March will be March

Our spring weather has been all over the place,  but the good news is it is warmer and the trend will continue.  Started off the month with single digits,  but a little over a week ago,  it finally warmed enough to start showing again.  Three days later,  we had more snow than any other time this winter.  March can be that way.

A couple more clear sunny days and extremely cold nights came,  but then the snow returned and another foot fell.  Last night and this morning,  it was mostly rain,  with some sleet mixed in.  The river came up a bit and we have little to no river ice now.

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First wave of snow,  followed by a break…  The next nasty squall is looming in the background

 

Fishing is still pretty poor,  but a few really dumb steelhead decided it was time to bite again and woke up for a fight.  Again,  not anything to brag about,  but the fish that have been stuck in the deeper holes of the river through the winter are being caught on occasion now.

I’d say that if this was any other steelhead river,  you’d be pretty happy with hooking a couple fish right now.  But…  this is the Situk and we all have bigger aspirations for our steelheading experience here.  The conditions are dramatically improving though and I think each day will just get a bit better as we move closer to April 1st.

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We miss you Kristen

 

As I have said in blogs past,  the run is NOT going to be early,  but it will give us plenty of early April action.  I still think the winter fish in the lake will take their time before coming out to spawn,  so anything in the first half of the month will be these scattered over-winter fish that have been in the river the whole time,  or the fresh springers.  The we’ll see the winter run flush out late in the month.

We are definitely heading in the right direction,  even though we still have a ways to go.  We’re looking good for right now.

And it is finally warm enough for my water to work again in the hangar!  We haven’t had a flushing toilet since November!  Only had one toilet blow up from freezing,  so that is good.  This old building can be a bear to deal with,  especially when the temps get down to single digits.  I’m hoping we get running HOT water this summer too!  Oh,  the little joys in life.

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Tonight’s baking – your choice of peanut butter and regular milk chocolate chip

Warmer and Clouds Rolling In

The extremely cold temps continued since my last post,  so I didn’t see any point in telling you everything is the same…  Again…  But now we do finally have a change on the horizon!  We currently have a thin overcast layer covering Yakutat and the forecast is for snow for the next several days.  Not any big accumulations,  but we are breaking out of the single digit streak and getting closer to the upper 20’s/low 30’s.

Teen and I were going to drive out to the bridge and lower landing to see what the river looked like,  but it didn’t happen.  I’m blaming the %$#@ Daylight Savings Time!  That or the Russians…  Word is that 9 Mile has been completely frozen over for about a week.  It really isn’t expected to get above freezing in the coming week,  so I’m not expecting the river to start popping steelhead any time soon,  but at least the trend is starting to get a little closer to where we want it to be.

All the gages are still frozen and non-functional.

Don’t Expect an Early Run

Although we have NOT seen much snow this winter,  we have seen extremely cold temperatures through most of this winter.  Usually about 2-3 weeks of cold,  with a few days of warm,  then back to clear and cold.  Not much precip at all unless we’re hit by one of those brief warm storms,  followed by everything freezing in place for weeks.

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The white smudge was where the showpile was yesterday – DOT hauled it away (again)

 

Night before last,  we hit about 3 degrees F.  Last night was “warm” only reaching 9 degrees.  Tonight is supposed to hit 3 again.  Thick ice on all the lakes.  So…  my prediction…  Drum roll please (or dumb roll since I’m rarely right)…

Don’t expect the run to be early at all.  As much as I would love to see some traffic (and cash flow) as early as possible,  there won’t be much in the way of fish.  The river right now is freezing from the bottom and growing some thicker surface ice even in the flowing sections.  I did hear that the river went up over the past couple days and the weir radar gage confirmed that (the other gages are frozen).  Must have been some sort of ice dam upstream that let lose,  because the river didn’t add any water…  Enough to break up some of the ice sheets and coat both banks with slime.

Chris did go out last week with nothing to report.  He saw two fish and they looked frozen to the gravel.  No movement at all.  I can’t say I blame them…  One chrome and one blushed.  I know a few locals have been going out since we have such good road access,  with little or no success.  Yes an occasional steelhead has been hooked,  but I think that comes from just happening to hit the fish in the face with a jig,  or something.

Without the snowpack,  once it does warm up,  it will get warm quickly and stay warm.  When will that happen?  No idea.  We have single digit nights as far as the weather forecast goes right now.  There is nothing to entice any steelhead to come into the river now and for at least a couple weeks.  I believe the river will warm up quicker this year than the lake ice will melt.  VERY thick lake ice,  but no snow to filter the rain (if we ever see any rain) through to cool it down.

I think this season is looking a lot like 2011.  The 21st of March,  the river at the lower landing was still frozen over more than a foot thick – even below tideline,  but by April 1st,  we had a warm rain and all that ice flushed out.  It was another low snow year with easy road access all winter,  but very cold temperatures to freeze everything up.  That year,  we didn’t see significant outgoing kelts until about the 23rd of May.  Just a few days earlier than in 2012 and 2013,  so expect a relatively on-time run…  And if I really wanted to go out on a limb,  we’ll see the spring fish starting to come in first and second weeks of April,  lake winter fish dropping down 3rd and 4th weeks of April.  This is what the lower landing looked like in 2011:

It isn’t this frozen right now,  but with another couple weeks of these temperatures,  it could be…  And here are a couple photos of a frozen eagle Chris took a while back and I never posted…  The juvenile eagle tried to pick up a fish in the river when the temperatures were this cold.  He became coated with ice and couldn’t take flight and couldn[t climb out of the water with the ice-covered banks.  A couple days later,  we went fishing again and the trail was covered with his feathers after someone ate him.  Nature is tough,  especially at temperatures like this!

When Adversity Comes…

Seems to be a theme this winter…  We were hit with a pretty good storm last night (again) and we had some damage (again) around the hangar.  The last big storm shifted the credit card shed for the new fuel facility and was only upright because of the conduit holding it in place.

I parked the fuel truck in front of it to help block the wind and prevent it from doing even more damage,  but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do till the winds died down.  So…  I baked.

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Might as well warm the kitchen a bit by baking cinnamon rolls from scratch (with my cream cheese icing).  Getting fat doesn’t help solve the problems raging outside in the storm,  but it doesn’t exactly make them worse either.

Last night as the winds raged,  we heard a massive crash outside in the dark.  With it blowing upwards of 70 knots,  going outside was a dangerous affair.  Who knows what you could be hit by.  Imagine getting whacked by a bald eagle at 70 knots…  So I made cinnamon rolls again!

I made one batch of regular rolls and one batch of apple cinnamon/nutmeg/clove/ginger rolls with caramel over the top.  That’d be the apple pan already nearly empty on the right…  What was the frightening crash?  Only one of our old AS baggage carts (loaded with freight) flipping over in the wind.

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OOPS!  I’m kind of ready for these winter storms to be over.  I don’t know if I afford to keep eating like this!

Who’s Ready for a Yakutat Update?

It has been two months since I last posted anything…  WOW!  Time flies when you are otherwise distracted!

We are in the midst of yet another hellacious storm.  It is expected to blow up to 75 knots tonight,  after it blew all last night and today.  Driving rain at about 45 degrees is being forced in through every possible crack in the siding,  flashing and everywhere else,  so we have leaks all over the place.  Hard to get much sleep when every gust slams into this big ol’ building and feels like an unending earthquake.  Some terrible banging,  clanging and screeching sounds come along with those gusts as parts of the hangar try their best to hold on and not go flying off somewhere.

A couple weeks ago,  we were hit by a similar storm.  Hard winds and driving rain one day,  it blew itself out and we saw a lull,  only to hit us again the next night just as hard.  The roof on the Yakutat Lodge peeled off about 1/2 of their building,  two hangar doors structurally failed (but we were ready for them and had them secured and propped up as best we could).  A tree fell on a power line running out to the airport,  knocking power out for about 24 hours.  Our linecrew went above and beyond to get things fixed even with the winds still whipping at the wires.

It has been a cold winter,  although not a whole lot of show.  We seem to be having 2-week stretches of clear very cold weather,  followed by a warming spell,  then another deep cold.  As for the river conditions…  we have very thick ice on the lakes,  so I think the run will basically be on-time even though there isn’t much snowpack.  We had about a foot and a half of fresh snow right before this latest storm hit and it is all washed/blown away now.  As in nothing in the parking lot again.

I have only had two actual fishing reports through the winter…  One right before Christmas where Devon from Icy Bay Lodge hooked 9 in the very limited daylight hours.    That was midway through a warming spell that had just followed one of the deep colds.  So we’re probably seeing fresh fish every time the temperature rises and stays up there.  Of course with this storm,  the river is probably a little high…  OH what the heck…  let’s check the gage…

The regular flow gage is locked in ice and not functioning.  But the radar is showing:

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Ya,  that doesn’t really look like fun.  Considering what it was like just trying to get from the car to the hangar door…  I won’t be going outside unless I absolutely have to.  ACE Air Cargo ended up cancelling our mail flight this morning due to the weather.  They are hearty and usually come in regardless of weather,  but they overflew us in the morning,  carried our 1,100lbs of mail down to Petersburg,  Ketchikan and then after attempting to land here,  they brought it all back to Anchorage.  What a mess.

Back to the fishing report…  Wanted to point out that Fish Alaska Magazine has a great article on Icy Bay Lodge in the latest issue…  The other report came from a reliable local…  He went fishing during one of the clear cold spells.  Landed one steelhead,  but was suddenly surrounded by other locals who had been out fishing all day with zero luck…  It was pretty slow when the temp dropped.

It has been a frantically busy winter so far around here.  Tanis is away at boarding school – doing his senior year at GILA in Galena,  AK – 200 miles west of Fairbanks on the Yukon River(which means he won’t be cutting firewood this spring…).  He is thriving and loving the experience of NOT being HomeSchooled.  They took over a big chunk of the Airforce Base when it was being closed,  so have some incredible shop classes and facilities that we just couldn’t give him here.  He came back for 2 1/2 weeks around Christmas,  so I put him to work sheetrocking the rest of the 1st floor along the southwest side of the hangar.  Haven’t started in on the mud and tape,  with all my buckets of mud frozen…

We did get the contract to house the National Park Service in our other airport building.  We currently house the TSA and NOAA Weather Service there.  Less than 1/3rd of the building was occupied when we took it over,  yet it was profitable at that.  Another one of those golden opportunities that you just can’t pass up,  even though I don’t have time to deal with it…  We were notified by GSA that we were awarded the contract last month and were given 40 days! to completely renovate the space for them to move in March 1st.  Chris has been helping me immensely now that he is back from visiting his parents down in CO.  We just finished the last of the painting yesterday.  Installed new doors today and will start in on the floor prep to lay new carpet by this weekend.  We’ll have two apartments on the 2nd floor by summer,  although they won’t be available for fishermen.  Just longer term leases to the agencies and/or airport business.

Well,  I wanted to type something to let you know we’re still alive.  I have a backlog of phone messages I need to respond to as well as e-mails I managed to miss along the way.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get to them soon,  although with two weeks to go for the move-in,  I may have to continue to stall till March.

Hope you are all having a good new year and surviving the winter well.  The days are getting longer,  so the air will be warmer and the river overflowing with steelhead before we know it.  A few silvers in Tawah Creek as usual,  but not a whole lot this year.

More to come…

Cold

I think our fall season is over…  The temperature gage at the bridge is frozen and has been locked in ice for the past week:

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The flow gage is still functioning and read 109 CFS today.  It has been really cold for about a week and a half (my water is frozen in both airport buildings with burst pipes…),  but we are seeing a bit of a warming trend now.  “Warmer”,  but still cold.  Yesterday’s forecast was calling for snow today and rain tomorrow.  Gorgeous clear skies instead and the snow is pushed off for another several days.  Maybe if it did rain,  we could see some improvement in the water temp,  but I think we’re pretty much out of time and it’ll remain cold for a while.

I think our season is basically over till March…

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Wonderful Conditions Continue

Our boys (and one girl) came through on their way back home.  The pre-Thanksgiving fishing had most of the fish upstream,  with all of them colored up and no fresh chromers.  Over the weekend,  the weather changed,  warmed up,  increased the flows (but not flooding) and they saw a lot of fresh fish,  active and willing to hit anything.

They still did best on beads,  but swinging the big streamers definitely turned on.  They also reported only seeing the guys at the cabins (who left yesterday) and 4 locals around the bridge area.  They said they have been landing 3-4 for each person every day (for a group of 4),  with double that number with the non-landed LDR’s.  They also said there are a lot of BIG fish.

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So on the 24th,  we were down to 34 degree water.  Now we’re back up to 39.  Flow is at 228 CFS and holding pretty steady.  This last rain brought it up about 100 CFS,  but mostly soaked in.  No snow to speak of on the ground,  so the run-off is warm and not filtered through ice.  We’ll be getting a lot more rain (mixed with snow) through the week,  so we’ll see how long we can pull off these decent fishing conditions.  Flow is still low,  so we can still use another shot of moisture.