Monday, August 12, 2019

Well, at least the boat stays clean....

it's a long story how we got to this place in time where it's almost mid August and we're under yet another arbitrary ' no bait ' rule....But first here's a pic of our first silver of the year. It was last Monday and me and MPeasy got a late start but there were few boats on the river and I found a good place and threw the anchor right on top of the mother load. We caught this silver and released a couple so we could continue fishing when the phone rang....Chris telling me that the ADF+G had closed the river to the use of bait.
They closed bait to conserve King Salmon that are on the way to the very worst return ever. We actually never catch Kings fishing for Silvers but never mind that, and never mind that we in river sports people are the ONLY user that can selectively harvest AND release  fish to live on to the spawning ground... But our community works this way, if we commercial guys can't make money nobody should make any money...so there, take that.....it's mean, it's unfair, old school and just plain stupid to deprive people of opportunity out of spite. So here's the graph of our King escapement 2019 in black and previous years in colored. We're now at 10,900 and we need 13,500 at a very minimum, as you can see that black line is going to drop off the chart real soon. Of course with no set netting going on the river is full of Reds and Silvers and they argue that they should be able to fish because having to many reds in river is worst that not enough Kings....Does that make sense to anybody ? That having no fish is better than having 1.6 million ?
So me and MP went upriver to trout fish and check on the ADF+G fish wheel that catches the fish so they can ' proportion ' the run. We watched it for several fish worth and in this pic you can see the tail of one on the aluminum slide...just before it fell back in the river instead of the catch tank. Yup, we watched it scoop 4 of which only one didn't fall through holes in the system...I think they better hire a fisherman who knows the value of keeping what you catch. And and a pic of MP with a Dolly Varden, I gotta work on that trout deal, we didn't have much luck.
The coolest thing ever arrived in my Mail box the other day. I kid you not , it's the best gift I've ever gotten in my 37 years of guiding anglers on the world famous. About 2 weeks ago we ran into Seth and his mom at a garage sale and Seth who has fished with me as you might remember many times asked me about flossing reds and which rod / reel he needed. It was perfect for me as getting rid of the tools of guiding for me has been both fun and in a strange way, freeing. So Seth and I went to the house and I gave him a Lamiglass Kenai Special and Shimano levelwind.  In the lower left pic I was encouraging him to take a snort if he was sleepy. Later that day I had an old L.A. Lakers T-shirt that I was using for a bait rag and I offered him 10 bucks if he's put it on for a picture...his mom drew the line on that deal. Thanks Kath and Seth, it makes me feel so good about this crazy life I've lead. Ya know, I think I really did important work after all. Fish On Seth !
So we are allowed bait again on the 16th and Ernie arrives tomorrow so please come back and look see....we're going to full military power on this silver fishing deal.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Relief

That's what the river, the town and the semi- friendly staff here at Mile 14 are feeling right now.  The Sockeye fish fest of 2019 is almost over with July 31st signaling the end of Dip netting and the sport fishery starting to move upriver. It's intense and I have to say that being gone in the boat for all of our years here at Mile 14 I have new appreciation for what it's all about and how hard MP works to make sense of it all along with making $$$ for us while everybody remains safe. To give you an idea here is a 5 a.m. shot of the dippers and the flossing line up at Centennial Park...salmon fever.
For the first time in all these years I was able to ' put up ' our own salmon and that felt good. I caught a total of 14 on my new fly rod and we canned 3 and froze the rest for the smoker. By Kenai standards 14 salmon isn't very many but for us it seems like just the right amount....begging the question, what the hell is everybody doing with the dozens and dozens they kept ? Here's the gutting table on a typical day here at Mile 14 and one of our customers running a sockeye through the last minutes of it's life.
Strangely enough it all goes pretty smooth except for the daily off river trespassers that act like the property is there only for their personal convenience...and they're mostly so called professional fishing guides. Forget your license and didn't notice until you had a dead King salmon in the boat ? Go to Stewart's. Need a pizza delivered ? Go to Stewart's. Wife needs to bring you dry socks ? Go to Stewart's....So if any of you know this clown please tell him that I'm actually a nice guy and this is how business works around here on the world famous. If you want to use our business it takes three things if you're a fishing guide, money, a signed liability release on file and Be Nice ! You see if you stop here without  permission or paying  it's like shop lifting, we certainly want  business but if there's no lettuce in it for us it Ain't business....kapeesh ? ....whew, I feel better now.
In July the truly dialed in stay away from the local Fred Meyer store...it's a frenzy and a good way to get your arm chewed off during sockeye season. But ol guide 003 had a lapse of attention and found himself there one morning, these three photos tell the story. The empty wall was once full of fillet knives and now that the shipping boxes are all gone we're working hard on the cooler supply...


I've always wondered how long it would take for sport people to follow the commercial guys lead and start using aerial spotters. Well, it's something new here. Not only can you spot the fish you can fly right over the road construction delays and even med e vac yourself if you get a hook in the wrong place.
Our people are serious...hows about stealth mode for your snaggin wagon ? Yup, they never see you coming cause it's just another school of fish headed up the world famous. I used to look at the thousands and thousands of hooks and nets in the water and tell people that if I were a salmon I'd take the road... well now they are.
Rick and Cath use Mile 14 every year and so we've become friends and I really enjoy seeing / being around their grandson Cam. This guy ain't no scaredy chicken. He hooks his own, kills his own,  cleans his own.... I took this pic right after all of us sought shelter from a cloud burst, all of us except Cam that it is. Carry on buddy, you have a lifetime of fishing, the mystery and wonder of it all ahead.
Maybe it's the warm weather but we have Spruce Grouse everywhere here at Mile 14. We've always had some but this year it's group after group of them. I took this pic last night without getting up from watching the ( yawn ) Democrat debate.  Kinda crazy, we got it all, fish eagles , grouse, gulls, terns , seals , moose, caribou.... and a few humans. 😎🐟🎸🎡


Friday, July 26, 2019

Connectivity

People that know me know that I believe in kismet, sometimes things aren't coincidence but really meant to be. Design of life really, if you notice it's really connections and how you fit in your own atmosphere....know what I mean ? Well, wow, where do I start....I had that on July 24th 2019.  A customer and friend of mine Bill Church invited me months ago to go on a Ling cod / Rockfish trip with him , his brother and a couple friends. I couldn't go, MP's Subby was scheduled for work on July 24 but in true Jethronian style they called and moved us up and walla, I'm going fishing. Here's Bill, my sponsor on one of the best days ever.
We check in with the Charter office and are told the Katchemak King slip L5. I walk up and the skipper Mike and deck hand Ben are on deck to greet us and I say " this is one of the Billy Joe boats " and Mike is astounded, " how do you know that "....Well in the early 80's as I cut my teeth in the Charter business I did a lot of business with Bill, Billy Joe and my friend Jim Thompson who's Thompsons Charters was the creme de la cream of Homer chartering. These three boats of which one is the Katchemak King are 38' Tolleycraft, real boats, vessels actually made for the big water. This one might even have been one of the ones I fished from many a time in 81 thru 85. Thompsons had gas engines in them but Mike had re powered the King with twin John Deere diesels, sweet . So off we go as a feeling of deja vue swept over me. I wish I'd taken a pic of the boat but I didn't. But what the King lacked in speed ( 3 hour run to Pearl Island ) she makes up with steadiness. We ran south and west of Pearl island past every boat in the fleet except one and even though the water was flat for being in the middle of the famous Shelikof Straits I felt good, we're in a 38' Tolley and our only neighbor, a 20 ft trailerable with outboard motors....yikes. Around here we call that a ' Deep Creek ' boat not a ' damn near to Kodiak' boat.
Being a fish hound I've met a few...my friend in Mazatlan Dan Stewart is world class but I gotta say that Captain Mike was in his natural element for sure. . A forty year old skinny guy he's in perpetual motion...notice any thing weird in this pic of him setting up a drift ?
Yup all day long, no shoes. Here's a pic of him looking to see what Chris has coming up on the elevator. One of the connections was his music, unabashed he put it on and put it on loud and wouldn't ya know....red dirt music, my thing. We spent the day listening to Chris Stapelton, Cody Jinks , Roger Creagor , Daryl Dodd, ,man it was perfect......kismet for sure.
AND THE FISH, my goodness , more gorgeous creatures you've never seen. I caught Rock Fish in Seward with Woody as a kid but this day , this day was the land of the giants. Here's Ben and Chris with a huge Yellow Eye. Ben there is a green horn deck hand and he's doing just fine, it felt good I kinda showed him how to lock up the reel without amputating your finger skin like I was afraid he was going to do.
And hows about a China Rock Fish . Is that thing pretty or what ?
So if you think  he's pretty hows about a Greenling.
The staple of the day were the Black Rockfish that the fish hounds call ' jumbos'. These are the ones I remember from Seward with the addition of about 5 pounds....
And the largest of the day , Ling Cod. We had several at 30 pounds I'd guess. I'll just post the pic of the entire catch with all the new Team X recruits. Team X, the most sleep deprived fishing team in Alaska. On the right me and Bill, in the middle Chris and Dave and anchoring the team is Edwardo who is one tough s.o.b....and fishy. At one point he had a hold of a thrashing fish and Ben said " wo wo wo let me get that , I heard ' hey, I got it '.....Look at the side of those Lings.
Of course fish hounds want fish. The jigging is kinda physically challenging and by finally being the Teams elder I had to take a break and was granted permission....of course I could have resorted to the ol flying teeter totter method of  jigging like Dave but I just couldn't bring myself around to doing it, after all , I'm a professional  and I gotta look like one.
Here's a pic of our destination and view for 4 hours of jigging. Pearl Island . This is a place you gotta want to go to and you better have your collective stuff together and have faith in your equipment. It's a long way home.
Some trips for me end up being about fish. Some end up being about friends and some mostly about nature like when we pitch a no hitter on the world famous. Well this trip was about it all...
We stopped at the top of the hill and viewed Homer, icing on the cake for us. I noticed the guys were kinda quiet and I hope I was too. This view deserved it. They say the snow will be as deep as the Fireweed is tall....maybe some of you Alaskans can shoot me an e-mail and let me know if It's true.
It was the first time in 30 years I ever went fishing myself this time of year, so cool. So from me to you fellow fish meisters, mucho gracias, you helped me find the way in retirement. We ain't done with nothing but revenueing.
And in the ' this is weird stuff ' dept. Team X safety and morale officer has this...wash your truck when you park there, then don't do it again. And who ever you are going around Soldotna and giving away matches, stove fuel and vegetable peelers, thanks...but the matches were wet and MP thought she might catch something from the peeler...is this some kind object association game or something we should be picking up on , what gives ? weird .


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ed McMahan

I told somebody this morning my new job at Mile 14 is being Ed McMahan, you know the ' set up ' guy. As MP checks the people in and I help park them for their guided trips with the 20 or so guides that use our place the first people they see are me and her. So they ask about the fishing and I smile and tell them....it's all cooking off right now... and it is.

What a life ! I still get up at 3:30 every morning but instead of doing guide prep I went fishing this morning so tonight we'll have the very first fresh salmon on the grill....about time. AND, these three sockeye were the first ever fish I've caught on a fly rod, learning new things don't ya know.
I caught them in about 1/2 hour. It was sooooo nice. Semi dark with an almost full moon looking at me just like it does every morning in Mazatlan. It was warm and I was completely alone with the river right here on my own property, I like that. MP is canning and I'm off to the store, got have some good Chardonay ya know for that fresh pescado. Look how vibrantly red they are.
I didn't know if I'd like hanging around the launch but it's surprised me how much fun I'm having. MP stays up the hill at the gate and separates the folks from their money and then I point, cajole and encourage them to park geometrically so we can get as many cars in as possible...here's a job well done.
The folks are always excited and so they should be, I kinda get them pumped up and help them find the guide they're scheduled with...this shot will give you an idea of how the boarding / boat process works here at Mile on the world famous.
For 37 years I was usually off the beach first and to tell you the truth never really got to see how it all works or for that matter to  even really get to know the guides. So, I realize now that the future of this ultra cool  industry we all built in the 70's and 80's is going to be just fine...we have some really energized and interesting guides who are REALLY good at their jobs.
That guy is Cory and he has an easy manner that is perfect for the job, people instantly like this guy and never mind that he's fishy , fishy . fishy... When I used my Ed McMahan analogy on him he gave me a strange look like he either thought  it wasn't funny or just weird...well on further review MPeasy and me decided he didn't know who Ed McMahan was.
Jarrad there is Cory's partner and he is usually the last guy to launch in the morning...he's never in a hurry or anxious and I must confess it took me the first 30 years to get over the urge to be first everywhere all the time... He's a guy who shared a new technique with me last year that I was sooo impressed with.
Damond is probably the only guide at the launch that knows more knots than I do. I've always said that when you look at a lot of guides you have your 'name on the shirt ' kinda guys, you know the guy who likes being a guide better than he likes guiding... well Damond ain't that guy, he LOVES guiding. Damon recently lost his wife in a horrible unexpected health problem and I tell you I have a hard time looking him in the eye... I can't imagine my life that way...but he's a strong christian man and I wish comfort for him every day.
Like Reggie Jackson, Tyland there is the straw that stirs the drink around here. He's out going , he's opinionated, he's involved with all things Kenai ... and he's a gold miner. I knew Tyland when he broke in with a 16 ft driftboat and was the ' Swifter Drifter ' and now he's setting on a fishing empire  with cabins, processing, gold excursions...well played buddy. Did I say he also ain't afraid of any project and especially the work that goes with it.
Running that boat is Dan.... I would guess he is the most grizzled of the guides  having the most seasons under his belt. When he arrived on the scene He was working at Pay and Save then guiding at the same time. It was before the internet and it drove me nuts to see his brochures out fishing for customers where I couldn't. But as the years went on I softened and he hardened and we're friends, I guess that's the way it works. He IS  in Kenai jargon the best ' plug man ' on the world famous. Period.

I even had a a customer show me a good trick. You can tell by the idea and the manufacturing as well as the poilished floor that he's an engineer. But what a great idea to  have your gear go in and out of the boat at once, a really cool caddie.
All of you that know me know that I'm a little queer for boats.... I just like em, the lines the function, the materials and of course where they get ya.  So as this sockeye / king season moves on I'll be keeping an eye out. But this one caught my eye on our walk a couple days ago, what a beauty , now if you just had a 55 two door to tow it with.....oh, it's aluminum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

And Now....

Pink Salmon, I took this pic on the gutting table right here at Mile 14 last night.
Normally a salmon at Mile 14 of the world famous is not news....But....this one is different. This one should not be here and if it should be here it's an entirely new phenomena . You see here on the Kenai our Pink salmon only return every other year, even number years, it's always been that way. Pinks are an interesting salmon as they are the only salmon that doesn't rear in the river, they go straight out to see and return in two years full grown. I certainly have seen a smattering of wayward Pinks, Steelhead and Chums that also aren't Kenai fish but this year in early July there are lots, and I mean lots of these fish being caught. So, whats the problem ? Well, Alaska Fisheries Managers for the benefit of the commercial fishing industry have for years allowed the release of more and more hatchery Pinks ( artificial ) into the ocean to return for sometimes as little as 5 cents a pound. This last Aquaculture season a new record was set on hatchery influence on the oceans, nearly 1 billion, yes billion , were released. Of course now we're in a state wide period of ' low abundance ' of King salmon as the experts at ADF+G say . Many people and common sense will tell you that theres only so much feed for salmon and the more numerous fake Pinks could be starving out our gorgeous King salmon. So they are taking over and with no place to go to spawn and there as so many of them they are showing up everywhere...and now here. So basically they've taken Kings place in the ocean and now they've done the same in our River...hell of a deal. It's so odd, I think I know of what I speak, not only is this the wrong year for Pinks but it's also way too early as on even years they come at the very end of July and into August. There's another problem...they are no doubt also being counted by the sonar as Sockeye salmon which inflates the counts and just simply screws up the science of in season fisheries management... Yikes, what else we got going on is hard to say but this should certainly be big news to our people at ADF+G.

MP's Subaru had to go to Anchorage for a shave and a haircut and I wasn't looking forward to it. The Swan Lake Fire just 27 miles from here is now at 100,000 acres. Here's how it looked at 6:00 a.m.
It really was a surgical strike. We dropped the car off at 8:30 and they had us on the road a little after noon. We were given a a new Subaru Outback to drive, I can't say enough about Continental Subaru in Anchorage Alaska, first class so much that it will make us awful brand loyal. But it did get a little weird in Anchorage....for us going to Costco is always a treat so we were there for the doors to open at ten. When we got there we were astounded do a line of easily 300 people waiting. It was a specific line for just the Air Conditioners that had arrived . They were letting each person by two and it was pandemonium , people were scalping them in the parking lot. I told MP that our current record heat spell would break and sure as heck it has...in fact today the river has crested and it might even rain soon....as we all know, nothing's forever. Here's how the area around Jean Lake looked on the way home, it was 86 degrees.

MP rolled the window down and the smell was amazing. The pictures we took of from the car don't do it justice but they have no stopping signs everywhere and gawking just ain't right in Jeff's world. When we got home the car had ash in all the door and hood cracks... them fire fighters are some tough people and we all owe them a big thank you...by ya a beer next time I see you Ally.
So with all this going on including a fire in interior Alaska that is bigger than all the fires in the lower 48 combined look who was at the 4th of July parade. Well played dud and we get your message, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As guide # 003 is no longer for hire I had to recommend a friend for a King Charters to some wonderful customers / friends of  mine the Shepards and the Hangers. It was not the best day as the water is just now starting to clear and get normal... I hope you guys had a great day anyway and I wish I'd been at the launch to help with the fellowship part of  the adventure. Here's pic of them I took from the Minnow 4 , great people who know how to live.
By now you might be wondering about the fishing and maybe even getting to like my weekly ' he didn't catch a fish ' pic so I figure this week I'll cough up not one but two of them...and yes, we didn't catch a fish so hhhhhheeeerrrreeeee's Johnny... two pics you only see in Alaska, the last is the view as I slow trolled the tide only looking like I knew what I was doing.