Monday, February 25, 2013

Gone Swimming-I mean fishing.

I have a year of catching up to do, I find it very difficult to sit down and write during the season. Way back in June I had my first clients of the year for salmon fishing. As part of the safety briefing the first day I explained how we would be fishing and the do's and don'ts that pertained. One of the don'ts happened to be a suggestion about the lock on the rod holder. I explained to them that it was unnecessary to lock the rod in and that it would only slow them down when a King Salmon took the lure. So with everything explained we headed up the Naknek River to one of my favorite runs.

We pulled in and set up the drift. I started with a fairly shallow line that I like when the fish haven't been disturbed for awhile. It was a very cool morning in th 40's, misty and all around gray. As we started into the drift I did my thing throwing out the fish guarantee. Having fished most spots on the river for hundreds of hours I can just about predict when we get the take most days.  Even though I was thoroughly caffeinated I don't think I was really awake yet. I had just started to tell a story when the back left rod went down hard. I goosed the kicker full throttle for a couple seconds to set the hook. As I did I saw 350 dollars worth of rod catapult out the stern. The rod holder had collapsed and freed the G Loomis into a watery grave. I immediately started backing down on the rod, my eyes now wide awake and glued to a chunk of cork. Just as I got close enough to grab it, it sank. I slammed the kicker in neutral. As I was diving off the stern I saw the fish leap out of the water thirty yards to my right. I plunged head first into the cold water managing to stay attached to the boat by my knees. When I opened my eyes up under water there it was, the rod. My first grab for it I missed but caught the very end of the cork on the next swipe. To this day I'm not quite sure how I got back in the boat, but somehow I popped up with rod in hand. Rod in hand and fish still firmly attached. I handed it back to my 12 year old client who may have been a little in shock, I was right there with him. After a 15 minute fight we hooped the chrome bright King and welcomed her aboard. What a time to not be wearing a Go Pro. I definitely would of at least made the blooper real. 
As for the not locking the rod in the rod holder well for the rest of that day we did, I wasn't ready to go swimming again.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Living In The Sticks-Naknek River Subsistence Fishing

What do you do when there's no movie theater, few restaurants (two of which are only open in the summer) and just a grocery store where you live? You get creative, and you go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. In King Salmon, Alaska that's the Naknek River. The Naknek River has five species of salmon that make an annual one way trip. The Naknek is the lifeblood of two communities; King Salmon and Naknek. In Naknek an enormous commercial fishing fleet harvests upwards of nine million Sockeye Salmon every year. Many locals are involved in the harvest, processing and logistics of this industry.

Along with the commercial harvest there is also subsistence harvest. For local bush residents this is means food for the winter. A winter that begins to show it's face in September and might be considered over some time in May. Some families put up and preserve a hundred salmon or more. The fish are harvested with a gill net, which is just as it sounds. Salmon swim into the net and are caught there by their gills. The whole process has become a form of community entertainment as much as it is work. Families and friends gather, working as a team to complete the task. The first thing you have to do is get your permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. With permit in hand, and your net in the back of the truck, you head for the fishing area on the Naknek River. The net is anchored perpendicular to the beach at low tide. While waiting for the tide and the fish some have a BBQ, others scurry about town running errands, and if it's an evening tide some just sleep. As fish hit the nets the wader-wearing fishermen gather them in totes. When people have enough fish for the day the net is pulled out of the water, and the work really starts. Fillet knives, knife sharpeners and vacuum packers come out. The Sockeye and King Salmon are preserved in a variety of ways. Some salmon are frozen whole, some are filleted and others are just headed and gutted. After the initial processing different products like smoked salmon are made. Another popular way to store fish is canning, some of which has been previously smoked. Everyone ends up with a diverse selection of products. When salmon makes up such a big part of your diet, variety is important. Many have their secret smoking recipe and with some it really is a guarded family secret. There are probably as many smoked fish recipes as there are people in the bush. Living in a place where groceries are expensive, it's nice to know you have all this high quality fish at home. When I say groceries are expensive I'm talking about $9.00 a gallon milk. A loaf of bread is $5.00 or $6.00 and it's not some fancy artisan bread. I'm talking about run of the mill white bread. When all the the smoking, canning, and freezing is done you can relax knowing you are not going to starve. You might get tired of salmon, but you're not going to starve.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Early Season Alaska King Salmon FIshing

Back in June my good friend Jeni came up to visit. She was also bringing up a new puppy and employee for me Max(he loves his job). While she was in King Salmon, Alaska I had time to show her some of the scenery. The scenery of King Salmon has a personality all of it's own. Native cultures have lived there for thousands of years. The various rivers and streams are the pulse of the area. Salmon numbers in the millions arrive to there natal streams each year. They provide food and nutrients for all life of this area. After the salmon have spawned plants as well as wildlife benefit from the decomposing carcasses. The people of King Salmon also depend on the salmon arriving each year. Some just for food, some for money, recreation and every combination of the three.
Jeni arrived early in the run when fish were not abundant. We spent most of our time enjoying everything else the area has to offer, but I wasn't going to let her leave without catching some salmon. Why, because it's what I do, it's my job. I take fisherman out to experience what I fell in love with when I came here. There's something very rewarding to me about taking someone out to experience my little corner of the world. There are so few places on earth that are as wild and untouched as Alaska. King Salmon, Alaska sits on the Naknek River. The Naknek River has a run of all five species of Pacific Salmon, including King Salmon. My goal with Jeni was to see her fight a chrome bright monster of a King. We were pretty laid back in our efforts but we ended up making it happen. Jeni, a little on the girly side but up for adventure, was able bear with me in my hunt for the first kings of the year. We struck out each day with my quest in mind. The salmon however weren't ready to storm the river. We did however catch some smaller fresh salmon each time. Fresh salmon were on the grill within hours of being caught. There is nothing like it, fresh from the grocery store is nowhere close to this delicacy. On one of our last trips on the river Jeni scored a nice King of 15lbs. It wasn't the rod bending monster I wanted for her, but just as much fun for both of us. I think she enjoyed my excitement about the fish more than catching it.