Category Archives: Featured Content

Alaska To Receive $51 Million Of Federal Funding For Fish And Wildlife

ADFG photo

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced allocation for states’ fish and wildlife agencies, and the state of Alaska will receive  $51 million in funding, trailing only Texas ($52 million) for most money distributed.

Here’s part of Interior’s press release:

Allocations of the funds are authorized by Congress. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed more than $20.2 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects.

“American sportsmen and women are some of our best conservationists and they contribute billions of dollars toward wildlife conservation and sportsmen access every year through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts,” said Secretary Zinke. “For nearly eighty years, states have been able to fund important conservation initiatives thanks to the more than $20 billion that has generated nationwide. Every time a firearm, fishing pole, hook, bullet, motor boat or boat fuel is sold, part of that cost goes to fund conservation. The best way to increase funding for conservation and sportsmen access is to increase the number of hunters and anglers in our woods and waters. The American conservation model has been replicated all over the world because it works.”

You can see every state’s breakdown of how the monies are being distributed at the above link, but Alaska will get $17,595,874 for sportfish restoration and $33,445,771 for all wildlife funding.

More Sheep, Goats Are Carrying Bacteria

NPS Photo/Nathan Kostegian


The cases of bacteria being found in Alaska wild sheep and goats are growing.

From the Fairbanks News-Miner: 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday afternoon that an additional nine Dall sheep and three mountain goats have tested positive for Mycoplasma ovipneumonia and that these animals were found over a wide range of the state, including the Alaska, Brooks and Wrangell mountain ranges. The infected sheep were found in game management units 12, 13A, 20A, 26B and 26C. The infected goats were found in the Kenai Peninsula.

Unit 20A generally encompasses an area from Fairbanks to just north of Cantwell and east of the Parks Highway to the Richardson Highway.

None of the infected animals have shown signs of disease, and the new release stresses that the virility of Mycoplasma ovipneumonia varies between strains of the bacteria.

Tuesday’s announcement also stated that additional animals are still being tested, indicating more announcements may follow.

“We’re sharing these findings with Alaskans as we receive them,” Director Bruce Dale of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation said in a written statement. “We obviously have more to learn about M. ovi in Alaska.”

Mycoplasma ovipneumonia, often known as M. ovi, is a bacteria that can impair a sheep or goat’s ability to to clear its lungs of other bacteria, making it more vulnerable to disease. Before last week, the bacteria hadn’t been reported in wild sheep or goat populations.

Sportfishing’s Concern Over New Board Of Fisheries Appointee

Governor Bill Walker photo by James Brooks/Wikimedia

Alaska Governor Bill Walker has made a lot of fishing-related news lately. Earlier this week, Walker requested that the state’s Pacific cod fishery be declared a federal disaster.  And his appointment of commercial fisherman Duncan Fields to the Alaska Board of Fisheries will likely stir up some ill will among the state’s sportfishing sector for a perceived a lack of voices among sport and recreational anglers.

Here’s Anchorage’s KTVA CBS TV with more:

There is controversy over Governor Bill Walker’s appointment of a new member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries. The Governor has chosen commercial fisherman Duncan Fields to fill the spot for a three-year term. 


Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, hopes lawmakers vote no.


“This nomination by the Governor stacks the board with a clear majority voice for commercial fishing interests,” Gease said on Thursday.


Gease says the seven-member board has traditionally been made up of three spots for commercial fishing, three for sport and personal use and one seat for subsistence.


“So if you have a clear stacked board of just commercial fishing interests, then the tendency is for them to vote in their own interest. And we’re very fearful of that. So anybody across the state, in non-commercial fishery, should be worried about this appointment,” he said.


Fields says that he’s one of seven people who will assess issues and make “reasoned decisions relative to the issue at hand.”

 “I am a commercial fisherman but my professional representation has been much broader than that as well. I worked with rural communities in the Gulf of Alaska and I frequently advocated for the subsistence fisherman, sport fisherman and sport charter operators in those communities, as well as a commercial fisherman, ” he added.


Others are skeptical of the appointment. Fields has also run for a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives in the past and was reportedly considering another run in the next election.

Here’s a detailed opinion piece from the website Must Read Alaska:

If the nomination of Duncan Fields is confirmed by the Legislature, there will be no Board of Fisheries representative from Anchorage.

But the appointment of Fields has another purpose, besides being an unwelcome assault against dip-netters and anglers of Alaska, particularly Southcentral. The appointment would keep Fields from running against Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican who has fallen out of favor with Alaska Republicans and who joined the Democratic-run House majority. ..

…The sports fishing community is up in arms. There was no public announcement that the governor is changing the board balance from being weighted evenly between sports and commercial, with one seat for subsistence to what would be a clearly commercial fisheries board, with four seats.

“This appointment will unbalance the Board and we strongly oppose the nomination,” said Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease. “Past governors have for years kept the Board balanced in regional representation and between commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence user groups. By stacking the Board with a majority voice of commercial fishing interests – and with no one from Anchorage – the governor is threatening Alaskans’ opportunity to harvest fish.”

When Walker was elected, Karl Johnstone was the chair of the Board of Fisheries, representing the sports fishing seat for Anchorage. The governor said he would not reappoint him, so Johnstone left on his own terms, and Walker appointed Roland Maw.




Bacteria Detected In Alaska Dall Sheep And Mountain Goats



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

A strain of bacteria known to cause pneumonia in Lower 48 bighorn sheep has been detected for the first time in Alaska Dall’s sheep and mountain goats.

Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi, for short), described as a respiratory bacteria that can cause disease in susceptible hosts, was recently confirmed in four Dall’s sheep within a sample of 136 and in two of 39 mountain goats. The Dall’s sheep testing positive for Movi were all in Game Management Unit 13A; all were taken by hunters and appeared healthy. The mountain goats were live captured and released in Southeast and on the Kenai Peninsula and showed no sign of illness; only samples from goats on the Kenai tested positive.

“Our initial research has confirmed Movi in a small number of Dall’s sheep and mountain goats in relatively isolated areas of the state,” said Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale, adding that Alaska’s Dall’s sheep and mountain goat populations overall are healthy.

“We are not aware of any pneumonia outbreaks or die-offs in Dall’s sheep or mountain goats related to this bacterium.”

The department has collected surveillance samples from Dall’s sheep and mountain goats throughout most of mainland Alaska for several years, sending them over the last eight months to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Disease Research Unit. That collaborative effort is credited for the Movi detection.

“Monitoring the health of Alaska’s wildlife populations is part of what wildlife managers do,” Dale said. “Detecting Moviin Dall’s sheep and mountain goats increases our knowledge about the health of Alaska’s populations.”

Movi is sometimes found in domestic sheep, goats, and wild sheep and goats in the Lower 48, among other hoofed animals. It has been identified as a pathogen in Lower 48 bighorn sheep pneumonia outbreaks that have resulted in significant die-offs. Pneumonia from Movi can develop as the result of multiple stressors including poor nutritional condition and/or environmental factors such as extreme weather, or high population density.

Both domestic and wild sheep and goats can carry the bacteria while showing no signs of illness.

Movi is considered a pathogen because it impairs the hosts’ respiratory cilia from clearing bacteria that enter the lungs normally at each breath. This can allow other more virulent bacteria to remain in the lungs to proliferate and cause pneumonia.

The department plans to continue surveillance for Mycoplasma bacteria, including Movi research in Dall’s sheep, mountain goats, and other Alaska wildlife in collaboration with the USDA Animal Disease Research Unit and the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman, Washington. For more information about Movi findings in Alaska, see the frequently asked questions at

Where Aloha Means Axis Deer

Photos by Bixler and Krystin McClure

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


I lay prone on the bare rock with my gun pointed at the target. A dozen or so axis deer were meandering through the thick brush back up the mountain to escape the heat of the day. 

My guide Earl was telling me to wait until I had a good shot. The trades were beginning to freshen and I could hear the waves breaking behind me along Molokai’s fringing reef. 

Because we were Alaskans given the opportunity to hunt in a lush island paradise halfway across the Pacific from the Last Frontier, it was a relief not to worry about bears, biting cold, wet boots, or stuck four-wheelers. But admittedly I was already getting hot as the sun shot up in the sky. 

“Go!” Earl said. I pulled the trigger. 


FOR A NUMBER OF years, Bixler and I have toyed with the idea of hunting axis deer on Molokai, the quiet and least touristy of the main Hawaiian Islands and which is known for its friendly atmosphere and historic leper colony. 

Axis deer were introduced to Molokai and thus have no natural predators, so they are plentiful. This was clearly evidenced by the antlers adorning everyone’s homes along the island’s few streets. Feeding on tropical fruits, the deer are supposedly the best-tasting game. Molokai, like the rest of Hawaii, is private ranch land, so hunting with either the landowner’s permission or a guide is a must if you want to be successful. 

Bixler found guide Earl Dunnam of Hawaii Safaris online (hawaiisafaris
.com) and booked a doe-only meat hunt – a rarity among the usual trophy buck hunts – for two mornings and two evenings.

We met Earl before sunup on his family’s ranchland not far from our beach house along Molokai’s eastern shore. Our rental minivan scraped bottom as we pulled off the highway through a cow pasture to meet our guide at a good glassing spot. 

The deer are small and spotted but also surprisingly good at blending in with the island’s tropical environment. Our guide, a Molokai-born and -raised hunter, introduced himself and described the hunt on his family’s several-thousand-acre ranch. We were ready to do this.


AXIS DEER TRAVEL DOWNHILL at night to feed on plentiful tropical fruits and grasses and head back up during the day to bed down during the hot sun of midday. 

As the sun started to rise, we started glassing for deer on the lowlands of the ranch and talking about the hunt. Bixler and I were already sweltering in the heat as Earl told stories of his Alaskan moose hunt outside of Bethel a few months earlier. 

“Hunting is so much harder in Alaska,” he recalled, having spent 10 days in a cramped tent in freezing temperatures. “It makes you appreciate hunting in Hawaii!”

Earl paused and pointed to a hillside, where there was a large group of axis deer feeding. Bixler agreed to go first on the hunt – we were poised to get two doe each – and investigated the gun we would be using, a bolt-action .270 with an adjustable scope that our guide would adjust after he ranged the animals.

We hopped into Earl’s beat-up hunting truck – he called it a “Molokai truck” – and quietly headed over to the other parcel. He parked and we readied everything. Earl took us through tall grass and over old barbed wire fencing, evidence of the island’s heavy ranching days. 

Bixler carried the rifle while I toted a gallon of water to keep us hydrated as we followed our guide up an animal trail on the hillside. 

The axis deer were feeding down in the drainage upwind of us. The three of us crawled along the ground to small cliff. I stayed back while Earl and Bixler set up for the shot. I heard them talk quietly and after a moment of silence, Bixler took the shot. He turned around and gave me a thumbs up.

“Go again,” Earl whispered. 

Bixler couldn’t line up a shot and the three of us scurried higher up the hill while a group of axis deer passed behind us. A second later, they were gone. 

We hiked down to Bixler’s deer and Earl gutted the animal. We dragged it to the truck while Bixler recounted the shot. It was a perfect shot, but lining up for a second was difficult because the deer are so plentiful and move so quickly. As it was my turn that evening, I took any advice he was willing to give before the evening hunt.

The hunt that night was not successful. The axis deer remained in cover and did not move downhill as our guide said they usually do. A wild boar was probably scaring them, so we returned to the same spot the next morning to catch them at sunrise.

EARL SUPPLIED BIXLER WITH a second rifle at one spot and walked with me to the same spot we had been the previous night. I pointed the rifle toward a bare patch in the hillside and waited. 

A group of 10 to 12 deer started to graze in the patch. Earl dialed in the range and I took the shot. I saw the deer go down, but before I could celebrate Earl was ushering me further up the hill.

“The deer are going to pass through that higher bare patch up there. Point the rifle and I’ll get you dialed in,” he whispered. “Take a shot when you have it.”

The shot seemed far, but a deer filled my scope so I fired. I nailed it again and we started to hike up and down the drainage to get to that deer.

“Three-hundred-twenty-five yards,” Earl said. “I didn’t think you would hit it, but I figured you should try.”

“That was the longest shot I’ve ever taken,” I replied happily, having reached my limit of two deer within five minutes.

We hiked up to the deer and Earl deboned it. It was a young one and Earl said again and again that this would be the best game meat we would ever eat. 

Next we went to my second deer and took a quick picture. Earl had me head down the old washed-out road to meet Bixler while he deboned the animal. I met Bixler near Earl’s beat-up Molokai truck. Our guide, who had a 100-percent success rate last season, was happy we were back on schedule.

That night was Bixler’s chance to get his last deer. We met Earl at his off-the-grid house and were quickly reminded of our home in Seward by all of his various boats and off-road vehicles lining the property. We were heading to a new spot since he had a trophy hunt coming up and wanted the herd to resettle. He took us through a more open, grassier area where we climbed a hill to glass for deer. 

As usual, Earl spotted a few first and Bixler spent his time lining up the shot. Bixler fired and we paused for a second. The deer went down and Bixler and I walked to the doe while our guide got his truck and headed up the old road to meet us. After gutting the deer and hauling it to the truck, we returned to his house to grab our minivan and thank Earl for the incredible hunt. He went inside and handed us a few steaks and tenderloins for dinner from yesterday’s deer.

We cooked the venison that night with the rest of our family, including our 14-month-old son Lynx, who was enjoying playing in nothing but a diaper. He started to shove little pieces of deer meat into his mouth, so we all took the celebratory first bite.

“Wow,” I exclaimed. “This is incredible.”

“Yeah, I guess everyone was right,” Bixler continued. “This really is the best meat!” ASJ

Editor’s note: Krystin and Bixler McClure own and operate Seward Ocean Excursions, which offers water-based expeditions on the Kenai Peninsula. Go to or call (907) 599-0499 for more information. 


USFWS Refuge System Has A Birthday Today: Its 115th

Kenai NWR photo by USFWS 

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

Refuge System Marks 115 Proud Years

Snow Geese Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Snow geese take flight at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.  Photo: Benjamin Hoffman

Get outdoors and celebrate your wildlife heritage. On Wednesday, March 14, the National Wildlife Refuge System marks its 115th anniversary.

National wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protect thousands of species and provide access to world-class recreation, from fishing and hunting to wildlife watching and nature photography.

President Teddy Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge on March 14, 1903, when he protected brown pelicans at Pelican Island, Florida, from slaughter by market hunters.

Today’s Refuge System includes 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, and covers about 150 million acres of land. The Refuge System also includes five marine national monuments. There’s at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

By providing hard-to-beat opportunities for fishinghuntinghikingbirdingcanoeing and nature photography, refuges also generate income for local communities. They pump $2.4 billion into the national economy and support more than 35,000 jobs, according to the Service’s Banking on Nature report. More than 53 million people visit refuges every year.

No matter where you live or travel, you can enjoy nature at a refuge near you. Use our zip code finder to locate a national wildlife refuge or wetland management district near you.

Some things you can do on wildlife refuges:

King Salmon Sport Fishing Catch-and-Release Only for Deshka and Yentna Rivers; Remaining Susitna River Drainage Closed

Susitna River photo by Mike Lunde

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

In favor of protecting returning king salmon and increased fishing opportunities in the future, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restrictions which will be effective 6:00 a.m.Tuesday, May 1, through Friday, July 13, 2018, for the Susitna River drainages (Unit 1-6). For a complete description of these waters, anglers should refer to the 2018 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulationsbooklet.

Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage:

  • Sport fishing for king salmon (of any size) is open to catch-and-release in the Deshka and Yentna rivers.
  • Sport fishing for king salmon is closed in the remainder of the Susitna River drainage.
  • Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed in the Susitna River drainages. Single-hook means a fish hook with only one point. Treble hooks and more than one single-hook are prohibited.
  • Fishing for other species, including trout, will be allowed seven days per week, this includes the waters within Unit 2 that are normally closed during the king salmon season.
  • 2018 Deshka River king salmon outlook memo can be found at:

This management strategy is designed to provide sport fishing opportunities where possible and achieve the Susitna River king salmon escapement goals. In addition to these management actions to the sport fishery, the Northern District commercial king salmon fishery will also be closed. Anglers should also be aware of changes to the Little Susitna king salmon fishery. ADF&G staff will monitor these fisheries closely as the season progresses. Data gathered from weirs, guide logbooks, fishwheels, boat surveys, and aerial surveys will be used to gauge run strength during the 2018 season.

“Since 2007, the king salmon returns to the Susitna River have been below average and the trend is expected to continue in 2018,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “Restricting or closing specific areas to sport fisheries is never an easy decision. ADF&G understands the decisions made have tremendous impacts on local businesses, guides, and anglers; however, with king salmon populations continuing a downward trend of productivity, ADF&G has a duty to protect, maintain, and improve sport fisheries. These restrictions will hopefully ensure enough salmon will successfully spawn, so that their offspring will guarantee future runs. These fish and their offspring are the future of the king salmon fisheries and we need to sustain them for a healthy return.”

Governor Walker Asks For Government Help To Aid Cod Fishery

NOAA photo.

The Alaska Pacific cod fishery wasn’t expected to be very productive if not downright critically bad in 2018,  and Governor Bill Walker led a plea for help from the feds to brace for a possible freefall of the industry.

Here’s KTOO Public Media with more:

Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott signed a letter last week asking the federal government to declare the 2018 Pacific cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska a disaster.

That could make the fishery eligible for federal relief funds, although who specifically would receive money would be figured out later.

It follows a decline in stock and a deep cut to the 2018 Pacific cod quota in the gulf.

According to the letter, the value of the 2018 Pacific cod harvest is looking at a more than 80 percent drop in revenue from the five-year average. Barbara Blake, senior adviser to Walker and Mallott, said crossing that 80 percent threshold makes the fishery eligible for a disaster declaration.

Blake said the letter will go to the secretary of commerce for a decision.

“How we’ve seen this come about in the past is that request goes in along with other natural disasters, and that’s how we end up getting the appropriations for that, is they roll it into natural disasters like hurricane relief and things of that nature,” Blake said.

That’s also how the fishery disaster for the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon season won funding this year. It’s unclear if the timeline for this declaration will be comparable.


Alaskan Wins Skiing Gold In Paralympics

Alaskan skiers made their mark in the recently concluded PyeongChang Winter Olympics – including Sadie Bjornsen, who we profiled in our January issue –  and one of the highlights included Olympic veteran Kikkan Randall teaming up to win Team USA’s first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal along with Jessie Diggins in the women’s team sprint freestyle.

After the PyeongChang Winter games wrapped up two Sundays ago, the same South Korean city hosted the ongoing Paralympic Games, and another Alaskan – who just happens to be a passionate outdoorsman – made his mark. Palmer’s Andrew Kurka has won two medals, a gold in the downhill and a silver in the super-G (check out his medal ceremony in this link. 

Here’s more in a press release from Team USA:

After a heartbreaking crash in a training run in Sochi in 2014, Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) returned victoriously to win gold in the men’s sitting downhill on the first day of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team garnered two medals as Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) also brought home bronze.

The eighth skier to compete, Kurka stormed to a dominant lead and held off a competitive field of more than 25 athletes for his first Paralympic medal. Kurka’s time of 1:24.11 bested runner-up and four-time Paralympic medalist Taiki Morii of Japan by more than a second and a half. This was his largest margin of victory ever in a downhill race.

Andrew Kurka – gold
“To be a champion in the Paralympic Games is the greatest honor I could ask for.”

“The fact that I came out here and I put down the very first Paralympic medal for Alaska, my home state, and the fact that it’s gold, to me is a fantastic feeling.”

On his success after Sochi…
“This right here is redemption. I wouldn’t change Sochi. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened throughout my life. It’s all a journey and this is my journey to gold.”

Judging by his social media posts, Kurka is also quite the Alaska sportsman! Congrats, Andrew!


Spearing large halibut is always fun when living the Alaska life.

A post shared by Andrewkurka (@andrewkurka) on


Shrimpin’ Is Tough: Find Out How To Do It In Alaska

ADFG file 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) staff is hosting a basic introductory seminar on shrimping in Prince William Sound (PWS) at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery (WJHSFH) on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This seminar is being held in the WJHSFH conference room which is located at 941 North Reeve Boulevard, Anchorage.

This is a free event for all angler levels who are interested in learning how to target shrimp in PWS. ADF&G staff will discuss the species most commonly found in PWS, shrimping locations and depths, commonly used equipment and bait, shrimping regulations, and reporting requirements.

As a reminder, to participate in the shrimp pot fishery all anglers are required to have a permit on their person while shrimping. The PWS shrimping season is open from April 15 through September 15, 2018, with no bag limit. Starting in mid-March, PWS sport and subsistence shrimp permits will be available online.

Advanced registration is required, and space is limited, so sign up early! To register please contact the Anchorage Sport Fish Information Center at (907) 267-2218.