All posts by Chris Cocoles

Save Bristol Bay Pleads For Opponents Of Pebble Mine To Speak Up


The following is courtesy of Save Bristol Bay:

Hi Friends:

Pebble Mine is in its public DEIS hearings and we are, right now, in the toughest round of the Pebble Fight yet. We are reaching out to ask you two things: tell the Army Corps to put this permit application in the trash where it belongs, and chip in a few bucks to keep the fight against Pebble Mine going.

In a nutshell, there are several Pebble-sized problems with this permitting process.

First, the Army Corps does not even come close to analyzing all the potential impacts of large scale mining in the headwaters of Bristol Bay and completely ignores the intent of future expansion. The Corps refused to take this hard look at potential future actions despite the repeated public boasts by Pebble’s executives of 100 years worth of mining and billions more tons of ore than described in the DEIS.


The Corps also failed to analyze what would happen if there was a catastrophic failure of one of the mine waste containment dams. Luckily, we did:


And last, but not least, the Corps failed to require a ground floor study of the economic feasibility for the proposal analyzed in the draft. This is unusual and smacks of collusion between mine permitter and mine permittee.

For all these reasons and many, many more that are being analyzed by our top notch multi-disciplinary team of scientific and technical experts, we are asking you to show up, stand up, support our work and say: “No!” one more time.

We don’t have to tolerate this. We still have close to two months left in the public comment period, and you should make your voice heard to the Army Corps. And if you can spare $15, it goes a long way to keep us in the fight. Right now we are organizing Alaskans to show up and rally against this mine at the DEIS hearings in Anchorage, Bristol Bay, and Homer. There’s a lot of really important work to be done, and we hope you’ll help us do it.

-Save Bristol Bay

ADFG Orders Fishing Closure Of Interior Lakes KImberly And Polaris

Map courtesy of State of Alaska


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

Sport Fishing Closure of Kimberly and Polaris Lakes in the North Pole and Eielson Areas

Surface water in Kimberly and Polaris Lakes have tested to exceed EPA and DEC actions levels for PFAS. As a precautionary measure, Kimberly Lake and Polaris Lake are closed to sport fishing effective immediately, and will not be stocked until additional information becomes available.

ADF&G recognizes closing these lakes will reduce fishing opportunity on Eielson Airforce Base and plans to increase stockings in Chena, Birch, and Cushman Lakes. We encourage anglers to give these lakes a try this spring and summer.

For information regarding groundwater contaminants, please contact the Department of Environmental Conservation. For information on any health effects associated with the contaminants, contact the Department of Health and Social Services. For information about fish stockings or alternative local fishing opportunities, contact Heather Scannell (907) 459-7357;

One-Fish Limit In Effect For Southeast Alaska King Salmon Fishing (Updated)

ADFG photo

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Updated version) :

Juneau – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is announcing the 2019 sport fishing regulations for king salmon in Southeast Alaska and Yakutat. These regulations will be effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, April 2, 2019 through 11:59 p.m. Friday, May 1, 2020. The regulations are:

  • Alaskan Resident
    • The resident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length.
  • Nonresident
    • The nonresident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
    • From January 1 through June 30, the annual limit is three king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;
    • From July 1 through December 31, the annual limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length, and any king salmon harvested from January 1 through June 30 will apply toward the one fish annual limit;
    • Immediately upon landing and retaining a king salmon a nonresident must enter the species, date and location, in ink, on the back of their sport fishing license or on a nontransferable harvest record.

The king salmon nonretention periods in the Haines, Skagway, Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan areas, announced on January 7, 2019, are still in effect in order to protect wild Alaska king salmon stocks.

The Southeast Alaska king salmon sport fishery is managed under the directives of the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan (5 AAC 47.055). This plan prescribes management measures based upon the Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE. The Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE for the 2019 season is 3.38 which equates to 25,844 king salmon allocated to the sport fishery. To address the implementation of the new treaty agreement which includes provisions to reduce the Alaska harvest ceiling the following year if the Alaska harvest ceiling is exceeded, the Southeast Alaska king salmon fisheries will be conservatively managed. This equates to a sport fishery harvest target of 25,300 treaty king salmon in 2019. The projected 2019 sport harvest of treaty king salmon is expected to be 21,900-22,500 fish. This is based on:

  1. the estimated treaty harvest of king salmon in 2018 was 21,300 fish;
  2. the same regional management and conservative wild stock management provisions in 2018 will be implemented in 2019; and
  3. the implementation of a two fish resident bag limit in areas closed for wild stock management when they reopen is estimated to increase harvest by 600-1,200 treaty king salmon.

The Southeast Alaska king salmon fishery will be monitored inseason and management action will be taken if needed to keep the sport fishery within the sport allocation. Additional opportunity to harvest Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon in the Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan areas beginning in June will be announced in May.

For further information regarding sport fisheries in Southeast Alaska, contact the nearest ADF&G office or visit:


ADF&G Announces 2019 SE Alaska Chinook Salmon All Gear Harvest Limit

(Juneau) — Under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced today that the preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska (SEAK) in 2019 is 137,500 fish.

This year’s all-gear harvest limit includes a 2% reduction that will serve as a buffer to avoid exceeding the all-gear limit and payback provisions within the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The all-gear harvest limit for SEAK is determined by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission and is based on a forecast of the aggregate abundance of Pacific Coast Chinook salmon stocks subject to management under the Pacific Salmon Treaty as determined by Catch per Unit Effort in the Southeast Alaska early winter troll fishery.

The Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit is allocated among sport and commercial troll and net fisheries under management plans specified by the Alaska Board of Fisheries as follows:

2019 Treaty Chinook Salmon Allocations Number of Chinook Salmon
Purse seine (4.3% of all-gear) 5,900
Drift gillnet (2.9% of all-gear) 4,000
Set gillnet (1,000) 1,000
Troll (80% after net gear subtracted) 101,300
Sport (20% after net gear subtracted) 25,300
Total all-gear harvest limit 137,500

Preseason projections for three Alaska Chinook stocks (Chilkat, King Salmon, and Unuk rivers) listed as stocks of management concern indicate that two of the three stocks will not achieve their minimum escapement goals in 2019, necessitating a management regime aimed at minimizing interception of these stocks. In addition, continued poor production across the region is anticipated to affect the eleven monitored Chinook salmon index systems of which seven failed to achieve their minimum escapement goal in 2018. Therefore, the management strategy for the 2019 fisheries will focus on minimizing harvests of these Alaska stocks. A similar management strategy was employed in 2018 and successfully reduced the interception of these stocks.

Allocative and regulatory information can be found in news release sections for the Division of Sport Fish and Division of Commercial Fisheries. Links to these releases are below:

Related Division of Sport Fish News Release:

Related Division of Commercial Fisheries News Release: (PDF 132 kB)

These USFWS Festivals Are For The Birds

The marbled godwit will be honored at Godwit Days from April 17-23 at Humboldt Bay NWR. (RINUS BAAK/USFWS)


The following appears in the March issue of California Sportsman, which  you can access here:

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For a jaw-dropping nature spectacle, it’s hard to beat a bird festival. Some of the nation’s most celebrated bird festivals are at or near national wildlife refuges. And no, you don’t have to be a birder to enjoy one.

National wildlife refuges are home to more than 700 species of birds. Scores of refuges are located along major bird migration routes, so when the birds move en masse in spring and fall, visitors get an eyeful.

Many festivals celebrate the seasonal arrivals of large birds, such as sandhill cranes, notable for their great wingspans, noisy calls and striking mating dances. Other festivals focus on bald eagles, tundra swans, snow geese and prairie chickens. 

So what better place than a national wildlife refuge to find some of the nation’s best birding and outstanding birding festivals? The National Wildlife Refuge System is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The festivals are hugely popular, so advance registration is suggested. Some festivals charge a registration or activity fee. Check out the below calendar of annual bird festivals on or near national wildlife refuges. Then try one. Refuges are family-friendly, so bring your whole crew. 


Egrets are prevalent at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is hosting one of many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bird festivals this year. (GARY KRAMER; USFWS)


APRIL 2019


April 11-14

Burns, Oregon

Wildlife art shows, kids’ nature fairs including a chance to learn about wild birds, music and book signings are among the highlights. This is a chance to visit the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Pete French Round Barn, built by frontier cattle baron Pete French around 1880.



April 17-23

Arcata, California 

Celebrate the marbled godwit at the 24th annual festival! Field trip destinations for this festival along the northern California coast include Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The event also includes scores of eco-tours and workshops, an art show and live birds of prey.

MAY 2019


May 11 (and October 12) 

WMBD is the only international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Each year, WMBD explores a different aspect of migratory birds and their conservation. This year, many events in North America will take place on May 11 (and on the birds’ wintering grounds on October 12). Many wildlife refuges take part in WMBD celebrations. Check the Refuge System special events calendar for event listings.


Birds like the great blue heron will be celebrated at refuges from Alaska to Utah to New Mexico this year. (GARY KRAMER)


May 3-5

Hoquiam, Washington 

Each spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed along the Washington Coast and in the Grays Harbor estuary during their migration northward. Coming from as far south as Argentina, these Arctic-bound shorebirds are among the world’s greatest migrants. Field trips to birding hotspots, lectures, vendors, exhibitors and great shorebird viewing take place at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and in other parts of the county.



May 9-12

Homer, Alaska 

For 27 years running, the festival has offered great birds, excellent guiding, educational seminars and workshops, and children’s activities to thousands of birders of all ages and all skill levels. With over 100,000 shorebirds of 25 different species migrating through in early May, this event celebrates the return of spring and migrating birds. The festival includes field trips to Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.



May 16-19

Farmington, Utah

This festival highlights birds and other natural wonders around the Great Salt Lake in northern Utah. Take part in field trips, workshops and activities for families, youth and scouts. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is among the festival’s field trip destinations.



May 18

Sherwood, Oregon 

The Friends of the Refuge in partnership with Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge have created a one-day wonder for the 23rd annual free festival, including early morning guided bird walks, live bird show, plenty of activities for kids and Conestoga-style wagon rides around the refuge.




September 29

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Join the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge for this annual concert in celebration of wildlife in partnership with the Friends of the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge. There are lots of activities for the whole family, including music, crafts, games, food and fun. Local musicians are invited to perform for the public as they enjoy the great outdoors.




October 5-6

Ridgefield, Washington 

Join Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate the coming of fall and the wildlife that make the refuge their home. The annual festival, along the lower Columbia River, offers Audubon bird shows, live music, arts and crafts and activities at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a full-scale replica of a Native American structure found in the old town of Cathlapotle.




November 3, 10, 17 and 24

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Take a 4½-mile drive through the back fields and past ponds at Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge to observe migrating waterfowl – sandhill cranes, ducks of all variety, snow geese, coots, grebes, mergansers and bald eagles looking for their next meal. Interpretive programs to help visitors identify waterfowl.



November 20-23

Socorro, New Mexico 

See thousands of wintering sandhill cranes and snow geese at the spectacular Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge just outside of the city of Socorro, about an hour’s drive from Albuquerque. Enjoy workshops, tours, great photographic opportunities and other events at one of the most celebrated birding festivals in the country. CS

 Note: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more info, visit, or connect through, Twitter, (@USFWS) and

Video Release Shows Alaska Father And Son Illegally Shooting Sow And Cubs In Den

Note: The above video features profanity and potentially disturbing images for some viewers.

An Alaska father and son charged with illegally killing a denning bear and her two cubs were caught on video from a surveillance camera that was studying the bruins. The Humane Society successfully had the video released by the Alaska Department of Public Safety after making a public records request.

KTUU has some more details:

The men can be seen shooting into the den, and heard saying, “they’ll never be able to link it to us” and “we go where we want to kill s—. ” They were later filmed returning to the site, picking up the spent shell casings, and disposing of the dead bear cubs in plastic bags.

In January of 2019, the Wasilla father and son were sentenced for killing the bears, and then lying about it to officials after they found out the bear was collared.

Andrew Renner was sentenced to five months in jail with two months suspended, a fine of $20,000 with $11,000 suspended, and to forfeit property used in the offenses. Owen Renner was sentenced to suspended jail time, community service and is required to take a hunter safety course.


ADFG Releases Cook Inlet Salmon Escapement Goal Recommendations

ADFG photo


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

(Anchorage) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) recently completed its review of salmon escapement goals for Cook Inlet salmon stocks and has released its recommendations to the public. On March 27, 2019, ADF&G released two memos, one for Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) and one for Lower Cook Inlet (LCI), summarizing ADF&G’s review and recommendations for each area’s salmon escapement goals. Managing for escapement, or the number of adult fish that survive to spawn each year, is the keystone of salmon management in Alaska. Escapement goals set stock appropriate targets that determine inseason management of those salmon fisheries. Since statehood, escapement goals for Cook Inlet salmon stocks have been set and evaluated at regular intervals. Prior to Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) meetings, staff from the divisions of Commercial Fisheries and Sport Fish jointly reviewed salmon escapement goals for each area. Cook Inlet goals were last reviewed prior to the 2016–2017 BOF cycle.

In response to public requests, ADF&G is releasing these salmon escapement goal recommendations several months earlier than normal to provide the public an opportunity for review prior to the April 10, 2019, BOF proposal deadline. It is important to note the new goals will not be implemented until the 2020 fishing season, as recommendations are not adopted until after the 2019–2020 BOF regulatory cycle.

The memos summarizing ADF&G’s review and recommendations for the UCI and LCI salmon escapement goals can be found on the ADF&G website at:

For additional information and questions about the process or recommended goals, please contact Tom Vania at (907) 267-2131 or Bert Lewis at (907) 267-2173.

The Moose (Hunter) Is Loose: Supreme Court OK’s Hovercraft Use

An Alaska moose hunter who fought to be allowed a chance to use a hovercraft took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. And won!

Here’s CNN with more on the landmark decision:

John Sturgeon, with the support of Alaska, argued that the National Park Service did not have jurisdiction over the land. Alaska allows the use of hovercrafts.
“That means Sturgeon can again rev up his hovercraft in search of moose,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for a unanimous court.
Here’s a snippet from the Associated Press initial news story:
The outcome was a victory for hunter John Sturgeon. Three park rangers ordered Sturgeon off the Nation River within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in northeast Alaska. They told him it was illegal to operate the noisy craft that can navigate shallow water or even mud.


A First For Homer Winter King Event Winner (Updated)

Homer’s popular Winter King Salmon Derby made some history last weekend. Shayna Perry’s 26.70-pound king won her the tournament. Perry, who fished on the Stella Maris 2, was the first woman to win the derby. Congrats, Shayna!

Photo of derby winner Shayna Perry by Jim Lavrakas / Far North Photography

Here’s the top 10 finishers, courtesy of the Homer Chamber of Commerce:

First Place: Shayna Perry – 26.70 pounds – boat: Stella Maris 2
Second Place: Chad Webb – 25.44 – Yeah Bouy
Third Place: William Freeman – 24.56 – La’samo
Fourth Place: Cody Dutcher 24.52 – Time Off
Fifth Place: Bill Comer – 24.22 – Toni Marie
Sixth Place: – Dustin Sena – 22.90 – Savage
Seventh Place: Jason Herndon – 22.44 – Balls Deep
Eighth Place: Luke Graham – 22.26 – Stella Maris 2
Ninth Place: Shoshana Wilhite – 22.24 – Obsession
Tenth Place: Fletcher Darr 22.14  – One Finger Jack
Update: Here’s the official release for the results and payouts:

For the 26th year, the Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center has enjoyed another successful Homer Winter Salmon King Tournament, in conjunction with key sponsors Ulmer’s Drug and Hardware, Coal Point Seafood Co, K&L Distributors, and Alaska Brewing Company. 1402 anglers and 426 Boats weighed in 180 winter kings, 37 of those were white King Salmon. This year was a first for the Tournament with Shayna Perry being the first woman champion of the tournament with a 26.70 white winter King Salmon and a payout of $72,997.50! This was Shayna’s first year in the Tournament, she came down from Eagle River to fish with her friends on the Stella Maris 2. She caught the winning white King Salmon 30 minutes before lines out with Captain Krzysztof Balaban. In addition to winning the grand prize for the largest King Salmon of the Tournament, she also won the “AJ’s Oldtown Steakhouse” prize for the Largest White King. The Stella Maris 2 won sidebets in the $50, $75, $100, and $125 categories for a total payout of $44,957.50

Top 10 Winners

First Place: Shayna Perry – 26.70lbs – Stella Maris 2 – $28,040.00

Second Place: Chad Webb – 25.44lbs – Yeah Bouy – $18,226.00
Third Place: William Freeman – 24.56lbs – La’samo – $12,618.00

Fourth Place: Cody Dutcher 24.52lbs – Time Off – $9,814.00

Fifth Place: Bill Comer – 24.22lbs – Toni Marie – $8,412.00

Sixth Place: – Dustin Sena – 22.90lbs – Savage – $7,010.00

Seventh Place: Jason Herndon – 22.44lbs – Balls Deep – $5,608.00

Eighth Place: Luke Graham – 22.26lbs – Stella Maris 2 – $4,206.00
Ninth Place: Shoshana Wilhite – 22.24lbs – Obsession – $2,804.00
Tenth Place: Fletcher Darr 22.14lbs – One Finger Jack – $1,402.00

Top Youth Angler: Fletcher Darr – 22.14lb – One Finger Jack

Top Kayak: John Goulet – 12.73lbs


$25 Sidebet – Laverne Mae – 21.88lbs – $1,330.00

$50 Sidebet – Stella Maris 2 – 26.70lbs – $6,370.00

$75 Sidebet – Stella Maris 2 – 26.70lbs – $9,502.50

$100 Sidebet – Stella Maris 2 – 26.70lbs – $16,660.00

$125 Sidebet – Stella Maris 2 – 26.70lbs – $12,425.00

$150 Sidebet – Yeah Bouy – 25.44lbs – $11,550.00

$175 Sidebet – Riptide – 18.18lbs – $3,430.00

$200 Sidebet – Tyee – 18.96lbs – $4,900.00

$250 Sidebet – River Hawk – 20.62lbs – $2,975.00

$300 Sidebet – Optimist – 18.32lbs – $3,780.00

The Homer Chamber of Commerce Board, Staff and volunteers want to thank all the anglers who made this event another safe and fun event.

Five Tips For Alaska Steelheaders

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


While making the 100-mile return trip home from an early winter steelhead excursion, my buddy Ricky Dunnett and I were finally able to engage in a healthy, two-way conversation. This was more significant talk than the mumbling, short phrases like “Missed ’im” and “There’s one” that we had been reiterating for the previous nine hours.

The potent coffee from the gas station must have stimulated our weary brains, which allowed us to start speaking in more complex sentences again. 

About halfway into the ride, Ricky brought up the topic of past fishing acquaintances and, more specifically, who were the best steelheaders that I know, and what made them so good? A few names came to me very quickly.

I have been fortunate to have fished with some of the most talented anglers on the planet – guys who can consistently pull a limit of fish out of a 10-gallon bucket during a severe cold front. As we sorted through the list, I realized that they shared some common qualities with one another.

When I got home later that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Ricky and I had discussed earlier that evening. Maybe it was the residual effect of the coffee I’d consumed, but I felt compelled to call a few of my buddies. This way I could ask them who they thought should be enshrined on the Mount Rushmore of steelheaders and what attributes separate them from the rest of the pack. 

I only gave them one stipulation: Exclude experience, because only experience can give you experience – if I may be permitted channel my inner Yogi Berra. These are some of the things we agreed upon.

Author Tony Ensalaco


The best steelheaders are well prepared and pay attention to the details. Preparation can start weeks, even months, ahead of an upcoming fishing trip, and I believe it is a good practice to give yourself plenty of time to do the things that will ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. 

I remember a phrase from the book The Art of War – written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu – that states “Every battle is won before it is fought.” I use that to help motivate me when I am getting ready for my next Alaskan adventure. I am not trying to depict steelheaders as warriors, nor am I about to compare fishing to combat (that would be ridiculous). 

However, I know that the success of a trip can be contingent on how well you prepare for it, so I use that quote to help remind me that I need to be as thorough as possible.

An experienced fisherman understands that he can’t control the weather or how good the fishing will be. But there are actions that can be done that might swing the odds in his or her favor. The most important issue to be concerned with is the timing of the run, because you cannot catch something that isn’t there.

This is when you need to do some research so you can attempt to predict when the fish will be in the river. And even though you’re not dealing with an exact science, you can still follow some general, historical guidelines that will give you an indication of when would be the optimal time to schedule an outing. 

Also, you will never see experienced steelheaders succumb to the extreme Alaskan weather, because they know how to prepare for any adverse situation the weather gods choose to throw at them. They expect to fish in the rain and will be equipped accordingly. 

The best way to take on the elements is to bring extra sets of clothing so they can be rotated when a garment becomes saturated. This is significant because it’s impossible to do anything when you are uncomfortable. 

If you start out wet, there is a pretty good chance you are destined to be miserable for the rest of the day. You’re going to be thinking about calling it quits rather than concentrating on fishing. Steelheaders know the importance of comfort and they refuse to let the adverse weather conditions keep them off the river. 

I learned this early on in my steelheading tenure. I fished with a guy who brought just about two of everything on a trip, while I barely owned one of certain things. It rained for three days straight and I spent every night hanging my wet clothes anywhere and on anything I could find. I prayed that my stuff would dry in time. 

On the other hand, my roommate smelled like fabric softener each morning because he had the resources to swap out his wet clothes for fresh ones each day. I was damp and cold throughout the entire week, which caused me to lose my focus and my catch rate reflected my misery.

There also are the things you have the power to control. It can be as simple as having all of your equipment in proper working condition: reels filled with fresh line, all the hooks in your arsenal checked and sharpened, and your raincoats and waders inspected for leaks. 

You will never see an experienced steelheader lose a fish due to the line breaking or an equipment failure. It doesn’t happen because those kinds of mishaps can be avoided by paying attention to the little things before you make your first cast. 

If you are traveling to a remote destination, use a checklist to help yourself remember to take all of the essential items that are impossible to replace. Alaska isn’t like the Lower 48, where you can run to the nearest store if you forget to bring something. As much as I enjoy visiting the Alaska Commercial Co. store every year, I don’t want to have to rely on it to replace a key piece of equipment.

Another reason why it helps to bring extra gear is because the airlines (bless those hard workers who handle my bags) will inadvertently lose a valuable piece of luggage now and again. It happened to me once, but since I had duplicates of everything that were divided into two separate bags, I was able to mix and match all of the items that I needed from the one duffle bag that did show up. I was able to fish my first day without missing a beat instead of having to sit on the sidelines and wait for Alaska Airlines to deliver the missing bag to my room. 


Perfect steelheaders manage their time efficiently both on and off the water. There are certain activities where clock management is crucial, and fishing trips loosely fit that category. You only have X number of hours in a day and Y number of hours during the entire trip to fish, so doesn’t it make sense to be as efficient as possible? 

I am always devising alternative ways to budget my time when I travel to Alaska. My philosophy is that I’m only going to be here for a few days, so I might as well fish as much as possible.

I feel that I can always rest when I get home. I’m not trying to imply that everyone needs to spend every moment of daylight on the water and fish like a robot to the point it stops being enjoyable. 

I just think that you should be cognizant of how you manage your time throughout the day. This starts the moment you unpack your bags. Don’t unload your belongings into a disheveled mess to the degree that you can’t find anything.

Instead, implement a system that helps you remember where everything is and that it’s easily accessible. Don’t waste precious time each morning searching for an article of clothing or, worse, not be able to find a vital piece of equipment that you need on the river. 

Any task that can be accomplished the night before should be taken care of then. Don’t put things off until the next day. This includes laying out your wardrobe, rigging your rods and fixing or replacing any gear that was lost or damaged while you were out fishing earlier that day. 

Every evening, I will restock any lost terminal tackle as soon as I get back to my room. I know that I will probably forget something important if I wait until the next morning to replace it. Every minute that you can shave off in your room can be added to your time on the water. 

Even something as simple as taking showers the night before instead of in the morning can save you valuable time. This is especially true when you are sharing a room with guys who don’t function very well as they wake up. 

It can be time consuming to coordinate the bathroom schedule into everyone’s routine. I subscribe to the theory that the less things you have to do in the morning, the faster you will be headed to the river.

It is wise to maximize your productivity by keeping a bait in the water as much as possible. Good steelheaders know this and will make it a point to do so because it dramatically increases the chances of hooking up. I haven’t heard of too many people who have caught a fish while their lure is attached to the hook keeper. 

When I was in high school, I used to do a lot of crowd fishing for salmon and steelhead on weekends. That way I was able to interact with a cross-section of fishermen. It was basically the same cast of characters every week and it became easy to see who consistently caught the most fish. The anglers who spent the most time fishing – not the guys standing around talking with their hands in their pockets – were the ones with the most fish on their stringers.

So I now apply this rudimentary principle whenever I can. If I am floating the river in a drift boat, I’ll make sure that there is someone standing up front and actively fishing at all times. While transitioning from one hole to another we have discovered several nondescript spots that held large numbers of fish.

Some of these obscure places turned out to be trip savers. I don’t mind if my partners are admiring the beauty of Alaska – I encourage that – but I just ask that they are covering the water while they are watching nature do its thing.

Another efficient way to conserve time is how you handle lunch breaks. I remember reading a book when I was in grade school about the great Wisconsin musky guides. The author asked one of the guides about what he likes to serve for his shore lunch. He said that he doesn’t believe in shore lunches because they are too time consuming. He used the example that if you guide a party for two days and spend about an hour and a half for lunch each day, you will lose approximately three hours of fishing time. 

That philosophy still resonates with me. Think about the valuable time you would lose over the course of a week. You will sacrifice almost a full day’s worth of fishing time if you break it down that way. I tell my partners to take turns eating while we are moving. 

I’m familiar with the streams I fish, so I have a pretty good idea where the best stretches are to break out the snacks. I prefer to eat while I’m rowing. I had to learn how to balance a sandwich on my thigh, which might not be the most enjoyable way to eat a meal, but it is an efficient alternative. Besides, if I’m looking for five-star dining, I wouldn’t expect it to be served out of a brown paper bag on a river.


Steelie anglers will fish at a high level from start to finish and will be the most persistent people on the river. This is something that I try to preach to anyone who fishes with me. 

I have learned that you will only get a finite number of chances (bites) when you are fishing, so it’s imperative that you make the most out of your limited opportunities. This means being dialed in from your very first cast until you put away your rods in the vehicle. 

It’s a poor excuse to miss a fish because you weren’t “ready.” One of my biggest steelhead that I have ever landed in Alaska was a massive fall-run male that weighed well over 20 pounds. It was hooked within the first minute of the first day of a trip. Talk about an icebreaker. 

This happened so fast that I really don’t remember much of the fight, but I do recall that my buddy Danny Kozlow and I were ready from the moment we dropped the boat in. The fish was holding in the first hole that was located within 200 yards below the boat launch. 

If Danny and I weren’t both on point that morning, we would have probably passed by that hole without dropping a bait through it. You never know when you’re going to encounter that fish of a lifetime, so you need to be at your best as soon as you step into the river.

Good steelheaders do everything with a purpose. They know that when things are going well you stick with it. When something stops working they won’t hesitate to search for something that does work.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising to see so many anglers refuse to follow this simple rule. For example, I have fished with a few guys who would get off to a hot start using a bobber and jig. For no apparent reason, they will pick up a spinner rod and start chucking hardware for the next three hours.

Why would anyone do that? Of course, there are anglers who only want to fish a certain way. They’ll refuse to make any necessary changes when the fishing slows down. These guys are content to grind out the day until whatever they are doing hopefully starts to work for them again. 

Unfortunately, these are the same people who will inadvertently become the designated net man or the official trip photographer because they are unwilling to adapt to the changing conditions.


Seasoned steelhead anglers are willing to adjust, even if things don’t make sense. The first time I stepped onto Alaskan soil, I already had almost 20 years of Midwestern steelheading under my belt. 

I thought that I could catch these fish anywhere in the world (man, did I have a lot to learn). The reason why I chose Alaska over some of the fabled steelhead rivers of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia was because Alaska’s streams appeared to be similar to the Michigan rivers that I was accustomed to fishing. 

When I saw the Situk River for the first time, I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. I expected the river to be the way it was, but what I didn’t predict was the fish to be so quirky. 

It drove me insane when I saw groups of 25 or more fresh steelies holding in plain view on a shallow flat that was in close proximity to an 8-foot hole. I didn’t understand. Why they would sit out in the open when the perfect sanctuary was only 40 yards away? 

It also took me years to accept that these big, dominant, ocean-run steelhead didn’t want anything to do with a moderately sized plug at certain times, but they would devour a mini-plug that’s slightly larger than an M&M.  

I couldn’t fathom why my lures worked so well on steelhead that were half the size back at home, yet these native fish wanted nothing to do with them. It took me several years to finally give in and to admit that the Situk steelies have a unique personality. I needed to adapt my strategies to fit an Alaskan steelhead’s behavior.

Maybe a less experienced fisherman might believe that a steelhead is the same fish anywhere in the continent, but a veteran metalheader knows this isn’t always the case. Too many anglers feel that it’s unnecessary to adapt. They can still clobber the fish by using the same methods that work on their favorite rivers. Don’t get me wrong: Most steelheaders will do fairly well in Alaska, but the ones who are open-minded will usually end up being the top rods on the stream.

A good steelheader won’t assume anything, understanding that fish aren’t always where they should be. He will systematically dissect a run piece by piece until he locates the fish, and the reason why he is so meticulous is because he realizes that the fish won’t find him. 

He will fish different sections of a run by changing where he stands and where he places the next cast. I’ve seen inexperienced anglers become complacent and only stand in one area and repeatedly cast to the same general spot, which results in the same drift. They only fish places where they believe the fish should be, instead of accepting the fact that the fish don’t always follow the rules.  


Longtime steelheaders still ask questions and will always consider themselves students of the game. I believe that you don’t learn very much by talking, which is why I try to shut my mouth and listen. 

When I am participating in a discussion with other steelheaders, I can always tell who the best fishermen are by the way the conversation flows. The ones who sit back and listen to what everyone else is saying will usually be the ones I see fighting the most fish on the river. They will be happy to share some information if confronted, but they would rather pay close attention to what the other anglers are divulging. 

Guides are notorious for asking questions. They will say something like, “Hey; have you done much plugging this morning?” Or it might be, “Have you tried any dark-colored jigs today?” They will come off as being friendly, but they are not looking to make friends with anyone. 

The intention here is to extract information that they can be of use in the future, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just another trick of the trade. As for me, I try not to ask any specific questions out of respect for other’s privacy, but I will be happy to listen to anything someone wants to reveal to me. 

Last season while I was on the river, I met a couple of dudes from Anchorage who were having one of those days that all of us who fish dream about. They were elated about their good fortune and were more than willing to disclose all of the details, including where they were catching most of their fish. 

I didn’t think it was right for them to disclose the location of their honey hole, but if they wanted to volunteer the information, then I was going to pay attention. They described the area in graphic detail. It was a deep, dark corner hole, surrounded by logs along the far bank that was supposedly stacked with chrome steelies a few bends upstream from where we were talking. 

I knew the exact spot they were describing, having fished it before with marginal results. We were floating the river in drift boats, so it was impossible to go back there and fish it again that day. Now I was faced with a mental dilemma. Do I stop and fish “their” hole the next day if I am ahead of them? Or do I take a pass and leave it for those guys? 

The problem was resolved when they told me that they had regrettably booked a halibut trip several weeks in advance that was scheduled for the following morning, and there was no way to back out of their obligation. Perfecto!

I don’t want to share all of the gaudy details, so let’s just say that little morsel of information worked out very well for me and my crew the next afternoon.

BOTTOM LINE, THESE ARE some of the factors that set apart the upper echelon of steelheaders from the rest of the community. None of these recommendations are earth-shattering, but you would be surprised how often that these simple concepts are overlooked. 

Of course, nothing beats experience, but the only way to achieve that is by paying your dues. If you are looking to cut some time off the learning curve, then maybe some of these ideas will work out well for you! ASJ

Here’s Your 2019 Iditarod Winner

We had a correspondent for the ceremonial start of the 2019 Iditarod on March 2 and we’ll have a report in our April issue. Almost 10 days later, in the wee hours of the evening in Nome, Peter Kaiser brought his team into the finish line in nine days, 12 hours, 39 minutes and six seconds. Here’s KTUU with a little more about Kaiser’s win (see above video as well). He’s the first Yup’ik winner of the “Last Great Race On Earth”:

According to Iditarod officials, Kaiser had eight dogs in harness when he crossed the finish line to win the Iditarod XLVII title. He will be awarded his prize money as well as a new 2019 Ram truck on March 17.

Kaiser came in 12 minutes ahead of defending champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who made a late surge, but ultimately took second place at 3:51 a.m.

“It was nerve-wracking,” said Kaiser, who explained that he didn’t feel confident he had won until he drove his team down Front Street.