Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fishin is the Mission

As we were getting everything ready for Tuesday's opener I was again reminded of how unusual our place here is. I've seen fish skeletons painted on the dumpster with ' no fish' reminders. I've seen 'do not block' painted on them as reminders....but this takes the cake. I told all my facebook friends, "well there goes my retirement plan".
Below is the graph from Friday for our early run, with four more days to count I suppose it will easily make the 5300 minimum, but I expected more. So I know I've been kind of hard on the Dept. of Fish and Game and I'm going to do something here that they never do, kind of set an example you know...I'm going to admit I was wrong. When it all started I predicted that we'd fall smack dab in the middle of the 5300-9000 range and it looks like we'll achieve the low end instead. But, my prediction was certainly closer than ADF+G's estimate of 1800. So this is good news for us, the salmon, the town and Fish and Game. If this parent year follows the usual model of a 3 to 1 recruitment ( the adults that will return from this escapement) we'll have us a nice run of 15,000 early Kings with enough for escapement and harvest....maybe we've turned the corner on this deal. OH, this year is red, last year black and 2011 and 2012 purple and green.
So sharpen your hooks friends, this time on Tuesday morning we'll be afloat and I'd bet you dollars to donuts we'll have a King salmon in guide boat #003 by then. ADF+G has started the late run with a no bait rule as that run is expected to be weak as well. The no bait takes a bit of the guiding out of it as it turns the luck factor up a bit but we certainly do well with or without the bait. And, with the lack of snowfall last winter it looks like for the first time in years we are either going to have low or average stream flow which makes for a smaller arena and I'm betting on clear, turqouise, gorgeous fishy water. Kings seem to be doing better in many places and with our early run coming in it makes me optomistic for this July.

Last night the McKay's came over for a barbecue down at the river. MP has a niece that is married to the brother or Robert so naturally we kind of adopted them when they moved to Soldotna last summer. They have three girls so they were the perfect folks to surprise with a gift of the Bicycle built for two that we won in a raffle. It was pretty darn cool seeing little Emma's eye light up over that deal.
Cory there was wondering why we'd give away such a cool bike...are you kiddin ? Anybody that knows us will tell you that we're not wired for a bike like that...MP would be wanting to turn right while I'm headed left, she'd ride the brake while I was trying to attain mach speed, you get the picture. So you guys, Cory, Robert, Emma, Morgan and Lila have fun...and work together eh?.

I hope you all come back to Mile 14. I usually post just once a week but I have the feeling that this week I'll be so excited that I'll have some fish pics and action photos to publish real soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Practice what you Preach

If sheer desire, if just preparation and passion could get things in life  I'd be out fishing now and we'd be having a great day. But, to quote a country song 'life just don't work that way'. I got to thinking about something I noticed in Mazatlán a few years back and below is the pic and quote from my January 26, 2012 posting titled ' Everyday Life'.

I stood in the same place and took the shot north and this one to the south. In the right of the frame you notice a fruit salesman, one of every body's favorites on the beach. He has melon, strawberry's, mandarins and my favorite, coconut with lots of the red peppery chili sauce. I watched him go, maybe a mile between potential sales. If I'm ever in his shoes I hope I can show the same strength, the same resolve, He didn't cause it, he can't fix it...he just does what he does, keep moving, keep trying, keep the faith.... I hope he knows some how that we notice, a guy true to himself.

Well I guess I'm kind of that guy. His life was upended by crime and the perception that Mazatlán is not safe. The cruise ships quit coming, so then the airline people quit coming...and well, all things he had no control of. For me it's the same, as much as we think that in America our lively hoods are up to us but sometimes we just can't....just can't. I'm trying very hard to not be angry about the current situation but that's so hard , it's getting worst by the day. EVERYBODY except sports people are harvesting, the commercial guys start tomorrow , and us, we don't even want to harvest, we'd just like to catch and release like sportsmen all over the world.

So I have to just hang on and trust, be strong and hope the folks running this show do the right things for us and the fish. July 1st is just around the corner and we will be fishing for sure and without some common sense here all the fish that swam by Mile 14 while we were closed will be available for harvest upriver...once again by somebody else and at the cost of our future.

But like the guy in the pic....I'm a 100% er so we just have to keep the faith.  I just wish every now and then in this convoluted world of Fish Politics,  desire, common sense and being right could prevail. That's all, that's what I wish.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I think my lips are tingling

I've had a bit of  cabin fever lately so it was pretty darn cool when I heard a knock on the door ( and anybody who knows Walt knows it was a loud knock) and my old friend Walt Larson was there. Walt has been gone from Alaska but he grew up in Anchor Point, we've been friends from the 70's.  Walt is about the most capable construction hound that I've ever met, he's a steady guy who's survived two bouts of cancer and as much has he's taught me about work, well, he's still teaching me about life.  Walt taught me how to sheetrock back in the 70's and we were a fine tuned machine together. We'd hang a 1300 sq. ft. FHA house in one day....and fight, tease, harass and joke all he way through it. I love this guy.
So we went clam digging....and if things around here weren't weird enough let me tell you, even the always abundant razor Clams are darn hard to find. But, the vistas, the fellowship and this fantastic marine environment on a bluebird day is awfully hard to beat.
I don't know what it is but I certainly don't want to confuse the ADF+G by asking any complex questions right now but the limit has been lowered to 25 and the area round Ninilchik has been closed. I suppose it's some ocean oscillations or decadel transfusions or maybe even the dreaded over escapement that we suffer through with our sockeye runs...but the bottom line is they're darn hard to find. We worked our butts off (which is a good thing)  just to get enough for dinner....the golf ball was a quality Titleist #1 so you can't complain about that.
So I carefully clean them (because we don't have much to waste) and we beer batter and deep fry them along with some seasoned Okra...and oh baby, it really is one of my favorite Alaska tastes. I can't tell you how many but through the years we've eaten tons of these guys, the first money I ever made in Alaska was commercial razor clamming...our supper was great but this next day is when it got a little weird....The Alaska Dispatch is reporting that a case of paralytic shellfish poisoning was reported from clams dug 1 1/2 mile south of Clam Gulch near the old tower...exactly where we were. Yikes.

In my forty years we've NEVER had a problem with those clams so I guess ADGF+G must take this pretty serious. The article says they're going down to get some clams to test for the poison.....mmmmm.....well I hope they're on their A game because I'm figuring they won't  find enough to test.  And oh.....if any of you guys at the Dept. read my blog here's a tip...wait for low tide to try and find your clams...there's a free book you can get to tell you when that is.

And Sunday Mike and Mary Coleman who have a place in our building in Mazatlán showed up for a visit. As always we were drawn to the river. We all shared a Corona as we checked on our friends,the critters that live along the way. Of course we see eagles and a moose, it was a bit windy and cold to go to the tidal zone and look for seals....but ya know what ?? I came home exhilarated , just happy to be out, I just love this place....even if my lips are tingling a bit...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lets go Fishing....w/ update tuesday june 10th 5 pm

This last weekend was the 24th annual Kenai River Festival put on by the Watershed Forum which is a science based non profit I have supported for years. The event is a typical mix of Alaska life. It's purpose is to inform and celebrate about the importance of our river while listening to good home made music, eating vendors food ( I had Cajun Okra ) dodging every politician in town and the inevitable smattering of fish politics.
MP was working the ' Kid Zone' for The Friends of the Library and I rode my bike over to meet her at the end of her shift and festival a bit and then ride home....well the coolest thing happened as I got close to her both. I noticed a crowd around the table where the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game does salmon dissection classes for the kids. Well, guess who was expertly filleting fish and showing the kids sockeye salmon identification? Yup, my favorite person. And oh, we had fresh sockeye for supper.

Our friend Patty Berkhahn (yes, I have friends at ADF+G) run the dissections every year at the Festival. Alaska kids are something, they have their hands in the blood and pick up entrails to ask questions as Patty points out the function of each organ,I even learned something...I learned that the blood line is the fishes kidneys which processes what it takes in and actually produces urine. For years I've told people it was their central nervous system....ooops....
When ADF+G summarily closed the river this year for early Kings before the season even started based only on their 'predictions' I told people to hide and watch...this thing wouldn't play out like the experts think, around the Kenai River nothing seldom does. So here is the graph of how the numbers are tracking in 2014  when we were predicted to be worse than 2013. You can see that every year all the lines trend upwards so just draw that line in your mind and if you're like me, you're left feeling a bit perplexed.
The red line is 2014, the black 2013 and the others 2010 thru 2012.   Of course our red line flattens out because we are only 22% of the way into the run. We're certainly WAY ahead of last year and close to the previous years, years where we know, had a normal life here on the Kenai before Chicken Little arrived. I've said all along that there is no rational reason sports people were denied opportunity to be fishing catch and release this year from the very start. It  would have lead to one of three scenarios. We'd have C+R until we had enough fish in to allow for harvest. We'd have had just enough to C+R all season or the worst would happen and we would be shut down for the importance of every single spawner, ( at which time I would assume all harvest would be stopped).

But you see none of those things happened because ADF+G can see the future. When you consider these things...
1. Every fisheries expert in the world would tell you that catch and release fishing is a widely accepted management tool and can hurt NOTHING...In fact for years we were told that our CPUE (catch per unit of effort) was  valuable data set for ADF+G.
2. Harvest of these same Kings is being allowed in the ocean just down the coast a few miles.
3. Right now we have 3 times as many Kings in the river as on this date last year...
4. The early run was closed in March, 2 months before the first fish arrive.
5. Everyone knows that guide business's work on schedule. I suppose there were those in
ADF+G that mistakenly  thought by closing it before it even starts they were helping a guide business out of the awkwardness of in season closures...They're just flat wrong, it's created confusion and damage that will last for years. How about letting the business people worry about the business considerations and you guys do what ever it is that you do ?

When the folks at ADF+G got their Ouija Board out and looked into the future all that happened was terrible harm to every small business in the community that depends on this fishery.  So when I get the crystal ball out and look into the future I hear a voice " don't try to predict the future, it's impossible and if it weren't  you guys wouldn't be any good at it anyway"....

Tomorrow the last few days of data will be released, should be interesting. I expect the run to continue to build, I also expect that it will meet escapement but still, there's not a lot of fish and we are certainly experiencing low abundance. But, there are certainly enough fish that we can get up early and drink warm coffee as we work through the chill of the morning. There's just a trace of fog on the river when port side rod goes off with a 30 pounder holding firm to a chartreuse K-15 with a single barbless hook. With adrenaline pumping and with admiration and respect we fight him into the net, release his hook and return him to the wild unharmed....we've tricked another one....that's what sportsmen do, that's what we do....Lets end this management of spite, misinformation , anger and blame over reason and go fishing, lets go fishing.  

Yesterday I knew I was taking a chance by writing negative about ADF+G as the counts may have not increased and I'd look like I didn't know what I was talking about....well....I took the chance because I was sure it would turn out like this, here it is. We had several 2 and 3 hundred fish days to put us WAY ahead of the prediction and safely headed to at the very least the low end of the escapement range of 5300-9000. There was a day that guys like me were given some credit, our observations counted. We had an area Biologist named Steve Hammerstrom, he'd call every so often and ask what I was seeing, how it seemed to me....Steve respected the fact that I've sat through days and days of meeting, spent thousands of hours learning the salmon, the jargon, the biology of my passion. But what can I say about the guys here when they've also announced today that no management changes are planned.

So here's a quick synopsis for you guys at the Dept, I'll keep it simple so you can keep up....All salmon runs when charted make a bell shaped graph.  They slowly build to a peak and then slowly fall off. This run is still building to a traditional peak around mid month, to your figuring it's  33% in. So follow that little red line and you'll see that it's pointing right at about 7,575 fish line. Which if 5300 is just barely enough and 9000 is way enough then that figure in the middle might be just right....ya know, kinda like when you test the bath tub water before you get in....too cold is no good and too hot is uncomfortable but nice and warm is just right. Got it?  So, now it's time to allow fishing opportunity , I heard somewhere that's the mission of ADF+G Sportfish Division....some of us would like to go sportfishing with catch and release only like has been done here many times before. I promise it will hurt nothing on the Kenai River and I'll quit writing about you. I promise.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A full day

When I was kid going to catholic high school my penance for 'disruptive behavior' was doing lawn work at the Priest's compound. So I was thinking about that today as I ran the mower executing dandelions for MP. I hated that duty and I'd do the crappiest job I could so father would eventually wear down and send me home...But today, that's a different story. I have my Pandora playing Texas swing in my ear buds with my hearing protection over them and a cold Corona standing if they'd had Pandora when I was 15 who knows....I might have been even more disruptive.
If you live in Alaska I'd bet dollars to donuts you own a gun, or twenty. So I guess a prudent person would expect that just about everybody else does too. So why then does everybody have to let you know that they're 'insured' by Smith and Wesson.....mmmm..... I don't get it. But here's two pics I took right here in our neighborhood at Mile 14 of the Kenai River.
This morning I just had to get up and go fishing, had to. It's pretty much ritualistic for me. 4 am I'm up collecting my stuff as the coffee perks, I start the truck and let her warm up as it's crisp and cool. The drive through town is a cool part, it's just us fisherman. As I drive south past peoples places and spots I've known for years I think of how and why I got this place in life. I park the truck and I'm the only person on the river, like they saved it for me. I get some layers on and of course my Xtra Tuff's and this is the pay off. I took his cell phone pic before my first cast.
 As I cast I could hear an eagle cackling and pretty soon he came and landed on that navigation aid. It was so quiet that I started whispering to strange.
I guess I was starting to get a bit melancholy so maybe it was a good thing when some folks showed up about 6 am. Sometimes when I get around my old stomping grounds I tend to think to much, get a bit reflective don't ya know. The cannery across from me is where I delivered clams for my first ever Alaskan hard earned dollar. The ocean in front of me has brought great thrills, huge catches and crippling heartache....
This was the scene at 6 am, just a few diehards. I cast and cast and cast and....a guy down river has splash in front of him and walla a fish on bank, a 'King' salmon. I wanted to take a pic as I was astounded with what followed but I didn't want to embarrass this guy. But his fish was small, I mean miniature as he pulled out a tape measure like it was an everyday part of your tackle. It was about then I said...." man, that's about the smallest King I've ever seen" to which he replied " yep, but not small enough"... what in the world???? It was 21 inches and if it had been 20 he could keep it and keep fishing so now he had a dilemma , let supper go and keep fishing or keep it and go home with 2 pounds of salmon at 6 am. Who would ever have thought as I grew up here chasing salmon the day would come that the 'lucky' fishermen catch small ones...
But finally as I was packing up the truck to leave and drinking my 5th cup of coffee I heard some commotion across from me and this guy landed the fish of the day for the half dozen fishermen present. It ain't huge either but I'd sure have loved to had that baby on the barbecue tonight. It's just how it goes....I get there first, I throw for three hours, he shows up and 10 minutes in has ol slimey. And ya know that's the fun, the allure, the magic of it all. Good for you buddy.
So once again I pitch a shut out. I kinda look at it like this...Every time I get skunked while fishing by myself it builds moe-joe for those who are going on guided trips with me. It's like I'm doing the work of bending the odds in your favor by not catching on my own....makes sense huh ??? So I might not have gotten a fish today but I got these two pictures here and that's enough for me....and you know why.... I love it all. Ever been close enough to an Eagle to smell him ???  Well, I have.