Saturday, June 30, 2012

Wish us some Luck

I've had a little time to read lately and as I walked through the mall the other day on the way to our new temporary library to get Dan Rathers new book Rather Outspoken I had the darnest thing happen.  Out of the clear blue sky a guy gives me this 4 leaf clover and told me "everybody could use a little luck". Maybe I looked like I could use some.
Of course he doesn't know me but everbody knows him, Glenn Martin is that kind of guy. He has the Guiness World Record for 4 leaf clovers ever collected and as he fished in his wallet for this one all packaged and ready I realised this guy has a certain passion....he had 4 leaf clovers in all sizes. So you know me, I don't believe in coincidence and having Glenn give me a good luck symbol unsolicited I figure is the start of new things.

Gamblers will tell you they don't believe in luck but I got it figured a bit different, nobody knows hope and wishes and faith and optimism like fisherman, its part of the formula. Being a guy that fishes about 150 days a year I get up for each expeience with a new is going to be the day, and its not that I hope for it as much as I know it. And so, sometimes I'm wrong but I start fresh and positive every single day, got to. So, the ole Kenai is healing up nicely from being off color from our record snow pack, I'm confident that by lines in tuesday morning water clarity will not be a problem. We need nice clear water for the no-bait regulation of course. Fridays ADF+G report showed a bit of an upturn in Kings to the river and we even saw a couple splashing away yesterday...and next week I have some fun people to join me, on tues and weds I have some new folks the McMichaels and the Mahoods and then later in the week I have my old friend Roger Langford who I haven't seen in 20 years but I remember well from the 80's. And to finish the week off on saturday I have Dube and Vick who fished last year with Jake Marquis the day after my emergency surgery....what a day that was and I'm figuring to repeat the results, a couple large wish em all luck.

Lately I been feeling a change in the wind
like one chapter closes and another begins

My luck is bound to turn around again
I know its just a matter of when
                                                      Thanks Kevin Fowler

And speaking of positive....hows about MP's flowers, Positively gorgeous I'd say.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I just wanna go fishing

I don't understand it but I guess blame is a natural reaction for some people. Its a shame because what we're learning is that our King Salmon situation is an unprecedented statewide event. Richard Mauer the Anchorage Daily News's premier investigative reporter has the best piece written on it in sundays paper.  As of now the entire Susitna drainage is closed to King Salmon. The Yukon, Kuskokwim, Kasilof, Anchor and many others are having below average and regulated returns. The Nushagak, Alaska's biggest King producer is lagging behind and I expect it will be in the news real soon.  Today the Dept. of Fish and Game (adf+g) comercial fisheries section closed the 1st set net period of the year that could effect Kenai Kings. the politicians say, I'm guardedly optomistic.

So for the folks who have their dream King Salmon Charter coming up with me all I can say is we're going to do the very best we can, 110% effort is all we can do to make up for the lack of bait. We've fished without bait on the early run for many years now, with great success. So,  I gurantee you, nobody on the river is going to have a better chance than us. I also expect the river to be quieter. The locals who wrongly think they won't catch fish without bait will stay home and wait for better opportunities. ADF+G is in a difficult juggling act with this situation and certainly some netting will be done to harvest Kenai Reds. So I think it means that we on the river sportfishing will have opportunity and I expect the very worse that could happen would be no retention just catch and release, we'll see. I'm lucky in that I have the best customers who enjoy the river, the chase , the wildlife and the fellowship that along with the catching makes for a great fishing trip. Even if the worse were to happen later in the month and we have catch and release I think that many of my friends are going to enjoy it.....I mean what else can ya do. Even with bait and as good as we are....believe it or not....we don't always catch them, thats why we enjoy the chase. So, thats enough said. If anything changes I'll update this blog immediately.

I've had a little cabin fever from staying put here at Mile 14, I just haven't wanted to be around a bunch of highly opinionated people  talking about my culture, my lifestyle, what we do.  Alaskan's are passionate about the fish for sure. So on saturday MP and I road tripped on down to Kasilof to soak in some of the energy from the personal use gill net fishery at the river too is not doing as well as normal. But the Alaska spirit is alive and well, outdoors, enjoying the summer. This hot rod side by side was impressive to help gather fish and hows about an outboard motor the likes of which I've never seen.

I'm not sure, the duck tape kind of mis leads me but I think its an old air cooled Sea-king or Sears or Montgomery ward type of motor. anybody out there know? 

The picture below is looking south from the Kasilof River. Lots of folks for sure.
And just so there'd be no confusion somebody built this sign to give us all a good healthy dose of perspective. I ran into my old friend Blake Johnson and we had a good long look at that sign....yup, theres a lot of places we could be and as Blake winters in Arizona theres a couple of them places we both know real good. But for now, its hard to beat summer in Alaska, bait or no bait, here at Mile 14.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Hang on, its going o be a bumpy ride...That's about all I can say right now that's semi-upbeat. Its unprecedented, the river is closed to Kings until July 1st and then it'll reopen for catch and keep fishing without bait. Yikes.

I spent yesterday on the phone with some very disappointed people. The cancellations have cost us just about the same amount of money that I spend surf fishing in Mazatlan every winter. But the worst part is the emotions, it hurts to see this wonderful thing we've created on its knees. In fishing and in life I have a theory I call momentum...when things are going good they keep going good and when things are going bad....well, brace yourself. For me and others like me right now we know the fish have to come first so any conservation type regulations have my full support, we need the fish that are here now to spawn, period.

But come July things get a bit more complex...well, not a bit, a whole bunch more complex. Naturally I hope the predicted weak run doesn't occur but if it does I'll support any emergency regulations that will help the problem and that are ...FAIR.  Fishing with unbaited lures will cut down on harvest for sure, I suppose we'll still have our moments of brilliance and I'll be cleaning a lot of fish... but....what are they going to do with the mile and miles and miles and miles of gill nets being fished right down the road ? It could actually work out that a commercial fisheries conservation component might just create fantastic fishing for us, after all we sportfishermen catch very few compared to them. So, theres a lot of unknowns here, some maybe good, some maybe bad. So like I said, hang on...

And you know how I like lists. I always say theres got to be some good come from everything so heres a few examples.

1. None of that yecky ole Pro Cure on your clothes. Boat clean-up will be a snap.

2. I've got 100 pounds of fresh frozen sardines that I'm thinking might not be to bad deep fat fried.

3. I'm going to get extra work out time...with 10 days until I work again I'm figuring my goal to bike the Kenai-Soldotna loop is a done deal.

4. In the last few years I've kind of learned to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Well, we're going to have to circle the wagons now and not spend $$$$ frivolously. We're going to budget just like we used to, no worries. A little financial speed bump is good for the appreciation part of life I'm figuring.

5. We've got to many guides, this just might help ' thin the herd' a bit... I just hope I'm one of the ones left standing.

6. It could help our community so see the importance of vital fisheries and ALL the users contributions to make this wonderful town what it is., I'm feeling better already. Guess it helps to brain storm the bright sides a bit.

Monday, June 18, 2012

When you fail to plan - you plan to fail

That's what we need, a plan. Right now we're on catch and release for May / June King salmon because there is no harvest able surplus. There were just barely enough in 2011 and not enough again in 2010, I don't know about the managers at Fish and Game but I'd call that a trend. so, if any of you have any influence or knows a guy that knows a guy....PLEASE, tell them we need a plan, it might even be called a ' May / June salmon recovery plan'....hows that for helping out ?

So fishing last week wasn't exactly red hot but we do hunt them babies down. I got a call from a guy named Rex Bell who's wife Yvonne and him fished with me in 1984. Hows that for cool, have a guy look you up for an encore performance 27 years later, and to make it even better, as life would have it Yvonne works in Great Falls Montana with my brother. So after 7 hours in a steady rain,  trolling and hoping and grinding and wishing the rod went off and we were hard into a salmon. What the Kenai is all about, high risk, high rewards. This fish that Rex's son Norm caught was really something, it jumped, it ran, it was flat thrilling and came in at 45 inches and 48 pounds, a beauty.
The day before I did a trip for some wonderful people, Tom Luetscher and his wife Audrey and niece Shirley. We had not one but two good chances where the fish didn't get the hook and I'm beginning to think that our chances are up....and walla...this beautiful 35 pound hen picked up Shirley's wiggle wart lure and provided a gourmet meal that night in the campground.  Thanks Tom, you guys were great.
I don't know what it is with the catch and release that some folks don't like, this week I have a crew who decided not to and another that doesn't care. The bright side is that the river will be quiet and fun and they have a chance to maybe catch more than just the one per of a daily bag limit if you retain the salmon. As for me, I like letting them go, I feel involved, doing my part. If you remember a few blogs back I released a huge one a week ago or so...and it was great, ole slimey just furnished a thrill and then went on his way, more salmon in the future and that's part of the plan, I guess.  Some of the guys are going trout fishing or taking their fisherman to the Russian for Red salmon, well, that's not me, we hunt down King salmon, its what we do and I'm hoping to have some C+R trips, we'll see.

Yesterday was the warmest day of the year. I've been a little bluesy with the loss of some salmon trips and with the weather and inspiration from the U.S. Open me and MP decided to go golfing. But why go all the way to the course when we have acres of green and a completely empty parking lot right here at Mile 14. So we spent some hours shanking balls into the woods  and recovering the ones that actually ended up where we intended. Even Jet-dog helped with the retrievals, as you can see our dandelion crop is gorgeous...Sure made me feel better, smacking around a few golf balls with the person you love in the place you love...that's pretty darn cool.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Our good friends Chris, Melinda, Ashley and Christopher Fejes came down this week to fish. Chris is a go to guy and usually runs his own boat so I was a bit surprised that he'd hire me for a day on the creek. But I got to thinking thats he's a good enough friend to know that if I don't make some lettuce I can't go to Mexico and if I don't go to Mexico he'll spend the whole winter listening to me snivel. So thanks you guys it was wonderful day and the fresh salmon dinner....walla. As you can see Boo-Boo and Christopher both caught .

So speaking of Mexico I'd been ruminating over it a bit. MP's just about good with our current 10 week deal and I really want to add some more time there. Out of the clear blue sky I get mail from an owner in our building that I met when we had the going away party that I played some country music at. Well she has a son in Alaska and during their visit they wanted to trade some fishing for some condo time, Yahtzee, hot deal. So now I got new friends and some more time in my 2nd favorite place, isn't it funny how connections are made. Here's my new friend Ron Schroeder with a King he caught, the fishing wasn't exactly fast action but we enjoyed the time, they're cool people....thanks you guys.
The only bad thing that happened this week...and its really not all that bad, is that my new friends John and Nicole Japp didn't get their King. John is a guy that if we didn't live thousands of miles apart we'd be everyday friends, he's a kindred spirit and a real observer of nature. He loved the Eagles here at Mile 14 and I think that's ultra cool. But they didn't go salmon less, Nicole caught a nice red for supper. Is that a great smile or what?
And talk about connections...when we rode the bikes past the Honda center this morning there sat my old boat. Back in the late 80's when everyone was moving to the saltwater to catch even more king salmon I got caught up in it and thought I'd be a 'blue water' skipper. I did many a salmon / halibut combo trip out of this boat and one day I realised that most of the people who went fishing with me were terrified for most of the day...including myself. So I sold it to guy who sold it to a guy who sold it to Jason Foster who I've known since he was a kid.... In fact when I was coaching the kids in basketball we were up against the toughest team in the league. Jason Foster was in high school and a ref for the young kids....I had 1 (one), (only) kid that could defend the hot shoes and Jason #$%&*$ Foster fouled him out.  Oh well, I'm almost over that.
You can see by Jason's prop that he doesn't run the boat any better than he ref's basketball. But he's my friend and like a lot of people he uses the 'brail ' method of river running... been there myself.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fisheries Management 101

My friend Dave Anderson sent me a book that he knew I'd be interested in. It Paul Greenbergs Four Fish  , 'the future of the last wild food'. The book follows 4 endangered species, Atlantic Salmon, Giant Tuna, Sea Bass and Cod and where they are now and how they got to that point. There were a lot of things that jumped out at me in the book and one of them was this concept of fisheries management by regional fisherman themselves, after all, who is more apt to nurture the fishery than the people most dependent on it? This is actually being done in some parts of the world with mixed success, the tribes of the lower 48 have taken to fisheries management to help the local professionals in many ways...we all know...government seems to be more reactive than proactive, which is what we are needing in fisheries management.  So I know I said I'd keep this blog light and fun but please indulge me once and I promise I won't do it again, but if I were in charge, here's a few things we'd make happen. Lets have fish for the future, and not just our future...all of it.

1. Alaska State Parks has a mission statement to provide outdoor recreation opportunity, in Alaska that means hunting and fishing by and large. The Alaska Dept of Fish and Game manages the resources that State Parks provides access doesn't it make sense for them to all be the same agency ? Right now State Parks is under Alaska's Dept. of Natural Resources which means ...oil. These are the folks that negotiate oil leases, mining permits etc, its all important work for the State but isn't Parks maybe more aligned with Fish and Game  than oil and mining ? So I see an Alaska Dept. of Fish, Game and Parks with a common commissioner all under the same roof. It would expedite what we need, thoughtful Park and Fisheries development that's done cohesively and makes sense.

2. Alaska is the land of plenty and people take plenty, its human nature. We need seasonal bag limits that make sense. Why should we allow for people to take an unlimited amount of salmon as they do now? And why should it be allowed for them to focus all their harvest into one fishery or one season that might be a more fragile fishery than a bigger one that they did not participate in? ie: our Kenai silvers vrs reds. So what I see is a liberal system to allow plenty of Salmon into Alaskan and visitors freezers that might work like this. A punch card allows you for a total or 40 salmon, of which includes your 5 Kings of which 2 can be from the Kenai, 10 silvers, 25 reds and so many humpies or get the idea. My concern for this came out of our late run silvers. This is great fishery, its healthy and vital, so we can't allow it to be over harvested. People shouldn't be allowed to put up their entire winters worth of salmon off of this one stock, theres plenty of other ways to get the protein and they should use them.

3. When the fish run ends so should the harvest. Some winters with mild weather people continue to fish silvers in the upper river right into December. Does it make sense to harvest fish out of the system that are not being replaced? Especially when you don't know what that harvest could be in numbers from year to year.  Through the years I've heard fish people say that the silver run lasts all winter, that they even come in under the ice...well that's pure bunk. Can you show me anywhere in the world where an anadromous salmon run doesn't end? So our salmon season should end October 1st.

4. Fisheries in Cook Inlet and on the road system should be managed as one. The problem is transference of effort. As we say ' Anchorage is only 20 minutes from Alaska' we have a mobile fishing effort. If one fishery has shortages people simply go to another one and stress it which isn't fair to the fish or the fishermen that traditionally use that place.

5. We need cold clean water. The fragile wetlands along the rivers are essential for salmon reproduction. We need riparian protection and not just in ordinance, they need to be enforced. We continually hear about 'accumulative impacts' but it seems the accumulation never starts until the governments latest project is over. We also need the government to lead by example, don't do anything to the public lands that wouldn't be permitted on  private lands.

6. We need the application of plain old fashioned common sense. For instance, when our freshwater salmon fisheries are in trouble and become regulated for the sake of escapement so should the saltwater fishery...they're the same *&$#@&! fish.  A few years back stock assessment was done in Kachemak Bay out of concern for harvest in the new winter King fishery. Some of the fish were from British Columbia...but now does that pass the common sense test that many of them couldn't be immature Kenai / Kasilof / Anchor River fish?...If you were a salmon and there was food to eat around Homer, would you swim to the Berring Sea anyway ?...

7. We need fisheries Managers that are advocates. And I mean advocates for sportfishing just like the managers in the Commercial fisheries view their jobs as to manage for an economy...

8. We need honesty. The first step in problem solving is to admit you have a problem.  For instance,our sonar is an important piece in the King salmon fisheries puzzle here.  It doesn't work, its never worked, the same people who ran it 20 years ago are still running it....isn't that the definition of insanity ? To repeat the same thing over and over expecting a different result ? Oh, now they want to move the sonar, it creates a new set of problems just like the old problems that we could never solve. Maybe we need some kind of review and come up with a plan to fix the current sonar.

9. We need...and have needed for 30 years a limit on guides. We need a 'sustainable' guide industry and I'm sorry, this river, this resource, this economy and our community ain't big enough for 400 of them. The public has asked for this, the guides have asked for this but the government has been 'scared' of doing the right thing. Its true that we hate to inhibit commerce but this is a special place and a special situation, its like no place in the world and it needs solutions like no place in the world. Limited entry is in all the commercial fisheries in Alaska and successfully so...why not for Kenai guides as well? This situation is harvest related, social order related and just common sense. It would also help build a sense of stewardship amongst the active guides. Then we need a fair and reasonable system for new guides to enter the fishery as drop out occurs.

10. Now I might not have all the answers and if  I sound a bit angry its because I am. Our early run is faltering and nobody seems to do anything except to regulate harvest for the year or time frame of the problem and when that's over its back to the same old same old. I've guided and know this River intimately for all my adult life. I've seen biologists come and go and I've also seen the fish come and go...don't ya suppose with all my fisheries involvement and hands on experience mine and others views might have some value ?  But no, we speak up at meetings and the professional managers role their eyes.  Thanks bad it doesn't effect your pay check to.

Monday, June 4, 2012

My biggest fish.....ever...honest

If you don't think Mile 14 is a magical place, wait till you hear this one. This morning I caught the biggest fish I've ever caught without the aid of a boat...on shore, terra firma. Being slightly obsessed with the whole deal you can only imagine how many fish I've caught, big, small, boats, in the surf, on the creek, in the ocean, from a dock, bait, no bait, left hand right get the idea. But this morning I caught the biggest and most exciting fish from shore of my whole 58, soon to be 59 years on this planet. My first Roosterfish in the surf was ultra-magnum exciting and my biggest surf fish would be a Rooster at 35 pounds, so I have to say Alaska and the Kenai River trumped that pretty darn good. Here's what happened.

MP and I had dirt work to do on the launch and as I would routinely do this time of year I ran my planer board out with a K-16 gold Kwikfish behind it. The planer board was developed for boat fishing the Great Lakes, it grabs the current and ' swims' out at about a 45 degree angle from where its line is anchored. In this case on a fence post downriver a bit from where guideboat 003 lives. The first pic is the hardware and the second pic I took last year that shows it at work. If you look careful to the left of the reel you'll see the 'V' in the water from the planer board.
I had no sooner got the planer set and was watching the dumpster guy emptying our bear bait when I saw a big splash and walla....the board disappears. Yikes, its fiiiiiiish on. I grab the rod and he's smoking line, one of the cool things is that I'm using my Mazatlan surf casting set-up and we're geared special for this fight, lots of line and a steady reel, the Daiwa Saltiga. The fish is easily 100 yards out and down and I know I have to go with him do take advantage of the current. I don't have boots or anything so I just yell to MP to get the camera, a measuring stick and follow me....its big...I see his tail....whoosh. In the water I go and wade around trees and rocks as I work my way down to the gravel bar above Stewarts Island, maybe a 1/4 mile downriver...This is the Alamo, this is where its all got to stop. Even though the fish is way downstream I stand in one place and tighten down on him and retrieve line a little by little. Theres a group of people watching from across the river.
We're under the slot limit right now and I have the funny feeling that this fish is going to be to big to keep, which in my world is both good and bad. MP finally catches up with me and she's seen enough to know it also, this fish is going to crush the 46 inch rule. It takes me 15 minutes to work him back up current to the slow deep water at the tip of the island that I figure is the place to land him. Theres a shallow bar to pull him over and we get a real good look, its gorgeous. I drop the rod and grab the fish, theres a lot of wrestling going on that MP didn't really get a pic of because I needed help to measure him.  But I get the stick to him and without stressing over it but for a second or two its real apparent that this male King salmon is at least 48 inches and I'd guess around 55 pounds, a shiny bright , thick bodied male.
I wish I had a better picture of him for you but at this point we really need to get him to swim away, go spawn baby.  When we release fish we do not take them out of the water and try to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible. So I have to get him back over the gravel bar to the river so I cradle him with one hand around his tail I get him to deep water. At one point I just about fell in as I stumbled on the slippery  gravel bottom. The next pic is the money shot, he's just about to swim free, no worse for the wear and has provided me with another personal best. What an exciting salmon. wow. And as you can see, the Jet-Dog doesn't miss much...
We would have loved to eat that salmon, it so good. But rules are rules and you know what, even if he was a marker and we'd decided he was 45 7/8 inches long and legal I might still have let him go. When I was putting the planer out we were hoping for a nice 25 pounder to eat and then share some of, what would we do right now with 50 pounds of salmon.

The last pic MP took of me flush with adrenaline. How often does a guy catch a trophy salmon that makes him run, sweat and I have to hands were shaking pretty darn good. So if I ever get to where I don't get as excited as I did this morning over my fishing passion, it'll be time to retire....but for now, I still got it....BIG TIME.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

them Bones, them Bones...

Our town is a new town, everything here is newer than the 60's. When I first came to Soldotna in 1971 it had around 500 to 700 people but the town was getting all those things that make it a place to live, libraries, fire stations, medical clinics, public parks , baseball diamonds...but the one thing it never had was a cemetery. I guess the town was so young and the young town members were so busy ( fishing I'd guess) that they never really thought about the end and what being interred forever in Soldotna Alaska might mean to people. Maybe it just didn't seem important. But, a few years back a few Soldotna visionaries said enough is enough and this town is going to be here a while so we want all our people, dead and alive , here too. And the Cemetery location, funding and construction debate was on.  Well, you'd think it'd be a pretty simple thing, all towns need a cemetery right?  But this was far from simple, the voters liked one site, the influential in town didn't. The city council wanted a particular site but the neighbors didn't... one opposing group even brought up the issue of groundwater pollution due to our deceased loved ones....mmmm....I had a real hard time listening to the tone of this debate, I mean some of my best friends are dead people, whats the problem? When the smoke cleared and civility and common sense took over we ended up with this beautiful memorial park that we'd never been to until our bike ride this morning.
This place is just down at the end of the road from where we used to live before we moved to Mile 14. Its nice, a road that makes a circle through the grounds with nice manicured grass and some trails for contemplative walking. Who wouldn't want to spend the rest of history in place with a view like this eh?

Naturally with all that happened in the world our new cemetery has a special place to honor veterans that pass on. To our surprise someone had left a real Purple Heart medal sitting on the granite, I guess some local wanted to underscore the solemn nature of this place and donated his medal knowing nobody would take it, its just there part of the atmosphere.
This next pic is what the bare ground awaiting the inevitable looks like. MP and I parked our bikes and we could see a grave stone, Soldotna's first interred. It sat back by the tree line and seemed just a lonely unusual thing to me, I guess some body's got to be just looked so....out of place in a weird way...I wish I could explain it.
MP and I  are really not too surprised that its our friend Bill Twohy, things like that happen in small towns. I did not know Bill well but we are friends by osmosis, driven together by our town. His wife is in MP's book club, his son Sean was our house sitter when we started the Mexico portion of our lives. Bills friends are our friends and our friends are Bill's friends, he was a much loved man, taken by cancer to early. So...I guess that's why we needed a cemetery and when we left his lone grave didn't seem so weird. Like I said , its our town... and we're staying.