Category Archives: Life in Yakutat

What it is like to live year ’round in this VERY small community.

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.

Our Subsistence Week on the Akwe

The Fish and Game biologist decided to close the Akwe River by emergency order last week.  We closed the shop and went out anyway!  Gorgeous sunny weather to start the week,  then it turned foggy and drizzly for when we needed to fly out.  So opposite of what we’d want – drizzle when fishing and sunny when flying…

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Not many fish in the confluence hole, just a few about 100 feet below.

I dropped the kids off the day before,  then Teen and I flew out late Saturday.  Tanis and Eden had much of the chores done.  Someone had borrowed our ATV sometime last fall and didn’t put it back under cover,  so a bear ate the seat ad the fuel tank was full of crud and water.  We spent most of Saturday getting the carburetor and tank cleaned out and the Honda running again,  followed by getting the boat on wheels and the outboard running again too Sunday morning.

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What is left of our Honda seat

Sunday noon,  we were ready to take the boat from the Italio to the Akwe.  Launched it,  went upstream to set a subsistence net and take a look at the river and fishing holes.  The week before,  the biologist flew the river and didn’t see any fish at all.  This time,  we saw a few from the air Friday and many more by Sunday from the boat.  We set the net in a pretty crappy spot – wide,  shallow and flat with less than 1/3rd of the channel blocked.  Went back to the cabin for lunch.  An hour later,  the kids went out to check the net and found 83 sockeye waiting.  We only wanted 30…  OOPS!

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and icing the catch.  Monday,  the weather was terrible,  so had to wait till 3pm to fly back to town with the girls and gear first,  then Tanis and fish last.  Didn’t get ready to start canning till about 6pm.

Cleaning and icing the fish,  with a school of baby salmon eating their aunts’ guts…

We put up 9 1/2 cases of jarred sockeye.  We haven’t canned fish for a few years,  so this will be nice to have through the winter.  Subsistence is a vital part of rural Alaska life.  It is so expensive to ship food in by air or boat that our local seafood and moose are our primary staples.  We dropped off half the fish at Glacier Bear and had them vac-pack and freeze them.  Saved one to bake fresh fir dinner.  And found a 5 gallon bucket of frozen moose meat in the chest freezer that was intended for grinding for burger,  so we canned it in chunks.  2 1/2 cases of pints in a 5 gallon bucket of moose meat,  in case you need to know for the future…

Took two days to process all the fish,  but we’ll have protein through the dark winter months this year.  I would have rather fished through the entire weekend and sold my catch,  but they are opening us this week.  Hopefully there will still be a good run ahead,  even though the Situk seems to be slowing down a bit.

A side-by-side comparison of raw and cooked sockeye.  That brilliant colored meat is what they try to dye the farmed fish to look like (and fail).  Cooked…  not so spectacular.  But it tastes incredible and is naturally packed with all that Omega 3 fat we’re supposed to be taking in pill form…  Good to have a full pantry.

And a boring video of Tanis and I cleaning fish…  You have to cut the dorsal fin off subsistence fish,  so it can’t be sold to the fish plant.  The boat was tilted and the seat very slick.  Hard to do anything with the slimy fish in that seat…  I don’t think the videos show for those of you on e-mail subscriptions.  Sorry.

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.

Yakutat Hiring Police Officer

Looks like the City and Borough of Yakutat is hiring a part-time police officer…  Anyone interested can contact the city.  The job posting is as follows:

PDF of the job announcement:  CBY YPD notice

And here is just page 1 as a jpeg…

CBY YPD notice_Page_1

AVEC Takes Over Yakutat Power

The Alaska Village Electric Coop has received approval from the Alaska Regulatory Commission to acquire Yakutat Power Inc.  The merger of AVEC and YPI has been a long,  drawn-out process spanning the better part of four years.  Next week,  AVEC will he holding a meet and greet for the community to answer questions and explain the details of the merger.  Here is the flier for the meet and greet event:

My Winter Distraction

Winters in Yakutat are supposed to be slow and relaxing.  The fly shop closes at the end of December for 3 months and I usually do a little construction on the hangar at a slow pace when temperatures are warm enough.  This year?  Nope.  Never a break.  Now I’m glad to have the fly shop open again,  so I can be tied down again and not have to be out running around.

Two years ago,  I stumbled into another incredible business opportunity that I didn’t expect (or need).  A friend of ours was the caretaker/manager of the building out here at the airport that houses TSA and NOAA (National Weather Service).  He developed a rare cancer and headed out of town to get some medical care.  Teen and I took over the basic cleaning and management of the building to cover till he could come home and resume his duties.  Unfortunately his condition worsened and he died a little while later.  The owner invested in the building intending to come fishing in Yakutat often,  but ended up also investing in a business in Hoonah and just stopped coming to Yakutat.  He wanted out,  so we walked into owning a building I didn’t need…

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The building is a bit over 6,000 square feet,  built in the mid-1970’s.  Used to house the Forest Service and much of the building hadn’t been occupied since they moved out to their current location in town decades ago.  The structure is excellent,  but the two government tenants only occupied about 2,000 square feet.  The rest (including an apartment) just sat empty and only partially remodeled.

I started working with the GSA over a year ago to see if the Park Service wanted some office space.  They did and they had some special 1,000 sq foot quick lease program that should only take a couple months to get through.  Over a year later…  They took control of the space in the building starting March 1st.  Here are some photos of the area we made into the new Park Service offices:

Kitchen_OfficeMain Public AreaRanger_Office

Some before and afters…

GSA gave us 40 days to complete the renovation from when they committed to the lease.  It was a mad rush to get it all done,  but they have a nice kitchen,  two small offices and the large public space for displays.  Turned out nice with the carpeting and natural local spruce trim.  I still have to convert the women’s bathroom to be ADA compliant and build the wheelchair ramp at the back entrance,  but that should be done before steelhead really ramps up mid-month.

This is a big building with a lot of vacant space.  We are going to be completing the apartment on the 2nd floor,  with two two-room suites that are still vacant on the 1st floor.  Two really large office rooms upstairs as well that we may convert to another apartment.  Yakutat has a big housing shortage and our airport lease does allow us to rent rooms in this building when there is a shortage and for airport activity.

It has really been a good investment,  but I honestly just don’t have time to deal with it.  With the fly shop and aircraft fueling and ground handling the mail plane contract and my goals to renovate the hangar and build the museum,  while still commercial fishing and…  If anyone is interested in a business investment in Yakutat,  let me know…