Tag Archives: akwe kings

Our First Week of Fishing

The Akwe River opens to commercial fishing the 4th Sunday in June.  Last weekend,  we had Chris cover the fly shop,  while Teen and Eden joined Tanis and I for the opening week.  Unfortunately it was yet another underwhelming opener for us…

It was a busy Saturday last weekend,  with Family Fishing Day at the harbor.  Tanis and Eden wanted to participate in that,  so we didn’t exactly get out to the river early…  Tanis brought out a cod he caught off the dock,  so our dinner ended up being one of those nice little bottom feeders from there in the greasy-oily boat harbor…  Yum…

A victim of Family Fishing Day at the Yakutat Boat Harbor

A victim of Family Fishing Day at the Yakutat Boat Harbor

Tanis had spend a week out at the cabin alone last month getting the nets ready,  so there wasn’t much for us to do to prep for the next morning.  Just getting the skiff down to the Akwe and into the water.  That went smoothly,  so we took some time running up the Akwe to see how many fish were in the river.  Greg from the fish plant had told me there were “thousands” of fish in the river,  so it was a bit disappointing to see “hundreds” in the Akwe/Italio confluence and then nothing…  Literally NOTHING in the rest of the river.  We blasted upstream about 5 miles from the mouth and spotted only one small pod of maybe a dozen.  That’s it.

Italio ahead

Italio ahead

Coming in for our approach

Coming in for our approach

With our lowered expectations in hand,  we went to bed early and got up Sunday morning.  The river constantly changes and this year,  we really have only two spots where we can set.  The rest of “our zone” is braided with multiple channels and very little water.  Out on the Akwe,  we have a gentleman’s agreement with Dave Brown – the other fisherman,  where we have divided up the river into “his zone” and “our zone”,  so we don’t have any arguments and bickering.  Our zone isn’t very good this year,  but other years we end up with a few holes that will hold fish and we spend our week sweeping them repeatedly.  Not in the cards this year,  but we’ll definitely save on gas.

Getting the skiff ready to tow down the beach

Getting the skiff ready to tow down the beach

Pulling the gas cans out of the tote

Pulling the gas cans out of the tote

Eating our wormy little guest from Family Fishing Day

Eating our wormy little guest from Family Fishing Day

We set Tanis’ net,  but the anchor dragged off the shore.  Had to pick it back up again and try again.  My set went uneventfully.  We swept the two holes (which consists of taking the jet-boat and doing circles starting at the top to sweep the fish downstream into the net.  Tanis’ caught about a dozen.  Mine netted us only 4.  Not quite enough to pay for the gas we burned sweeping.  Oh well.

The sun was out and the day tide was a small 6 footer.  There wasn’t going to be any big push of sockeye on Sunday,  so all we could do is try to rest as best we could and keep the nets as clean as possible.  With all this sun all spring,  keeping the nets clean isn’t such an easy task…

My set

My set

Tanis' set

Tanis’ set

Teen and Eden trying to hide from the flying slop

Teen and Eden trying to hide from the flying slop

Lots of shaping and shaking.  The moss builds up on the web pretty quickly,  making it very easy for the salmon to see the net.  You have to constantly shake and shake.  Some types of moss shakes pretty easily,  but there is one type that does NOT shake at all.  We had a mix of types.  We spend far more time shaking moss than picking fish this time of year.  Usually by September,  the constant floods of fall and lack of sun tends to keep the moss under control.  Not so during the sockeye run.

https://vimeo.com/132579718

The 11pm night tide was a good 9 footer,  but I expected to see a little action after the tide,  when it starts to get dark.  We did finally see some fish push in on that outgoing tide,  but not a whole lot.  We had a planeload by morning and I flew that to town at first light.  A little groggy,  but I’d rather get the fish out of there than have them sitting around in the sun,  with our problem juvenile bear.  We have a 3 year old who has been biting tires and gas jugs and ATV seats,  digging holes under the cabin and being a nuisance.

One of our kings...  Usually the king run has gone by us by the time our season opens.  This year,  we seem to still have them coming in fresh.  We caught 15 total between the two nets including jacks for the week.

One of our kings… Usually the king run has gone by us by the time our season opens. This year, we seem to still have them coming in fresh. We caught 15 total between the two nets including jacks for the week.

After my return from delivering fish,  our week was pretty much over.  We only caught another dozen or so fish all day.  Nets come out at 6pm Monday,  so it is a short 36 hours of fishing.  We essentially stay up the entire day and a half and fish continuously,  except for any brief chance to get an hour’s nap in somewhere.

It was great to have the chicks out there through the week.  Teen would have lunch ready for us when we came back to the cabin,  so that was sure a blessing.  Although with as slow as it was,  we had plenty of time to relax and rest between shaking episodes.

It was a quiet and relaxing week with lots of reading and cards and naps

It was a quiet and relaxing week with lots of reading and cards and naps

Contemplative

Contemplative

With our two nets,  we had about 1,800lbs total for the week.  We covered expenses for the week,  but have a long way to do to dig out of the financial hole of cabin permit fees and fuel expenses.  It usually takes till week #3 or 4 before we start actually making a bit of profit,  but some years (like last year) we never reach that threshold.  Last year was our worst sockeye season ever,  but I still get to go out and spend quality time with Tanis,  playing with ATV’s and jet-boats.  It isn’t all about the money…  It is about living a quality life and sharing it with those you love.

https://vimeo.com/132580667

And I’m very blessed in that department.  Even if the bank account doesn’t always show that.

And the footnote...  Usually we catch around 2 steelhead each year in the nets.  Last week,  we caught three.  One we were able to release successfully,  but two died.  We ate her.  She was very ripe,   but should have been long gone by the last week of June!

And the footnote… Usually we catch around 2 steelhead each year in the nets. Last week, we caught three. One we were able to release successfully, but two died. We ate her. It was nasty. She was very ripe, but should have been long gone by the last week of June! We have very little by-catch, but this week, we unfortunately had two steelhead we couldn’t revive. It happens.

P6290196

As I mentioned, we had a whopping 15 kings, but also three steelhead, one nice cutthroat (that we sent to town in case the fish plant would think it is a jack) and around 8 dollies. And three humpies! I have never caught a humpy opening week, so that’s not a good sign! We may only get 4 weeks of fishing in before the humpies take over and drive us off the river. I’ll keep you posted on that later…

It is FINALLY Raining Again!

I think we broke a record for the most days without rain.  In Yakutat,  that probably means 2,  since it usually seems like it rains constantly,  but…  It is storming like crazy out there,  with 40 knot winds.  The water flow has come up above “normal” for the first time in a month.  This’ll flush the rest of the steelhead out of the river quickly.  The run was basically over anyway,  with just under 7,000 kelts counted so far.  That makes for an “average” sized run.  6,868 total as of a couple days ago and we’ll squeak over that 7-grand total before it is over.

rd 2

There are pockets of sockeye in the lower river now,  as well as a few kings.  They actually counted two large kings through the weir already!  Woo,  hoo!  Chris and a friend went fishing below the weir night before last and landed a half dozen sockeye (hooking twice that fairly) in just a couple hours.  It is still very early,  but they are starting to cluster in large enough numbers to actually fish.

Tanis and I flew Eden down to “Horse Camp” in Juneau on Monday.  You could see a few fish in both the East and Akwe as we passed over.  Not a lot,  but starting to show a little.  I have also heard that a king was seen jumping at the Akwe mouth and the East – probably not the same fish…  “Probably”…

We’re in the long slow stretch between steelhead and salmon.  Just biding our time and getting a little construction done on the hangar during the break.  If you come through,  the door may be locked at the shop while we are in the hangar (or in my office watching a movie…).  As always,  just honk on the horn and we’ll be right there!

Today's spike in the flows

Today’s spike in the flows

Total steelhead count (red) compared to last year (black) as of June 2nd,  2015

Total steelhead count (red) compared to last year (black) as of June 2nd, 2015