Thursday, May 30, 2013

They're just like Salmon....

but smaller, considerably smaller. I remember having some crispy and  tasteful Holigan at the DeCanter Inn with Woody in May of 1972. So when I brought MP up to Alaska in 1977 that first spring we had to have fried Holigan....and they were disgusting. Greasy, soft, bland....two sure sign that you're new to Alaska is fishing for Holigan and stopping along the road to take pictures of Moose. But after all these years of going Holigan free I kinda thought that with our current need for protein from the sea here at Mile 14 we'd give them babies one more try. Who knows, maybe we didn't do it right back in 77.
So after walking 9 holes of golf yesterday on the hottest day of the year I went down and netted and released these holigan so you could see their abundance. Just one swoop and a net full. You know me, I'm a rules guy and fishing them  here at Mile 14 would be illegal, they have to be taken in the ocean or the very lower river where the ones we ate came from. So here's how they look, one swoop, held them up for a photo op and dumped em back to continue their lives. You can actually see a dark ribbon of them along the shoreline as they move upriver.
So then you clean them up real good. They have this really weird black slime layer in the body cavity and that stuff just looks like something you don't want to eat, kinda like razor clam guts. So I took my time and get the 7 or so we were given perfectly clean.
Then MP gets out the old Alaska Sourdoughs Cook Book because she figures that those old homesteaders surely had to use this protein source and probably had a way to make them scrump dilly ishus. She uses a shake and bake type of recipe and then puts the pan in the oven at an angle so the oil they're famous for will drain off. They don't call them Candle Fish for nothing.
And oh boy, do those babies look good or what? It looks like my night is going perfect. I have fresh fish, a glass of nice Merlot and the Mariners are only down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th. I take my first bite and....oh man, it's deja vu all over again. They're not disgusting but they're a long way from being very good.

I guess we should have used old Woodrow's recipe. He said he'd make a foil pouch and steam them on the barbecue with some white wine, a dab of  real butter, some fresh chopped garlic and then a couple stems of fresh Basil....let em steam for 15 minutes then throw out the Holigan and eat the tin foil.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Now That's Fishin

With my 4-wheeler still on the 15 day disabled list I was driving down to the launch yesterday morning listening to Bill W (bullet line Bill) rant on the local radio call in show, you know, just a routine morning.  Old Bill there calls up 'Sound Off' so much that I think I could name his grand kids and in the deep recesses of my cerebellum I'm thinking  man...I oughta be fishing. Well, as the river reveals itself to me as I approach the launch I see a fish swirl and scan upriver to see it's attached to a line. Now normally this is not an unusual sight but with the weather so cold and spring so late nobody has been fishing.  This is only the 3rd boat I've seen, and a drift boat at that, fair chase at it's finest. How's about that snow across the river?
It turns out to be a family, Brian Kaferstein and his wife Leann and son. Watching Brian run the oars and patiently move the fish to shallow water for release was like hearing Gary Alan hit the falsetto or watching Mickey Mantle run down a fly ball...a thing of beauty. This King Salmon is knarly, it runs and swirls, Leann leans on it and before long it's in the net, beached right here at Mile 14.
It's not a popular opinion with my peers but I think that drift boat holds the key to the future of our fishery. It's quiet, it can only fish the good water once so it's a little less efficient, it throws no wake, it leaves no unburned fuel and combine that with catch and release... walla...these guys have put the sport in sport fishing.
With catch and release you have to get 'the' photo and there it is. This salmon was magnificent, about a 50 pounder and shiney as a new dime. I clicked a few pics and Brian gently released it, like u-boat we watched it fin away and submerge slowly into the green, no worse for the wear. Good work you guys and thanks for sharing your fish with me, it made my day. The last thing I heard from Leann was " somebodies going to have to the land the next one because I'm a little tired"....turns out it was her second fish of the day.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Heck with it ! I'm going fishin !

'Stuff 'can drive you nuts. I have to tell you, I've had about the worst run of luck with 'stuff' that I can ever recall. My always trusty Honda 4-wheeler broke down...twice... and the other day on the way to the dump my truck died. I now have a spanking new fuel pump that was so expensive that it increased the value of that Silverado by 25%...and oh, its the second fuel pump in the last 12,000 miles. But the worst one was the ker- smashing sound I heard the other day when I closed the door to the garage... it was just the right vibration to scooch the shelf off the brackets in the laundry room breaking the foodsaver machine as well as MP's grandmothers canner.  But what can you do??? Get the boat ready and go fish, that's what ya do. So with my truck on the disabled list I call my friend Keith to haul the boat up the hill so I can get it ready, done it a 100 times. But this time I have electrical gremlins, hit the bilge switch and the nav lights come on. Mmmmmmm, it takes me an entire day to track down my problem which I expected to be and was a ground problem....those things are always corrosion so here's your first tip of the season- use grease to cover all your grounding connections.

But with my truck back and Minnow 4 ready to go my friend Keith and I take off on the last day before catch and release takes effect, Here's a pic of Keith and huge 2x12 we picked out of the river for MP to make raised garden beds out of, the river does deliver.
As you can see, its just us and the river and Keith and his dad were some of my best customers back in the 80's and 90's. After years of working in the publishing business Keith followed his passion for fishing and went to work for me guiding. I used to call him grasshopper as just like in the show Kung Fu I was showing him the way. But now it's 2013 and his been guiding on his own for many many years and is a grizzled Kenai veteran,  a steady guy for sure.

You know how I always say that the river is a living thing, well this day it was as apparent as ever. The water had this funky tea-ish color that I can't remember seeing before. I suppose it had something to do with last falls flood much like this tree (that there are many of) that floated down the river root wad and all then settled in standing up tall in the river column.
I've always heard that there is always just one Loon per lake or river area. Well this day they were everywhere. I suppose with our late spring and frozen lakes they all decided to share a bit more the open water from Mile 14 down....
We actually fished fairly hard as we talked of the old days and of course the current state of the Kenai. Like a couple kids we got a little bored so we went and slogged around in the mud looking for things and had to muscle the boat off after the tide dropped out from under other words, it was a great day, thanks Keith.

On our way home we couldn't help but be impressed by the new ADF+G sonar project on the once pristine island at mile 13.7. If money out lay is any indication of a projects success this baby is gonna run like a Rolex watch. They've got their walkways in, their signs up, their coffee pot warming, chain saw a screaming...they got it going on.
But you know me, I gotta have a closer look so later on MP and I went down so I could introduce ourselves to our new neighbors. They weren't around. Mmmmmmm to the right of this platform I notice there's a wood crate with a Honda generator in it to send power to the sonar transducer. Its not running.
The next pick is the business end of the sonar. It certainly looks high tech enough and I'm pretty darn certain that its going to work....but, doesn't it need to be under water?
So, on May 16th, 2013 at 10 am we could have had no salmon or two hundred salmon swim by and I don't think we know. Come on guys, we need this info, we're rooting for you, fire up that impressive machinery and lets get  to enumerating these King Salmon , our future depends on it. And maybe while they're tromping around the island counting salmon they could find time to take a sign down besides just putting them up. It just doesn't look good...but who asked me. Read the fine print.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Fish Story

That's a picture of my first fish of the 2013 season here at Mile 14.  I spent 3 days shoveling the muck out of the boat launch and finally yesterday I see my planer board go off and reeled in this gorgeous creature.  That would be a T-50 Flatfish in the Pirate color hanging from his lip. And to build my moe-joe I just snapped two pictures and pulled the hook to let him swim off and continue his life cycle. But as you can see that,s no King Salmon, it's a Steelhead salmon for sure and that one there makes for 4 or 5 that I've caught through the years...even though the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game says they don't exists in the Kenai river.
Speaking of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and also turns out that they have people over there that are clairavoint as they have restricted the river to catch and release fishing because of a weak run or early Kings and they don't even have the sonar counter in yet or any creel census work done. So that looks like the deal but I think it's going to be a great ride. I'm going to offer my customers a super deal on catch and release trips. They'll be a great value,  you don't have to quit fishing when you catch one like normal and the river will be a quiet wonderful wilderness experience. The only thing you don't get out of the trip is a salmon supper unless you catch a jack under 20 inches or a trophy over 55 inches which you can keep. So in the short term any of you booked in the next few weeks I'd guess its going to be catch and release. But in June who knows, if fish arrive it could turn back around, one thing we know about the Kenai River is that this is a dynamic place. And who wouldn't want to see one of these babies like this one brought to the  net after an exciting battle and then gently released to go on and spawn for the next run. This particular fish was released last year as it was over the slot limit .
The high water last fall left about a foot of silt and mud on the concrete launch surface. I always shovel some muck every year but this spring it was exceptional. We toyed with the idea of getting a piece of equipment down to move it but in the end we decided to just do it ourselves like I do everything. And as my luck would have it my always trust Honda 4-wheeler broke down so I couldn't use my cart to haul it. It was just me, a flat nose razor back and a wheel barrel. here's a before and after shot.
By my estimate I moved about two 9 yard dump trucks worth. About half way through I mentioned to MP that I'd bet there's been many a 60 year old man have the big one when working that hard...and that's when she got a shovel and pitched in. Great team work, thanks MP. So this last pic is  me with just one of the piles I moved, somethings you just have to want to do and besides.....I got to thinking with my frugal side that if you had this much gravel or sand delivered it would cost you several hundred bucks... we're making money now so welcome to the 2013 season. Bring it on, lets have some fun.
And of course the Kenai River always have something to give you. As I shoveled one day I heard a cackling and looked up...right across from me were these guys arriving home. Wow, release a Steelhead, see some Swans and burn 15,000 calories, now that's a pretty good day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A life's work

I'd never say that I was the best fishing guide on this Kenai River, we have some wonderful people here that are not only nice guys but can almost put fish on the line by magic. And I'm finally comfortable at just being 'really good' and my need to be the best isn't so important anymore...I guess that's maturity. BUT, when it comes to marine salvage on the Kenai River I don't think anybody would argue that I'm the best, after all, I pretty much invented it and if you get a nod for longevity I'm also the 'grand old man' of the game. And its pretty easy to have no peers when you might be the only one who really thinks that finding things in the river is a new important sport. I've always been that way, good at things that other people weren't, like Indian leg wrestling when I was in high school.
So that pic is my first double of the year. For fisherman there's nothing more exciting that having two on at once so you can imagine the hoot I let out when I found the 2nd anchor the other day. It would  have been easy to miss as it'd been on the bottom for a while and was sunk in pretty good and it was in a fast part of the river where the ripple from the current makes it hard to spot. But, using the methods I've developed over a lifetime of screwing off I hunted that baby down and made a pay day.....ahhhh Alaska. You know what I say " the river will deliver". And if you wonder why I'm a fitness fanatic, try carrying 2 twenty five pound anchors 1/2 mile back to the boat launch, ya gotta take this stuff serious, so I stay in shape.
Anything along the lines of stainless steel like these high quality pliers stand out like a 'huge golden oak' as Jimmy Buffet said. But still you have to know where to look, when to look and of course it helps if you live on the river and don't get bored easily.
This years salvage season is a bit unusual, like most things around here. Because spring is so late this year we have a new dimension for salvaging....looking under and around all that darn ice we still have . Just today I was going to run my planer board out as I worked ( well messing around really) at the launch but there were ice bergs floating by that would foul the lure. Here's what we're dealing with, me and ol Jet-dog, she's off to the right of the middle.
So next time you're here at Mile 14 or if you have the occasion to fish with me make sure you check out my museum of salvaged goodies. I've got the dashboard off a 1983 rented Ford Escort that a guy didn't set the parking brake on back in the day, I've got props and signs and....well.... a lot of really cool junk. I do believe it 's the largest inventory of Kenai River lost art in the world, yup, the entire world. You come have a look. But the anchors are different, they're worth moooo-la, I know its weird but my career won't be complete until I sell one back to somebody that lost it.
All the time me and JD jet-dog  are out salvaging alone in this strange sport I've invented...we're being watched. The guys across the river, State Parks out looking for the criminal element and this guy....who's sitting there thinking...'man that guy sure screws off a lot...but he's awful darn good at it'....
I know I promised you guys I'd put up a pic of the river in the same place every time so you'd see how the living thing that is our river changes...mmmmmm....well I got to thinking that you'd be about as bored with it as I am, already, so I have a new pic I took downriver today. Sorry, I just don't want to be in a picture rut.
That is beautiful, ain''t it?...Mile 14