Category Archives: Alaska

What it Takes for a Perfect Photo

This was just sent to me and is worth sharing…  Dominica holding a deep red buck for a perfect photo:

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Beautiful sunny day,  big buck in spawning colors in the upper river.  But what did it really take to get this?

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We have all been there-done that…  Fish flopping all over kingdom come right when you snap the shutter.  They had a great trip with a variety of weather (including a rare sunny day) and loads of fresh fish.  Here are a couple more of the keepers:

Thanks Dominica for sharing these and sharing the fun moment with us.

The Bears this Year

Most of you have probably already seen this,  but it is worth posting here too…  Cody,  who guides for the Yakutat Lodge was driving along the airport road and this happened…  This is right next to Situk Leasing!  Sorry for his f-bomb,  but you’ll appreciate why…  This is about 200 yards from the fly shop and it has charged several other cars,  including most recently Greg who runs the fish plant when he was driving out here to pick up our load of fish…

The comment section is pretty funny too…  The people who insist this is fake and obviously have never been to Yakutat.  One said it was animation…  Dorks!  Best comment though is the following:

Gabriel Martinez1 week ago

in my opinion, the initial charge looks like a bluff charge, the bear comes at you bouncing off with the front paws, then it stops. Then, it charges again, as you hit the gas. This demontrates that you should never run from a bear, your best chance is to stand your ground, use bear spray or fire arm, but never run from it, or it will come after you. Great video, glad you were inside a car”

One guy with a lot of common sense…  If you run away from a charge,  it’ll chase.

Out on the Akwe,  the bears have been just as bad.  No video though…  Tanis and I had a really skinny sick-looking bear come down to the edge of the water and pull on our corkline when we were in the boat about 30 feet off shore (holding to the same corkline).  This week,  he and his brother tore Tanis’ net to shreds and skinned several dozen sockeye.  They look for hens and just suck the eggs out of the belly.  A few humpies were also bitten,  but it looked more like they realized it was a mistake and spat the humpy out as fast as they could…  If you have sockeye,  why dirty your taste buds with humpy?!?!

In addition to having my Honda ATV seat eaten,  one of our fish cans we load into the plane was chewed up last weekend and leaks fish goo all over the plane floor.  Not anything life threatening though.  Just a Nuisance.  Around the cabin on the Middle Italio,  there is a big male that has chased off the sow with three cubs.  She is now over at the New Italio/Akwe confluence.  She is a good bear mommy though and is training her kids to run away as soon as they see us.

Life in Yakutat!

Another Commercial Week on the Akwe

The kids and I are back from our commercial fishing opener on the Akwe.  We are having a slightly above average run this season (after last year’s total disaster run),  but certainly nothing record breaking.  Caught our first two silvers this week,  along with several chum and 4 kings (3 jacks).  We set the gear at 6am Sunday and started our week catching about 1/4 humpies.  At that rate,  we’d expect to switch over to majority pinks next week (we only get paid 25 cents per pound for pinks,  so hard to justify fishing for them financially).  Then Monday and Tuesday the pinks dried up and we were almost exclusively sockeye.

River is low and we were having outboard challenges.  We ended up putting on a new outboard right in the middle of the high tide we were supposed to be fishing,  so missed out on a lot of fish,  but the new (refurbished 20 year old Yamaha) outboard runs so much better.  60 hours of fishing with few breaks is getting harder to do as I transition to fat old man and lose all my youthful energy.  Thankfully I have Tanis to pawn off as much work as possible.  He laughs at me because I ask to sit and rest,  but get so frustrated watching him slowly pick fish that I’m back up in about 20 seconds to get the fish out of the web.

Weather has been consistently crappy – fog,  drizzle,  etc.  Perfect fishing weather.  Not so perfect flying weather.  Was grounded a couple times I needed to haul fish to town due to the zero visibility.  Now I’m just exhausted and in need of a nap.  Thank you for your patience with Teen in the fly shop and with our Sunday/Monday closure.  The season has only one more week for us out there – possibly two.  Then we hit the August humpy lull before all heck breaks loose for silvers.

Kings have Reached Lower Goal

As of this morning,  the king escapement on the Situk has achieved ADF&G’s lower escapement goal of 450 fish.  They have 466 large kings through the weir so far.  This is a huge relief,  since we have been consistently missing this goal for several years.  ADF&G has had to take drastic (dare we say draconian) steps to make sure the kings reached that goal.  Now that we have reached the minimum goal,  they said they are thinking of some short-term changes,  but wouldn’t specify.  I did ask if that meant opening the Rodeo Hole and that was a no-go.

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Photo by Pat Robbins of http://www.fishitalio.com

Next year’s parent year was the last time we exceeded the escapement goal,  so I’m hopeful we’ll have a bit more flexibility in our fishing regs.  That does NOT mean they will open kings for retention,  but at least we should be able to fish sockeye in the whole river!  Speaking of sockeye…

We are just shy of 62,000 counted fish,  so we’re close to doubling the limit.  I’d expect them to make that decision over the next few days.  It is apparent the Situk’s run was early and not extremely strong…  Odd because out on the Akwe,  the run is a bit above average,  but right on time.  East River is a good fly-out option as well,  since they are seeing an OK run out there too.

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Yes, sockeye feed!

The Situk’s run has just been weird this year.  And the pinks are starting to come in in big numbers,  making sockeye fishing at the lower end more and more challenging.  Few people have been fishing the upper river because there is a predominance of blushed fish up there,  but with the additional closure below and now humpies galore,  it is getting a lot more pressure up higher.

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You don’t hook em here by flossing…

OK,  my annual rant…  Had more than one new visitor come into the shop this season to complain about the other lodge guests badgering them immediately when they got off the plane about how you can only catch sockeye by snagging them…  I guess it is one thing for you to abuse the run and fish illegally because you don’t know what the $#@% you are talking about.  It is yet another for you to rag on people who DON’T want to fish illegally on the Situk.

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Hooked on the INSIDE of the li facing the fisherman, not the outside facing away as would happen with most flossings.

Do sockeye feed?  They don’t grow to 6 1/2 pounds by absorbing their nutrients through their skin (like their hooks).  Sockeye feed on zoo plankton and invertebrates in the ocean.  They don’t generally chase down other little fish like all the other species of salmon.  They don’t hit Pixees and Dolly Llamas,  so they get a reputation for being “uncatchable”.  Bull crap.  You just have to duplicate their regular food source,  which is some small twitching little speck.  Thus small and sparse (for salmon flies).  And you have to totally deaddrift to them.  They food isn’t high enough on the food chain to escape,  so any swift movement (either by stripping or swinging) is a turn-off.

I have no idea why anyone would spend thousands of dollars to fly to Alaska to snag fish.  This time of year,  it is the majority on the river.  My most frustrating time of year,  but also the most rewarding when I do get someone to do it right and they start outfishing everyone around them.  Including spin guys outfishing the fly flossers when they rig it right and get the drift down.

OK,  rant is over.  Thanks.

Sockeye Slowing

A great run this year so far,  but the past week has been significantly slower.  Not as many fish pushing in at the mouth of the Situk.  Still,  37,000 sockeye through the weir compares with only 8,000 fish same time last year…  So slower is relative…

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A nice slightly blushed buck who had been previously snagged in the back by someone downstream

Still not many fish at 9 Mile and above.  Either they are just not pushing up the river,  or they are pushing really fast and getting to the lake inn a hurry.  I’m inclined to go with the first theory,  since flows are a bit below 200 CFS.  Not a whole lot of river to encourage them to head upstream,  but still plenty to make floating relatively easy.

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Chris and Adam (from Yakutat B&B on the Bay-formerly Bayview Lodge) have been out a couple times and Chris finally gave me some photos to populate my infrequent fishing reports..

Heading out to the cabin in a few minutes,  but I’ll post another update from our trip last week next…

The Start of Our Season

Tanis and I head out to the Akwe River tomorrow to open up the cabin and get ready for our commercial fishing season.  As we flew home from Juneau last week,  it was high tide – sun glare in my eyes – wind whipping whitecaps on the river,  so I could not see any fish in the Akwe,  or New Italio.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t fish,  but that I couldn’t see…

The Situk run is still going gangbusters though.  The commercial fishery opened last Sunday there and it definitely took the edge off the number of fish in the lower river.  Sunday was still great,  but by Monday and Tuesday,  the fish were few and far between.  The best fishing right now is in the middle river from the cabins down. Although 33,000 fish have been through the weir as of Monday,  they haven’t made it up to 9 Mile in any great numbers yet.  So that’s 33,000 sockeye between the bridge and the weir…  WOW!

I talked to the fish plant manager yesterday and he said the fish are huge.  As in 10lb sockeye…  He said loading fish boxes was like silver season.  That plays into my delusional fantasy that last year’s dismal run is also coming this year…  Sockeye can be a 4 year or a 5 year fish.  Possibly if conditions were bad last summer,  the 4 year olds could have decided to be 5 year olds…  That’s my hope anyway,  since last year’s Akwe run was horrible.

Last year,  Tanis and I set our nets and immediately caught a nice big king (that I dropped and didn’t land).  That was the only fish we saw for the week!  Not even a dolly for dinner!  I had never had a zero fish week before.  The next two weeks,  we managed to land about 1200lbs of sockeye total with both nets.  Fish and Game shut us down for the season after that.  The Akwe has been having issues in recent years anyway.  The glacier no longer comes into Akwe Lake (it used to hang over a huge cliff and drain into the lake cooling the water).  Now the Akwe is just foreland drainage.  On an overcast day,  the water is 73 degrees F.  The majority of the sockeye just hang out in the New Italio/Akwe confluence hole for weeks and eventually they give up on the deadly Akwe temperature water an go up the Italio at a cozy low-40’s temp.  Sockeye are extremely temperature sensitive,  so they need cooler water.

The past couple years,  we have had warm summers.  In the Situk/Ahrnklin Inlet,  the water along the edge warms more than the deeper center.  The nets are usually along the edge,  so we have seen decent weir counts only because all the fish bypassed the warmer edges of the inlet and swam past the nets.  Not so this past week,  where the commercial guys had a really good opening week.  They also did really well out in the bay.  Lots of fish out there in the ocean moving slowly up the coast.

I’ll have a proper first-hand report from out at the Akwe for the guy renting the Ryman cabin on Tuesday.  In the meantime,  spectacular fishing on the Situk with not a whole lot of people out fishing.

Needing an Update

Yes,  I have been a little busy…  Sorry for the lack of posts…  Especially since we are having a TREMENDOUS sockeye run right now.  Last year,  we had 73 fish total through the weir.  As of two days ago,  we have over 25,000.  And basically no one here.  Is the run really strong,  or just really early…  no way to tell till it happens.  But boy,  the run is really on fire.  The parent year reached 118,000 fish and as of this date had 16,000 fish through.  We’re blowing the lid off that year.

And if you remember,  I predicted we’d see a 10,000 steelhead count…  Um…  it seems to be leveling off at right around 6,000…  In my defense,  we had a good storm right as the bulk of the steelhead were done spawning that flooded the river and made the weir non-fish tight for 4 days.  I’m going to say 4,000 fish escaped when the counters weren’t looking just because I want to be right and I have no other basis to prop up my argument…  It sure felt like a stronger run than that!

In other news…  I have my plane back finally.  It had been sitting in Sitka for the past 10 months,  after receiving a $17,000 annual that I couldn’t pay for till recently.  But she is back and we’re ready to go spend some time at the Italio cabin.  Speaking of which…

This has been a challenging year so far and so we are making a few changes.  My health problems over the past two months have taught me I need a day off occasionally…  We opened the fly shop 10 years ago this season working long hours without many days off for 9 months straight.  This summer,  we are going to be closed Sunday and Monday.  We’ll be back to 7 days a week in mid-August when silver season starts,  but in the meantime,  I’ll closing the doors two days a week to get a break.  Granted,  that probably means I’ll be out commercial fishing the Akwe with the family,  but if it isn’t a physical break,  it is a mental break from the fly shop and things I have to do around here.

It is hard living in your place of business.  You have no escape.  The phone rings 24/7,  customers come and go at all hours of the day and night…  In the past,  we said to just pull up and honk if we were closed and we’d come running downstairs to help.  I just can’t do that anymore…  Sorry.

And maybe I’ll even get a chance to fly fish for some sockeye again!  Haven’t done that in three years,  since I first showed Chris how.