Monthly Archives: June 2018

Something Good to Talk About

Back in May,  I stumbled onto a blog post for someone who was coming up to fish steelhead in the Situk for the first time (Living on River Time).  Since we’re in a lull right now,  I went back to see how her trip went.  She has three posts about her Yakutat trip,  but Amanda’s other posts are well worth reading too.  She is definitely doing a better job of posting than I have been!

Looks like they arrived just before the river blew out and got to see a lot of rain fall.  Not exactly ideal conditions for a once-in-a-lifetime trip,  but we’ve all had our trips turn out a little uninspiring on occasion.

Here are the three posts about Yakutat

Trip Prep:
https://livingonrivertime.wordpress.com/2018/05/12/last-frontier-pre-trip-prep/

The Adventure:
https://livingonrivertime.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/last-frontier-the-adventure/

The Reflection:
https://livingonrivertime.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/last-frontier-the-reflection/

Like I said,  she is a good writer and worth taking the time to read.  I’m adding a link to my “Fly Shop Friends” links…  Bummer I didn’t get to meet them,  but maybe next time…  I rarely get to fish anymore,  so it is nice to at least get to experience the adventures of others…  Thanks Amanda!  Keep it up.

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ADF&G News Release – Situk Closure 2018

Well,  I seem to be making up for my lack of posts today…  Our local ADF&G biologist just stopped in to give me the bad news…  As of Sunday morning July 1st,  retention of sockeye on the Situk River System will be prohibited until further notice.

23% of the run should be in the river and already counted by the 28th of June.  We only have 1,678 as of today.  Barring a miracle,  we will not be coming even close to the minimum escapement goal.

Commercial fishing on the Situk/Ahrnklin Inlet is also closed until further notice.  The news release says,  “ADF&G will continue to closely monitor sockeye salmon returns and TAKE ADDITIONAL ACTIONS as necessary.”  I can’t imagine what more they can do than closing sport retention and commercial fishing.  Subsistence for local rural Alaska residents will still be allowed for the time being.

Retention is closed.  Catch-and-release is still legal,  so if you aren’t looking to fill your freezer,  this can still be a fun time to be on the water.  Especially since most of the visitors will be thinking about cancelling their trips,  leaving the river vacant to other anglers.  Also,  there were decent fish in the Akwe when I flew over.  I didn’t really look hard in the East River other than for kings at the mouth,  so I don’t know what is happening there.  But this closure only effects the Situk and not Italio,  Akwe,  East and any other rivers in the area.

Here is the press release:
Sockeye Closure

Can We Look Toward Silvers Already?

Hoping to think about something better than the current sockeye situation…  Silvers will be right around the corner.  As I mentioned,  I flew down to Sitka last week and passing the rivers,  I took some pictures of how the river mouths are looking this year.

Old Italio:

P6230019

Looks pretty normal.  Not a lot of fish hold in the lower river,  so most fishing is upwards toward the creek and above.  Between where the creek enters and the water spreads out over the flats,  each curve cuts a hole that silvers stack up in.

 

Middle Italio:

Middle Italio has a huge sweeping curve at the mouth.  Id expect there to be 5 really good holding holes down there below my cabin,  providing the loop remains and doesn’t cut through to an Ox Bow.  Absolutely no hole in front of my cabin this year.  It has completely filled in and was just a braided flat when we were last out there on the ground.

New Italio/Akwe:

The confluence looks pretty normal,  with a nice deep hole where the New Italio enters the Akwe.  The Akwe continues its march down the coast toward Yakutat.  It dumps into the ocean well this side of the old Italio River Adventures camp.  The old trail through there now goes around a curve and drops off 20 feet into the water.  Be careful if you are riding the Ryman Camp ATV through there!  The Akwe is growing longer,  but it isn’t gaining any gradient.  The river below the confluence is just a big-wide flat with no place for fish to hold once they get through the gauntlet of seals at the mouth.

East:

P6230026

Looks pretty normal.  I did NOT see any kings in the mouth as I flew over.  This should be the prime window for kings there,  but they don’t always nose their way into the East and can go straight into the Alsek.  I heard Alsek is having a good king run this season.

I’ve Been Stalling…

It is so hard to get motivated to post a dismal fishing report,  so I have not posted much lately…  And the sockeye run right now is dismal.

As of yesterday,  the weir count total was just 1,410.  Compared with last year the same date,  we had 36,629.  The optimistic side of me wants to throw out 2017 (and 2016 and 2014…) and compare to the 2015 run.  That year the count reached 94,987 – even higher than last year.  But…  as of yesterday’s date,  the 2015 count was 5,596.  We’re still at a quarter of the fish through the weir,  but that run arrived late and was just starting to pick up as of this time.  A week from now (in 2015),  we were seeing between 2,000 and 4,000 fish every day.  Right now,  we’re still seeing double digits most days with the top day having a little over 700 fish.

The pockets of fish down in the lower river are all getting hammered on pretty hard.  You can get a limit,  but it takes all day and a lot more work than we are used to.  Yes,  fishing is going to improve,  but this year’s run is a pretty big disappointment.  I know a lot of people are cancelling their trips,  which is probably a good thing.  It will leave more space on the river for those who are still coming and give them a better experience without heavy crowds.

This is looking like a really tough year for Yakutat.  Without some more sockeye showing up,  both the commercial and sport industries are really going to suffer,  making this coming winter a challenge.  Let’s hope the run is late and will be coming in after all.  But it isn’t looking too good right now.

On slightly brighter news…  I flew down to Sitka a few days ago for the annual on the plane.  Flying over the Akwe River,  there looked to be some good pockets of fish throughout the river.  Not huge numbers,  but enough.  Tanis and I will NOT be fishing this year though.  He will be leaving for AVTEC mid-summer and there is too much to do around here before he leaves.  First time I haven’t commercial fished sockeye since Eden was born 15 years ago.  OK,  maybe that wasn’t all that bright of news…  The fish – yes.  The not fishing – nope.

First Sockeye…

The sockeye run is starting off very slow with only 15 fish counted through the weir.  Chris went fishing last night and landed his first several sockeye (and frustratedly tried to shake that darned steelhead off his line).  He said there was about a dozen fish below Rodeo,  but they weren’t in a good position to drift to.  Working their way downstream,  just pockets if a couple here and there.  Pretty depressing.  Then they spotted a seam with about a dozen and actually landed 6 of them!  After exhausting that group,  they headed down toward the take-out and spotted another 30 fish in a group.  They hooked several more of those (and impressed the only other fishing group with their ability to get sockeye to take flies…).

So I’m still holding to the idea that the run is a week or two late.  Usually right around the 1st of June,  there are enough sockeye for us to hook a few,  with no competition.  These small groups will shut down quickly with more pressure.  Fine when you are alone,  not-so-fine when you have to compete for the few small bunches of fish.

Chris showed me some pictures,  but didn’t send them to me…  He also asked if we had seen the moose cow and calf running around in the fly shop parking lot a couple nights ago…  Nope.  I guess they clomped around on the pavement for a while before heading off.  He had a brief video of them,  but probably too dark for me to post.

So another post with no pictures to make it interesting…  But I had a genuine sockeye report…

Sightings

Last night as I was driving into town,  something was in the middle of the road.  With my old fart deteriorating eyesight,  it looked like a very small child on a very small bike heading to Glacier Bear down the main road.  For those of you who haven’t been to Yakutat (and it always amazes me that the vast majority of readers haven’t…  How did you even find my blog and why?!?!),  the airport is about 3 1/2 miles from “downtown”.  Glacier Bear Lodge is about half-way to town.  Just before you reach “the intersection”,  there is a bridge that crosses Ophir Creek,  then it rises and does a small S-curve.  Then you are in town…

So this kid was just this side of the Ophir Creek bridge.  As I got closer,  I could see it was really a baby moose,  standing about 3 feet tall on his spindly legs.  He trotted off down the side road to the old Coast Guard station,  no sign of mom anywhere.  Hopefully she’ll find him,  but if not,  he’ll end up as food for wolves,  coyotes,  or bears.  Every spring out at the Italio cabin,  we would see fresh baby moose tracks running around with a cow,  then about a week or so later,  we’d see bear scat with baby moose hooves clearly visible.  It is a wonder anything can really survive out there!

Anyway…  I didn’t have a camera with me of course,  but here are some photos from several years ago when we stumbled upon a similarly sized moose calf out at the Italio.  We were driving the ATV back to the Dangerous River (about 7 miles from the cabin) and you could see tiny tracks all alone wandering all over the sandflats.  We came up to this little dehydrated/exhausted ball of fur on the sand.  He eventually stood up,  but didn’t run off.  He was at least two miles from the nearest tree,  so mom wasn’t going to find him out there.  My guess is he didn’t make it through the night.

Once in town,  I asked Fish and Game if it was legal for me to take him and feed him and keep him alive.  They wouldn’t tell me it was illegal,  but advised against it…  Too late by that time.  Hopefully this latest little guy will find his mom and have a chance survive.  This is a hard place to survive!

On this same trip to the cabin,  we also saw a bald eagle right along the surfline.  As we drove closer,  we discovered he was about to peck the eyes out of a tiny baby seal.  The mom seal was franticly darting back and forth about 50 feet off shore in the surf,  but obviously had no ability to get her stubborn child back into the water,  even with an eagle about to peck out his eyes!  So we gently shoo’d him back into the water and to his mom’s safe flippers.

It was a busy week for critters that week back in 2005 (isn’t Tanis adorable?)…  Right outside the cabin door,  there was a robin nest with a bunch of bright blue eggs…  There is so much life around here (and death).  What a place to live!  You can come and visit for a week,  but we get to live this every day of the year!  We have so many blessings.

Alive and Well…

Yes I’m alive and no,  the website is not down…  I just haven’t made a post in nearly a month.  Teen,  Tanis and I have all been battling the horrible lung infection/cold that has been tormenting Yakutat since last fall.  Finally feeling better now.

Few if any fishermen through the shop over the past couple weeks (good,  so I didn’t spread my disease to anyone).  A couple of our frequent fliers for steelhead just left. I think they had 4 trips this season???  We’re well into June,  so I suspect they are our final steelheaders.  They said not many fish in the upper half of the float,  but they camped in a couple spots down closer toward the weir and had a 50 fish day yesterday.  Mostly chromers that have continued to trickle in,  even though we’re seeing thousands going out.

Yes,  ADF&G did eventually get the weir in…  Due to the high water flows,  they missed about 2 weeks of out-migrating kelts this year.  No idea how many fish they missed and no real way to estimate.  A LOT could have left during the flooding.  The count as of right now is 2,846 kelts.  And they don’t show a single sockeye going through upstream yet,  even though a couple have been caught up above already.  Looking like the sockeye runs may be a week or two behind normal right now.  Over on the Alsek River,  subsistence nets have not been catching any sockeye and by now they should.

I have lots more to say,  but my noggin isn’t firing on all cylinders yet and I’m going to end this here before I embarrass myself…

And by the way…  with business as dead as it is right now,  the fly shop will be closed Sunday and Monday for the next couple weeks.  We’ll be back to daily ops when people start showing up again.