All posts by Chris Cocoles

Separate Bear Incidents Leave One Dead, Another Critically Injured

Two separate bear incidents in the last few days, including one attack, left one man dead and another with life-threatening  injuries.

Two hunters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shot a bear along a ridge. When they went to retrieve the animal below a ridge, it didn’t go well. Here’s more from KTUU

The bear then rolled down the slope, dislodging rocks in the process. Troopers say McCormick was struck by both a rock and the falling bear. Tennyson was reportedly uninjured, but McCormick was hand carried to a LifeMed helicopter and transported to Anchorage Providence with life threatening injuries.

In Southeast Alaska, a mine contractor employee was reportedly killed in a bear attack.

Here’s KTUU again on this separate incident:

 

Alaska Wildlife Troopers have identified the contract employee who was reported dead in a bear mauling near the Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska as Anthony David Montoya, 18 of Hollis, OK.

Troopers responded to the attack, which was reported at 8:44 a.m. Monday. They say Montoya was mauled by a sow and two cubs. All three bears were killed prior to Troopers arriving on scene.

Next of kin has been notified. Montoya’s body will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for autopsy.

What To Know About Catching Tagged Kenai Rainbows

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Soldotna) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish has received numerous reports from anglers regarding catches of tagged rainbow trout on the Kenai River. With the reports have also come questions. The top two questions are “Do I need to report the tag number?” and “What do you do with the information?” Yes, please report the tagged rainbow trout. ADF&G asks if you catch a tagged rainbow trout, please do not remove the green tag. If possible, please record by either writing or photographing the tag number, location captured (river mile or name of the area on the Kenai River or one of its tributaries), and length.

The tagged rainbow trout are part of an ongoing population assessment project on the Upper Kenai River between Sportsman’s and Jim’s Landing. From July to early August 2018, ADF&G released approximately 2,500 rainbow trout with either a unique 4-digit or 6-digit number green tag. ADF&G conducted similar studies in the Upper Kenai River in 1987, 1995, 2001, and 2009. Results from 2018 will be compared to previous years studies for abundance, length composition, and movement information. During the month of May in 2017 and 2018, assessments were also completed in a 3-mile area from river mile 45 to river mile 48 downstream of Skilak Lake. During this timeframe, approximately 4,000 rainbow trout were caught and released with tag numbers.

“The division thanks everyone for their assistance in reporting any tagged rainbow trout they have caught,” stated Soldotna Fishery Biologist Tony Eskelin. “The results of this study wouldn’t be possible without our angler’s assistance.”

These studies provide the opportunity for the public and ADF&G to learn about the movement and seasonal distribution of rainbow trout in the Kenai River drainage. This information is not only valuable to understanding rainbow trout life history but helps ADF&G learn about rainbow trout distribution in the Kenai River. Reports from anglers have shown some fish travel greater distances than previously discovered from past Kenai River rainbow trout projects while other fish are stationary remaining in the same area they were released when tagged.

For additional information about tagged rainbow trout in the Kenai River, please contact Soldotna Fisheries Biologists Tony Eskelin or Robert Begich at (907) 262-9368.

Deep Sea Fishing Is A Grind In Alaska

Lund’s friend JJ Ramirez retrieved this pair of halibut from 400 feet of water. It’s no wonder that Lund writes that he and probably others wouldn’t say that reeling in fish of this size in such deep water won’t say, “I could do this all day.” (JEFF LUND)

 

The following appears in the September issue of Alaska Sporting Journal: 

BY JEFF LUND

I am not sure there is anything in the outdoor recreational world in which the work is more dreaded than fishing in 400 feet of water. 

The best-case scenario is that you hook into a big halibut or lingcod and suffer for the foreseeable future. You try to find a spot to anchor the butt of the rod where it will do the least bruising or internal damage. Or you just keep moving it around – lower abdominal, armpit, hip bone, inner upper thigh (be careful) – so that you can widen the range of trauma in an effort to reduce it. 

This, of course, is if your buddy or guide doesn’t have something that cheats you out of a truly miserable experience.

But there are many other miseries in the life of an outdoorsman and outdoorswoman.

Hiking down from the alpine with a pack full of meat is grueling, but at least you can sit and rest. You can eat a Starburst. If you were smart, you prepared for the heavy pack with squats and lunges, hikes and runs, and exercises to strengthen your shoulders, core and hip flexors.

You aren’t going to find a reeling machine at the gym or on Amazon for training.

 

REELING IN A LINGCOD or halibut from the deep, deep is not fun. At all. Not even in one of those weird, backward ways that hunters and anglers use to describe fun pain. I will gladly subject myself to reeling in a big bottomfish, but I’d never say, “I could do this all day.”

I went to social media and did an unscientific poll on Facebook, knowing full well that anytime you ask a hunter or angler about anything, it’s likely that the response will be greatly exaggerated or so unclear that you’re not really sure what the answer was.

By the time I’d be finishing my answer to a question such as, “What is your favorite fish to catch?” I would have likely responded in such a way that would make the inquisitor think that I just provided reasons I didn’t like pursuing a certain fish.

I would say steelhead, no question, but I’d rant about how miserable it is to take a 20-minute skiff ride on a 30-degree day, dock, then hike an hour and a half to stand in the cold water, only to catch a fish I have no intention of eating. 

So how does that make steelhead my favorite fish? Because all the misery was worth it? I’ve caught beautiful brown trout in beautiful places and there was no misery. It’s not the brown trout’s fault.

Anyway, the social media question was telling.

“Which is more miserable?

A. 100-pound halibut from 400 feet?

B. 100-pound pack off the alpine?

Consider duration of blissful misery, meat yield, excitement, postability, whatever you’d like.

Remember, everyone is entitled to their wrong opinions, so respond
and chill.”

 The last part of the post is important, of course, because there is always someone who will post the “if it hurts you so bad, then don’t do it” line rather than have fun and answer the question.  

Anyway, the responses were cloudy, as expected, but also had some important semantic differences. One guy thought that “A” was more miserable, but that the pack off the alpine hurts more. That is a very important distinction. Misery implies very little, if any, fun. Hurting doesn’t necessarily imply misery. 

A repeated motion slowly works toward discomfort and eventually pain but you can establish a pace while heading down the mountain and chip away at the distance. The same can’t really be said for reeling. You also won’t get most of the way back to the truck and get sent back to the starting point because the truck ran off.

Either way, most of the posts ended with a derivative of “it’s worth it,” and most sided with the pack being prolonged discomfort, while misery was reserved for the deep sea adventure.

This is about attitude, though, and less about a correct response. 

Klawock resident Daniel Peters with a big lingcod, which provide some of Alaska’s most productive saltwater sportfishing. (JEFF LUND)

Lingcod are known for their ravenous appetites and predatory tendencies, and for anglers like California resident Anthony Zottarelli, a big lingcod will make you work for your trophy catch. (JEFF LUND)

 

 

EVERYONE WANTS EVERYTHING to be easy. Some people know there is no joy if there is no work so they will take a bargain buck or a ‘but that doesn’t put up much of a fight, but they are willing to do what it takes to reap a better reward. Some people attempt to eliminate work with a disqualifying attitude or simple laziness.

For those who have adopted the work mindset, tackling these comparisons can be fun, and telling. I’ve talked to people who take pride in saying the pack down a mountain was exhausting. “Oh man, it was rough,” they start, but the smile of a provider shines through. 

Oftentimes when asking about the experience of reeling in a halibut over 100 pounds, the face goes serious.

“Dude …”

I nod my head. I know.

I know more than one charter captain who much prefers watching a client suffer from the spot at the back of the deck than doing it himself.

Another consideration is the repetitive and uncertain nature of bottomfishing in deep water. When you finally reach the bottom, set on the first hit, feel a fish but soon realize it’s not of keepable size or species, you’ve still got to bring it up. Four. Hundred. Feet. Release it, and drop back down. 

This does not happen in hunting. You don’t shoot a deer and discover it was really a squirrel. There is obviously no catch and release with .270 rounds either. You make the shot, do the work, pack up, then go home.

As previously mentioned, the larger question is the joy hunters and anglers take in engaging in this type of discussion after partaking in these type of experiences. Not in the knuckle-dragging, misogynistic, toxic masculinity, traditional gender role – the “my dad telling me to ‘be a man’ ruined my life” sort of way – but in the way fishing and hunting buddies discuss the lives they enjoy around a campfire. The way athletes discuss grueling workouts. The way writers discuss hunting words that hide. The way artists discuss sleepless nights and insecurities.

It’s the way people who do tough things discuss the joy of doing tough things, and the people who sit and watch other people do tough things, don’t.  

So, while I have spent the last 1,000 or so words whining about how reeling in big halibut hurts my arms, I’d gladly do it tomorrow if my buddy Dan had a spot on his boat. ASJ

Editor’s note: Jeff Lund is a freelance writer from Ketchikan. His podcast The Mediocre Alaskan chronicles his struggle to be a better Alaskan. It is available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Yellowstone NP Grizzly Bear Hunt Blocked For Now

At least as of today, Alaska remains the only state where you can hunt grizzlies.  A federal judge blocked a Trump administration plan to allow a grizzly bear hunt on lands in Wyoming and Idaho. Here’s more from the New York Post via the Asscoiated Press:

Wyoming and Idaho had been on the cusp of allowing hunters to kill up to 23 bears this fall. US District Judge Dana Christensen had twice delayed the hunts and the latest order blocking them was due to expire later this week. The hunts would have been the first in the US outside Alaska since 1991.

Christensen wrote in his ruling that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting.” Rather, he said, it was about whether federal officials adequately considered threats to the species’ long-term recovery when they lifted protections for more than 700 bears living around Yellowstone National Park.

In the judge’s view, the answer was no.

He noted that an estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous US and said it would be “simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst” not to consider the status of grizzlies outside the Yellowstone region, one of the few areas where they have bounced back.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation put out a joint press release protesting the federal protection:

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation disagree with a judge’s decision to vacate the delisting of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ruling places the population back on the endangered species list.

“Despite this ruling, the basic facts remain the same: grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area have recovered, and no longer meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the ESA and should be rightfully returned to state management,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation president and CEO. “This ruling is just another example of why we need comprehensive reforms to the way we manage ESA-listed species in this country. We are evaluating all of our legal options to appeal this ruling.”

The DOI announced the removal of Yellowstone area grizzlies, numbering more than 700, from the endangered species list in 2017 based on sound science and millions of hunter dollars spent on researching and studying the bears. Idaho and Wyoming later announced intentions to hold conservative management hunts in the fall of 2018. Those hunts will not take place.

“We are highly disappointed with this decision,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Once again we see that extreme environmental groups continue to clog up the delisting process at a time when we should be celebrating the recovery of grizzlies in the region. Scientists gathered data and population numbers that show grizzlies in the region surpassed all recovery criteria and are recovered. This ruling bolsters the case for Congress to update the Endangered Species Act.”

Environmental groups claimed the grizzly population in the Yellowstone region would be decimated if delisted and placed under state management. They made the same claims for the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population which is 200 to 400 percent above minimum recovery goals, depending on the state.

“State-based management of wildlife is a key facet of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. That is why the most healthy and robust wildlife populations in the world are found in North America. Grizzlies, like elk, wolves, deer and all other wildlife, should be managed by the states for their overall betterment. This ruling thoroughly frustrates that process,” added Weaver.

This latest ruling follows a 2007 attempt by the Department of Interior (DOI) to delist Yellowstone grizzlies, a decision that was also litigated by environmental groups and subsequently overturned by the federal courts.

Here’s some Twitter reaction:

 

Kodiak’s Pasagshak River Coho Salmon Bag Limit Increased

The following press release is  courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Kodiak) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is increasing the bag and possession limit for coho (silver) salmon 20 inches or greater in the Pasagshak River from one to two fish. These provisions are effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 22 through December 31, 2018.

“On September 19-20, the department observed a minimum of 6,200 coho salmon in Lake Rose Tead based on drone and aerial surveys.” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “Though the escapement goal is typically assessed post season during spawning in November, the department expects to achieve the goal even with increased opportunity for harvest. Therefore, we are able to increase the bag and possession limit to two fish to allow additional sportfishing and harvest opportunity.”

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum at
(907) 486-1880.

Coho Fishing 101 In Alaska

The following press release and and videos are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish, recently produced two educational videos, How to Fish for Delta Clearwater River Coho Salmon and Slip Bobber Fishing for Coho Salmon.

These informative videos explore two different techniques for fishing coho (silver) salmon. How to Fish for Delta Clearwater River Coho Salmon shows the use of single-hook artificial lure or fly and was filmed on the Delta Clearwater River near Delta Junction. Slip Bobber Fishing for Coho Salmon outlines the use of a slip bobber and was filmed on Campbell Creek in Anchorage.

The videos will most benefit those who have never, or rarely, gone fishing for coho salmon, however, seasoned anglers may also learn a new trick or two.

Get started on becoming a coho salmon angler today by watching the videos at:

Slip Bobber Fishing for Coho Salmon www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX1UCQx9bJE&t=7s

How to Fish for Delta Clearwater River Coho Salmon:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX1UCQx9bJE&t=7s

 

 

Wildlife Forever Fights Back Against Great Lakes Invasive Species

The following press release is courtesy of Wildlife Forever:

White Bear Lake, MN – Wildlife Forever has taken another innovative step towards fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes by donating a solarized watercraft cleaning station to the City of Duluth.

Located within the St. Louis River estuary, the access at Munger Landing was recently outfitted with a CD3 Watercraft Cleaning Station to empower boaters to self-inspect and Clean Drain and Dry boats, trailers and equipment. In partnership with St. Louis County and the Minnesota DNR, the project highlights the importance of collaboration between state, county, city, private companies and conservation groups to bring real solutions in fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Munger Landing is the second access to be retrofitted with new cleaning station technology. In addition to providing physical tools to remove weeds and water, the new station will soon be outfitted with a Wi-Fi educational platform to highlight invasive species issues but also allow boaters to purchase fishing licenses, download lake maps and safe boating information.

“The Great Lakes remain a major pathway for the potential introduction of invasive species,” said Pat Conzemius, Executive Vice President for Wildlife Forever. “I could not be more proud of the partners involved that worked together to enhance this access for AIS identification/prevention but also making a place for people to learn more about the resource,” said Conzemius.

“The access at Munger Landing is a key location to the City of Duluth’s interconnected water trail and access to the St. Louis River, a crown jewel for paddlers, hunters, anglers, and birders. The station is a great complement to our awareness and prevention plans for preventing invasive species,” said Lisa Luokkala, Senior Parks Planner for the City of Duluth.

Wildlife Forever’s Clean Drain Dry Initiative is a national campaign to educate outdoor recreational users on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. Strategic communications, marketing, outreach and educational services inform the public about invasive species prevention and consistent best management practices. Newly designed cleaning stations are waterless, user-operated and includes a wet/dry vacuum, blower, and tethered hand tools for easy use. The CD3 station is not your average cleaning station. The system has internet connected technology to allow natural resource managers to track visitor use, functionality and maintenance needs.

To learn about educational resources, tools and services to help prevent the spread of invasive species visit www.WildlifeForever.org

About Wildlife Forever (WF): Wildlife Forever’s mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife.  For over 30 years, WF members have helped to conduct thousands of fish, game and habitat conservation projects across the country. Recent audits reveal a 94% to mission rating. Join Today!  To learn more about the award-winning programs, including work to engage America’s youth, visit www.WildlifeForever.org.

 

Vancouver, B.C. Angler Wins Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby

Ashley Camp’s Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby-winning fish, a 221.4-pounder. (Homer Chamber of Commerce)

The following press release is courtesy of the Homer Chamber of Commerce: 

Saturday the 33rd Annual Jackpot Halibut Derby came to a close, the winning fish was caught by Ashley Camp from Vancouver, British Columbia, with a 221.4 pound and 76-inch halibut.  The fish was caught with Midnight Sun Charters and Captain Brian Nollar on the Belle Ile.

Prizes for the Jackpot Fish, Released Fish, Kids Prize, Captains’ Prize, Top Seller and Just for the Halibut will be drawn on Thursday, September 20th at 3pm.  The prize ceremony will be live streamed on Facebook (@jackpothalibutderby).

U.S./Canada Come To Terms On Salmon Harvest Agreement

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The Pacific Salmon Commission has announced the conclusion of negotiations between the United States and Canada on the Pacific Salmon Treaty, resulting in a new 10-year harvest agreement.

A diverse group of 59 Alaskans spent more than three years negotiating for the best deal possible for Alaska while ensuring conservation and sustainable access to our valuable shared North Pacific salmon fisheries.

Under the agreement, every participating jurisdiction accepted a reduction in the number of fish that can be harvested, unlike recent treaties in which Alaska bore the majority of the burden. Alaska sustains a 7.5 percent reduction, compared to a 12.5 percent reduction for Canada, and reductions ranging from 5 percent to 15 percent for Oregon and Washington.

“I regret the reduction of even one salmon available to Alaskans for harvest. However, this treaty agreement protects the health and sustainability of our salmon stocks and guarantees Alaska’s ability to directly manage our fisheries without federal interference,” Governor Bill Walker said. “I met with fishing groups that opposed this treaty and carried their message back to D C in a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce to explore the option of a one-year delay. That did not prove feasible. I realize some fishery groups are unhappy with this outcome, but I commend Commissioner Swanton and his team of industry and fishery negotiators for their tireless effort to get the best deal possible for Alaska.”

“For the first time since the Treaty was originally negotiated in 1985, Alaska’s diverse treaty team unanimously approved the final deal,” Pacific Salmon Commissioner Charles Swanton said. “It speaks volumes that salmon subsistence users, seafood industry leaders, commercial fishermen, and recreational representatives all ended up endorsing this deal.”

As a result of these negotiations, when abundance increases, harvests will increase proportionally. New accountability provisions advocated by the Alaska treaty team enact limits on the number of fish available for harvest relative to how many salmon return that year: this “Calendar Year Exploitation Rates” approach improves upon previous standards and will lead to more accountability for all parties.

Slight Decrease In Alaska Duck Breeding As 2018 Season Nears

Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge ducks photo by Melissa Gabrielson/USFWS

Ducks Unlimited released its 2018 waterfowl forecast Friday morning, and Alaskan duck numbers have been on a bit of a downswing. Here’s a snippet of the report:

Farther north, in the Western Boreal Forest of northern Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories, the abundance of breeding ducks was down 13 percent from last year’s estimate but remained 33 percent above the long-term average. In Alaska and the Yukon, breeding ducks decreased 15 percent and were 9 percent below the long-term average.

DU Canada biologist Jamie Kenyon reports that wetland conditions were generally favorable for breeding waterfowl across much of the Western Boreal Forest.  “After a dry spring, it was very wet in the northern prairie provinces and southern territories, with up to double the average summer precipitation. The Northwest Territories had record-breaking rainfall in June, resulting in full ponds and fast-flowing rivers. Ponds in the Yukon are full too, and many broods of a variety of species have been observed,” Kenyon says. …

According to the USFWS, spring weather and habitat conditions were mixed for Pacific Flyway goose populations. An early spring thaw in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and southwest Alaska provided favorable conditions for breeding cackling geese, white-fronted geese, emperor geese, and Pacific brant, while a delayed spring thaw in northern Alaska and the western Canadian Arctic may have negatively impacted breeding success among lesser snow geese, Ross’s geese, and other species in those areas. 

Most duck seasons in Alaska either have just started or will soon be open. Check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game waterfowl regulations guide for more specific information.