Tag Archives: akwe river

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.

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.

Three Weeks of Sun!

We have had more than three straight weeks of gorgeous sun.  The rivers and streams have all but disappeared.  Situk’s flow is down to a paltry 118 CFS,  but water temp is down to a high of 43F and low of 40F.  That means we are in the temperature range for the fall steelhead to start coming in!

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These sunny clear days are to continue through the rest of the week,  with a chance that we’ll see rain moving in by Saturday.  We need it!  The local subsistence moose season opened three days ago and from what I have heard,  everyone who wanted a moose seems to have gotten a moose.  We still have quite a bit in the freezer and with Tanis away this winter at boarding school,  we aren’t going through nearly as much food as we usually do…  These photos are from last year…

Chris just came back today from the Akwe River (and Yakutat Coastal flew their last flight and headed south for the winter too).  Chris said the fishing on the Akwe these past three weeks has been absolutely spectacular.  Every cast…  which he said gets a little boring after a while…  Same thing off the Italio – spectacular end to the season with tons of fresh silvers,  once the hordes of fly-outs had subsided.

Situk had a late push of fish as well,  but not like Akwe and Italio.  There was a wave of smaller hens that came in for about a week,  but it is all but done (again).  Lost and Tawah are really a bust.  One group came through a couple days ago that caught some nice sea-run cutthroat on Tawah,  but all the salmon were old and spent.  There are no fish at all in any of the drainage ditches around the airport…  Usually,  we see (and smell) a lot of rotting carcasses with silvers scattering under the branches as we take our nightly walk around the loop.  Absolutely no fish at all anywhere around here!

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So now we just wait for confirmation for the fall steelhead run.  With Chris back,  he’ll be anxious to get out there,  but probably needs a few days to catch up on things around here and get some sleep.  I’ll let you know what we find in about a week.  In the meantime,  we’re gearing up for the winter storage season,  getting the hangar cleaned and organized to fit as much in as we can.  Although we have more space this year than we have had in the past,  we expect to fill up quicker because of quite a bit of new storage coming in.

I’m still working on getting all the artifacts put away for the season too.  Boy,  it has been a very crowded year,  but all in very good ways.  We certainly learned a lot about organizing an air show and fly in,  even though we ended up cancelling the main event.  I had never cooked for more than a dozen people,  so cooking for 80 was a learning experience.  Hopefully we’ll catch up and recover quickly and I’ll get some of the things posted that I want to talk about.

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A repost of John Hohl’s gorgeous steelhead,  as a primer for what’ll be in the Situk in the next several weeks…

Hard to Stay Motivated

This has been a hard season to stay motivated about posting yet another dismal fishing report…  That’s my excuse for the lack of fresh ones.  “Yep,  another mediocre day on the Situk…”.

Situk had a nice little shot of fish come in fresh two days ago,  but these fish pushed hard to get a couple miles upstream before they slowed down.  The previous day probably had the same thing happen because there was another batch of chromers about half-way down the float.  Otherwise,  all the fish above that point seem dark and lethargic.  Didn’t talk to anyone yesterday that had fished the Situk,  but one group was able to land a few nice ones on Tawah.  Not a lot of fish in Lost or Tawah,  but the ones that were there were feisty and active.  Still hearing that the fish are huge this year.  Not many,  but the ones that are being caught are tipping the scales around 16lbs pretty consistently.

Best fishing by far the past week has been off the Italio.  Both Old and Middle are fishing really well.  A group leaving town yesterday said the fishing had been slower than normal,  but they were leaving with more pounds than they ever have due to the big size of the fish.  Reports off the Akwe have also been very good lately,  from both day fly-outs and the two camps out there.

The Middle Italio is of course my home,  where I grew up and where I raised my kids.  I’m a little protective of it and its reputation.  This season has been hard on that tiny little stream.  First off,  the run on the Italio has been just as poor as everywhere else this side of the bay,  so fishing hasn’t been all that great.  But it has been better than the dismal fishing most have experienced on the Situk.  Because of that,  the Middle has been overwhelmed by massive numbers of fly-outs.  The fish weren’t stacking up like normal,  so the fishermen ended up on top of each other,  making the experience horrible for everyone involved.  Yes,  most people still left with their limits,  but it took all day to land a measly 4 fish.  That should usually take about 15 minutes with poppers,  let alone sub-surface streamers.  Italio was one of the better rivers and definitely the highliner for the east-side streams,  but it was still poor for what we’re used to.

Middle Italio is doing good right now though and will continue to do well throughout most of October.  Tsiu is also continuing to be great even now.  The rivers on the west side of the bay haven’t had any of these numbers problems,  unlike ALL of the east-side streams.  Good runs,  consistent bite and a lot less pressure than over here.  A lot of the best fishing spots are self-limiting,  since there are no real landing strips and the air taxi’s have to time their drop-offs and pick-ups with the tide and flood conditions.  It has been a far better experience for everyone who flew that direction instead of Italio this year.

Now we’re just waiting for the fall steelhead run on the Situk.  I just talked with one of the Fish and Game biologists who spent the past month out on the Tsiu.  They only had three commercial fishermen this season,  so that pressure was very light.  They caught about 20 steelhead in their nets out there this season and many of the sporties also landed steelhead.  There were a couple landed on the Situk as well and the weir saw a couple before they pulled it in early August.  We still have about a dozen degrees to drop before we should see the real run come in,  but that could be happening a little earlier than November.  I’ll try to keep as close an eye on that as I can this fall,  since there are a lot of people hanging on a last minute decision to come for the fall steelhead run.

Big changes coming in the new year around here!  The Yakutat Lodge sold as of October 1st and the new owners took over yesterday.  They are still open and plan to be serving food for another week or two.  They may keep going through November,  but it depends on how things go over the next couple weeks.  It would be nice to still have some services through the fall steelhead season.

Better News and Not so Better News

This afternoon,  we had a couple reports from the mouth of the Situk.  Some really good fish coming in at last!  And that is with the commercial nets going into the estuary two days ago…  Can this mean we’re finally starting to see the east-side rivers and their runs arriving?  I hope so.  Good reports off Italio for those fishing the mouth of the Middle.  Good fresh fish coming in there as well.  Lots of fish up at the spruce and alder holes,  but those fish continue to ignore what you throw at them.

And for your next weather report…  We’re expecting a 50 knot storm with about 5 inches of rain to hit us tomorrow afternoon.  This looks to be the worst storm of the season so far.  It could be that these fish are pushing in ahead of the storm instead of the run coming in in earnest,  but I’m choosing to still be optimistic.  Once things settle down after the storm,  we’ll see if there are more fish behind these ones.

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Yana continues to be the star river for the region,  with Italio limping in a distant second.  Akwe reports have been pretty poor for most,  but a couple people out there did just fine.  Akwe is an odd animal and you really need some experience to know where the fish like to hold and where they don’t.  This year with the runs being so late,  that only gets magnified without waves of silvers stacking up everywhere.  Also a mixed bag from the East River.  One good report and several poor ones.  Depends on if you are on the fish or not…

The bite had been very slow the past few days on the Situk,  with the few fish coning in pushing far upstream before they settle down.  As high as 8 miles before the fishing gets good,  so the early part of the float was much better than the end.  That is opposite of what we normally expect this time of year,  with most people rowing downstream to get to the lower half as quickly as possible.  But with a fresh batch coming in today,  we could be back to “normal”,  whatever that is now a days…

Nasty WX Today!

It is blowing hard with expected gusts to exceed 60 knots and potentially up to 5 inches of rain TODAY.  It is intense,  but also supposed be short-lived,  with rain ending around 7pm.  All I can say right now is that it is miserable out there right now!

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Then best and most consistent fly-outs have been to the west-side streams.  Yana and Yahtse have been exceptional this weekend.  Italio seems to still be hit-and-miss,  with some groups doing fine and others not-so-fine.  Akwe has been good though.

We need this rain,  but hopefully it won’t blow the rivers out.  The wind is the problem right now.  Situk has had good fish coming in,  but the bite has been inconsistent at best.  Lost and Tawah just picked up a couple days ago.  Still takes work,  but getting better.

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In Dire Need of Rain

Flows on the Situk are down to 177 CFS this morning,  so we’re in dire need of some rain.  Be careful what you wish for…  It has started to lightly sprinkle and is supposed to rain (or shower) throughout the coming week.  It’ll take quite a bit of rain to saturate our parched ground and bring the river up.  Probably not happening today,  but by Tuesday we should see the river where we want it.  It looks pretty light through most of the week,  with occasional sunbreaks Wednesday,  Saturday and again next Monday.  Not that we expect the forecast to be right a week from now…

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Flows down to 177 CFS right now

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The forecast for the next 2 days

 

Better reports off both the Situk and Italio.  The past two days have been good for everyone I talked to on their Middle Italio fly-outs.  Good fish holding in the lower river and a few starting to stack up in the upper holes.  Also heard good things from the Akwe,  with the people staying at John Latham’s Akwe River Camp.

Everyone seems to be doing better on the Situk.  Still plenty of fish moving in,  but now they seem to be more interested in biting.  A quick comment/opinion about fish behavior…  Since many people and most biologists insist that all salmon stop feeding once they hit fresh water and you are basically just pissing them off with your fly or lure,  why would we see all the rivers turn off for two days.  Did they take something to calm them down for two days?  They wouldn’t be stoned,  since that would give them the munchies and the bite would have been on…  Nevermind…

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Stomach contents of a silver salmon in fresh water…

 

There are fish in the lagoon for the first time and a lot of fish in Ankau.  No reports off the Tsiu for the past couple days.  No groups trading out,  but I’m pretty sure it is still on fire.

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My typical collection of poppers

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More fun than should be legally allowed…

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I don’t think color matters.  Just the disturbance on the surface.  These float better than the spun deer hair poppers and the deep cup attracts a lot of attention.

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So easy,  a kid can do it…  At least a kid that grew up on the river like this one did…