Monday, June 18, 2018

' Houston we have a problem '

UPDATE 6/19....the river is now closed to King Salmon fishing until July 1st when we reset with a new management plan. All of my June people have been contacted.  If you are a July booking please send good vibes that the July run will be bigger as it should be. We WILL be fishing again July 1st, no worries. If anything changes you will be contacted.

I'm a guy who's never been afraid of a fight. I've been swimming upstream and fighting the current my whole life and by and large that tenacity has made me what I am....but it's tiring...and this on going struggle to run the business and preserve our lifestyle in a time of what ADF+G euphemistically calls ' low abundance' has me emotionally on the ropes. I'm about done.

We're on catch and release only for King salmon again. Yesterday's sonar count was an almost impossible 18. We had thought the Kenai was on it's way to recovery after the terrible years of 2013 and 14 but as this is now all over the state it stands to reason it would also be on the Kenai. Believe it or not but the Kenai is doing better than any of the Cook Inlet King Salmon fisheries....they are all either  closed or emergency regulated in some way. One of the Blob's behind a desk at ADF+G blamed it on the Blob of warm water in the North Pacific...nice job boy's , what a great explanation.

So as for business if all my fishermen are reading this we are taking it one week at a time. And of course a new plan starts July 1st and we will be fishing and hope the July run does O.K....if it doesn't it will be like this June time frame where the early weeks will fish well and once a problem is identified and dealt with it's past the middle of the month when all my best friends are scheduled to fish....keep your fingers crossed.  A week is a lifetime on the Kenai so please trust you will be notified of anything that would effect your trip......jeeeeeez.... I'm tired of it and I was so hoping for a wonderful year. But.... we shall continue with dignity. The red line is us and for everyone scheduled this tuesday through about Friday here's the double whammy, you've seen this graph before and when the rain makes the level jump like that you know what it means,,,,muddy water. So for us that might trout fish if C+R Kings are slow the clarity is impossible for a few days. It ain't me, it's mother nature ya know.
Red 2018, purple 2014, green 2015, blue 2016, black 2017
You can see the water began to drastically rise on the 14th. These events happen and we should have clearing water soon...and then we fish.

Monday, June 11, 2018

JEFF COME HELP ME !

Was the first thing I heard this morning, my heart is just now getting back to a normal pace. It's actually a good thing that this wacky lifestyle of ours has us getting up at 3:30 every morning because a few more hours and it could have flooded the entire house.
It's happened before but it's still weird to me how after being in one place for 50 years a pipe decides to give up and not just leak but full on spurt H2O everywhere. You'd think it would warn you with a little drip but things in my life don't work that way.  But you know me, lucky , lucky , lucky...the flood was contained and although we had a pile of Max and Sam's Nintendo stuff where that basement mess it is it was contained to just a box or two and we are drying it all for you best buddies if you are reading this....So we're off....another week at Mile 14.
That's my old cowboy buddy double J, John Japp fighting a large not even close to the slot salmon. This new rule is a funny thing. Some people are all about the catch and release....until it actually happens and then the boat goes through a bit of a quiet spell. But him and Penny had a great day and although the fish they caught they couldn't eat they both agreed the day was fun and it's better to catch them than not to no matter what. I will say this about it....it's just plain weird that for nearly forty years I've rooted for a huge salmon when we get a hook up and now you don't say it but for some folks you're rooting for a 36 incher.

Keith invited me to do a day with a large family from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Not only was the day great and the company fantastic but I had the chance in the morning to catch up with some of my old guide friends that I don't see much. My old friend Ray Debardalaben who introduced me to Kevin Fowler music at his wedding has a kinda different approach than me....here's pic of his tackle tray with everything, and I mean everything within easy reach. Listerine, a space bilge pump, Sea Foam, you name it, he's got it. I guess it's like the guy you might work with that has the desk that looks like that.
Mike, Lee, Clarrisa and Matt were just wonderful. This is my serious face now....it's what I love about the job. Meeting people from exotic area's and so different but also the same as you. AND, I always learn something. So Chrisco this is the deal about the Viet Namese noodle soup that we all love. It's not pronounced Foo or Fa, in Viet Nam it's an order of Fur. Honest, I think ol Lee there might be an expert.
When we came up Beaver Creek the craziest thing happened. Duh....well it ain't called Beaver Creek for nothing I guess. This guy swam in formation with us up the entire creek. It's as close as I've ever been to a Beaver except maybe for the ones I executed while trapping. I did have that one I had to go mano-on-mano with few years ago before finally dispatching him with the 410 snake charmer...some day ask me to tell you that story, it's a dandy.
It was so cool to fish with Rob Simpson and his wife Melisa and her dad Mac. Rob has fished the Kenai with one of the guides who used run from Mile 14 so he new who I was . When I asked him why he called me when he knows so many other guides he just said ' he's watched ' me. It was a great trip and me and  Mac kinda bonded, old guy stuff ya know....
We went to the River Festival of course. Blue sunny sky's and music, that you can't beat. Our town is getting to be a nice place to live for sure. But of all things I noticed at the Festival this gal who owns the Artsy Junction did the Salmon Sisters Extratuff boots a one up. MP has a cute pair of Extratuff's but these....walla...The official footwear of the Kenai River never looked better.


Monday, June 4, 2018

They're just like Veal

Is what MP said when I told her that we were having fresh salmon finally for supper. As I waited for my fishing friends on Saturday I put my planer board out to fish and before I could even snap on the board I felt something bite and walla....it's salmon , just a bit on the petite side.
If you've ever wondered what makes salmon the ultimate sport fish well that picture supplies the answer. Ya gotta be aggressive to bite off a project that's almost as big as you are or incredibly stupid....if you were a human that is.  But that guy is a salmon for sure and about the smallest Jack I've ever seen, did I ever tell you about winning a new DeWalt worm drive framing saw for catching a 17 incher in a tournament one time ? So this is how our barbecue looked Saturday night, oh baby was that salmon good.
mmmmm.....maybe you notice that salmon steak doesn't seem to match the previous photo. Well it's one of the wonders of life here at Mile 14, we just make things happen....with a little help from our friends of course. Thanks Jacqi and John for the protein, what a wonderful day of fishing. Here's John with a perfect slot fish.
It was his second fish of the day. The first hit just minutes into the day and that fish ran off line and fought like a sport fish should....then it jumped entirely out of the water making us know for sure that it was way over the slot and then he conveniently released himself....Which brings me to my first tutorial of the year for all you fishing guides that I hope read this. I've been seeing a bunch of my so called 'peers'  get the over slot fish in the net, then power the boat to shore, then get out of the boat and get their ' guide shot' photo releasing the fish with the boat in the background and the fisherman with a big ol smile... Well don't do that boneheads  ! Our goal as a group of Pro's who rely on the resource should be 0 % catch and release mortality.  I realize it's hard to get a good photo of the fish to be released from inside the boat as they have to stay in the water but that go to shore deal takes waaaaay to much time and puts tremendous stress on ol slimey. Just let the darn fish go as fast as possible. Ya know we're kinda lucky to be fishing right now and this new plan we're under can really save the business aspects of our fishery so how's about acting like you work the river for a living and are a real professional. Thank you, the end. Here's a pic of John O fighting one of his two fish.
The fishing has really been quite good . For the lack of boats I see and the difficult conditions with a lot of organic material in the water fouling the line we're all doing really pretty well. Just since they've moved the sonar I've told people that fish counts actually mirror what I'm seeing and on Saturday in the sunshine I figured the counts would be around 200 to 250. Well, they were announced at 117......mmmm....Everybody seemed to be catching some.

Watching the family in the white boat catch a keeper was really fun....So our sonar counts are about 1/2 what they were last year when we had the bait restriction was lifted and the slot size increased. It's hard to say what ADF+G will do but ol guide # 003 here thinks the late spring has the run a bit late which we've seen in other places as well and in the graph below you'll see we're really not doing all that bad compared to the last few years. And the run is behaving normally making the ' bell shaped curve' that we like to see. Also consider that the previous years the sonar counts were ALL of the fish and now they are only the ' large' fish.... So if I'm in charge of the world I say let's keep fishing under the current plan of retention of fish like the one above and release of the best spawners. In the graph 2018 is red.
I too this pic at Kasilof yesterday. The essence of sport fishing, it's beautiful. You're alone with your thoughts. You have the hope of a  fisherman but know the joy is in the pursuit. The water gurgles by and it's so quiet you even think slowly and gently....you're part of it. It's you.


Monday, May 28, 2018

My favorite weekend

Is always Memorial day.  I think it's a cool thing to honor and remember as well as what we do here at Mile 14.... MP's birthday , a long hike, the Indy 500, Mariners beat the Twins , detail a truck and have a beer, Angus rib Steak, hit a few golf balls into the river....what day.

Last year on Memorial day weekend Jack and Todd Tillman came up from New Mexico and both of them caught nice King Salmon that fell into our 36 " slot limit that they both kept and took home to eat. Well they came again this year and their streak of both catching a King is still alive....but...we are kinda known for our big fish here. Here's Todd fighting the first fish of the day. It was getting onto mid morning and the rod went off and this salmon rolled right off the bat signaling that he was going to be a Large.
Not only was it fiesty and large Todd also had him on one of my light set ups that I prefer in the spring of the year. I think that with the no bait rule to start the 20 pound test and lighter rod add more action to the plug. It took about 15 minutes and into the net.... a gorgeous 44 inch female that was no where near the keeper size of 36 ".
Todd is coooool. No worries, we'll just fish for another. In fact that salmon he released is the perfect example of what our fairly new management scheme is supposed to be doing, giving opportunity to fish and harvest the smaller Kings ( which are still pretty darn nice ) while letting the larger  and best spawners go on up river to where they are protected for spawning. I don't know what took so long but after 40 years of following and watching fisheries management stumble along we finally have a plan that makes sense...even common sense which is usually lacking around here.

So on we fish. I have Todd and Jack along with Al Kline who is a colorful local guy and one of my best steadiest customers, it's pretty cool when a guy who knows the river and has a nice boat hires me.  It was just a great morning. We only saw 4 boats on the river as we moved from run to run. As you can see the water is pretty low and although it's really full of organic material from rising rapidly the water is nice and clear so I find it's the fishiest when you stay away from the other boats....spooky ya know. Here's a pic of my crew.
Shortly after taking this pic and trolling smack dab under my house at Mile 14 the rod went off and Jack has a really hot fish on the line. It did that deal that every Kenai fisherman is excited to see where the salmon gets up on the surface with about 1/2 his body above the water and planes for fifty yards or so.  That maneuver always causes some slack in the line and sometimes the fish wins...but not this time. This fish is looking smaller but in the net she measured 39 inches. In my experience, in that length range the fish are usually right at a pound per inch making us having just released a 39 and a 44 pounder making for a total of 83 pounds for a mornings troll. Thanks for coming guys, it was a great trip. Here's Todd helping to release his dad's fish.
So, I'm thinking that this ol river is off to a pretty good and normal start for salmon fest 2018. One of my competitors boat had this fish going as we looked for fresh water and it was over the slot as well....So there's some dandy's cruising the river right now.
One of our boat launch customers was filleting a gorgeous slot fish of about 30 pounds yesterday when I went down on the 4-wheeler to check on my boat. Some people just can't take a hint. I congratulated them and said what a great memorial day treat. We spoke of how it's always the best when it's soooo fresh. As we looked at it I showed them where my favorite part is for steaks.....and....well we had steaks alright for supper, beef steaks.

So me and MPeasy are race ready....lets go 2018.....And oh, happy Birthday baby baby, you know I'm crazy about you.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Everybody in town is complaining about it. Day after day of cloudy wet / blowing bone chilling Alaska. Like anywhere in the world we have certain things that signal spring, Robins , green willow bushes, the Indy 500....and ice out. As you can see, we STILL  have plenty of that.
That shot I took yesterday in Slowdotna. Behind the ice is about 100,000 bucks worth of aluminum stairs and elevated walkways all designed and partially paid for by the government to protect salmon rearing habitat. To me it's bad enough that no attempt what was  made when this program started to make the projects look nice or blend in with nature, they stick out like a sore thumb if you ask me...but, we the USA taxpayers pay part of it to a guy who is lucky enough to afford the trophy river house and could pay for it entirely himself....OK, done with my first Kenai rant of the season.

So on May 17th, the 33rd anniversary of Les Anderson's world record King salmon catch I got up at 5:00 a.m. to help Keith get his dock in the water at Beaver Creek. It was great to see him and all of my old friends that came to help. As I headed home we decided we really did need to make a troll or two, after all I've fished on that day every year for the last 33 years, it's one of those rites of spring kind of thing for me....so I got the old black #003 boat in the water and we went.
So Roland Cusson showed up to check out the river so he went along with Keith and me to make our Kenai debut. Keith and I reminisced and he reminded me that is was two days after the world record was caught that we met when his dad chartered me to see what all the hoopla was about. We went fishing and his dad Bert Holtan who falls into the ' one hell of a guy ' category caught an expertly guided King. 33 years later his son caught the first fish of the year for us....an expertly guided hooligan. The river is full of these darn things. We had one on almost all the time making for a difficult if not impossible King catch.
The other day when I came home from the gym I drove down to the launch to check on it like I routinely do. Darn est thing, there was a break in the clouds and the sun was actually shining and the ol Kenai was alive with birds and fish. In Alaska fisherman's circles we have a term called ' sea gulling ' that's what some people do just like the seagulls do....they follow the other guy rather than find the fish themselves. The Arctic Terns were working hard to capture out migrating salmon smolt in the shallow riffles below the launch where they can see and catch the fish. The Eagles were trying and catching a few hooligan and the seagulls, well they were squawking and looking for left overs...here's a 4 second video.
With an artist's eye MP fished these Beaver chewed sticks out of the river one day thinking she could someday ' do something ' with them. They are kinda cool and we both wondered where they came from .
Well I solved the mystery MP....remember that thousand dollars worth of Felt Leaf Willows we planted 25 years ago of which we have only about 4 survivors from the moose and the beaver ?...well make that about 3 survivors
So this week we start in earnest. Memorial day is the traditional ' kick off' around here and there will be some King's caught. It really needs to warm up, I've told people that as many early fish that I've caught I don't think I've ever caught one with snow in the background. And it's weird, ADF+G on Friday released the first 2 days of King salmon sonar counts....they were both zero, that's right , zero. I've NEVER seen that before. And Kings have been caught and we've seen them roll in front of the launch....so....something strange is going on, it's the Kenai way I guess. Maybe all the hooligan are fouling the sonar beams, who knows ? They'll get in figured out or at least come up with a good theory like we always do.

And in the ' something you only see in Alaska ' category ....some of our commercial friends were using the parking lot at  the Sports center to hang new seine web. You know how I feel about nets but I gotta say, these are kind of pretty.....mmmmmm....


Sunday, May 13, 2018

When the cats away....

the mice will play...in this case at least a 64 year old fishing legend / life wanderer / wanna be country star will . With MP in Mooooontana and Cinco de Mayo ( which is an american thing I think ) I got me some of Mazatlan's life blood and turned the amp up nice and loud. It was a funny story for that Crafter guitar that's turning into one of my favorites. It was at a yard sale one of my neighbors was having and the gal was selling it for $75.00 which is an absolute steal. So I pointed that out to her and mentioned that she had all those kids running around and that some day they'll want a guitar to play. She told me they weren't interested in music. So I tuned the guitar and sang ' Brown eyed Girl' for them and all the kids jaws dropped. I told the gal " see there, they love the music".....she replied with " how about $50.00" .
So MP jumped the jet for 10 day visit to her mom's but me I gotta stay , it's time to fish. So I got everything ready, in fact double ready and I haven't been on the water yet....it's just been crazy cold and blowing and rainy and....well you get the idea, we even had a heck of a hail storm a couple days ago. The black boat I tell people is just sitting there quivering and then I realized it's actually shivering. Here's a pic I took of MP in the twilight of 5:00 a.m. If you guys don't use Grant Aviation you should. Like everything in life I'm straight up loyal to them for many reason's. But the other day as we went to buy the tickets the counter gal asked if we were signed up for the rewards program and we didn't know they had one. So she looked at our flight history in the computer and we had enough flights for 4 free ones. Man oh man, mucho gracias to our friend at Grant.
If you've ever been to our house here at Mile 14 you'll know that we have a deep appreciation and collection of fish art. Them darn things are swimming around everywhere. So when I spotted these new ones at the Kenai Airport I was impressed with our local High School kids that built this. Maybe we gotta commission those guys because they are some of the coolest fish I've seen.
While I work the launch I always put out my planer board and I've caught me quite a few slimeys this way. My friend Ernie gave me a brand new planer board and in this pretty cool pic you can see it mid river. It doesn't pull the gear like a professionally run 21' Alumaweld does but it certainly has that Flatfish lure in the strike zone. I'll bet I catch one this week, any takers ?
Another reason we're off to a slow start is that the water is off. All the rain hit it pretty good a few days back and as you can see on the USGS graph it jumped pretty good. But you can see that it's leveled off so by Tuesday it'll be fishy for sure, AND...they even have a some sunshine forecast.
As I worked I came across my 2017 list of goals, you've seen it before. It kind of keeps me on task, kinda grounded and yes, my goals stay the same....that loyalty thing is everywhere. So I'll guess I'll print the list I see everyday of my fishing season and we'll see how I did.
1.  Well that ain't a goal, that's a lifestyle, that's like air and water, it's like the easiest thing I've ever done.

2.  Once again I didn't make it. I went to MZT at 188 and now weigh right at 200 pounds after my Pa Pa's binge in Mexico. This goal I really need for my knees.

3. We did not buy a Volkwagon in Maz like we talked about...but we did get a couple of spanking new bicycles.

4. Still on the grassy side here and yes, I think it's my last year to guide, 2018 then adios.

5. I played a lot of music but still didn't take a job.

6. The Crafter was my last so I guess I achieved that goal....but I got a serious hankering for a Semi Hollowbody electric to fill out my collection....A Gibson 335 would work nicely.

7. I did that. I personally planted and nurtured some nice big tasty Icicle's.

8. I caught a bunch of snappers, maybe the most ever but didn't get that elusive 20 pounder...in fact this year I don't think I had one break my line or get off like in other years.....they're hard to catch.

9. I meant that metaphorically of course. You know as despicable and disgusting as this guy is I've changed my view of him....I guess it's like this... I feel sorry for him, it's sad, how do people get to that kind of place in life ? So we'll never be friends but I gotta cut him some slack....

10. Kinda made that one I had a start on a song that I'm almost done with  called ' Gotta Lotta'...just the title kind of sings if you ask me.

11. I'll be sa, sa, sa sixty five in two months..

12. I surf fished not one but 2 Roosterfish in 2017. One grande, one was pequeno.

13. 😉😌😎😏😛😁 I'm good at that,

So, it's time to erase 2017 and we're movin on....

You've heard me say that our little town has changed. I'll leave you with this pic of what MP noticed laying in the street on one of our walks. Hope you come back to Mile 14, we wil get off our duffs and chase salmon seriously soon.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

fishin for spring

I kinda stole that title from a buddy of mine...buy ya beer for it Dave. But that's about what we're doing here, it's spring, the calendar  says so but yikes, it's been cold. So on the very warmest day of the week I talked my running partner into a Fall-in-Hole search. It was a little dicey I must admit, the ice we walked on was kind of soft and there was many a time you could break through and break...well who knows what. Maybe it's just that me and MPeasy aren't adventuring as gracefully as we used to. But boy howdy I found some goodies....here's MP on the hunt.
The prize of the day was this broken fly rod with a gorgeous Galvan brand reel on it. It's a fairly high end reel and washed up perfectly with the drag working smoothly , a great find. The problem is that I get to looking at this reel and it's professionally engraved with ' Alaska Wildland Adventures' on it.....mmm.....so for anybody else it's finders keepers, the law of the sea, you know. But they are a large guide service and one of our best customers here at Mile 14. So... I'm still deciding how to handle this unexpected bounty, in any case it's going to be fun to jazz the guys a bit, charge em a couple of those really cool shirts like Phil Horak wants down in Mazatlan.
Then I see a shiney thing on the river bottom just a shimmering away like a huge golden oak...and it's this really nice pair of Cabelas pliers. Now if any of you lost these guys let me help....ya see those loops on the handle ? Well, they're for putting a piece of line with a loop to go over your hand so they don't....guess what ?....sink to the bottom if you drop them. Of course being a fishing Prima Dona I pointed that out to MP right away and she related that fishing guides weren't really geniuses including yours truly. It's amazing how she can word smith such insight...
About twenty and some ought years ago I had the bright idea to put tires along the riverbank to cushion the boats on the property. It worked for a while but as the years went on they began to migrate. Last fall me and Nate were anchored up right in front and at the end of the day I went to pull the anchor and she's stuck firm. I've never lost an anchor before and I can't believe that I'm held fast right here at Mile 14. So I come up tight on the bow line and give it a good jerk with the outboard motor and holy moly it keels me over a bit and that's a bit of an unsettling feeling. So I give it one more jerk with the motor and I feel it break free...but... I can't lift the anchor. Thank goodness Nate helped and we lifted a 185/17 Good Year Wrangler full of mud to the surface, it must have weighed 300 pounds. So I still haven't lost an anchor but today those tires are outa here. When I'm done with the project there will be no, none, tires laying along the shoreline of the Kenai River at Mile 14.
And in the ' things you never see in Slowdotna ' category how's about this. I kinda sensed that our community has changes from the 500 citizens that I moved in with 40 years ago....so here's the proof. Yup, that's a genuine Tesla, only the second one I've seen. The first was a coup parked in the reserved spot at the 4 Season's Hotel in Seattle. mmmm, I wonder how the heater and defrosters work on that baby ?
I got one more pic, just because I thought it was cool . We were binge eating french fries ( you know I'm a french fry expert ) at the Kenai River Brewery with the Radke's and it jumped out at me. Gorgeous pescado, pretty lure and well....Alaska....what a place. Oh if you get to the Brewery they got Poutain ,  homemade Fries with beer gravy and cheese curds on top...you gotta be kidding me...

I'm going fish real soon, stand by Houston.