropriately themed propaganda poster from our collection

July 2nd, 2015 Assembly Meeting

We have a meeting tonight at 7pm High School Auditorium.  Here are all the attachments they sent me…  Apparently we also have a confidential packet we’ll be given tonight with an offer from Alaska Power and Telephone to purchase Yakutat Power Inc.  I haven’t seen the content of that yet,  but it will all be disclosed and posted here before we make any decision about the power plant for you all to see as well.  NOTHING will be hidden!  I’ll post both AP&T and AVEC’s proposals side by side for comparison.

Also,  we have a special work session scheduled for 5pm Tuesday July 7th at 5pm,  City Office to have a question and answer session with the heads of AP&T.  Public is encouraged to come (at least by me…).  AP&T VP of Power Operations Greg Mickelsen,  Executive VP Michael Garrett and Business Development Director Jason Custer will be there.

#1 07-02-2015 Notice & Minutes
Notice and agenda for July 2nd meeting,  plus past meeting minutes for approval

Notice 2 July 2015
The July 2nd special meeting notice and agenda

#2 Manager Report & other reports
Department head reports from City Manager,  Planner and Public Works Director

#3 Ord 8.1 8.2 8.3 & 8.4
Ordinances and Resolutions for tonight…  Public hearings for the Ordinances

#4 Info
State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources is soliciting proposals for oil and gas exploration in the Icy Bay/Cape Yakataga area

policyfinal
A long document from the Alaska Municipal League about AML policy

FY16_Foundation_Report
Report for the fiscal 2015 year from the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development,  that lists state-wide communities and their maximum and minimum allowable local contributions to their local school systems (Yakutat’s maximum allowed amount is $545,788 based on our borough-wide property values and numbers of enrolled students,  etc.  It does not show how the formula is calculated,  just the results by community…)

Sockeye Run is Here!

Looks like we are finally starting to see some good numbers of sockeye showing up in the Situk.  Seeing between 1,000 and 3,000 fish counted through the weir daily now (with an occasional 150 day to make it all confusing).  About 13,000 fish counted so far – which is way below what we’d normally expect by this date.

We had some rain through the week,  bringing the flows up to where we want them to be.  Running pretty steady at about 175 cfs,  but still very clear.  More and more people showing up too,  but at least now we have the fish spread through the entire river.  Spreading the fishermen around a little and relieving the lower area a bit.

I have an assembly meeting tonight and need to get reading my packet,  plus I need to fly Chris out to the Akwe,  so I’m making this a very brief report today…  More tomorrow.

Sockeyes are VERY Late and/or Poor

“…you have decided to let us guys “whistle in the wind” about the conditions of fishing in Yakutat…”

I know,  I know…  I’m sorry!  It has been hard to get too motivated to post fishing reports though,  since fishing has really bee terrible over the past month.  I’m saying the sockeye run is about 2 weeks late,  although I have no real evidence of that…  Just the lack of fish…  I did hear today from Greg who runs the Yakutat Seafoods fish plant.  He said Bristol Bay and other regions seem to be about 7-10 days behind schedule for their sockeye runs and that just now they hit some milestone to indicate the run is finally starting to arrive.  It has NOT on the Situk yet.

We went nearly another month without a drop of rain again,  so the flows dropped to only 113 CFS this week.  We did finally have a break from all this gorgeous weather,  with rain falling night before last and yesterday.  Flows came up to around 150,  which is definitely better,  but still low.  I was hoping the rain would give us a shot of fish with it,  but that hasn’t seemed to happen yet.

Only about 5,000 fish have passed the weir so far,  making for pretty thin fishing above.  5,000 spread between the weir and the lake is not very many fish.  The past few weeks,  all fishing pressure has been down below the weir,  so even without a lot of people,  it seemed VERY crowded down there.  We should have between 15,000 and 30,000 fish counted by now…  A handful of kings,  but nothing to indicate we’ll see an opening this season on the Situk.

We should have rain off and on throughout the week,  which will help to keep the flows a little higher.  I heard rumor that a showing of fish arrived at Cape Mandy a few days ago,  so maybe the run is starting to appear.  Just not in the rivers yet.

And as always…  I also heard the rumor that there are thousands of fish in the mouth of the Akwe!  Tanis and I start commercial fishing tomorrow out there.  When there are no fish on the Situk,  the rumor that there are THOUSANDS on the Akwe always appears,  even if the fish don’t…  With the water so low and clear,  I bet they could see every single fish from the air,  but my hunch is the Akwe is just as late as the Situk and my expectations are low.  There have been a few day fly-outs to the Akwe and they did NOT report much.  A couple kings landed,  but not much in the way of sockeye.  I love rumors…  On Tuesday,  I’ll be able to confirm if there is anything worth fishing for out there.

OK,  I need to get packing and ready to fly out.  Chris will be in the shop through this opener.

Busy and Not-So-Busy

It is that summer season where I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do.  One of those things is keeping the blog updated.  I think I did a pretty good job through steelhead season,  but then I really dropped the ball through the pre-sockeye lull.

Oh,  what has been going on…  1) If you didn’t know this already,  we had an opportunity to buy the building here at the airport that the TSA and National Weather Service is in.  It is another older building that need a a lot of renovation work – exactly what I had time for…  We had been covering the “management” of it through the winter to help out a friend,  who was heading south for a couple months for some heath issues.  Well,  those health issues turned into going into hospice care till the end.  We decided to go ahead and buy into it as a partnership with another local couple,  but now it appears we have interest in renters for the remainder of the building – space that hasn’t been updated since the Forest Service moved out of it in the 70’s.  Complete with orange carpeting with cigarette burn holes throughout.  So,  this will be a complete resheetrocking of about 1,700 square feet,  new floors,  doors,  porches,  flooring, electrical,  heat and creating new ADA-compliant bathrooms and a kitchen.  By September 1st…  While we already need to remodel the other existing 5 bathrooms in the building to bring them up to ADA standards…

2) We’re also finally starting in on the hangar again.  Next month,  there will be two cruise ships coming to Yakutat for a brief visit.  The hangar will be one of their main stops,  where we’ll set up local vendors and assemble Yakutat’s motley fleet of aircraft for a bit of an aircraft museum-ish feel.  That mean I need to finally get the bathrooms in here too.  The whole hangar bay will need to be cleaned out and uncluttered,  so it is presentable…

3) We just held our first Saturday Market last weekend and there will be two more of those the last Saturdays of July and August.

4) Commercial fishing on the Akwe starts tomorrow morning at 6am and will run each week for 36 hours.  Tanis and I will fly out each Saturday night to do that and sometimes if Chris can cover the shop,  Teen and Eden will come out with us.  That’s what happens this week anyway…

5) We just picked up the mail handling contract with Alaska Central Express,  so every morning except Sunday,  we have to meet the ACE plane and haul the mail to the Post Office.  We’re one month into that now and I miss sleeping in!  I’m a little tired (and cranky) right now…

6) Our fueling project is finally moving forward after 2 years,  so that is also draining my time away,  but at least in theory that will help fund an employee,  so I can pawn some of this off on someone else to help with the workload around here.  In theory…

Oh,  there is more but I won’t belabor it right now.  Hopefully I’ll get to share some of it as exciting news,  rather than use it as an excuse for not posting any updates.  Now after my whining,  I’ll get a long-overdue fishing report in…