Yakutat, AK. Day 4.

I woke up feeling slightly defeated knowing that we were leaving on this day. We had not caught a fish. Most of the fish were in the lower half of the river. We were up at the upper portion of the river. We had not fished above the bridge yet so we thought that we would give it a shot before our trip to the airport. There was so much good looking water, but just no fish. That isn’t entirely true. We saw a few fish. Sight fishing to these beasts is quite exhilarating. We walked and walked. We fished and fished. Nothing happened. We gave up. We headed back to camp to have lunch, pack everything away, and head to the airport.IMG_4522.jpgWe arrived at the infamous nine mile bridge. There were a couple of guys fishing it that had been there since about 5 am. They were taking a break, so I stepped in. I had a couple of follows from some big fish which made my heart race. I switched to a fly that I have to most confidence in. We call it, “The Magic Fly”. I was working it hard. A guide stepped in and told me how few fish were caught on the flies from the bridge area. He also handed me a fly that he thought would work. It looked very similar to my magic fly. We laughed about our taste in flies. It gave me a little more confidence. In the 11th hour. I hooked up.IMG_4523.jpgIt all came together. Caught, pictures, release. Now I can return home with a smile on my face. Now we are planning our return for next year. Hopefully, just like this steelhead.IMG_4535-ANIMATION.gif

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Yakutat, AK. Day 1.

When thinking of planning a do it yourself trip to Yakutat, there are a couple of important websites to check with. One is Bob’s blog. He will give you an honest representation of what is going on with fish in the river. It might not be what you want to hear, but it will be the truth of what he hears. The other website is the USGS water conditions. CFS is what was checking the most.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I became obsessed with these websites for a month leading up to our trip. It didn’t matter. If the weather said it was raining, Bob said that there were no fish, and the USGS gauge wasn’t working, we were still going on this trip. In reality, the weather forecast changed every 5 minutes, Bob said that a few fish had been reported in the river, and the gauge showed that there was hardly any water in the river. Tickets were booked, boats were made ready, we were on our way.

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Amanda finally got some downtime.

When we arrived at the Yakutat Airport, our boats were waiting and everything was working out. I was starting to get excited about the fishing. The Yakutat Lodge would be setting up our shuttles and providing information from their guides that had been on the water every day.

There wasn’t much snow on the ground and we were ready to get out there. After we bought beer, flies, fuel, and firewood that is. Second stop was the Situk river Fly Shop out in a WWII hangar. It was pretty cool.

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We arrived at the boat launch where there are 6 elevated camping platforms free to use provided by the forest service. We arrived and were unprepared for what we found. There was still snow. More snow than we wanted to sleep on. So we got to work. This was bad for my casting muscles.20180409_100208.jpg

We set up our camp and I ran to the river. Amanda strolled over with a beer and took a couple of pictures. 20180409_131806.jpg

That night we made margaritas, talked about fishing around the fire, and tried to sleep in anticipation of floating the river the next day. Day one was done and no fish were caught.

Alaskan Steelhead

I just can’t seem to help myself. October rolls around and the thought of standing in cold water not catching anything gets very appealing. The previous year was very good to me. Catching 3 Steelhead on my first Alaskan outing made me feel like a pro. This year, the rivers was blown out.IMG_3755.jpgI was still able to manage to land one which required being out at the river before everyone else. It was cold and as the water level dropped, my expectations rose. The fishing was probably great the day after we left.IMG_3786.jpgThe drive home was beautiful. We stopped at Tern Lake to watch the swans. IMG_3775.jpgA couple of weeks later, I thought that the water level had dropped enough to make the fishing a little better. I knew that it would be cold, so I rented a hotel room instead of camping. I feel like I am getting older smarter.

The day started with a few feet of ice on the bank. It was tough to release fish without taking them out of the water. This Dolly Varden looks small compared to the giant bird prints in the ice. IMG_3822.jpgI realized that the old get up early trick might be in order. A few weeks ago there would be 6 people in the popular spots when the sun rose. This time I was the only one there. I did see one other person fishing, but he was walking over to the restaurant to get breakfast as I was heading to the river. It paid off.IMG_3834.jpgOne fish per day turned out to be the most I could get. It was more than I could ask for. I will be back next October to do it again.IMG_3829.jpg

Out to Caines Head.

We took the family out to Caines Head a couple of times. It is one of our favorite places to visit. We stopped to watch the salmon in the river. The dogs begged for food.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.01 PM.pngThe hike through the mossy forest along the coast is amazing.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.18 PM.png

Once you make it to the beach, you are greeted by views of glaciers across the bay.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.47 PM.pngThe dogs love the beach. Some never stop running while searching for birds.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.53.28 PM.pngThe wife always seem to catch fish and look good doing it.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.53.55 PM.png

My favorite way to spend time with family involves fishing.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.54.16 PM.png

Photos from the amazing Alison Snyder.

Dipnetting.

As real Alaska residents we are allowed to put a net into the water and scoop out fish. We previously did this for Hooligan. Now it was time to do it for salmon.

ADF&G: This popular fishery takes place from late June through July in the marine waters of Cook Inlet just off the mouth of the Kenai River. Since 2003, Alaskans harvest between 130,000 and 540,000 sockeye salmon annually in this fishery.

The Kenai River is a large glacial system draining the central Kenai Peninsula. The river begins at Kenai Lake near the community of Cooper Landing and flows approximately 82 miles down to its mouth in Upper Cook Inlet, near the community of Kenai. The City of Kenai is approximately 160 highway miles south of Anchorage.

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We loaded onto the boat on this rainy day and stuck our nets in the water.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.20.23 AM.pngWe held the nets in the water until feeling a thrashing fish. Then you quickly lift the net out of the water and into the boat. Your crew pounces on the fish (or multiple fish if you are lucky) and swiftly kills and bleeds them.

Occasionally, you get a monster!Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.20.45 AM.png

When you get home, the real work begins.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.21.17 AM.png

The (borrowed) smoker was hard at work.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.21.26 AM.png

The (new) freezer is full now!

Fly Fishing for King Salmon.

After the madness of Memorial Day, we headed south to the Anchor River to see if we could catch a King Salmon on a fly. The patriotism of the bald eagles were in full swing.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.16 PM.pngThe night before we fished, we got to spend some time by a campfire doing the usual things. It seemed like a good omen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.28 PM.png

The evening was lovely.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.44 PM.pngThe next day, we had a hook up! Hanapa’a.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.54 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.37 PM.pngThe eagles were vigilantly watching to see what would happen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.09 PM.pngWe did it! We landed one.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.15 PM.png

That gave us plenty of time to explore the beaches in the area. What a beautiful spot!Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.24 PM.png

Hooligan Fishing.

Hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus), otherwise known as “eulachon” or “candlefish”, are a type of anadromous smelt that makes its way into a number of rivers in Alaska during the spring spawning run. They arrive in some river systems in the hundreds of thousands, and are an important forage species for eagles, gulls, bears and other species. The fish is found from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska, and the name “eulachon” is thought to derive from the Chinookan language. “Hooligan” is thought to be a derivative of the Chinookan name.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.56.57 AM.png

Hooligan are of interest to subsistence fishermen, who net them out of rivers in the spring. The fish are eaten dried, smoked, canned or pan-fried. In years past, they earned the name “candlefish”, because when dried, the oil content of the fish was sufficient to allow it to burn like a candle. Hooligan were formerly harvested and rendered for their oil, which can comprise 15% of their body weight during the spawning run.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.06 AM.png

Hooligan make their spawning run in May, with the males usually coming in first, followed by female fish a few days later. Males develop two fleshy ridges along their sides, and most hooligan die after spawning. They lay their eggs in sand or gravel, and the eggs hatch in roughly a month. The fry make their way to saltwater immediately, where they live for four to six years. They do not always return to the same stream where they were spawned, but they do return to the general area. They prefer slower rivers without a lot of current velocity, as they are fairly weak swimmers.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.53 AM.png

Hooligan average between eight and ten inches in size.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.58.21 AM.png

Hooligan are typically caught by dipnet, a long-handled net with a bag that has fine mesh in it. The fish school up in deeper pockets, and in these places hundreds of hooligan can be caught. At this writing, a dipnetting permit is not required, and anyone with a valid sport fishing license can catch hooligan. There is no bag limit on hooligan.

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