Category Archives: Fly Shop News

4,225 sockeye counted yesterday

 

The rain brought the river up (holding at 585 CFS right now) and all those fish that were stuck below the weir pushed.  4,225 went through,  but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like there are any fish coming up behind them to replace ’em.  And more bad news from Fish and Game:

News Release:  Situk,  Lost and Ahrnklin Rivers Closed to Sport Fishing for Sockeye and Closed Area Below Situk River Weir Expanded

From July 12th to August 15th,  sockeye salmon may not be targeted,  retained,  or possessed in the Situk,  Lost,  or Ahrnklin Rivers;  Sockeye salmon caught incidentally while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

(Translation:  You can still fish for dollies and rainbows,  along with any early humpies that may show up,  but you can not deliberately target sockeye (or kings) anywhere in the Situk,  Lost and Ahrnklin River Systems.)

Back to the News Release:  Additionally,  sport fishing is not allowed between regulatory markers located approximately 300 feet upstream of the Situk River weir (river mile 1.8) to markers approximately 2,100 feet downstream of the weir.  This portion of the river encompasses the entire “Rodeo Hole”.

(Translation:  The area around the weir to 100 yards above and below is always closed to fishing when the weir is in operation.  They just expanded the downstream closure to include the entire Rodeo Hole.  No fishing allowed period.  It remains open for the targeting of dollies,  rainbows and humpies below the Rodeo Hole.  But you can not target kings,  or sockeye at all anywhere in the system.)

Total count as of yesterday for sockeye is 9,489.  Year-to-date last year was above 52,000.  Yesterday was a good push and it came after the Emergency Order was issued.  If fish continue to move in like yesterday,  then we could see a reopening.  In the meantime…  ADF&G does not expect us to reach the minimum escapement goals for sockeye and kings this year.  If we don’t start seeing multiple day counts above 4,000 fish,  you can essentially write off this year.

Here is the Emergency Order in PDF:  20_E0-01-RS-H-20-18(F)1

And just in case we have all forgotten what sockeye look like:

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

Officially Opening April 1st, But…

We’re getting closer and closer and almost ready for the beginning of the 2018 Steelhead Season.  Fly Shop hours will be 10am to 7pm every day through the steelhead season beginning April 1st.  There will be a trickle of people coming earlier than that,  over the next week.  Although we may not be officially open yet,  we’re still here and can open for you any time.  You just have to give is fair warning…

Two rental trucks pulled up yesterday,  but bolted before I could get down the stairs.  We’re just above the fly shop in my office all day,  so if you need anything in the shop,  either call ahead so we’re ready for you,  or at lease honk your horn and wait a minute for us to get downstairs.  I’m getting too old to run down the stairs,  only to watch the van pull out without a glance into the rear view mirror…

Two gorgeous sunny days in a row.  Back to sub-freezing temperatures at night,  but a lot of warmth in that sun during the day to melt the remaining snow and keep the flows high enough.  Gage temp was 38F yesterday,  so around 40 at the bottom.  Flow is still right at 150 CFS.  That should mean we’re seeing the trickle of fresh spring steelhead coming in especially on the warmer day tide.

I don’t have a fresh fishing report from Chris because I made him help me mud and tape the apartment in our other building yesterday.  Spring is definitely here.  Warm enough now for me to start juggling my 20 or so projects all at once.  Trying to get the renovations done by the end of the month over there,  so I can be back on this side of the airport for when the fish start streaming in in better numbers.

Expecting the clear weather through this weekend,  then a change back to rain and snow Sunday.

Forecast

Eulachon are in the rivers now too,  with overfed eagles in all of the tree tops.  After starving through much of the winter,  spring feast is already upon us!

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Spawning Eulachon from a few years ago in the airport ditches

 

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It can be feast or famine here both for the wild animals and the local residents,  but at least the famine periods are brief (for the wild animals…)

My Health Update

Since I’m still getting concerned calls and e-mails,  I figured I better give you an update on my little health scare…

Hearing when I came home that some folks were spreading the rumor that I had a heart attack (something that would make me lose my pilot license) and that I was going to lose the lease on the hangar (I own the hangar,  so not likely),  I should probably set the record straight.  Yes,  it was a dramatic event that could have cost me my life,  but it didn’t…  The circling vultures can go look for another carcass now.

Monday Sept 11th,  I had a blood vessel in my stomach burst.  It is officially called a Dieulafoy’s Lesion,  which just means a blood vessel near the surface in the stomach region.  I had one of these wayward vessels right where my esophagus attaches to my stomach and it decided to pop.  Just a design flaw with me and it would have popped at some point.  Better to happen while in town than at the cabin,  where I’d have to fly myself back to town under duress…

So it popped and after throwing up blood a couple times through the day,  I acted like a “guy” and laid on the couch telling Teen “it’ll clot”.  Yep.  It basically clotted once there was no more blood to bleed…  The third time I tossed my stomach contents,  my vitals started to crash and even I was convinced it was time for 911.

I’m very healthy and active with a very strong heart,  which is probably why I’m alive.  I also think it contributed to masking just how serious the situation was.  In the ambulance and in the local clinic,  as long as I was lying down,  my vitals looked pretty good and stable.  Sit up,  or try to move much and it was like I was finishing a marathon and completely out of breath with 150+ beats per minute.

I was medevacced to Juneau via Guardian Flight (I highly recommend everyone get medevac insurance even if just for your one-week trip – a medevac flight costs upwards of $70,000 and is completely covered with our annual $120/year for our family).  At Bartlett Regional Hospital,  they had to give me 7 units of blood to stabilize me.  Most people only have about 8 pints total…  I have had a couple doctor friends tell me they are surprised I was able to survive this unscathed at all…

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My sis and I…  No longer bluish-white,  but far from feeling better

 

The primary concern was over my heart…  I spent more than a day essentially without blood to pump,  so they were looking at the potential damage this would have done to my heart.  Even before they did anything to stop the bleeding,  or look for the source,  they had me getting an ultrasound and MRI of my heart.  They needed to scope my stomach,  but were afraid I may not come out of the anesthesia if there was a serious heart issue…  So we waited another full day before the first scoping.  Fully under and intubated,  they located the lesion and put an alligator clip on the bleed.  No visible ulcers and my stomach looked good in spite of my frequent use of NSAIDS…

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Alligator clip in lower right – thought about having a blog pool for when I’d pass it as a fundraiser for the museum.  Still waiting…

 

About 12 hours later,  they intubated and scoped a second time.  Bleeding had stopped,  but they cauterized around the lesion just for good measure.  By the time they brought me out of the anesthesia the second time,  they had the full 7 units in me and I was finally feeling well enough to move around.  They still wouldn’t let me eat or drink anything (including water),  just in case they needed to do another scoping.  It was 5 days before I was allowed to swallow anything but spit.

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My first “clear liquid diet”

 

 

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The halibut tacos my sister had while I was still not allowed to swallow…  Thanks sis!

 

By Friday night,  I was well enough to move out of ICU and onto the regular floor.  This also signaled their willingness to let me have some liquids.  Chicken broth never felt so good going down!  Within a few hours,  they let me have solids,  so my dam burst and it was sandwiches,  soup and milkshakes every two hours until they had enough and released me Sunday morning.

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Feeling better and getting some exercise

 

Because of the potential heart damage concern,  they wanted me to take the nuclear stress test before I went home to Yakutat.  The earliest I could be scheduled for the test was the following Thursday,  so we were in a Juneau hotel for another week.  Thursday came and the insurance still hadn’t pre-approved the test.  They wanted me to stay through Monday to try again,  but this is mid-September with 1/3rd of the fly shop’s total annual business in one month,  a mail plane every morning at 4am to load and offload,  1-2 extra cargo plane flights daily loading 5,000lbs of commercial fish,  hangar winter storage starting to come in and a new aircraft fuel facility which still doesn’t have its self-serve credit card system functioning,  so we have to meet every flight and give them “full-service”.  All handled by Teen and Tanis.  They did a great job keeping all the plates spinning.  I couldn’t sit on my butt in Juneau any longer.

So this past week,  we headed back to Juneau for the test.  Preliminary results are that I do NOT have any long-term heart damage.  My full day delay in getting medical care didn’t cost me my life,  or my pilot’s license,  or end my commercial fishing and physically demanding lifestyle.  Just a few months of easing back into doing things and rebuilding my strength and stamina.

A friend who missed fishing this year had heart surgery a little over a week before my little emergency.  I have lost a couple friends and family members this year,  making my little adventure seem not so urgent in the overall scheme of life.  I’m on the mend and will be back to being fully healthy and fit in pretty short order.  I have much to be thankful for.  Especially thankful for the outpouring of support and encouragement so many have given to me and Teen over the past month.  There were far too many cards,  e-mails and phone calls to respond to,  but you are all a wonderful blessing to us.  And tremendous appreciation to my wife and kids,  who stepped in to keep all the stuff on my plate moving forward and keeping us from going under.

My mom and sister flew up from Seattle to be with me down in Juneau and it was a tremendous relief to have them there.  I also have to share one little story…  I’m in ICU and a guy walks past the windows (there is no privacy in ICU as described by my nurse as “I see you”) holding a vase of flowers.  A moment later,  he comes into my room with a bouquet from my CONGRESSMAN!!!  He is the personal assistant for Congressman Stutes and he offered his personal car to my sister if we needed to get around while in Juneau.  Only in Alaska!  If you don’t have a congressman like this,  you need to move,  or get a new congressman!

I’m still a bit weak,  but I hope to be out fighting a couple steelhead in another two weeks.  I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I can pull that off.  In the meantime,  I am so appreciative of the literally thousands of friends that I have had the pleasure to get to know because of the fly shop and through this blog.  Thank you.

Like I said,  this was just a little “design flaw” in me and this event would have happened at some point.  Just one of those things and nothing I could really have prevented.  It all worked out OK in the end and can be a good lesson in arranging our priorities in life.  There are a lot of things that aren’t nearly as important as we think they are at the time.  Life,  health and the love of friends and family…  The rest is just noise.

Bob

Fall Hours

Forgot to post that we have expanded our fly shop hours back to the fall schedule.  Open every day 10am to 7pm to make sure both jets are fully covered.  We will be closed September 15th though for Teen’s and my anniversary.  Yes,  thank you.  Just send gifts…  🙂

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.

The Run is Catching Up!

The sockeye run on the Situk is finally starting in in earnest,  with a weir count topping 18,000 fish as of yesterday.  We were way behind average,  but are now neck-n-neck with counts from the past two seasons and both those years hit 100,000 fish counted.  You can definitely catch fish throughout the entire system now,  whether above the bridge,  floating the river,  or walking up from the lower landing.

Fish size is still running a little smaller than average,  but not by much.  Expect to have 5lb fish primarily.  Fishing has been pretty good on the river.  In case you were wondering…  the commercial fishery has been poor.  This seems to happen every warm summer.  The nets are along the edge of the Ahrnklin Inlet,  with the deeper cooler water out in the middle.  Sockeye crave cool water,  so they seem to be bypassing the nets again and running right up the middle of the inlet missing the nets.  When you look at the weir counts,  there is no dip during the commercial openers this year.

Speaking of commercial fishing…  Tanis and I are going our thing on the Akwe River every Sunday and Monday.  Ordinarily Teen is here to cover the shop while we are out fishing,  but she is working day shift for KNIK Construction on the runway resurfacing project.  Chris is guiding most days,  so that leaves no one to work the shop Sundays and Mondays this month.  My apologies for the inconvenience,  but expect the shop door to be locked Sunday/Monday.  If you expect to arrive those days and need help,  send me an e-mail ahead of time and I’ll see about making sure we can accommodate you my hiding your order somewhere outside,  or arranging for someone to cover for a short time.