All posts by Chris Cocoles

Safari Club International Added To Conservation Group


The following press release is courtesy of Safari Club International: 

Washington, DC – Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation) is pleased to announce its formal acceptance as a new member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN is the world’s largest environmental network and the global authority on species survival status. Membership strengthens SCI Foundation’s credibility and capacity through association with this international alliance of scientists and decision makers.

“Attaining IUCN membership has been one of our longtime goals,” said Warren Sackman, President of SCI Foundation. “Being recognized as a science-based organization by IUCN is a major achievement.”


This announcement comes only two months after receiving the highest possible 4-star charity rating from Charity Navigator. SCI Foundation conducts and supports scientific studies, assists in the design and development of scientific programs for sustainable use management, and demonstrates the critical role that hunting plays in wildlife conservation around the world.

“SCI Foundation is acknowledged as a leader in sustainable wildlife conservation and education,” says SCI Foundation’s Conservation Committee Chairman, Dr. Alan Maki. “Now as an IUCN member organization we’ll be able to better collaborate with the international conservation community and share our research findings more broadly.”

IUCN harnesses the knowledge and resources of over 1,300 organizations, including government agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, and business associations. Membership will allow SCI Foundation to develop new partnerships, expand its global scientific network and provide input on key sustainable use discussions at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress this September in Hawaii.


SCI Foundation has an extensive history of working with IUCN, recently supporting the African Elephant Specialist Group in managing and expanding the elephant population survey database. IUCN is also a frequent participant in SCI Foundation’s annual African Wildlife Consultative Forum, which brings together governments, NGOs and the private sector to discuss sustainable use issues and wildlife policy.

Learn more about IUCN and the upcoming 2016 World Conservation Congress at

For more information on SCI Foundation go to our First For Wildlife blog, like us onFacebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or visit our website

Compeau’s: A Family Tradition


Even After 70 Years In Business, Innovations In Shallow-water Boating Continue At Compeau’s Marine In Fairbanks

What does a 1940 Chevy Coupe have to do with the ultimate shallow-water jet boat? Plenty.
In 1938, Bob Compeau Sr. went “north to Alaska” from his childhood home of Everett, Wash., to take a job in Fairbanks as a machinist. An avid hunter and fisherman, Bob had always dreamed of Alaska, having read stories about the thousands of remote, shallow rivers and over 3 million lakes. In a lucky break, his wife, Helyn, won a brand new Chevy Coupe in a church raffle, and Bob promptly made plans to use it to move his family to Fairbanks, where he began planting his roots and building a name for himself in the marine industry. Bob Sr. possessed extraordinary mechanical and engineering skills, and he spent almost all of his spare time working on boats or fixing outboard motors for his new friends. Outboards were becoming incredibly popular among river runners, and Bob used his talents to repair props, rebuild engines and keep those early “kickers” chugging along  Interior Alaskan waterways.
By 1945, soon after the war ended, Bob determined that he had enough informal customers to start his own marine business, and in October he opened the doors of Bob Compeau Sporting Goods.
Much of Bob’s early business revenue involved rebuilding the brass props that his customers brought to him after grinding their way up the ankle-deep rivers that weaved throughout the region. As a machinist, Bob continued to envision a more effective approach. He begun developing and building specialized spring-loaded lifts that he mounted between the top of the transom and the outboard motor itself. These lifts had an additional handle, and were positioned on the opposite side of the existing tiller handle, so the boat operator could lean on it with his right hand and elevate the motor, thus lifting the precious prop above danger. This way, the boater could avoid a collision with ragged river bottoms, submerged logs or any other objects that could damage the prop, the lower unit – and the wallet.
Interest in Bob’s innovation, along with his business, soon exploded. His son, Bob Jr., now a teenager and who shared his father’s “shallow water fever,” always accompanied Bob when testing new and improved designs of the transom motor lifts on local rivers.
By the late 1950s Compeau’s marine business was in full swing. Outboards were getting larger and more powerful, and the motor lifts that Compeau’s built to accommodate them became increasingly stronger and more sophisticated.
Bob soon decided it was time to take shallow-water boating to the next level, so he and Bob Jr., who now worked at the store full-time, decided to build a new prototype using more “outside the boat” thinking. The pair bolted a 35-horsepower Evinrude powerhead to a crude hand-fabricated jet unit, which they affixed inside a small riveted aluminum hull.
By the time they had the new contraption rigged and ready to river test, winter was closing in fast, so for a full week they ran their newly outfitted boat on the Snohomish River near Seattle, tweaking the new design as they went. While there, they learned about a California businessman named Dick Stallman who had just developed a jet unit that bolted directly onto the bottom of an outboard. The Compeaus decided to travel further south, where they met Stallman and test drove the prototype.
Bob figured that the outboard motor-style jet package had enormous potential, thanks to its simple design and versatility. So he encouraged Stallman to move forward in developing the new propulsion project, offering a 100-unit order to “kick-start” the inventor’s business.
It wasn’t long before the new outboard-jet-powered riverboat became the most popular method of traversing small and shallow rivers throughout Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest. And it remained that way for nearly 40 years.
Fast forward to 1998. By that time Bob Jr.’s own son, Craig, also an avid river rat and innovative thinker, was deeply involved with the sales and marketing of the family business. In September of that year, Craig and an Idaho boating buddy, Steve Stajkowski, who had started his own boat-building company a few years earlier, were on a moose-hunting trip together when the conversation turned to “what’s next.” Craig suggested they collectively design and build something never seen in the marine industry: an inboard-mounted tunnel-hull jet boat. Mercury had just developed their V6 Sportjet package, featuring an extremely efficient jet pump that lost only 9 percent of its crankshaft-rated horsepower versus 30 percent or more with competitive jet units.
By the following summer, the prototype was ready to test. They had developed a 21-foot fully welded boat with a 6-foot bottom and 6-degree dead rise. The tunnel had been fine-tuned repeatedly, until it carved hard corners with zero cavitation or slippage. The excitement level after seeing this boat perform was off the scale. Everyone involved with the project knew that this revolutionary boat was about to change all the rules, as well as the limitations of navigating shallow waters.
Over the next decade, with the introduction of Mercury’s direct-injected Optimax power plant, advances continued to accelerate. With its fuel-efficient power plant weighing only 375 pounds (engine and jet combined), Craig knew his biggest problem would have nothing to do with engineering and everything to do with meeting demand. And it proved true; once the public learned of the innovative new boat, Compeau’s rarely had a backlog of orders less than 12 weeks.
The SJX jet boat has become the company’s flagship product, not only in Compeau’s huge Alaskan backyard, but in all corners of the world, from Alberta to Texas and from Fiji to Barcelona. Craig sells the boats at his store, direct from the factory, or delivered anywhere around the globe.
According to Craig, now president of the 70-year-old, four-generation family business, “We just like to keep innovating. It’s what we live for.”
Who knows what the next few years will bring for river runners who live to pursue the furthest most rivers where oftentimes no one has boated before. Actually, Craig knows. But when you ask him, he simply smiles mischievously and says, “Stay tuned.”
(800) 478-7669 /

Book Reflects Bristol Bay’s Bounty, Beauty

Book excerpt 6



Editor’s note: Photographers have bucket lists just like anglers, sports fans, history buffs and foodies. The raw beauty of Alaskan landscapes would have to make at least a few shooters’ short lists of must-see destinations. South Dakota native and longtime photographer Carl Johnson moved to Anchorage in 1999 and started Arctic Light Gallery and Excursions, which, according to his website (, “seeks to celebrate a legacy of examining the dynamic quality of light in remote, wild locations.” 

Few locales typify wild Alaska more than Bristol Bay’s 40 million of acres of land and water that Johnson chronicles in his new book, Where Water Is Gold. In addition to Johnson’s spectacular photos, the book features essays from several Last Frontier writers (including occasional ASJ correspondent Dave Atcheson). The following excerpt from Johnson’s book (published by Mountaineer Books) was written by award-winning Alaska writer Nick Jans, who himself has written 12 books. His latest, The Giant’s Hand, is available from



Photographer Carl Johnson leans into his Nikon. Twenty feet away, a lone gray wolf stands, surveying the tidal flat before him as if our small group did not exist. The wolf trots on with scarcely a glance our way.

Minutes later, without moving, we share a frame-filling encounter with a huge, fight-scarred male brown bear, so close that our guide, Dustin, has to take action. A calm wave of arms, a firm “Hey, bear,” and the 800-pound behemoth deflects past us and continues grazing on succulent sedges a few dozen paces away. With so much forage available, and decades of peaceable interaction, these resident bears tend to see humans as neither food source nor threat. We have become part of the landscape.

Not once but many times over our four-day stay, Carl turns to me, grins and shakes his head at the incredible opportunities that pass before us – from an eagle nest with chicks viewed from above to a fox teasing a young bear to a seal nursery and rafts of sea otters. And so many brown bears we can scarcely count them: foraging, playing, swimming, courting, mothers nursing cubs. The experience resounds beyond photography. We roam beaches with fossils and artifacts at our feet; glide past rocky pinnacles where clouds of nesting seabirds wheel; drift among feeding humpback whales; catch rod-bending halibut and cod; become filled with the whir of wind and water, and the land’s deep silence beyond.

Book excerpt 1

WE ARE GUESTS AT Katmai Wilderness Lodge on the outer coast of Katmai National Park and Preserve, on the southeastern edge of the Bristol Bay region. Though by itself, Katmai is immense – nearly 5 million wilderness acres, including a spectacularly ragged, unpeopled 497-mile coast – it is a fraction of the almost unimaginable sweep of the expanse. All that Carl and I have seen are mere tokens of the riches and variety that Bristol Bay offers the recreational visitor: volcanic moonscapes; enormous freshwater lakes and sprawling river systems; high tundra, rolling forests, and vast wetlands; spectacular, glacier-draped mountain ranges; pristine, current-swirled ocean waters, fjords, and tidal flats – all of them brimming with life. This fertile merging of land and sea spills toward a seemingly limitless horizon, one valley and one bay to the next, each unique yet part of a larger untrammeled whole.

A 36-year resident of Alaska, I have traveled tens of thousands of wilderness miles in some of the state’s most remote and scenic landscapes – from the austere enormity of the Brooks Range to the fjord-incised rain forests of Southeast Alaska. I have frequently nudged outdoors-oriented visitors toward the Bristol Bay area as a remote yet accessible distillation of the best that wild Alaska has to offer.

The sheer volume and variety of protected wilderness areas bespeaks the region’s status as a world-class natural reserve. These include Lake Clark and Katmai National Park and Preserve; Togiak, Alaska Maritime, Alaska Peninsula/Becharof, and Izembek National Wildlife Refuges; the Wood Tikchik State Park and McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Preserve – all told, a staggering 24-million-plus acres combined. Whether wildlife viewing and photography; wilderness backpacking and float trips; bird watching; sport fishing and hunting; mountaineering, flightseeing and coastal cruising or kayaking – Bristol Bay offers a kaleidoscope of recreational possibilities.

Neither planning a trip, nor the actual getting to Bristol Bay are nearly as daunting as one might suppose. Dozens of quality lodges, guides, flying services, and outfitters are poised online to answer questions or help you custom-craft your dream trip. Travel between modern airports, to within a jumping-off distance of your chosen destination, is no more complicated than in the Lower 48.

The final flight in, typically less than an hour, usually in a pontoon-equipped float plane landing on a lake or river, is an integral part of the journey, offering stunning bird’s-eye perspectives and a fitting transition into another world. The wild country scrolls below like a living map, then draws closer and closer as the plane noses downward and the floats make rushing contact with the water, signaling your arrival.

Writer Nick Jans

Writer Nick Jans

Photographer Carl Johnson

Photographer Carl Johnson


THE KEYSTONE OF BRISTOL Bay’s wealth can be summed up in one word: salmon. Thousands of waterways, from pouring, rapid-studded rivers to ankle-deep creeks, surge with overlapping runs of one, or all five Pacific species, great tide-like pulses that drive the region’s ecology and economy. They boil inland, providing a conveyor belt of energy from ocean to far inland that lasts from summer’s lush greens into the snows of late autumn.

A profusion of lakes provide vital nurseries for millions of juvenile salmon, as well as habitat for other fish and wildlife. Alaska’s iconic brown bears and moose, as well as tiny warblers, benefit from the massive infusion of sea-grown biomass. Analysis of practically every living thing, including plant life, shows signature chemical traces of energy that came from salmon. Without their gifts, the land simply would not be what it is.

The value of recreational tourism, much of it tied directly or indirectly to salmon, amounts to well over $100 million annually – a staggering sum, given the region’s modest population. The sport-hunting industry accounts for an estimated $12 million; wildlife viewing and other nonconsumptive tourism, $17 million. Sportfishing, mostly in freshwater, is calculated to be worth more than $60 million – a prodigious renewable resource on which many livelihoods depend, both within the region and far beyond. Dozens of lodges and outfitting services offer access to these riches in a land where the water is indeed gold.

Those who make their living from the land by sharing with others intend to keep it that way. “There’s a super-high interest in adventure-based tourism,” says David Coray, owner of Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, a private inholding in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve [David is the brother of Anne Coray, who co-wrote the essay “Moving with the Seasons” in this book]. A lifelong resident of the region, he says, “Our focus is a sustainable model with minimal impact on the land. We’re stewards and educators … We want to be agents of change for future preservation efforts, and to carry that battle forward.”

Book excerpt 7

Arctic lupine along the beach in Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park & Preserve.

IF SALMON ARE THE land’s lifeblood, the waterways are its veins. Rivers with musical names twine across the land: Mulchatna, Kanektok, Aniakchak, Koktuli, Naknek, Goodnews, Kvichak, and more stretch over the horizon, enough to require not one but several lifetimes to know. Rising behind the salmon, trout, char and grayling grow huge, gorging on dislodged eggs and the husks of the spawned-out salmon.

In some situations three well-placed casts with either fly or spinning tackle might land as many different species. Often, the main difficulty is not coaxing fish to strike but getting past smaller individuals or less-desired species. Trophy catch-and-release fly fishing for rainbow trout in remote streams is a marquee draw – robust, deep-bodied fish commonly exceeding two feet in length, with much larger specimens possible on any given cast. Deep, glacier-incised lakes such as 100-mile-long Iliamna and mountain-framed, postcard-scenic Lake Clark hold not only rainbows and char but outsized lake trout and pike. In fact, the Bristol Bay area cradles four of Alaska’s five largest lakes and hundreds of smaller ones, the vast majority of them worth at least a few casts.

For nonfishers the region’s vast, varied, and scenic melding of water and land lends itself to wilderness journeys. Backcountry trips combining river and lake travel, hiking, photography, and fishing can be custom-shaped to a wide range of abilities, interests, trip lengths, and comfort levels.


Book excerpt 9

A young adult male wolf in grasses near a beach in Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park & Preserve.

Book excerpt 4


IN THE COURSE OF photographing this book, Carl Johnson faced the not-so-onerous task of sampling a few options. Besides our shared experience at Katmai Wilderness Lodge, he spent several days at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, which also specializes in bear and nature photography with all the comforts of home. He traveled to No See Um Lodge, owned by John Holman, a leader of the fight against the Pebble Mine. This latter establishment has long provided no-compromises, personalized fly-fishing experiences for discerning anglers from around the world.

Carl also joined a five-day guided kayak trip with Alaska Alpine Adventures, paddling and hiking in the heartbreakingly gorgeous Twin Lakes area of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. “Paddling is my preferred method of travel,” he says. “My inspiration for being a nature photographer was born during two years working as a canoe guide. … [Paddling] provides an ongoing opportunity for exploring new photographic subjects, new compositions.”

No matter the reason for visiting the Bristol Bay region, the experience will amount to far more than the sum of its parts – not just a trout or salmon glistening like a living jewel in your hands; or a mountain peak awash in alpenglow, mirrored in a transparent lake; or a group of bears foraging in a mist-shrouded tidal flat. Guests of this place emerge with a sense of connection to a larger whole – a vast, complex world whose beauty is defined by its unbounded scale. There are no highways, no large-scale industrial development just over the horizon. Bristol Bay resonates in the collective imagination, cradling the intrinsic value of the unseen.

Inevitably your stay ends. The process of arriving reverses as the plane roars and lifts free; the country you have brushed against fades and that busy other world resumes. The experience, though, echoes through your being. If the Bristol Bay region remains protected and intact, it will be because we willed it so. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on Where Water is Gold and where to buy it, please go to

Taking Fishing Personally

Capt. Mark Spencer of AK eXpeditions dipnets for salmon on Alaska’s Copper River, one of several waters in Alaska that are considered for personal use, which is defined somewhere between subsistence and sportfishing, making it a rather complicated industry. (AK EXPEDITIONS)

Capt. Mark Spencer of AK eXpeditions dipnets for salmon on Alaska’s Copper River, one of several waters in Alaska that are considered for personal use, which is defined somewhere between subsistence and sportfishing, making it a rather complicated industry. (AK EXPEDITIONS)

The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal


Every year, tens of thousands of Alaskans take part in what the state defines as “personal use” fisheries.

There are 80 of these not-exactly-subsistence and not-exactly-sportfishing opportunities around the state. In various fresh- and saltwater spots, locals try to fill their freezers with a variety of fin- and shellfish.

In Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound, shrimp and shellfish are the primary fisheries open to personal-use rules. Other options in the state include herring, hooligan, crab and clams in Southcentral; salmon, crab, scallops and abalone in Southeast; and salmon and whitefish in the Interior.

These unique fishing venues are restricted to Alaska residents. How they came about is a lesson in resource management, economics and, of course, politics.

On the popular Kenai River, fishermen pull a salmon out of one of the many nets that line the shore. In the salmon fisheries, permits are given per family, with each household allowed 25 fish for the head of household and 10 more for each additional dependent. (TOM REALE)

On the popular Kenai River, fishermen pull a salmon out of one of the many nets that line the shore. In the salmon fisheries, permits are given per family, with each household allowed 25 fish for the head of household and 10 more for each additional dependent. (TOM REALE)

DIVVYING UP ALASKA’S RICH supply of natural resources has always been problematic. Whether it was the exploitation of sea otter pelts or the pursuit of gold, timber, oil or fish, the law of supply and demand has run roughshod over the state. A series of boom-and-bust cycles has enriched some and impoverished others, leaving behind what seems to be a pretty shallow learning curve.

When it comes to fish, especially salmon, the state has been trying for generations to allocate the resource among user groups. In the early days of territorial rules, commercial fishermen set up scores of salmon canneries all over coastal Alaska, and everyone competed to catch all the fish.

One especially devastating method of harvesting salmon commercially was the fish trap. Constructed of wire fencing and wood pilings driven into the ground, they were placed in the path of incoming salmon. According to an article in the Alaska Fish and Wildlife News on the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, “They were one of the most efficient and effective ways to harvest salmon, but combined with poor federal management, they were a little too effective. In fact, the traps were responsible for catching so many fish, that by the late 1940s, they had decimated most of the salmon runs. By the time fish traps were outlawed in the late 1950s, the damage was done.”

Eventually, reason prevailed and rules and regulations were adopted to keep the commercial fishing outfits more or less in line. Seasons, catch limits and gear restrictions were put in place to preserve a state of equilibrium in the salmon fisheries.

With the coming of statehood and the influx of population from Outside, other user groups began competing for fish. Native subsistence fishers and recreational angling concerns wanted the state to guarantee that there were enough fish left over from commercial exploitation for their use.

The political history of the subsistence issue is a long and thorny one. Beginning in 1960, the state defined some fisheries as subsistence and used the label to set aside certain hunting and fishing resources for “customary and traditional” uses.

The idea was to separate primarily Native Alaskans and rural residents from both sport and commercial users. The law was meant to guarantee that groups who relied on the fish and game for their primary sustenance would have first crack at the resources.

In 1978, the federal government got involved with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which limited subsistence rights to rural residents.

And, of course, legal and political wrangling ensued. Today, federal agencies have one set of subsistence laws on lands that they manage, while the state defines and manages the issue on state and private lands and waters. And as new issues present themselves, more laws are passed and almost always find their way into the state and federal court systems. It’s pretty messy and still evolving.

Then in the 1980s, the state set aside hunts and fisheries for “personal use,” resources that didn’t fit the definitions of subsistence, sport or commercial use. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations, personal-use fishing is defined as, “The taking, fishing for, or possession of finfish, shellfish, or other fishery resources, by Alaska residents for personal use and not for sale or barter, with gill or dip net, seine, fish wheel, long line, or other means defined by the Board of Fisheries.”

Currently, these fisheries don’t receive priority over other uses – they’re opened and maintained only when there’s a “surplus” of fish to be harvested.

Personal-use fisheries are open only to Alaska residents holding sportfishing licenses. In salmon fisheries, permits are given per family, with each household allowed 25 fish for the head of household and 10 more for each additional dependent. The permits are free, and each day’s catch is recorded before leaving the river. Separate permits for the Copper River and the Upper Cook Inlet fisheries are required.
While shellfish and shrimp fishing are popular in Southeast and in Prince William Sound, nothing comes close to the efforts put in for salmon. The Copper River fishery at Chitina and the Kasilof and Kenai River fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula are the big dogs in the system, attracting thousands upon thousands of participants every year.

Interest and participation in these fisheries has been growing substantially. In 1996, there were about 15,000 permits issued for the Upper Cook Inlet rivers alone. By 2013, that number had grown to over 35,000 and continues on an upward slope.

When we first fished the Kasilof in the 1980s, all of the nets we saw were either long-handled salmon landing nets or homemade contraptions. These were made up of copper tubing, PVC pipe or aluminum tubes with shovel handles or even crutches stuck on the end.

Today, you still see quite a few imaginative designs on the river, but now there are welding shops advertising all manner of nets for sale. And you know that dipnetting has gone mainstream when you see the nets for sale at Costco.

Local resident Jake Weaver’s precarious spot on the edge of the fast-moving Copper River demonstrates that being careful is critical to avoid an accident. One of Weaver’s fishing partners actually fell into the river during one trip, but he was unhurt. (JAKE WEAVER)

Local resident Jake Weaver’s precarious spot on the edge of the fast-moving Copper River demonstrates that being careful is critical to avoid an accident. One of Weaver’s fishing partners actually fell into the river during one trip, but he was unhurt. (JAKE WEAVER)

THE FIRST DIPNET FISHERY to open was at Chitina, home to the now world-famous Copper River red salmon. The first opening every year is between June 7 and June 15, depending on the strength of the early run. Dipping the Copper River can be very challenging. It’s a big, scary, muscular river that occasionally claims the lives of unwary or careless fishermen.

After fishing the Kenai and Kasilof for years, Jake Weaver went to the Copper for the first time this year. He found it to be more than challenging. While the Kenai and Kasilof have very much of a beach-party vibe – kids running around on the sand, and lawn chairs and recliners scattered among the coolers and dipnets – on the Copper, people take ATVs down the river on a sketchy trail and tie themselves to trees while wrestling long-handled nets in the powerful current. It was definitely not a beach party.

“They call it dipnetting but I refer to it as cliffhanging for salmon,” says Weaver, who managed to get 17 fish and his buddies limited out, but it was an adventure. “Just the 5-mile trail going into the canyon on my ATV was exciting, to say the least. I saw lots of people being pretty careless and almost losing their rigs, if not their lives. Then when we were cleaning our fish, one of my buddies fell into the river but we got him out pretty quick. If I go again, I’ll be better prepared (and carry) lots of rope, better footgear and the right kind of net.”

For those without ATVs who want to get away from the roadside crowds, there are several charter outfits on the river. You can either pay to fish from a boat for the day or have them drop you off downriver and arrange for a pickup later on.

Compared to the potentially treacherous Copper, the Kenai and Kasilof River fisheries are a cakewalk. You’ll be surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of Alaskans, all taking a gentle sloping walk into the (relatively) slow current – a far cry from the death-defying adventure on the Copper.

The Kasilof opens in late June and the Kenai on July 10, with most of the fishing effort and success coming later in the month as the run builds.

The rules for dipnetting salmon are quite strict, so ignore them at your peril. Gear use is subject to net and mesh size and depth-of-bag restrictions. Fish must be marked by cutting off tail lobes, permits must be marked, certain species of fish must be returned to the river, etc. Considering that multiple people are ticketed for failure to follow the rules every year, don’t let this be you.

While the Copper River’s personal-use fishing is all business, it’s more of a “beach party” vibe on the Kenai, although since this is Alaska it’s a little different but a festive atmosphere all the same. (TOM REALE)

While the Copper River’s personal-use fishing is all business, it’s more of a “beach party” vibe on the Kenai, although since this is Alaska it’s a little different but a festive atmosphere all the same. (TOM REALE)

SUCCESS IS LARGELY A MATTER of timing. If you’re there when the fish are running and the setnet and driftnet commercial operations haven’t scooped up too many, chances are you’ll score. It’s important to have the proper gear; even on warm and sunny days, the water is cold and you’ll be standing in it for hours.

Chest waders are a must since you won’t be able to get your net out far enough wearing only hip boots. Warm clothing, sunscreen and perhaps waterproof gloves will complete your ensemble.

Pick out a spot not too close to your fellow dippers and head into the water. “Close” is a very relative term, as during the peak of the runs, dipnetters are bunched up pretty tightly. Observe how others are fishing and behave accordingly.

For the most part, people are quite friendly while marinating in the river waiting for fish, and as long as you don’t jam yourself in too closely and stick your net right in front of another one, you should be fine. Little communities of dippers tend to form, with people sharing tips, congratulating each other when fish are netted and commiserating when the fishing is slow.

When you feel a fish hit the net, give a backward jerk on the handle and pull it onto the beach. Untangle it from the webbing, give it a bonk on the head, and pull or cut a gill to bleed it. Before putting it into the cooler, trim the tail fins according to the regs (the details are on your permit). And don’t forget to fill out your permit before leaving the beach – add a pencil or waterproof pen to your gear before leaving home.

Dipnetting for salmon and accessing the other personal-use fisheries in the state is an excellent way for residents to fill their freezers and stockpile seafood for the long, cold winter ahead. But, like the signs say at the all-you-can-eat buffets, “You can eat all you take, just don’t take more than you can eat.”

Just because your family of four is allowed to harvest 55 salmon a year doesn’t mean you have to take that many. Too often, people go salmon-crazy when the fishing is good, only to wind up dumping the excess the following year when the new runs begin.

If you’re respectful of the resource and follow the laws, we’ll all have salmon for generations to come. ASJ

Netting fish to feed the family is the name of the game, but it’s important for those who use personal-use fisheries to just take what they need and not overdo it. (AK EXPEDITIONS)

Netting fish to feed the family is the name of the game, but it’s important for those who use personal-use fisheries to just take what they need and not overdo it. (AK EXPEDITIONS)



The Sisterhood Of The Salmon Siblings

Claire Neaton and Emma Teal Laukitis commercial fisherwomen of Alaska co-own a business - Salmon Sisters which features their marine themed designs and products.

Photos by Scott Dickerson and Camrin Dengel


Fishing was rooted into the genes of sisters Emma Teal and Claire Laukitis at an early age.

Fishing commercially with their parents by the time they were old enough to go to school, Emma and Claire became obsessed with the lifestyle so many in Alaska embrace. Now college graduates after studying on the East Coast, every summer and into the fall the siblings return to the sea to participate in the family’s harvesting of salmon and halibut.

“We haven’t taken a summer off, so it’s become normal for us to come back,” Emma says.

They are also entrepreneurs. Emma, 24, and Claire, 25, created their own company, the aptly named Salmon Sisters (907-299-5615;, where they create fish-inspired apparel, accessories and also sell their family-caught fresh salmon and halibut. After beginning as a venture for close friends and family, the sisters’ idea spawned a popular Homer-based business (Claire was included on a list of 30-and-under people to watch in the outdoors community).

“I am excited that it’s had some success, but I don’t think Claire and I really feel it or let ourselves feel it as much as we could,” Emma admits. “There’s just so much we could do and we’re still trying to figure out how to do things right. When people say good things to us (about the business), we’re like, ‘Really?’ It’s nice to be reminded that we’re doing it for a good reason.”

And that reason was a love for fishing in a place that had few other ways to make a living.

Salmon Sisters 2

Salmon Sisters 3


IF STONEWALL PLACE ISN’T the end of the world as far as Alaskans are concerned, you might be able to see it from there.

Emma’s and Claire’s childhood home was land’s end on the Alaska Peninsula and the Last Frontier mainland. A short boat ride away began the Aleutian archipelago. Besides all the resident bears and other critters making up the neighbors, it was just the girls and their parents in terms of a human presence. Since Emma and Claire were separated by just 13 months, they were forced to be each other’s best friend, partner in crime and mischief-maker as little kids.

The closest resemblance to civilization was 3 miles across Isanotski Strait to Unimak Island’s False Pass, population 40 (give or take).

“There were kids over there but we didn’t see them very much,” Emma recalls.

“I look back at it now and think, ‘Dang, it is not the nicest part of the state, location wise and weather wise,’” adds Claire, who now goes by her married name, Neaton. “But it’s still the most incredible place; it’s so abundant and there are so few people that’s it untouched. The amount of wildlife was just so plentiful there.”

Their parents, Buck and Shelly Laukitis, are longtime respected commercial fishing moguls who now have a fleet of three vessels. Buck was president of the North Pacific Fisheries Association between 2001 and 2013.

“We pretty much spent our entire childhood outside. My mom was phenomenal and she had these huge gardens, and she always had the little set net out and we were always trying to catch halibut,” Claire says. “We were home-schooled, which was great, and then we moved to Homer for the winters when we were about 10 or 11 (to continue with school). It was great, but the elements reigned supreme. The weather dictated everything.”

It was quite the unique lifestyle for the sisters. They would go out together on their parents’ commercial fishing vessel for a week at a time when most kids are coping with the reality of kindergarten and first grade.

“When we were about 8 we’d go for about a month, and then by middle school we would be there the whole time,” Claire says. “Our family set-net and then we’d longline for halibut for most of the fall. And my dad and his crew had a lot of patience for having two little girls aboard.”

Emma and Claire felt lucky to be able to learn the commercial fishing game at such a young age and contribute to the family’s business. Especially in younger days Emma had to overcome bouts of seasickness, relying on patches and whatever remedies would help control it.

Emma dreaded fishing inside nearby Morzhovoi Bay, where the wind seemed to blow in demonic gusts.

“It made it miserable, very wet, and it seemed like I’d get blown over every time I’d try to do something,” says Emma, who turns philosophical. “I don’t think I realized how insignificant we were there. It was just a reality check when it would get really windy or stormy. It was just that feeling of, ‘Wow; we just don’t matter.’”

But this was a family where you overcame obstacles like an upset stomach or rough seas. No excuses when there is a quota to reach.

“While it’s definitely a lot of work,” Claire says, “it’s just really rewarding to work as a family.”

Even when not at sea, there were plenty of projects at Stonewall Place to get your hands dirty – some tastier than others.

“There was a lot to do and you could keep yourself really busy. We’d help our mom put up fish and we’d pick berries – there were lots of blueberries and cranberries out there – so we’d make a lot of jam and pies,” Emma says. “A lot of your day was harvesting food or fishing – just finding ways to survive for yourself.”

And the girls had an entire ecosystem to themselves to explore when they weren’t helping mom and dad. When the weather did cooperate, frolicking along the beach – “It could be pretty treacherous, so we really weren’t allowed to play in the water,” Emma says – was a favored pastime. They would dig for clams or find sea urchins along the shore, so it was a little less traditional than your standard swingsets or slides to play on.

It was also a hauntingly spectacular setting – rugged coastlines and tall volcanoes rising in the distance. And there was the local fauna, which included plenty of brown bears that traversed the same terrain as the girls.

“We had to hike around with guns because when those bears smelled fish, they’d wander by. As long as you were smart about it wasn’t a big deal. We had a good bear dog that usually could smell them and start barking,” Emma says. “Our parents did build us this platform that was really high up and it served as our treehouse. It was just something that allowed us to play somewhere that the bears couldn’t get to.”

So it was an exciting experience for a couple of kids who – when they weren’t attending school in Homer after the fishing season ended – mostly leaned on each other for companionship and entertainment. But it was time for Emma and Claire to stretch their legs a little more.

Still, there was always going to be fishing waiting for them back home.

Salmon fishing in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game 'Alaska Peninsula Area' also known as 'Area M'. This has been a controversial fishing region.

BY THE TIME THEY’D finish high school and were ready for college, both the sisters wanted to experience something different far away from Alaska. They both chose the Northeastern U.S. for school: Emma at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and Claire at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

It was for sure a change of scenery – if not full-on culture shock – for both siblings. Claire jokes that while she would spend her summers away from college back in Alaska on a commercial fishing boat, her school chums flocked to the island beaches of Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts.

But their connections to locally sustained fish and goodies provided classmates with treats like salmon caught by the family fishing boats or delectable homemade jam that the girls made with their mom so often growing up. For Claire, Vermont’s DIY mentality and organic vibe made it a perfect fit.

“And the people there have such an appreciation for the outdoors,” she says. “Everyone is incredibly involved with being outside and just doing something, which made it great.”

Williams is a private liberal arts college located just south of the Vermont border in western Massachusetts. Like her sister’s alma mater, it was in a rural area even smaller than Burlington, but unlike Alaska, major metropolitan areas like New York and Boston were just a few hours away.

“It was my first time away from Alaska, and most of my (classmates) were from the East Coast and big cities,” Emma says. “But there were actually quite a few (other students) from Alaska and we ended up competing on the same crew team; all the Alaskans were on the crew team. I guess it allowed us to still be close to the water. I know once the summers came I wanted to go back out fishing.”

Life in the Lower 48 was good. Claire met her future husband in Vermont, and since finishing up at Williams Emma is now pursuing a graduate degree in design at the University of Washington in Seattle. But they longed to eventually return to their fishing and family roots in Alaska.

“We decided that this is what we wanted to devote our lives to,” Claire says. “We’re back, fully, and we wouldn’t want to change anything.”

And they’ve also recruited newbies to their way of life. Claire’s husband and Emma’s boyfriend fish together on one of the Laukitis boats.

“We all get to see each other pretty often, which is great,” Emma says.

It would have been perfectly reasonable for two young ladies who’d spent most of their childhood on the family fishing fleet to consider doing something else, especially after finding new opportunities to pursue from their far-flung college campuses. But they realized right away that, just like their parents, this way of life was in their DNA.

“There are days when you say, ‘This is not worth it.’ You do feel terrible and question, ‘Why are we doing this?’ But I don’t think I ever (fully) felt that in the big picture. It just always seemed worth it,” Emma says. “We were with our family and most of our friends fished, so I don’t think we felt we were missing out on anything. This was our world.”

A skiff ride across False Pass, also known as Isanotski Strait, the Aleutians, Southwest Alaska, summer.

Salmon Sisters 6

SUMMERS WERE ALWAYS RESERVED for netting salmon and later on longlining massive halibut to go to market, but what about the rest of the year? Emma and Claire were young and hungry to keep themselves busy.

“We didn’t want to give up fishing in the summer but needed some full-time, year-round employment,” Claire says. “So we started Salmon Sisters.”

The ladies wanted to create a clothing line durable enough to handle the unpredictable conditions for Alaskans, but also with a stylistic and creative touch that buyers “would feel good about wearing,” Claire says.

Claire majored in business at Vermont and figured she would utilize that degree to sell fresh and wild seafood for a processor. Emma’s Williams degree was in studio art and English, so with one sister’s understanding of how to start and maintain business and Emma’s artistic touch – plus their love of all things fish – why not combine it all and make good use of their time in the offseason?

“She’s always sketching something or dreaming (up an idea); she just excels at it,” Claire says of Emma. “I can’t draw anything.”

“I actually get a lot of my ideas from my sister and my dad,” adds Emma.

They started out modestly – creating a few designs for apparel meant for family and close friends. But as they wore hoodies with their own artwork, it started to sink in how symbolic the gesture was and the reaction they received. Claire recalled a defining moment when they were delivering fresh halibut in Dutch Harbor.

“This is us; we fish here and this is our identity and I feel so proud to wear this,” she remembers being told. “It was such a good representation to what we were all about. We started screen-printing rockfish or salmon on shirts and they were received so well by our peers and we were so excited to wear them. And we just can’t thank Alaskans enough for supporting us.”

Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, owners Salmon Sisters, an ocean inspired brand based in Alaska. Products include apparel with custom artwork, Alaskan seafood and other handcrafted goods. Emma designed the original artwork while Claire manages the business side of the company.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO just wear what you buy from the Salmon Sisters. They also sell what they catch – offering fresh and wild sockeye salmon and halibut (10 pounds worth per order). Furthermore, with every purchase of Emma’s and Claire’s products, they’ll donate a can of locally caught wild salmon to the Alaska Food Bank.

“As commercial fishermen we’re incredibly proud of what we’re producing,” Claire says.

Says Emma, “I don’t think we ever project anything that we don’t feel.”

A high percentage of customer-driven sales takes place in the sisters’ home base of Homer, but traveling around the state Claire and Emma get a rush when they see random passers-by decked out in their sweatshirts, tees, hats and leggings (they also offer accessories like tote bags and coffee mugs).

“It’s just neat to know that someone would want to find a connection to salmon and our great state and purchase something,” Claire says. “And we feel proud about that.”

And if they can just get some tips on being better sport anglers, that would be nice too.

“When we get off the commercial boat at the end of September, we’ll say, ‘Oh wow, let’s go catch a fish! But we’re just not very good at it,” Claire says with a laugh.

“Emma and I don’t know how to fly fish and a lot of that stuff. But for a lot of our customers, that’s their passion and lifestyle. So it’s great to kind of learn a lot from them.” ASJ

Editor’s note: Like Salmon Sisters at and follow on Instagram (@aksalmonsisters). Check out more on photographers Scott Dickerson ( and Camrin Dengel ( at their respective websites. 

USFWS Releases Duck Breeding Survey

A green-wing teal pair at Yukon NWR. (ALLEN STEGEMEN/USFWS)

A green-wing teal pair at Yukon NWR. (ALLEN STEGEMEN/USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2016 duck breeding population survey, which you can see here on the Ducks Unlimited website (which includes a graphic breaking down each specific species).

Here’s a portion of DU’s press release on the stats:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its report on 2016 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area are statistically similar to last year and remain steady. Total populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 38 percent above the 1955-2015 long-term average. Last year’s estimate was 49.5 million birds. The projected mallard fall flight index is 13.5 million birds, similar to the 2015 estimate of 13.8 million.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2016 breeding population survey were generally poorer than last year. The total pond estimate for the U.S. and Canada combined was 5.0 million, which is 21% below the 2015 estimate of 6.3 million but similar to the long-term average of 5.2 million.

“In light of the dry conditions that were observed across much of the northern breeding grounds during the survey period, it is reassuring to see that the breeding population counts were little changed from last year,” said DU Chief Scientist Scott Yaich. “But, with total pond counts similar to the long-term average, and with hunting season and winter mortality being a relatively small part of annual mortality, it’s not surprising to see that populations largely held steady.”

“What’s not reflected in the report is that there was fairly significant improvement in habitat conditions after the surveys were completed,” said Yaich. “In some key production areas, heavy June and July rains greatly improved wetland conditions. This could benefit brood rearing and the success of late nesting species, as well as give a boost to overall production through re-nesting by early nesting species.”

ADFG Opposes New Federal Hunting Regulations



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

(Juneau) — The State of Alaska is strongly opposed to new regulations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that erode fish and wildlife management authority on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges. Scheduled for publication on Friday, August 5, the new regulations override the state’s sovereign authority to manage fish and resident wildlife in Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges.

“This is continued erosion of the state’s authority to manage fish and wildlife for the benefit of Alaskans,” said Bruce Dale, Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation. “We are proud of our science-based, constitutionally mandated programs to sustainably manage habitats, predators, and prey to feed Alaskans”.

“Although the Service itself conducts predator control on refuges, it just does not approve of state efforts to increase the number of ungulates available for food in Alaska,” said Dale. “Moose, caribou, deer are important sources of natural food and food security for many Alaskans and cornerstones of the subsistence way of life.”

The new regulations require that fish and wildlife be managed for natural fluctuations, superseding the state’s ability to manage stable wildlife populations for subsistence and other consumptive uses under the sustained yield concept. Dale said the regulations, which affect national wildlife refuge landholdings of nearly 77 million acres statewide, will have significant impacts on Alaskans, especially those who rely on wildlife for food.

The regulations also contradict the state’s role under agreements made in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to manage fish and wildlife on all lands in Alaska. The regulations also limit public input for discretionary closures of activities on refuges and create a confusing third tier of regulations for resource users.

The Department of Fish and Game is reviewing the new regulations and will work with the Department of Law and Gov. Bill Walker to consider its response.


USFWS Clarifies Rules On Refuge Predator Hunting

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

In response to public interest and concern about predator harvest on national wildlife refuges across Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced a final rule to clarify that predator control is not allowed on national wildlife refuges in the state unless based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern or is necessary to meet refuge purposes, federal laws or Service policy. In addition, the rule defines the process that will be used for considering predator control, prohibits certain methods and means for non-subsistence harvest of predators, and updates the procedures for closing an area or restricting an activity on refuges in Alaska.

“Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges are incredible landscapes with wildlife populations that support subsistence traditions and recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “The Service manages these refuges to conserve species and preserve biodiversity and environmental health for the continuing benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, while balancing the need to provide sport and subsistence hunting opportunities. Consistent with existing law and agency policy, sustainable harvest of fish and wildlife, including predators, remains a priority public use on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.”

Under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), all refuges in Alaska are mandated to provide the opportunity for continued subsistence use by rural Alaska residents in a manner consistent with the conservation of natural diversity. The final rule will not change federal subsistence regulations or restrict taking of fish or wildlife under them.

The state of Alaska regulates general hunting and trapping of wildlife, including on national wildlife refuges.

“Whenever possible, we prefer to defer to the state of Alaska on regulation of general hunting and trapping of wildlife on national wildlife refuges unless by doing so we are out of compliance with federal law and policy,” Ashe continued. “This regulation ensures we comply with our mandates and obligations.”

The rule will help facilitate the ability of the Service to maintain sustainable populations of bears, wolves and coyotes throughout national wildlife refuges across Alaska and will ensure a consistent and transparent approach to management of predators.

The regulations were published as a proposed rule and open for a 90-day public comment period between January 8, 2016, and April 7, 2016. The rule was modified in response to written public comments and testimony provided at public hearings. A table showing the changes that were made between the proposed and final rule and the Service’s responses to all substantive comments can be found in the final rule.

The new regulations will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Additional information, including a copy of the final rule can be found at:

For more information about national wildlife refuges in Alaska, please visit

Picking The Perfect Hunting Partner

Hunting planning 1

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


Note: This is a two-part series on what makes a great hunting partner or partners and the choices you make when it comes to putting together an adventure to remember or in some cases forget. The experiences we share with others and even more so the memories we create, whether it’s in a camp or a blind or maybe even a boat, help shape our perception of what a great time in the outdoors should be.

As I quietly glassed from a small hill, I could tell what my hunting partner Garrett Ham was thinking. Moose hunting had been slow the last three days and my bowhunting friend was eager to fill at least one of his tags before heading home.

As usual I had a rifle with me just in case, and the two big caribou bulls bedded down 1,000 yards in front of us looked inviting. We knew without saying a word what the plan would be. The open tundra wouldn’t allow a bowshot, but the rifle would. If we crawled in as close as possible, he would take the first shot and then hand me the rifle as soon as the second bull stood. The long stalk began.

Hunting planning 2

FINDING THE RIGHT HUNTING partner isn’t something new. Guys and gals have been doing it for years, and when you do find one you usually want to try and keep them around as long as possible. Here in the Arctic I have had several over the years who have brought out all kinds of emotions in me. Some I hated to lose, while others I couldn’t get away from fast enough. So, I have created what I consider to be a checklist to see if you and your partner are compatible when it comes to getting along in the wilds of Alaska or anywhere else, for that matter.

PASSION OR OBSESSION (whichever the case may be)

First and foremost, you need to associate yourself with like-minded people. This will depend greatly on the task ahead and what you truly love to do. Whether it’s hunting hardcore for wild sheep or mountain goats or maybe chasing caribou for days, crossing miles and miles of tundra before taking a break, you will need somebody who cares enough to stay in shape and not bow out when things get really tough. Mountain hunters have to have rigor, and the want to succeed always outweighs the need to just be there. If you find one of these people, then you’ve found somebody special, especially if he or she wants to go along every year.

Hunrting planning 3


This comes in many forms and is probably one of the biggest when it comes to forming and ultimately ending a hunting partnership. Great hunting partners are just that, and it doesn’t always have to do with the hunting part. For the most part it begins long before the hunt begins.

The planning and preparation of any hunt is a joint effort with equal involvement by all parties. It’s where you decide to hunt, the logistics of how you’re going to get there and, the biggest factor of all, costs.

I’ve seen a lot of hunts go bad due to expenses and how they’re shared. But even worse, I’ve witnessed lifelong relationships ended due to who is paying for what. We’ve all heard these horror stories – how one hunter had to pay more than his share or in the end didn’t get his fair cut when it came to sharing the spoils.

Great hunting partners don’t do this. We are all in it together and each person in camp looks forward to the time spent together and doing their part for the enjoyment and contribution to make the hunt more successful for all.



Speaking of camps, this part of the hunt may sound trivial but it isn’t – for me, it’s one of the biggest factors when it comes to choosing the right person to hunt with. Here in Alaska, most if not all hunting is done from a camp (though in best-case scenarios, maybe a lodge or cabin of some kind). It doesn’t matter whether you fly out and do a DIY camp, where you will be living on the tundra for seven days with nothing but a tent or two, or boat upriver to stay in a rundown shack buried in the spruce trees along the bank for the weekend, how you conduct yourself in camp will tell everyone there what kind of person you are.

I’ve always lived by the motto “take care of camp first.” Whether that is keeping gear organized, gathering wood at every chance or volunteering to do dishes or cook, they all are just as important to the hunt as the hunt itself. I’ve hunted with guys who absolutely love this part. Some never leave camp in order to make sure that all of us are taken care of and are happy. They resemble more of a guide than a fellow hunter and those folks make great hunting partners and ensure those camps are special. In the end, you will go the extra mile for them, even if they don’t want to go in search of caribou or moose.

On the other end of the scale, though, I’ve been in camp with those that won’t lift a finger except to grab the last piece of bacon, or worse, just sit around camp complaining about the weather or mosquitoes, constantly counting the days until they can get back to town. That’s the type that I don’t like to be around, and I would imagine most other hunters don’t either. As a rule of thumb, pick those who not only like to hunt, but enjoy camping just the same.

Caribou Paul


This type of hunting partner is special and it’s always good to have someone in camp who shares his or her passion when it comes to the latest and greatest. I’m not one of those but consider myself more of a “what has worked for me in the past will usually work this time” kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong: I have the best Cabela’s has to offer, but it’s usually an improvement on something that has already worked once or twice.

I guess I’m more of a system guy. When I first came to Alaska I was a novice – green in color – and had to have the best of everything, thinking it would make me a better hunter. It did, but over the years I’ve come to rely on the same products each year, filling my dry bag with virtually the same gear before any hunt. Still, if you have a hunting partner who has brought something along to test out, it can be pure joy, plus you usually learn a lot too!


Photos are an important part of any hunt. I know they are to me and not just because I’m a writer. Being able to recapture the day or days in the field are big parts of any adventure. The idea of looking at a photo and remembering a particular camp or sight that many will never see is truly special to most of us.

Since memories are all we have in the end anyway, for a lot of hunters this is a big part of why they do what they do. Finding a like-minded hunting partner who likes to take pictures, or in some cases film, is a blessing in disguise. I’ve been very fortunate to have great hunting partners who like to shoot video or take pictures at every given moment. My good friend Lew Pagel is a prime example of this, and so is another close friend, Scott Haugen. These two are exceptional when it comes to capturing the moment – usually when you least expect it. It goes back to everything I’ve mentioned above. Great hunting partners make great hunting adventures. Some of the moments we’ve captured will forever be etched in my mind due to their ongoing passion and obsession.

Hunting planning 5


We all have friends who have the next great hunt or fishing adventure in mind. They come to you and ask, “What do you think?” It’s ongoing and usually happens as soon as the season is done; it’s always planning, always thinking about what we can do next. How much fun can we have next year? These are the kind of hunting partners I want to be around.

I’m really looking forward to the future and what next few years bring for Eli, my 13 year-old son, and I. Our adventures in Alaska are going to be grand and hopefully I can help him capture some of that same passion and what it takes to be great hunting partner. Hopefully he will share many camps with people who share in the adventure long after I’m gone.

GARRETT AND I CRAWLED through the willow and alder toward the bedded caribou bulls. We’ve been friends for a long time and I thought about all of our adventures togther – Africa for plains game, Arizona for elk and lion, the Alaskan Arctic for moose and caribou. All were special hunts and in all those years we never crossed each other or disagreed on anything. Most times we went home successful, signs of a true hunting relationship and true friends bonding.

As we approached the caribou and we were in range, I handed him the rifle without saying a word. Within seconds both bulls were on the ground and we were happy, to say the least. It wasn’t until we got to them that the true essence of our friendship was tested. A 67-inch bull moose – unbeknownst to us – was standing 100 yards away. Although we both had tags, I handed Garrett the rifle.

Next month, join me for Part II of this series, where I will describe what it takes to create and plan a hunt of a lifetime in the great Alaskan outdoors. ASJ

Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on hunting big game, fishing and surviving in the Alaskan Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to the Alaska Sporting Journal.

Summer Salmon Slammin’ In Alaska

Thanks to Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait for submitting these great shots via guide Mike Kelly (360-269-7628.)


Zack Yebury with his first king salmon his dad Bob is holding. The Yebury's are from Tacoma Wash. The Hawg Nose FlatFish is what's working and limiting my boat every day.

Zack Yebury with his first king salmon his dad Bob is holding. The Yebury’s are from Tacoma Wash. The Hawg Nose FlatFish is what’s working and limiting my boat every day.

Tim Wilkins of Spanaway Washington with a chinook  he took from the Kenai River.  Jeff was back-trolling a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook grabbed it and ran.

Tim Wilkins of Spanaway Washington with a chinook
he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was back-trolling a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook grabbed it and ran.

Jeff Woolf of Portland, Ore. with a Chinook he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was using a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook hit.

Jeff Woolf of Portland, Ore. with a Chinook he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was using a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook hit.


Don Calkins of Anchorage, Alaska holding a chinook he caught while  back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the Kenai River.

Don Calkins of Anchorage, Alaska holding a chinook he caught while
back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the Kenai River.

“Larry from New York” holding a Kenai River  chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish.

“Larry from New York” holding a Kenai River
chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish.


 Dwight DeForest of Tacoma Wash. holding a Chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the double trouble finish.

Dwight DeForest of Tacoma Wash. holding a Chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the double trouble finish.