Friday, April 25, 2014

I's all my fault...but then again....maybe....

Now I ain't inspector Closeau, but you don't have to be to figure most things out in life. As everyone knows our Early Run King Salmon are in a period of 'low abundance' as the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game words it. Now as hurtful and the waste of time that it is I suppose it's natural for people to assign blame, it seems like that's the way America works. I don't think it's even close to an entirely local problem but let's assume the worst here and say it is our problem...who's to blame. I had a friend, make that ex friend, tell me "they should have shut you guys down years ago"....mmmm.....well we just caught what they let us. And the commercial fisherman, harvest is their lively hood and they only took all that the managers allowed them to. Nobody did anything here they weren't allowed or in some cases even encouraged to do. So lets just call this a mystery and we ought to compile a little evidence. Having just been on call for jury duty I know that people decide guilt using three tools, common sense, motive an opportunity and the HISTORY of behavior.

First off I'm printing a list of our wonderful natural resources that the 40 years I've been here. Most are things that used to be harvested and now are not. Some are remnant's of what they were and a few I think are plane old gone. They all share the same thing, management. It's true that our area and the Anchorage bowl has grown in population but I thought that's what management makes the population and demands of that fit the harvest. There's no doubt in my mind that people would change their harvest habits for the future. It's the only way it will work. In the future we will need a cleaner more exclusive guide industry and commercial component that fits our goals of sustainability...I think people are willing to change but managers are not, maybe. And really, I am optimistic for the future, here goes.

1. Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet King Crab
2. Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet Dungeness Crab
3. Kachemak Bay Shrimp
4. Kachamak Bay Clams , steamers and Butters
5. Deep Creek, Ninilchik River, Anchor River wild Steelhead.
6. Crooked Creek wild King Salmon
7. Early Run Kenai King Salmon
8. Ninlichik and Clam Gulch Razor Clams (just recently)
9. Moose
10. Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
11. and by jiminy we got rid of those pesky old Pike at Stormy Lake.

Well, you get the idea. I suppose they all have been effected by those things the experts can't control. Ocean oscillations, poor recruitment, age class, predation....let me tell you a story or two.

A few years ago these guys got on the band wagon with licensing and made all the charter people get their license. It's a hundred bucks every year...and every year you get a new number and fill out a generic form. Now every other revenuer in the State at least takes the time to create a data base and send you a pre printed form with your info on it. Dept. of Transportation sends your registration ready to go. The Dept. of Revenue, ditto for your business license. To State Parks credit they have their licensing ready to go as well. But not these guys, nope....that's called work.

And then just the other day the Clarion had a news headline, ' Fish and Game regulation book printed with errors'. They just forgot a few of the new regulation changes, I personally think they should pass a law that they can't add any more regs until they take and equal number out of the book. I'll get to that part in a bit. But one of the errors was the new closed water areas on this map that the Clarion printed. Doesn't look confusing to me, how about you?
As luck would have it a few years ago I was on the way to Mexico and one of our area Biologists was on the plane. I was reading Paul Greenberg's Four Fish which is an important best seller about the 4 ocean fish that they feel have gone past the tipping point, Atlantic salmon, Giant Tuna, Sea bass and of course Atlantic Cod. It charts what lead to the 'low abundance' of these fish. I showed it to this biologist and he said he was not familiar with it and it looked 'interesting'. So I asked if he'd like me to drop it off at his office when I got back from Mexico and he said....."not really".
That's page 52 of our 64 page regulation book. A real beauty, I love the arrows that help illustrate the closed water of the Kenai during red season, kinda of a 'knee bone connected to thigh bone, thigh bone connected to'.......aahhhhh, it's painful. Do you wonder why people get confused? But I know one thing, we're not on the map, the ADF+G won't bother you at Mile 14. And oh, how many books have you ever seen that don't read left to right ??? Well not this one, it reads from top to bottom like the free calendar you get at Christmas from the local gas station.

Now I could go on and on...I could tell you about the infamous radish study years ago. Or even when they were killing the trout they were studying by electro shocking them ( a fishing guide by the name of Bill Gavin shined the light on that deal) so they decided the best way to capture trout was to let their staff go fly fishing for them...that's pretty good duty. Or I could tell you about the 3000 fish sonar counts with nobody catching anything. But I won't do that.... My point is, all  us harvesters just did our jobs and if over harvest is part of the problem well it looks like we need to polish up the decision making part of this deal....lets quit the blame game and everybody start pulling on the same rope to get this thing out of the ditch. I rest my case.

If any of you are looking to book a trip and are surprised by this blog post please look at page 3 of my webpage. Our May-June fishery is closed until more fish arrive and I'm confident like other places in Alaska through the years this run will recover. So unless that happens we start fishing the second run on July 1st. Then we have fantastic sockeyes from mid to late July and our August/September Silver fishing is excellent and my favorite fishery. And of course during any of these timeframes we have great Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden fishing...and what ever we're fishing for we have the experience and that 100 % effort always.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Actually I think it was 1985 or 86 but 1984 sounds so much more interesting and there's a kind of connection there to the viewing, maybe experiencing the future which for me

That fish on the left was one of the first 'jumbo' units of my guide career, I'll never forget it for many reasons . Terry and his sister Paula Wetzsteon came to the river with their grandparents knowing like we all learn that at a certain age creating and keeping special moments with those you love are about the most important thing in the world.  As you can see we were making the drift from the 'Toilet'  through 'Eagle Rock' over and over and over and......Terry's rod goes down and stays down, I'm excited of course and Pa is having trouble reeling in, mmmmmm, he's got one on as well. It's the first double I've ever seen, since then of course I've learned to 'force' the double by having people continue to fish as we fight a King and we've had two on at once many times, even three. But this was flat exciting. We decide to focus on Terry's fish first which he had off the bow of the boat. Pa was to the stern and as we netted Terry's fish I looked over my shoulder and seen that he had lots, and I mean lots, as in what too much line out. So I  point the boat at the fish and Paula actually drives for awhile as we get organized for the battle. The fish had gone under a few boats but in those days the traffic wasn't what it can be now and we worked through it. Pa was tough, he lifted and reeled, lifted and reeled and like big fish do we really didn't see it much until it came up and into the net....walla.

Back then it was all so new , Hunter Fisher Taxidermy only charged 300 or 400 dollars for a mount and I remember the discussion. Paula's Grandma didn't want a dead fish in any way of any form in her house so the negotiation was interesting. It ended up in the house of course and now years later it's in Terry's Iowa home. It's the coolest thing about fish mounts....long after people are gone someday someone will say....."yup, I guess my great gramps wrestled that thing in Alaska, can you imagine catching a fish like that?"

So Paula was here almost 30 years ago with her 82 year old Grand father and this year she is coming with her 82 year old father. It's awful cool for me. Terry and his wife Carrie did a 'deja vue' trip a few years back and we had a great time. Now I'm honored to be part of new memories and a bit of refection on the old I'd guess. I wish people that don't seem to understand my job could meet the Wetzsteons. See you in a few months Paula....

Of course things aren't the same as they were, I guess that's everywhere and everything. But I have something at few of my younger competitors don' long relationships....1984.
Jacques friend of 30 years. A gift into my life brought to me by the Kenai River.
Jack and Joetta Wong put Mile 14 on their Christmas card...1987. Jack was a sail maker in Washington DC and disappeared off a boat. Joetta still sends us cards and best wishes....well we love you too Joetta.
Sally Brooks lifetime friend Libby who told me once that the best thing she does every year is go fishing with me. Wow, a year is a lot of experiences.
I met my friend Marty Holleran through Tommy O'Mara and Petey Karl, some of the funnest people I've ever met....and that's a lot of people. That fish Marty is holding is the one in my office. It's my " grandpa got that ....." fish story fish.
Me and Bert Holtan with our rally caps on. What can I say about time business got in the way of a scheduled trip, he sent a check knowing I was a young guy with kids and....well....he was.... Bert made his last cast but his son and I are great friends and Keith is varsity player on the Kenai River.

And when you see this sight like I have thousands of times it never gets old. The fish grows in size and clarity as he gets close to the surface. The sun lights him up like he had L.E.D.'s of his own and your heart is pumping and get a really , really good look......HE'S JUST BARELY that's worth remembering.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paul Bunyan 101 and a few things you've never heard

When you get to be my age you seldom hear something entirely new....well here's a few words that have never had human lips utter them in this order...and you know how I love lists and haven't done one for a while...

1.  "The Milwaukee Brewers have the best record in major league baseball".
2.  " I'm so full I can't eat another piece of bacon".
3.  " the Mariners are off to a great start".
4.  " you guys over at Fish and Game are doing a hell of a good job".
5.  " Isn't April 15th a great day ???? ".
6.  " poor Geoffry, he had so much potential".
7.  " boy honey, that gorgeous new floral pattern valance sure matches our down comforter"....

mmmmmm...... Ya know shortly after moving into Rancho Deluxe here at Mile 14 we had a 'problem' Cottonwood that had to go. This tree was so big and close to our house that I was kinda scared to drop it....So one night I  let my old friend Joe who was blowing a good 2.0 Miller Lite heater at the time notch and fall it right across the front lawn. I figured I got a little lucky on that deal so when I went to do the old snaggly birch next to MP's garden and Paulies boat I figured I better call in the know, an 'ex' is a has been and a 'spirt' is a drip under pressure. My old friend Wally Brown is just the guy, what I call a go to guy.

Right away it's apparent to both of us that we need some lines on this baby to pull it in the proper direction. We need to get up in the tree but poor old Wally's back is so bad he can hardly walk and me still fighting with vertigo up a ladder is the last place I need to be. But ol W.B. has the answer. He's McGivered a 'line gun' which is just a potato gun with an adapter that will shoot a cylinder pulling a light gage wire up and over the high branches. Ya just load your spud, fill the chamber with a good squirt of Aqua Net hair spray,let in enough air for the proper fuel to air mixture, strike a match and walla....wire in the tree, tie a rope to it and pull it back over, tie a loop and pull the tag end through and get ready to pull.

So we get one line nice and tight to my pick up but we want another line to pull towards the river in hopes that we wouldn't drop a really heavy limb on MP's garden moose fence...that would just create even more work and you know how I feel about that deal. So W.B. breaks out 4 heavy metal rings that he built out of Chevy Citation coil springs that he bent together then welded. Anchor a line to a tree, a good tree of course.   Then you pass the rope through 4 times from ring to ring and create a reduction gear to pull with and before long we have another line tighter than a high E string ...incredible, now I know how they built the pyramids.

So then I fire up the ol Stihl 'Farm Boss', I just love the name of that tool and with a good notch and back cut that huge rotten Birch tree has been tamed. Just like the blue print.  In the second pic you can see why it had to go, rotten in the middle and it was way to close to the house. In fact those birch next to your house will drop sap and help that green mossy stuff grow....but not on my new roof, no sir. Thanks for the assist Wally, it takes a village.
Boy was I glad I had my camera with me at the dump today. a couple things really jumped out at me, things that I guess are sorta unique o Alaska. After years of listening to and being involved in the sport/commercial fishing debate...and you know where I weigh in on that deal. Well I finally found a good use for nets....let's a get a few more f them blue things lined up eh?
I told people years ago that some day the Kenai River will be as famous for it's Eagles as it is it's salmon. Me and our fishing friends just love watching them soar and fish. Right now at Mile 14 they are circling way high on the thermals as they look to mate, it's pretty cool. But this poor guy ain't got it figured, he's not even in the top of the tree like a good 'eagle eyed' bird would be and the plastic bags....yikes....wouldn't ya rather, I mean,  c'mon down to Mile 14....we'll leave the light on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


That's what I've been. I spent all day yesterday trying to download the coolest video I made of a school of Spinner Dolphins while out Marlin fishing with the guys...I know I can do it as I've blogged videos before, you must remember those wonderful videos of me singing the latest song. But I just can't get it done this time. Maybe my Internet is just to slow but  I'm thinking if I download Google Chrome it might work better with Blogger  which is also a google program....does this make an sense to you Dave???? Here's a still photo.
So when I get a little frustrated, bored or even just a little contemplative like is my nature I get drawn to the river. I just go. Maybe it's part of coming home from Mazatlan while Team X is still in the game or maybe it just me...sometimes I think I think to much. Or maybe it's just one thing....I'm the river guy, lock stock and barrel. So today me and the Jet Dog walked on the ice, all 4 feet of it , down to Fall-in-Hole. I don't know what happened while I was on sabbatical but the river ice is the most unusual I have ever seen. It's hard for walking, albeit with some caution as there are holes 4 or 5 feet deep you could fall in but it's solid for most parts. Here's a pic or two. I put my shotgun down to give you perspective on how deep it is.
Where I took this next photo from is the gravel bar that we routinely run the boats over at high water. For all you river people it's looking back upriver from Fall-In-Hole...ole Jet-dog wanted to wade out as you can see but I kept her back. She's doing great for a 13 year old purebred but kinda like me her brain says go and the body says slow. I'm real careful now to not let her run on the ice, try and jump into the truck or onto a picnic table or anything else that could begin a spiral of poor health. Guess me and the Jet kinda grew up together here in the last decade or so...we're as much a part of it as those ol Mergansers we just spooked into flight.
And for any of you Stewart's Landing people that have been wondering how the boat launch looks this year well here's a pic. I guarantee you that as soon as possible I'm putting the black #003 boat on the water and going looking. The I got the feeling that boat will end up on the salt, if ADF+G in their infinite wisdom are going to allow for harvest in the salt...well...we're gonna do some of the harvesting.
I might not be the most happily married guy around but I'll betchya I'm right up there. Lately I've done my best to earn Team X's nickname....mon de lon...the man who wears apron. I remember when Max went off to live with Skye I told him the secret to happiness....dishes.  So I've been doing them daily, I've executed a couple of those cottonwoods that MP hates. I detailed her car and changed oil with Mobil 1 synthetic. I drew up plans for a new green house and got all my tax info in order....but yesterday was a doozy....As she left for work she asked if I could ' do the floors'? mmmm.....sounded simple at first, we really only have one floor and maybe it was a good thing to get a guy involved to take inventory of cleaning stuff, not to mention a little maintenance.  First thing was a trip to the store and some wet wipes for the Swiffer on the hard floors, what a great product. And then...that vacuum cleaner needed a little open heart surgery. I'd vac one way and it would pic up some...then drop it all right back when I went the other way. Man was it plugged, 3 pounds of Jet-dog and 3 pounds of Kenai River sand...
So once I get everything in order I get Pandora and Gary Allan radio blasting over the surround sound, and I mean blasting. Then I get my shorts and a wife beater on, open a nice cold Heineken and go to work....mon de lon....that's me.