Category Archives: Salmon

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…

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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.

Tsiu River Action

I’m going to cut and paste some info from our State Representative Louise Stutes.  She is the Rep for House District 32,  serving Kodiak,  Cordova,  Yakutat and Seldovia.  This comes from her newsletter regarding actions being taken regarding resource allocation on the Tsiu River.  In a nutshell,  the State of Alaska Board of Fish put restrictions through on one user group to benefit another user group,  without giving proper public notice and allowing adequate opportunity for public comment.  For years,  ONE lodge has been working to eliminate commercial fishing on the Tsiu.  This year,  they were successful in getting additional restrictions on the commercial fishery through some shenanigans instead of an open public process.

If you have been along for this ride for a while,  you know my odd and sometimes contradictory beliefs…  Yakutat is a small village with a very limited economic base.  For Yakutat to survive,  we need both the commercial fishery and the sport fishery.  If you are of a bent that would love to see the commercial fishery end so you get exclusive use of the resource for sport fishing,  you’ll find yourself unable to get here,  due to not enough passenger traffic to justify our twice-daily jet service.  Be careful what you wish for…  You need the cargo hold filled with fresh-market salmon for the plane to keep flying,  just as the commercial fishery needs your sporty butts in the seats to ensure that cargo hold still comes in every day for their catch.  Without both,  we lose both.

From Rep Stutes’ newsletter:

Board of Fisheries

At their recent meeting in Sitka, the Board of Fisheries passed a proposal that myself, Senator Stevens, and Cordova District Fishermen United are very concerned about.

Proposal 165, as noticed, was viewed by user groups as a housekeeping measure to adjust the marker, but what was ultimately voted on after it was amended by RC 331 was a very substantive shift in allocation that will cripple the set net commercial fishery on the Tsiu River.

To view Proposal 165 and RC 331 please click the following links: Proposal 165 RC 331

Basically, the public notice did not align with the intent of the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act as no one would have known that the proposal would affect allocation. The result was that there was a lack of representation at the meeting from the community of Yakutat.

Myself and Senator Stevens wrote a joint letter to the Board urging that they address this at the upcoming Board meeting on March 6th.

Cordova District Fishermen United also wrote a letter to the Board requesting identical action.

Specifically, we requested that the Board of Fisheries take up reconsideration of the proposal as amended or make a board-generated proposal to readdress the situation on the Tsiu River. If reconsideration is no longer possible, we requested that they formulate a board-generated proposal at the meeting that mirrors the original language in Proposal 165, put it out for public notice, and hold a special meeting in April to take up the proposal before the commercial fishery this fall.

This effort to segregate commercial and sports fishermen on the river through the Board process is nothing new. It has been attempted multiple times and has been fully discussed, considered, and defeated or overturned under reconsideration every time. Proposal 301, which failed 3-4 upon reconsideration, as well as ACR 9, which also failed 3-4, at the 2012 October work session were nearly identical to Proposal 165. Another Proposal, 247, which failed 1-6, in March of 2013 was much of the same. Because of this ongoing effort, a group of local entities and individuals approached the Board and set in place a process to form the Tsiu River stakeholders working group.

This group was formed with the expressed purpose of engaging in a collaborative process with all stakeholders on the river to address concerns of user groups. Participants include lodge owners, Yakutat Seafoods, guide businesses, subsistence users, commercial and sports fishermen, Yakutat Coastal Airlines, the City and Borough of Yakutat (CBY), and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Since the formation of the working group, annual meetings have been held in accordance with the agreement with the Board and conflicts have not been evident. All stakeholders were invited to participate, and it has been very successful in resolving any conflicts that have arisen between user groups.

I am very concerned about the precedent set when proposals are amended to the point where the public notice wouldn’t actually provide a reasonable person of notice of what would be voted on. Moreover, in this case, there is seemingly a subversion of an agreement with the Board of Fisheries, as well as a collaborative public process that has been effective in keeping user groups happy with access to their respective fisheries.

Hopefully, the large volume of letters that the Board received on this issue are enough to prompt their reconsideration of Proposal 165.

I intend to take a look at legislation in the future regarding how the Board of Fisheries notices and amends proposals to ensure that the public is kept in the loop about potential changes that could affect them.

Steelhead Startin’

Not much activity around here until today…  and yesterday…  Two small groups arrived yesterday and a couple more today,  looking for some steelhead.  Conditions are looking good,  but haven’t heard much off the river of late.  It was two weeks ago that the last word from some out-of-town sportie checked in.  Two guys looking for silvers ran into a group of steelhead fishermen down at the lower end.  It was the week of huge tides and both groups were working the bottom end.  Any fish that did come in would have pushed way upstream before slowing down.

I didn’t talk to the steelheaders,  but the two salmon guys did.  They said the steelheaders saw about 100 fresh silvers up around the weir,  higher than the salmon guys bothered to hike.  No mention of any steelhead seen or caught,  so I suspect they didn’t see or catch any…

A couple days ago,  I heard (again second hand) that our fish and game biologist hiked up to the boundary marker and landed two steelhead.  Flows were still up around 700 CFS,  so not exactly good fishing conditions even way up there.  But that is the first indication that there are steelies in the river now.

Conditions are just now down to where we want them…  Yesterday and today,  the water temp didn’t rise much above 42 degrees,  right where we want it…  Flow on the 27th broke through 1300 CFS,  but is now back down to 401 and continues to drop.  Not looking like there is any precip in the forecast for at least a week,  with sun breaks and overcast.  Temps aren’t supposed to be much below freezing either,  so my guess is the water will slowly continue to drop and water temp will remain relatively stable around 40 degrees.

So conditions will look really good to attract our fall run this week.  May not be a whole lot of them in the river yet,  but that should improve through the week.  Not bad!

And “worst case”…  there are still a few fresh silvers coming into the Situk as well as Lost and Tawah.  No ice on the lakes,  so I may try to squeeze in one trip into Pike Lake before the season comes to a frozen halt.  Without Chris here to help me on the river reporting,  I’m going to have to break down and actually go fishing again – something I haven’t done on the Situk since November last year…

Watching the Temperature

Mid-October and we’re all waiting for the arrival of our fall steelhead run.  The key trigger to push fish into the Situk seems to be water temperature.  As the temp drops into the 6-4 degree C range,  we see fish pushing in. That’s 43-38 degrees F for those of us that are Celsius-challenged…  Once it drops much below that range,  they tend to stop until we ether see a mid-winter warm spell,  or the eventual spring thaw in April.  Really,  about 36 degrees is where everything comes to a halt for the winter for additional incoming steelhead.

As of right now,  we’re still hovering about 2-3 F degrees too warm.  We have been seeing the average temperature drop that much over the past week,  so in another week,  the trend should be right about where we want it to be.  Almost there!

Temp

Looking like a November 1st start for our fall run,  with it improving daily through the first half of the month.  Getting closer,  but no reports of any steelhead in the river yet.  Chris went fishing the past couple days and hooked into a lot of silvers and dollies,  with a couple resident rainbows to round things out.  Also landed a gorgeous sea-run cut on Tawah last night.  He thought he had a steelie that took a drifted egg,  but instead it emerged as a HUGE dolly up above the bridge.  Nope,  not yet!

On the Mend

It is once again stormy and nasty up here,  after a two-day sun break,  which followed a week of back-to-back storms.  This latest round is supposed to be intense,  but die off quickly tomorrow.  The rain started at 2am and the wind hit around 5am.  Not a fun day to be outside.

Flows on the 4th topped 1,600 CFS,  dropped to 1,100,  back up to over 1,300 and then yesterday bottomed out around 800.  So the Situk is basically unfishable right now.  The commercial season ended on Thursday,  with the big “fishermen’s party” at the Glass Door Friday night.  Our salmon season is coming to an end for 2017.

Still some fresh silvers coming into the Situk system,  but with the water the way it is,  you’d be hard pressed to make contact with one of them.  Tawah is where most of the late season sport fishermen are concentrating,  while the outlying fly-outs like the Italio are still going strong.  Chris comes back from his season on the Akwe tomorrow, so I’ll get his impression of what that run looked like and whether it is still going on.  I bet the Akwe is raging though,  regardless of how many fish may be in there!

And I’m doing much better with a little more energy each day.  It has nearly been a month,  so I’m beyond frustrated with not being able to do much.  So many things I need to get done,  but so little resources to make it through the day without a nap,  or some “quality time” sitting on my butt.

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A juvenile eagle in his nest,  where he should be…

 

But I’m not the only one on the mend right now…  This happened over a week ago,  but thought I’d share…  A juvenile bald eagle was found with his leg caught in an old abandoned trap out in Russell Fiord.  “Frustrating” that we have a trapper,  who doesn’t retrieve his traps at the end of the season,  or at least trip them…  So the eagle was found with a broken leg and the folks at the Forest Service went in and pulled him out.

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An eagle in a dog crate,  where he shouldn’t be…

 

He was shipped off to Anchorage on ACE Air Cargo,  along with about 5,000lbs of fresh coho salmon…  Probably not the nicest cargo for a hungry and injured eagle to have to smell for the whole flight,  but that was the first available flight out.  Hopefully he is healing and can be released at some point.

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This is a time of year when we have to be careful driving around the airport and out toward Cannon Beach.  With all the salmon spawning in the man-made drainage ditches around the airport,  you have dozens of eagles sitting on the shoulder and/or in the middle of the road where they drag fish out of the water and onto dry land to feast.  Tawah’s January/February silver run can be a tremendous attraction for the eagles with little to no food for them to get through the dark and snowy winter.  You’ll see horrific scenes of blood all over the snow till you realize it wasn’t a dog getting hit by a car,  but a big salmon smashed and splattered all over the place.

Ahhh…  life in Yakutat.

Loading the cargo into the ACE Beech 1900…  Fish first,  then putting the bird in behind the net.  I didn’t hear what happened to him after he departed YAK,  but hopefully he will survive the ordeal.  Thank you to the Swansons for helping this guy out and helping load him.  Not that he weighed much…  They are amazingly light.  I still wasn’t being allowed to lift anything by orders of my wife.  I hate just standing around watching other people work.

The Phones Work!

It is a stormy day today and virtually no one is out fishing.  I heard one flight this morning as a fly-out to the Italio,  but that was it (although I may have slept through the rest).  Blowing about 40 knots against the side of the hangar,  but no leaks yet…  Make that a small one,  with the driving rain slamming into the wall and up inside the siding.  Maybe I should have looked before I started typing…

This storm is supposed to blow out by 10pm.  Flow is already up to 1,200 CFS,  when it was just 300 this morning when we opened.  Like I said,  supposed to blow out tonight and change to just showers for a couple days,  a couple days of sun and then some more showers.  So this’ll drop quickly once it actually stops raining.

flow

And we have received two phone calls in the past few minutes.  So they fixed the phone lines now at the airport.  No more threat that Alaska Airlines will cancel their flights again…  At least not for that reason.