Thursday, June 25, 2015


Well I had an excellent blog posted this morning and about 30 people got to read it when I decided to edit another picture onto it and some how or another hit the wrong button with these musicians fingers of mine and holy %*&@ it's gone. Disappeared, Deleted. So being the guy who over does most things I guess I'll just make up another story kinda like the last one....
That's a pic of me and Tom Welle who is one of surf fishing buddies from Mazatlan. He was touring the state with his brother and sister and their spouses in a nice motorhome so they stayed the night at Mile 14 and we went trout fishing...and I had an absolute ball. I guess I must be losing a step or so when it comes to my salesmanship because this last month when I would explain to people that the river is closed to Kings until July first but we have this wonderful trout resource I don't get any takers. And the rest of the guides must also suffer from the same salmon mania because we were literally the only boat fishing in a 10 mile stretch of beautiful river, it was magic. We must have caught 25 rainbows and several Dollies, many the size of this one with Tom and we lost one know we catch them up to 10 or 12 pounds.
Tom is quite the fish bum, he'll fish for anything, anywhere for any amount of time. So I decided to invite my friend Troy Moorhead for two reasons, he's fun to be around and with the water a little chalky I needed his  counsel, like Tom he's a guy who could catch fish in the Mojave Desert.
Troy and I went into executive session and decided to start with half egg patterns and half flesh. With so many fish around it seemed like it all worked but the flesh had an edge. Late in the day I decided it was time to personally tie on my first attempt at tying an articulated flesh fly. I start with double snell and cut one barb and then get some champagne color yarn on the front and some dirty white feathers and mylar on the rear and walla....I have what Troy described as the butt ugliest fly he'd ever seen. And it was ultra rewarding to see it work so well. And Troy, I'll get that articulated flesh fly pattern a little more refined in the future.
Below is a pic of Tom's brother Bob with a prime piece of Kenai River real estate he caught, kinda strange but it's all part of the days chuckle. Now poor old Dan sitting there had quite the case of snake bite going on. I'd change colors for fish. I'd change leader fish. At one point I asked him if he ever spent much time at the Casino's they have back at his home in Minnesota and he said " no, never go to Casino's " ...  I said " well that's a good thing".
Here's a pic of Bob with a little dolly, do those guys look like they're having fun or what ? With the water clearing now I think we can catch gads of rainbows and I just don't understand why people don't want to do more of it. I mean c'mon, these guys are just like King salmon but smaller...alright, a lot smaller....but they make up for that by more numerous eh ?
Speaking of numerous....It takes a good man to admit when he's wrong so here goes. I was overly optimistic when I forecast  8500 early run King salmon. But hey, I'm as good at the forecast game as ADF+G. But forget about the numbers, here's a pic of the graph showing this years run compared to the last two...and mind you there are 8 days of counts left. Pretty darn impressive I'd say.
Impressive....that's what the managers at ADF+G must have been thinking when they changed the limit for saltwater Kings from 2 to 5....and opened the ' King Salmon Conservation Zone' to fishing ....AND gave the commercial set net fishery an early emergency opening. Impressive for sure. So as part of the group that got nothing out of this deal and I mean nothing....not even rubber hooks on tuesday from 2:00 to 2:10 pm only on the port side of the boat... I got just a simple question for you guys in charge of all things fishy. Just what the hell did we Kenai people do to deserve this so we don't ever do it again ????

Here's the pic that I tried to post when Blogspot ate my last entry. I really wanted to end this blog with something positive so look at this  gorgeous Muligan Bull that visited us at Mile 14. Our moose herd seems to be doing better so I guess an ADF+G manager somewhere must be doing something right. But then again it could be dumb luck.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

no matter where you go....there you are

With catch and release fishing kinda on my mind lately me and MPeasy decided to head downriver to the test fishery and get a lesson on how to do it from the professionals at ADF+G.
So first off you get a big ol net, that's right I used the word all sportsmen loath , net. And then you float it down the middle of the river where you anticipate old slimey will be hiding. Smarter people than me have developed a sense for this through the years and they even use this technique to catch fish and  sell them to America in  grocery stores .
Now ol slimey he don't like that net just about as much as I don't and he's fighting it pretty good so you get him kind of pinned against the boat and lasso his tail with a rope. He's a little wond up in there so take your time and get that net unstuck from his fins and gills and all that kind of stuff.
But you finally get him out of one containment device and into another...the cradle, where you measure and sample his scales and then 7 or 8 minutes later you let him go....and guess what ??? he swims off just fine showing us  how hearty and durable these gorgeous fish are. I suppose by now you know where I'm going with this so I'll just ya didn't think I had stopping in me eh ?

The River Festival this year was just wonderful. With South Central Alaska experiencing record warm weather everyone was jazzed. The Festival is all about kids and as always I really enjoyed volunteering at the Kenai Watershed Forum's welcome booth and passing out the 'passports for fun' for all the kids to get stamped at the different river educational events.
But for me, it's the music. To hear Soldotna's next generation entertain the festival is big Ju-Ju for me. This young gal for being a freshman in high school wasn't afraid to belt out a song and I have a picture of our friend Cory McKay playing with a group called the ' Whip Saws'....thanks for the tunes , it was great. MP was really excited to see her friend Cory play the fiddle so I guess I'm going to have to get myself invited to sing the Festival someday.
It seems that the wonders of Alaska just don't seem to come without a side order of misery. As we met our friends at the festival people commented that we all hope the warm weather wouldn't lead to more forest fires. Well sure enough for the second year in a row we have a huge one in the valley near Chris's cabin and another one outside of  Sterling that almost borders last years Funny River Fire. This pic was taken the first day and now the river side homes have been saved and the wind is driving it onto the Wildlife Refuge where there are no human footprints. In fact for the Refuge the burn will be a good thing. So we have our fingers crossed that the ' Card Road Fire'  doesn't reverse and that it gets contained. The second pic I took on my bike ride last night and you just barely tell that we have a subtle amount of smoke in town, we're real lucky.
Being about all things fish I had to get this pic of the current leader in biggest I've ever seen category. I have stuffed fish, carved fish ( we even have one at the launch that's 5 feet long), I have fish prints, fish shirts, fish dinners....well this baby takes the cake....and don't ask me what the heck the message is there because I've got no idea. I just wonder why anybody would want to add anything to such a beautiful thing ????

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A case in Point

Well I was going to let the Catch and release deal slip away. But I wanted to print this from our local Outdoor Journalist that will appear in tomorrow's paper so you can see what kind of drivel we are dealing with.  Ol Les here has a big soap box and mine is just itty bitty. I've asked him to remove me from his e-mail list but I think he loves this kind of torture, I guess it's what happens when you get old and mean.....just a few quick points because all of you can ferret out this B.S. real easy but his column certainly shows you what common sense is up against.

1. Maybe these wilderness lodges he speaks of would like to see their fishery's sustained by not killing all the resident fish.

2. Is he suggesting we need a rule that you have to keep every fish you hook ? ridiculous.

3. He's right , the study was the 80's with bait and treble hooks. Now we release fish without bait and with single barbless hooks. But lets assume for this that 8 % mortality with C+R is accurate ( which I think is easily double of the actual) but...we know exploitation ( the kings we catch, that bite) in this river is 30%. This years run looks to be coming in at least 8500 fish which is safely in the goal of 5300 - 9000. So less than 3000 would be released and rather than have an escapement of 8500 we would have an escapement around 8250. I'd say the difference in those two numbers isn't worth depriving people of the joys of sport fishing.

4. I have no idea what he's talking about with the slot limit , with a catch and release fishery there is no slot, they're all released. 

5. Don't you just love people that push their own morals and views of the world on other people ? And his last embarrassing. I just hope Jesus ain't too mad at him for being drug into this nonsense.

Stuff to wonder about
Les Palmer

I fished for many years before asking myself any hard questions.  A few years ago, I finally asked, “What’s fun about getting the best of a fish?”  I had no good answers, which probably explains my hesitation to ask.

Before moving to Alaska from Washington state in 1964, I dreamed about salmon fishing in wilderness streams.  Having done that a few times over the years, I’ve found that it’s not what it’s hyped to be.  Much of the remote salmon fishing in Alaska is purely catch-and-release, partly because there’s no practical way to preserve and transport fish.  In such places, the salmon fishing is just for fun.  You don’t catch them to take home and eat, the traditional reason for catching salmon, but just to mess around with them.  You hook and “play” them, bring them in, get a few photos of yourself holding them triumphantly and grinning, and you release them.

If catch-and-release is fun, it’s a sick kind of fun.  To me, messing around with fish, sometimes hooking one in the eye or the gills, killing some before they have a chance to spawn, isn’t anything I want to tell my grandchildren about, let alone encourage them to do.  

It has taken me a long time to come around to my present thinking on catch-and-release, so I can understand how some of you might have other opinions.  But if you think catch and release of salmon is the right thing to do, consider this scenario:

The annual bag limit for king salmon taken from the Kenai River is two fish.  Studies have shown that about 8 percent of the hooked and released Kenai river kings will die within a few days.  You’ve already harvested one king this year, but you don’t want to keep another unless it’s a big one.  You catch a few 20- to 30-pounders, but keep releasing them.  Finally, you hook a big one.  Trouble is, a slot limit is in effect, so you can harvest only kings that are less than 42 inches long, or 55 inches or longer.  The one you’ve hooked is 50 inches long, so you can’t keep it.  What’s more, blood is pumping from its gills.  Ordinarily, you’d harvest this salmon.  Now, even though it’s likely to bleed out and die, you have to release it.

The slot limit, a method of conserving larger kings, is a way for fisheries managers to allow more fishing opportunity.  While more opportunity might sound good, when this beautiful salmon, now dying, slides from your hands into the depths, how do you like this part of it, the ugly side of catch-and-release fishing?  

You’ve probably seen or heard the question that spread like wildfire in the 1990s, “What would Jesus do?”  Ya gotta wonder, would Jesus catch and release salmon?
And the picture....well, I'm proud to have released that gorgeous creature after I tricked him into the bite. Then I brought him to shore and quickly and respectfully let him swim away to hopefully both spawn more like him and provide the same thrill for another person like me...It's what we do, it's what sport fishing is all about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I hate to say ' I told you so' let's go fishing

Until Monday I hadn't gone fishing since I left Mazatlan two months ago. So Keith and I went to the Ninilchik river to fish the high tide for a few hours and recorded our first skunk of the year...and it felt great.  I didn't really get any fishing photo's because it was awful darn quiet down there but this Eagle caught my eye, there's an absolute abundance of these guys everywhere anymore so somebody somewhere somehow is doing something right in the Eagle management department...who knows it might even be the experts and the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
And speaking of ADF+G there has to be some serious head scratching going on over at their headquarters on K-beach road, and maybe even a few ' high fives' . By June 1 the historical data shows that 5 to 10% of the early run is into the Kenai River, right now we're at 960, for the sake of math ease for people like me lets call it a cool grand. It's pretty simple, the low figure puts us at the top of the escapement goal and the 10% puts us at a whopping number that should allow for a substantial harvest of fish ( oh, and never mind that that you can easily see that the reason we're not fishing now, the dismal forecast of only 6000 fish will be  met ).....but hold the show here...things around here are NEVER that simple.
The graphs above were updates Friday June 5th

You know, I know and the rest of the world knows that catch and release fishing is really the essence of what we do and is practiced all over the world and in many places credited with saving fisheries.  With an educated fishing fleet, barbless hooks and no bait mortality is virtually zero, that would be 0% if any of you ADF+G guys are keeping up. But, it's frowned on  here on the Kenai. Why ? Well, for example we have an over the hill angry old outdoor writer that thinks fishing should only be for food, and if you say it enough people start thinking he might even know what he's talking about...and you have a community full of commercial fishermen that have run the show here for 100 years and say that C+R fishing is playing with your food and of course they would do anything to stymie a competing fishery...the only good fish is a dead fish. And I think C+R fishing is viewed as a ' guide thing' and lord knows the community doesn't want to support that segment of this one horse town. Two more observations about C+R fishing besides the fact that it's just plane seems to work for the managers in July if we have to limit harvest for the sake of escapement and to keep the commercial guys fishing under a policy of ' paired restrictions' where they only fish with nets twice a week and we get to release all our fish. AND...C+R seems to be perfectly fine for ADF+G themselves who practice it daily...with a NET during the other side of the data collection, the long standing test net system. This test net fishery has caught  and released 25  so far this year , the most in almost 10 years.
I'm not saying the king fishery should be opened willy nilly, it shouldn't be. We need to be cautious and make certain that we make escapement and we should shoot for the high end of it to try and right the ship here. But there is no reason why we shouldn't have a catch and release fishery. In fact we should have had that to start this and every season while we see what the sonar counts tell us. There is this  strange political climate here but I'm confident that the managers at ADF+G will step up and allow opportunity to fish and I expect that next week we will be out on the water. So as you can see.....Jeff King, guide # 003, the Pro's from Dover are getting ready.
As Keith and I drove south the other day discussing the fishery I pointed out that when we had our first poor year in 2012 our people should have been planning for the recovery which we didn't do and now it looks to be on the way. So many small adjustments could have been made to reshape the fishery for the good the know how I like lists, here's a short one of a few painless things that could help our early run out.

1. Finally, a limit on guides. Now that the numbers are down do we want to go back to 500 ?   I don't think the salmon, the community or the  politics can sustain that many.
2. Change the retention limit from 2 a season to 1 early run and 1 late run.
3. Add a driftboat day or 2, or 3 or....
4. If we have C+R and ADF+G is worried about the impact only allow fishing below the sonar at Mile 13.5.
5. Maybe only allow all fishing in times of questionable runs below the sonar so that all the counts translate to upriver spawning fish.
6.......well enough's enough, from here on out Mile 14 will be about the chase, the wonders of our sport. I  got the fisheries input itch scratched so thanks for reading. We'll see you on the water real soon !