Category Archives: Featured Content

Early-Run Kenai River King Fishing Will Be Catch-And-Release Only


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

(Soldotna) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restrictions for the early-run king salmon in the Kenai River drainage downstream of the outlet of Skilak Lake effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2019. From May 1 through June 30, king salmon of any size may not be retained in the Kenai River from the mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. That restriction will continue July 1 through July 31, in the waters from an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. Only one, unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the waters restricted to catch-and-release. King salmon caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

However, from July 1- July 31, 2019, anglers will be able to retain king salmon in the Kenai River from the mouth upstream to the ADF&G markers 300 yards downstream from Slikok Creek. In this section, bait is allowed; however, only a single hook lure or fly may be used during this time.

“In an effort to protect our king salmon fishery resources, which are important to anglers and our fishery managers, and ensure our fishery management is consistent with the regulatory management plan, the early king salmon run on the Kenai River is restricted to non-retention in an effort to meet our 2019 early-run escapement goal,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka. “Anglers have noticed that the Kenai River king salmon and other king salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet are experiencing an extended period of low productivity and restricting the fishery preseason is warranted.”

ADF&G staff will be closely monitoring this fishery inseason and if data assessment projects indicate further action is warranted in season actions may be taken.

The 2019 Kenai River King Salmon Early-Run Forecast can be found on the Northern Kenai Peninsula Management Area webpage under Annual Run Outlook. For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka at (907) 262-9368.

Kenai River Early-Run King Salmon Open to Catch-and-Release

 

Kasilof River Early-Run King Salmon Restricted to Hatchery Kings

(Soldotna) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restriction for king salmon in the Kasilof River drainage effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 30, 2019. The bag and possession limit for king salmon 20 inches or greater in length is one hatchery fish. Hatchery king salmon are recognizable by the healed adipose fin-clip scar. Naturally-produced king salmon may not be possessed or retained and are distinguishable by an intact adipose fin, a small fleshy fin on the back of the fish just ahead of the tail. Naturally-produced king salmon that are caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

In addition, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Kasilof River from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge. Single-hook means a fishhook with only one point.

“To ensure a successful naturally-produced king salmon broodstock season in 2019, ADF&G has determined restrictions to the early-run king salmon sport fishery in the Kasilof River will provide the best chance to achieve these goals,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka. “Its important to our staff and anglers that we continue our efforts to protect and rebuild our wild king salmon stocks. ADF&G does anticipate an increase in angler effort on the Kasilof River due to early-run king salmon restrictions on the Kenai River and we have to manage accordingly with restrictions only allowing hatchery king salmon to be retained on the Kasilof River.”

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka at (907) 262-9368.

 

A Coast Guard/Kodiak Love Story

Photos by U.S. Coast Guard’s Lauren Dean and Ashley Wallace

 

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

BY PETTY OFFICER THIRD CLASS LAUREN DEAN

For Petty Officer First Class Ashley Wallace, a Coast Guard yeoman, occasionally her blue uniform is hung in the closet and replaced with camouflage, zero-degree thermals and hunting boots. 

On weekends, she and her husband, Petty Officer First Class yeoman Branson Wallace, layer up, pack their rifles, emergency signaling devices and a surplus of food and clothing. They like to escape the daily grind while experiencing some of the world’s best hunting and fishing opportunities on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Wallace says when she was a child growing up in a military family in Cheyenne, Wyoming, her father made every effort to immerse the family in the local culture and lifestyle. They went camping almost every weekend, and often this included hunting and fishing. 

Hunting has been in Wallace’s blood since those days, and it all began with her father’s steady guidance, she says. 

“My dad used to take me hunting with him and I’d go to what he called ‘man camp,’” Wallace says with a smile. “It was awesome. I got to go to man camp and hang out with a bunch of retired chiefs. My father was an active-duty Coast Guard chief damage controlman at the time and his two best friends were both recently retired Navy chiefs.” 

“It was very neat to be a female in that world, and to be accepted. I feel like that’s where my love of wildlife really started.” 

Wallace also mentioned that this experience was invaluable for her unforeseen life in Kodiak, where her dreams of Alaskan adventure came to life. 

WALLACE SAYS SHE WENT from shooting milk jugs with her first shotgun, a .410 gifted to her by her father, to shooting a bow and arrow at targets when she picked up archery in high school. This was the first place she learned to shoot a compound bow.

“I’ve been an archer since high school,” Wallace says. “When I first came into the Coast Guard, I was in an archery league in Traverse City, Michigan. I was one of the only females in the league and that kind of lined me up for hunting.”

She says she went to Traverse City for her first tour in the Coast Guard, left for specialized schooling for her job as a yeoman, met Branson and then traveled on to New Orleans and Texas. 

“My husband and I got orders to Kodiak in 2013 and knew nothing about Kodiak, but we were so excited,” Wallace says. 

“We started helping teach at North Star Elementary where they were introducing the National Archery School program in town,” says Wallace. “It’s been part of the Alaska school curriculum or extracurricular activities since 2013, where they teach kids how to shoot compound bows. It was a very cool experience to see them fall in love with archery at such a young age, like I did.”

From there, Wallace says she and her husband got into fishing. But, after the thrill of fishing, it wasn’t long before it gave Wallace an itch to begin hunting, since hunting from a boat is common in parts of Alaska.

“I wanted to spread my wings a little bit, so Branson and I bought a boat,” says Wallace. 

“I think it’s important that they [women] see that you can be the girl that puts on makeup and dresses up, and then all of a sudden you’ve got war paint on, and you’re in camo, and guttin’ something and haulin’ meat out.”

From there, they branched out to fox calling, which entails a lot of thought because foxes are very intelligent animals, often cautious and simultaneously curious. With some beginner’s luck, she got a silver fox on her first hunt. 

Ashley and Branson also got into beaver trapping. 

“I think it’s really important to note the importance of beaver trapping,” Wallace says. “They wreak havoc on the ecosystem. They block off the stream so salmon can’t get upstream.” 

She noted that she and her husband are completely against using foothold traps because they think the traps are inhumane, and they also make every effort to use what they harvest.

WHEN SHE’S NOT TRAPPING, Wallace seizes unique opportunities for special hunts. 

“I just went on two of the most incredible hunts I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she says. “I can check those off my bucket list.”

One was a rigorous mountain goat hunt, where they had to battle sketchy terrain, extremely high elevation, sheer cliffs and the world-renowned Kodiak brown bears. 

“Planning ahead is super important,” Wallace says. “You constantly have to be ‘bear-aware.’ You’ve got to know about the weather change, that the floatplane may not be able to get in to get you back out. We always pack an extra bag, a dry bag with another set of clothes, an extra coat and extra food for at least two or three days, and we leave that at base camp. We also carry a Delorme, which is a Garmin product that has a built-in map, and we can text on it too, which is pretty great.”

For Wallace, hunter safety is paramount in the woods, but there are some big benefits of hunting that tie back into wildlife conservation.

“The majority of the money that hunters pay for tags, for guns, for bullets – a portion of that money actually goes back to wildlife conservation,” Wallace says. “It’s important that people realize there is a purpose to it.”

It takes a lot of work, experience, safety and skill to hunt safely, so she is extremely grateful to have a spouse who loves to hunt as much as she does. Wallace says she couldn’t do it without Branson and she also really appreciates the native influence on the island, the creativity of the people here and the blending of cultures. 

“You fly out to this island and you forget all the problems of the Lower 48,” Wallace says. “I feel at peace in Kodiak. I’ve never felt so much a part of a community as I have here.” ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak, go to dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Director-of-Operational-Logistics-DOL/Bases/Base-Kodiak. 

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HARVESTING, SHARING GAME MEAT
For Petty Officer First Class Ashley Wallace and her husband, Petty Officer First Class Branson Wallace, being stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak not only means they can get their hunting and fishing fix on the island but also eat and share the wild fish and game with others. 

“Branson and I love living off of the meat/fish we harvest and we love sharing our passion with other members,” Ashley says. “We started canning and have given both canned and vacuum-sealed fish to several of our co-workers who aren’t able to get out.”

The Wallaces’ send their fish and some game for canning to Indian Valley Harvesting in Anchorage and brought back some delicious protein-packed treats from their previous hunts. 

 “We had deer bacon, caribou beef sticks and goat jerky made with our harvests this year,” Ashley says. “We will use them on our upcoming Dall sheep hunt.”

Ashley and Branson are involved with several veterans groups that help introduce the outdoors to those who have served in the armed forces, including Project Healing Waters (projecthealingwaters.org), the Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) and the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (wwiaf.org).

Giving back to those organizations and helping fellow servicemen and –women is important to both Ashley and Branson. 

“We take military veterans out on our boat fishing and teach them how to fly fish on the rivers. We also donate a box of fish for the Wounded Warriors in Action veterans every year when they come up,” she says. “Every veteran who gets underway with us takes home all the fish we’ve harvested for the day. If we don’t catch anything that day, or get too little to fill a 50-pound, box then we top it off from our personal freezer.” 

And some of their USCG colleagues also get to be a part of their Alaskan adventures. 

“We enjoy taking our coworkers out hunting and teaching them,” Ashley says. “We just took (Branson’s) co-worker out deer hunting, and he harvested his first deer here in Kodiak!” 

Pebble Mine Company CEO, Opponents Debate

Anchorage hosted a Pebble Mine panel discussion earlier this week, which included Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier debated the mine’s viability with opponents of proposed Bristol Bay project that conservationists continue to fight against the idea of mining in around Bristol’s fertile salmon spawning waterways.

Bristol Bay’s KDLG radio was on hand and filed a recap:, which included an appearance by longtime anti-Pebble advocate Rick Halford. Here’s KDLG with more:

Representing opposition to the mine, Halford raised several concerns. Among them, he believes the tailings pit lake that would form in the excavated area of the deposit after mining operations are complete would pose a grave risk to Bristol Bay’s water quality.

“It’s got arsenic, cadmium,” said Halford. “All the things that were left on the pit walls are now poisoning the water. So it’s a lake of poison that backfeeds all the drainages that it drew out of, and those are undefined. The environmental baseline data talks about the geology of the area and how porous it is, how there’s exchange between groundwater and surface water.”

Collier did go onto say that environmental safety was a priority for Pebble Partnership, though opponents of the mine probably won’t buy that argument.

 

 

 

Finding Gold Can ‘Hurt’ So Good

Dustin preparing to use his drill & hammer to secure a cable in to the rock, surrounded by water. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

In our February issue, we chatted with Dustin Hurt of the Discovery Channel series Gold Rush: White Water. You can catch a new episode tonight (check local listings).

Here’s a sneak preview of tonight’s episode:

 

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES

Dustin Hurt is the exception to the rule: the transplanted Alaskan who’s not here for the salmon.  

The Last Frontier’s gold is on Hurt’s mind. He’s been mining the state for years now and has been chronicled on the Discovery Channel shows Gold Rush and now Gold Rush: White Water. The show recently premiered its second season following the “Dakota Boys,” Dustin, his dad Fred Hurt (Alaska Sporting Journal, March 2018) and their crew’s ups and downs seeking riches on McKinley Creek, a rugged and treacherous stretch of water in Southeast Alaska. 

Dustin and Fred both have ties to Louisiana – Dustin’s accent is straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire central casting – where fishing both inland waters and the Gulf of Mexico is a way of life. Yet Dustin’s time in the Last Frontier doesn’t include casting for the state’s iconic fish. 

“I used to love bass fishing when I was young. I would try to skip school and skip work so I could go bass fishing,” Dustin recalls. “For whatever reason, once I got to Alaska I’ve become a landlubber. Here I am near all this ocean and I keep putting myself in the mountains where there’s no fish. Everyone around me fishes. And it’s not something that I’ve embraced about Alaska.”

But while some anglers may consider Alaska’s sockeye, coho and Chinook to be worth their weight in gold, the Dakota Boys are after the real thing. We asked Dustin Hurt about his obsession to strike it rich, plus his rather diverse backstory of growing up as a troublemaker in New Orleans and his redemption as a hard-working gold miner.  

Dustin wearing dive suit at McKinley Creek.

Chris Cocoles What has your Alaska experience been like given the highs and lows gold mining are sure to create?

Dustin Hurt I think I experienced Alaska differently than most people do when they come up there, because I go to some of the hardest-to-get-to places in this land. Some of the places have been explored but don’t get a lot of traffic. It’s led to me to love the area, but everywhere we go we have to try hard to get there. There’s no easy way to do anything here. I was born and raised in New Orleans, (where) everything’s flat and you can pretty much ride a bicycle through it. So it’s quite a change.

CC Has the state driven you crazy a few times and has it been an exhilarating place at the same time?

DH I’ve done a lot of different things in my life and this is the one thing that I keep coming back to. Because it makes me feel great about myself. I love to work hard – I’m a construction worker – so this kind of combines all the things that I’ve done in my past all into one, with an adventure ahead of it. Every day you really don’t know what you’re going to get. It is dangerous; we try to mitigate everything we can, but it does just make it exciting as hell. Every day is kind of a new adventure.

CC When I talked to your dad last year, he talked about what an amazing place McKinley Creek was. Is that how you see it?

DH I hiked through these (mining) claims many years ago and I fell in love with the difficulty of them. The place is trying to shut you down every day. Every time I go to McKinley Creek it feels like there’s something there trying to stop you from being there. And it’s a fight to the finish. To try to have the lowest impact and try to mitigate all the dangers is a daily goal. I don’t know; it’s just been one hell of an adventure. It maxes out your creativity every single day. 

Dustin Hurt & Fred Hurt.

CC During the last season of mining McKinley Creek, you and your crew had to endure a landslide and subsequent flash flood that damaged your mine site. How did you handle such a letdown in a project that surely sees a lot of highs and lows?

DH It’s hard to explain what it feels like to spend months and months and months doing just grueling hard work with just the most difficult uncertainty after pushing forward, and then in an instant, it just all gets taken from you. From all the lifting and the pulling, the countless hours, it kind of crushes your heart when you see it happen. It can be taken away in 20 seconds. It’s incredible to see and feel it. I don’t know how else to explain it. It would have to be like building a house and just about to finish it and it starts to burn down. It definitely pulls the heart from your chest. 

CC You can probably react to something like that multiple ways, from being discouraged enough to walk away or motivated to go back and try again. I can guess what you got from it. 

DH In my life I’ve found out that there are two different types of people: People who use failure as an excuse or who use failure as inspiration. And I fall into the latter category. When something challenges me I really like to try to complete my task – whatever that might be. To fail or win, I just want to do it the best I can. I’m not proving it to anyone else but myself. I need to know that I can do it. It’s something deep inside me that has to come out. I don’t know how to begin any other way. 

(From left to right) Carlos, Wes, Fred, Rich, Dustin + Paul in the water at McKinley Creek. They are known as the “Dakota Boys.”

CC Your dad told me that you had some tough times personally growing up around New Orleans. Was there a turning point for you that changed your life for the better?

DH The turning point. It’s been a gradual battle to figure out who I am. I was definitely raised in an area to where I could have definitely gone the wrong way, and was headed that way for sure. But I got turned around somehow and it was a gradual exposure to literature and different experiences; traveling; seeing my little world from an outside vantagepoint while stepping out and seeing different countries. I forced myself to do these things to look inward and see what was actually happening in my life. It opened up a whole new world that I knew I had to have a piece of. I’m still expanding my knowledge of the world and looking at my tiny life seeing how I can make it better.

CC You probably had to be pretty tough as a New Orleans native. 

DH I grew up with tough knuckles. I learned to fight at a very young age. I don’t like to fight as an adult and I won’t do it. But what it did do was give me some sort of drive to know that I did not want to be a part of that world – the street hustles and all those types of stuff that I grew up around. New Orleans can be a pretty harsh place where I was. It did give me an outlook on life that a lot of people don’t get to see. I did grow up fighting and as an adult, I think I can look back and say it did make me as tough as nails. But now I’d rather use my mind instead of my fist. That’s what I’m doing now. 

CC Part of your life journey was spent in California fighting wildfires as a hotshot. What was that experience like?

DH I moved to California when I was 24 years old and joined the hotshot crew and fought fires for maybe four years in different areas. It was a perfect match because I was used to the heat, being from New Orleans. Most of the people around me couldn’t stand heat as well as I could. I was accustomed to it. What they thought was really hot standing next to a fire with a chainsaw, I was pretty comfortable. 

With my fitness level at the time, that made me perfect for the job. I excelled for a couple years fighting wildland fires. It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Every time I see one of these fires I think about the work that it takes to put them out by hand. It’s absolutely incredible what a group of people can do with some hand tools and chainsaws in putting out a fire. It taught me that with a good group of people, you can almost get anything done that you need to get done, and faster than you ever thought it could happen. 

(From left to right) Carlos, Wes, Fred, Rich, Dustin + Paul in the water at McKinley Creek.

CC How did you react over the last year or so given that many places in California have been devastated by these blazes?

DH Well, I don’t want to come across as insensitive in any way, but for me being born and raised on the outskirts of New Orleans, we flooded constantly. Almost every year people would lose houses by the hundreds. Finally a big hurricane (2005’s Katrina) came through and almost wiped out the whole city. It’s just been a part of my natural life watching natural disasters. With fires, I’ve seen the destructive force of it and it can be the equivalent of a real big hurricane. When I see it I can sympathize with the people, but I’ve become so accustomed to losing stuff – I’ve lost seven vehicles to floods as a young adult.

I can understand how it feels to lose all your things and people dying because of these natural (disasters), and it’s horrible. I’ve just become used to natural forces destroying things. That may sound harsh, but I just see it that way. It’s a horrible thing but part of living on this earth, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never lived in a place that doesn’t have its dangers and you just have to prepare the best for them and get out of the way when you can.

CC Is it safe to say that your time in Alaska and gold has changed your life and your dad’s life?

DH Well, I was on track after the fire crew to be a construction worker. It’s always my fallback to be a construction worker. And now that I’ve found adventure in the mountains and something I truly love to do, it’s made me a different person. I have to think out of the box constantly and I don’t just have to put my head down and dig ditches. It’s attracted me to Alaska in a way that I had no idea that I would love a place. Sometimes you just hate it because of the weather, and the ice gets there way too fast. Sometimes the rain doesn’t stop for months. Then when it’s beautiful out you just fall in love all over again. It’s a love-hate relationship, and Alaska’s been really good to me. I love it here. I see it forever changing my world. 

CC Can you share some experiences about the wildlife there – specifically all the bear encounters you’ve had in Alaska?

DH [Laughs] There have been a lot of bear encounters up there with us – some of them stranger than you can ever imagine. 

Sometimes we’ll get these juvenile bears that are just bullies. And they just won’t take no for answer. And my crew and I were against shooting the bears, so we haven’t harmed any. But man, has it come close? Bluff charging and sometimes they want to take over an area. You almost have to hit him with a stick or a rock or something to get them to respond at all. We’re not going to shoot them unless we absolutely have to. 

But there have been a few times where I wish the film crew was around for some of these instances. Because we get bears that don’t know that you’re not a bear. They’ll run into you on a trail and they’re really young bears by themselves. And they want to test you, so they’ll bluff charge you, they’ll stop, run back, roll around, climb a tree and they’ll want you to come and play. Then they’ll bluff charge you again. 

You’ll just look at this bear and say, “What are you doing?” And you realize that it doesn’t know if you’re a young bear because it’s never seen a human before. And this bear wants to play and then wants to challenge you, and then it doesn’t know what to do. It’s not afraid of you; it’s just confused about what you are. You’re just an upright, skinny pink bear to them. And they want to play and then they want to fight. 

Thankfully we’ve never had to hurt a bear, but they get ornery, especially when the berries aren’t out and they want to come into your house or your tent. They just won’t take no for answer. Sometimes you have to put up the little electric fences to stop them. 

 “I’ve never been in more danger in my entire life. My hair’s gotten a little bit grayer from i,” Hurt says about this season of Gold Rush.” 

CC Tell me about your relationship with your dad. On camera you guys seem to live for arguing and bickering with each other. But is that relationship also stronger because of it all? 

DH Well, every season is a surprise for Fred and I. I worked for him for nine or 10 years when I was younger and he taught me quite a lot of stuff. I got a lot of my construction skills from him. We fought tooth and nail back when I was just a young dumb fella. 

Now we even fight worse sometimes. I often start every season wondering if we’re going to be friends at the end of that season. But we keep working together because we see value in each other’s minds. Because even though he has some crazy ideas, one in 20 of those ideas is brilliant and I’d never be able come up with it. It works perfectly. But those other 19 ideas can be absolutely ludicrous. 

I think he enjoys fighting with me to a point and I (do) too, just a bit. I don’t know that we communicate like normal people do. There’s no one on Earth I would communicate like that to and still be able to stay around him. So somehow we have this way of communicating that’s understood that we’re gonna be a little rude to each other. That’s just how it’s going to be, and we both accept that. We’re not offended and one year we’ll come away and swear we’re never going to talk to each other again, and the very next season we’re best friends. It’s just the weirdest situation ever. 

CC Without giving much away, what can viewers expect from the Dakota Boys this season on Gold Rush: White Water?

DH I’ve never been in more danger in my entire life. My hair’s gotten a little bit grayer from it. Some of the scariest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff. If I go past that, I’m not sure I’m going to survive to make another season. ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Gold Rush: White Water air on Friday nights on the Discovery Channel (check local listings). For more on the show, check out discovery.com/tv-shows/gold-rush-white-water.

One River Closure, One Restricted For Kodiak King Salmon Fishing

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

Karluk River Closed to King Salmon Fishing

(Kodiak) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation closure for king salmon in the Karluk River drainage including the lagoon and its outlet stream effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2019. This closure prohibits sport fishing for king salmon including catch-and-release. During the closure, king salmon may not be targeted, possessed, or retained; king salmon that are caught incidentally while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In addition, as an added measure to reduce incidentally hooked king salmon, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Karluk River drainage below Karluk Lake including the lagoon and its outlet stream.

“Although escapements have occasionally improved slightly since record lows in 2008, the recent trend of poor runs and very low king salmon returns warrant closing the Karluk River sport fishery,” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “Since 2006, the Karluk River king salmon escapement goal has only been achieved four times, even with management actions to reduce king salmon retention in sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries. In January 2011, the Board of Fisheries designated Karluk River king salmon a stock of concern.”

King salmon angling opportunities may be restored in the Karluk River by a subsequent emergency order, if inseason assessment indicates the king salmon run is stronger than anticipated. Beginning late May, ADF&G staff will closely monitor this fishery at the Karluk River salmon counting weir.

Ayakulik River King Salmon Restricted to Catch-and-Release Only

(Kodiak) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restriction for king salmon in the Ayakulik River drainage effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2019. During this restriction, king salmon may not be possessed or retained; king salmon that are caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In addition, as an added measure to reduce incidentally hooked king salmon, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Ayakulik River drainage.

“Even with management actions to reduce king salmon retention in sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries, the king salmon escapement goal has not been achieved for several years,” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “The recent trend of poor king salmon returns warrants the regulation restrictions of the king salmon sport fishery in the Ayakulik River drainage.”

Retention opportunities may be restored in the Ayakulik River drainage by a subsequent emergency order, if inseason assessment indicates the king salmon run is stronger than anticipated. Beginning late May, ADF&G staff will closely monitor this fishery at the Ayakulik River salmon counting weir.

For additional information, please contact the Division of Sport Fish Kodiak Office at (907) 486-1880.

 

Registration Nearing For Homer Winter King Tournament

 

The following press release is courtesy of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau:

2018 Homer Winter King Salmon TournamentJim Lavrakas/Far North Photography2018 Homer Winter King Salmon TournamentJim Lavrakas/Far North Photography

HOMER, Alaska: The Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center will host its 26th annual Winter King Fishing Tournament on March 23rd.  Online registration for the tournament will begin February 1.  Mark your calendar, get your boat ready, buy your fishing license, and prepare to fish in one of Alaska’s largest fishing competitions.

2018 Champion Charlie Edwards of Fritz Creek, Alaska, won last year’s tournament with a fish weighing 24.6 pounds. Edwards payout was $56,902.50. The total payouts were over $160,000 in cash and prizes!

Other 2018 stats:

379 Boats

1,267 Anglers

105 fish caught & weighed

For registration information and tournament stats visit www.HomerWinterKing.com.

Beginning at 3pm, March 23rd, the public is invited to celebrate with anglers at Coal Point Seafoods (4306 Homer Spit Road) Winter King Tournament Headquarters.  There will be food available for purchase, music, fish weigh-in, and an awards ceremony.

For more information about the tournament please contact Nyla Lightcap at the Homer Chamber 907-235-7740 or wkt@homeralaska.org

 

Multiple New Fishing Regulations Announced For Tanana River Drainage

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

The Alaska Board of Fisheries, at the January 15-19 Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim meeting in Anchorage, deliberated on 16 and adopted 11 proposals that will change sport fishing regulations in the Tanana River drainage for the upcoming fishing season. These new regulations will be in the following water bodies:

  • Chena River: a youth-only sport fishery now allows kids under the age of 16 to harvest Arctic grayling with a bag and possession limit of one fish of any size. The youth-only area of the Chena River extends downstream from a regulatory marker 300 feet downstream of the Chena flood control project to the confluence with the Tanana River. The youth-only fishery will occur weekends only over four consecutive weekends beginning with the third Saturday in June.
  • Koole and Dune lakes: the bag and possession limit for all stocked species combined is now 10 fish, of which only one may be greater than 18 inches. Previously, the bag and possession limit was five fish, of which only one could be 18 inches or longer.
  • Delta Clearwater River: the bag and possession limit of one Arctic grayling, 12 inches or smaller is now open year-round. Previously, the open period for harvesting Arctic grayling less than 12 inches was from June 1 to December 31.
  • Chisana River drainage: the bag and possession limit for northern pike in all flowing waters and lakes is five fish, of which only one may be 30 inches or greater. This was increased from a bag and possession limit of two fish.
  • George and Volkmar lakes: the open season for northern pike is now year-round. Previously, the season was open from June 1 to April 20.
  • Little Harding Lake: is now open to sport fishing for northern pike year-round with a bag and possession limit of five fish, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. Previously, Little Harding Lake was closed to fishing for northern pike.
  • Toklat River drainage: is now open to sport fishing for all salmon and nonsalmon fish species year-round, except for within a three-mile section of the mainstem Toklat River that will be closed to all fishing from August 15 to May 15. The three-mile section extends from approximately one mile upstream to approximately two miles downstream of the Kobi-McGrath trail crossing. Precise waypoints of the boundaries will be provided in the new regulation summary booklet. Previously, the entire Toklat River was closed to all sport fishing from August 15 to May 15.

These regulations will take effect with the release of the 2019 Northern Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary. To find a preliminary summary of all actions taken at the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim meeting please check the Alaska Board of Fisheries website at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

Any questions regarding these changes to the sport fishing regulations in the Tanana River drainage can be directed to either Heather Scannell (907) 459-7357 or Klaus Wuttig (907) 459-7344 at the Fairbanks Fish and Game office.

Saying Good Bye To One Of The ‘Last Alaskans’

Bob and his beloved dog Ruger. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES 

On a season four episode of the Discovery Channel series The Last Alaskans, which follows the select few residents who reside in cabins within massive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, longtime resident Heimo Korth picks out rusted vintage traps from one of the seven homesteads that dot the refuge. 

“When a trapper passes away, if he doesn’t have family that continues on, everything just kind of deteriorates and falls apart. Cabins fall apart,” Korth says as he quietly walks the premises. “Pretty soon trees will be growing in them and in 100 years you’ll never know that someone was living there.”

But Korth (Alaska Sporting Journal, July 2015) will always remember that his friend trapped there, lived there and essentially died there. Bob Harte, a mainstay on the refuge and who, like Korth and the few other residents of the cabins, was featured extensively on the series, lost a long battle to cancer when he passed away at 66 on July 22, 2017 in Fairbanks.

Korth, who on a tribute episode to Harte says they’ve been friends since 1976, was asked by Harte – “his last request to me” – to keep an eye on his cabin. 

“Bob Harte was one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever seen on television. He’s a guy from Jersey, but Alaska, specifically the incredibly challenging corner of it where he settled, became part of him and defined who he was as a person,” says Discovery Channel executive producer Michael Gara. “The life he built there was epic but he allowed us into his world on a very personal level.”

The just concluded season of The Last Alaskans began filming in the summer of 2017, just around the time Harte appeared on camera for the last time before he died.  

“As we tackled how to portray his battle with cancer, we always wanted to make sure that Bob’s spirit came through every time we were with him,” Gara adds. “He’s such a rare mix of someone who’s tough as nails but also introspective and not afraid to be honest. We had to be honest as well as we told his story.”

“When a trapper passes away, if he doesn’t have family that continues on, everything just kind of deteriorates and falls apart. Cabins fall apart,” says Bob’s longtime friend and fellow ANWR trapper Heimo Korth. (DISOCVERY CHANNEL)

A TRAPPER’S FAREWELL PARTY  

Harte, who legend says hitchhiked to Alaska over 40 years ago and had one of seven permits to reside on ANWR, opened the tribute episode in mid-December with a clip from three years before his death. Harte counts out 275 long strides along a rocky shoreline to estimate how much space his Piper Cub needs to take off from this crude makeshift runway, the likes of which Alaskans are accustomed to. 

The camera then cuts to an interview with an ailing Harte shot shortly before his death. 

“In this country you’re always on the edge,” Harte says. “That plane makes it so I can match my wits against the extreme. And it’s what I love.”

“Toward the end of his life, his body was frail but his mind was still strong. He sat in his chair and watched the squirrels and talked about how they were getting ready for winter like him. He would study them and talk about how he could catch them if he wanted to. He still had that spark,” says Brigham Cottam, an executive producer with Half Yard Productions, which produces the show. 

“With Bob, you didn’t want to turn off the camera because you knew he was going to say something in a way that was unrepeatable. So we just filmed everything.”

One moment Discovery didn’t film but felt fortunate to be a part of happened the day before he passed away. On that July Friday, Harte told his wife Nancy he wanted to invite many of his trapper friends, including fellow refuge residents Korth and his wife Edna, Ashley and Tyler Selden (Alaska Sporting Journal, June 2016) and Ray and Cindy Lewis, over to the Chena River camp in Fairbanks the Hartes were staying at for a cookout. 

“It was a last-minute get together, but fortunately most people were in town. Bob had a great time, they all told stories, (and) from what I understand it’s the first time all of these people had been together in one place in a long time,” Half Yard executive producer John Jones says. “At the end of the evening he says goodbye to everybody and retired to his camper. He passed away that night.”

“To live the life he did required incredible instincts, and on that Friday it’s as if he knew that this was his last day to say goodbye.”

The Harte family. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

REFLECTING AND MOVING FORWARD 

It took another year for longtime viewers of The Last Alaskans to get their own send-off for Harte as his plane rumbles down the same space he walked over to make sure it had enough room to take off.

“The freedom to come and go as a pilot is indescribable. It’s the best there is,” Harte says as that shot from three years earlier shows him soaring over the lands he lived on for so many years. “You get a different view of the land – just a different perspective flying over. From the air you can see tracks, you can see sloughs and lakes and what’s happening down below. It’s free and I can’t give it up.”

Harte, Jones says, “wore his heart on his sleeve.” Cottam says Harte never was bashful to give his opinion even when the camera might have made him hold back. “He didn’t care. He just spoke from the heart.”  

“I came up to Alaska to make a living trapping. I wanted a place to spend the rest of my life,” Harte says during one of those final interviews. “But I found even more than I can imagine … Living here was the best thing I ever did.”  (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Korth, his friend and fellow refuge trapper, also paid tribute on the show as he spent a night in a tent adjacent to Harte’s cabin. 

“What these walls can tell you,” Korth says as he picks out keepsakes Nancy Harte requested he bring back. Another grizzled veteran of this lifestyle, Korth talked about his own mortality when remembering his friend’s legacy. 

“I’ve been trapping and hunting so long, I realize death is part of life. Part of this place is gone. Something’s missing and Bob’s gone. I’m sure in spirit he’s still here. Someday I gotta go too.” 

Harte provides his own victory lap, reflecting about what made his choice of lifestyle unique and memorable as the camera alternated among scenes of the remaining living refuge residents on this sacred ground. 

What’s even more emotional is the reality that this legacy will end sometime in the next 50 to 100 years, when these families will no longer legally be allowed to live there (immediate next of kins will be the last to utilize the land before the feds reclaim it). 

“I came up to Alaska to make a living trapping. I wanted a place to spend the rest of my life,” Harte says during one of those final interviews. “But I found even more than I can imagine … Living here was the best thing I ever did.” ASJ

Watch the season four finale of The Last Alaskans here. 

Rutz, Rabung Added To New ADFG Staff

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

(Anchorage) — Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang announced two director-level appointments as he continues to fill key leadership roles at ADF&G. Lang has named Dave Rutz Director of the Division of Sport Fish. Sam Rabung has been appointed the Director of Commercial Fisheries.

Rutz and Rabung have long, distinguished careers at the department and bring a wealth of experience to their new roles.

“Dave Rutz and Sam Rabung come to these positions with outstanding qualifications,” said Vincent-Lang. “Both have years of knowledge and experience in Alaska’s fisheries. They have held increasingly complex and diverse positions in the department and have deep connections around the state. I am pleased that they have agreed to serve.”

Rutz has worked in fisheries research and management for nearly 40 years. He spent much of his career at the department’s Division of Sport Fish as an area management biologist in the Northern and Western Cook Inlet Management area. He has also led the department’s Alexander Creek Invasive Northern Pike Removal and Restoration project and worked around the state in various research and management roles. He graduated with a B.S., Wildlife Fisheries Emphasis, St. Cloud State in Minnesota in 1980.

“I’m honored to be appointed and look forward to working with sport fisheries staff and department leadership to carry out the department’s mission to protect and enhance fisheries resources for the benefit of all Alaskans,” said Rutz.

Prior to accepting his new role, Rabung has been serving as section chief for the Division of Commercial Fisheries Statewide Aquaculture, Planning, and Permitting, a position he held since 2015. He has also worked in a variety of positions overseeing hatchery operations around the state. He first joined the department as a fisheries technician in 1983.

Rabung graduated with honors in 1987 from Sheldon Jackson College with a B.S., in Aquatic Resources, Fisheries Science and Aquaculture Emphasis. A lifelong Alaskan, he attended A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, where he graduated in 1982. He serves as a voting member on all Regional Planning Teams statewide and as vice chair of the Governor’s Mariculture Task Force. He will be based in Juneau.

“I look forward to serving the people of the state in this new role,” said Rabung. “ADFG is a unique and well-respected science agency, and the Division has a very strong team of dedicated and talented professionals. This is an opportunity to work closely with others across the department to ensure we are contributing to the Alaska economy and putting fish on the plates of Alaskans.”

Both begin work (today).

Making Hunters’ Dreams Come True

Photos courtesy of Billy Molls

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES

His dreams are fulfilling yours.

Consider this: Billy Molls, who’s led big game Alaska hunts for more than 20 years, got his start as a teen as the guiding world’s equivalent of office go-for. Yet ask him to remember his best Dall sheep or downed grizzly taken on a pleasure hunt and he can’t cite an example.

“I’ve never shot a big game animal for myself in Alaska, and I really don’t have a burning desire to do it,” admits Molls, 42. “By the time I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be a hunting guide in Alaska. I figured that was my backdoor to experience the Alaskan wilderness. So this is pretty much all I ever wanted to do.”

The grandson and son of hard-working, no-nonsense trappers and farmers in rural Wisconsin, Molls’ passion for the outdoors, adventure and drive has served him well. He’s still based in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and daughters and guides hunts in his home state. But his heart and soul is in the Last Frontier, where he regularly films the hunts and has produced several DVDs, including recent new releases that feature a Dall sheep hunt and fitness tips for the field.

From the time his trapper grandfather Bill encouraged young Billy to chase his dreams of hunting in the vast wilderness of the 49th state, Molls knew what he wanted and where he wanted to do it.

His website (billymollsadventures

.com) refers to him as a “Modern-Day Mountain Man.” It’s a moniker he takes pride in, inspired by his mentors back on the farmlands of northwest Wisconsin.

“My grandpa told me, ‘If you want to have an outdoor adventure, Alaska is the place you need to go,’” Molls says. “So I figured, ‘I’ll go hunt in Alaska.’”

One of Molls’ boyhood idols was his trapper grandfather.

IN ONE OF MOLLS’ DVDs, High Country Brown Bears, he takes on the giant spring bruins of the unforgiving coast along the Alaska Peninsula. There, besides the bears, Molls and his client Lonnie Cook face heavy rain and wind, strenuous climbs and a brutal packout of a 9-footer from a steep creek bed after the bear slid down the hill.  

“To be a consistently successful trophy brown bear hunter, it takes a wide-ranging skillset,” Molls narrates during the film. “Experience, strength, stamina, endurance and patience are necessary. But perhaps most important is mental fortitude. Enduring those cold, wet, windy days Alaska is so famous for is not for the faint of heart.”

And through the magic of the camera, Molls captures just how breathtaking and dangerous such trips into the Last Frontier’s remote backcountry can be.

On his first hunt as the main guide years ago, a client’s request spawned a new title to Molls’ resume: filmmaker and storyteller.

“The client had a video camera and he videotaped his hunt. He shot the bear and he had asked me to videotape him shooting the bear,” he says. “He sent a copy of all the footage that he took and of course I shot a little bit of him shooting the bear. And he sent that to my parents while we were in Alaska. And then after that I bought my own camera and started filming all my hunts.”

What most fascinated Molls about the filming of he and his client’s successful hunt wasn’t so much the actual moment of connecting on the shot but what led them there in the first place. His parents shared the video with friends around their Wisconsin home.

“It seemed like everyone was perhaps more interested in the lifestyle that we lived (in the field), what we ate, the weather – those kinds of things,” he says. “It’s not just killing an animal, but really it’s the adventure. And we started filming and after 10 years I decided to put this DVD together.”

He has about 15 programs available for purchase, a selection that includes stories of moose and caribou hunting in Alaska, footage from one of Molls’ own adventures on a trip to New Zealand and multiple bear hunt recaps.

Molls hopes all of his videos will provide viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for his clients.

“I love the storytelling aspect, especially in more of my recent videos. And we’re really trying to connect the human element of each adventure. Because I think I find hunting and life to be synonymous in so many ways and every way imaginable,” he says.

“You can touch a deep chord that resonates with enough people, and it’s something that will stand for a long, long time. I really enjoy that part of trying to connect with people.”

In High Country Brown Bears, Molls gets some alone time between the departure of client Lonnie Cook and the arrival of the next hunter, Rob Mullins. He spends it soaking in the wild country he always wanted to explore thousands of miles away growing up in America’s Heartland.

From his oceanside camp, Molls spies a group of seals circling offshore in an attempt to confuse the baitfish they were hungry for. He watches bald eagles soar above the mountains he and Cook had just climbed to approach bears. A fox prances along the beach near his camp. Welcome to Alaska.

“I wanted to be an Alaskan hunting guide. That worked out. I wanted to be an outdoor writer or I would have liked to be a hunting video producer. So strangely I was able to do all those things.”

From where he started, it was a remarkable journey.

WISCONSIN IS KNOWN FOR beer, brats, the Green Bay Packers and its farming culture. America’s Dairyland lives up to the state nickname. Farming is how the Molls family made its living in Turtle Lake, about 100 miles south of Lake Superior at the Wisconsin-Minnesota stateline.  

But Billy’s grandfather Bill was also a professional trapper dating back to the Great Depression, a skill he handed down to his son Joe and grandson Billy, who was mesmerized by their trapping prowess when they brought back muskrat, beaver and pelts of other small mammals.

“They knew. They would set a trap (in a specific location) and in my mind I always thought of it as, they knew a language that I didn’t – the language of these animals,” Molls says. “Why are they setting a trap there? They’d answer those questions, but to me it was this big riddle. They thought like wild animals.”

And it fascinated young Billy. When he was 8 years old, he and Joe left by boat for a muskrat trapping expedition on Lightning Creek. Once they passed one of their family friend’s farms and into Wisconsin’s version of the bush, it solidified what Billy wanted to do with this life.

“As soon as we oared the jon boat away from the road, passed the neighboring farm and got out of sight of the power line and there was no evidence of man, something came alive inside me,” “I knew that day I wanted to make my life in the wilderness.”

Grandpa Bill, though he never had and never would make it to Alaska – he passed away 14 years ago – still made a convincing argument to his grandson that if hunting for a living was Billy’s career choice, there was no better place to pursue it than the Last Frontier.

So Billy began to read every magazine article on Alaska hunting. The state became his obsession, the white whale so many young outdoors geeks want to conquer. Somehow, someway, he would guide there. Alaska was 3,000-plus miles away from Wisconsin, but felt even further way spiritually as well as geographically.

“As a kid we really never went on vacations or anything like that. I’d never really been more than 200 miles from my house until I was 18 years old,” he says. “We always had food on the table, but by today’s standards we were most definitely poor. I never saw my grandpa or my dad  go on any hunting trips of that magnitude. So I just kind of assumed that it was beyond me.”

Yet right after high school graduation, Molls left Turtle Lake and started his pilgrimage to the north. He made stops in Montana for guiding school, then Idaho where he cut his teeth as a packer.

By the time he made it to Alaska, he also had to start out as a packer for a guide there. And as you might expect it wasn’t the most glamorous of first jobs (see sidebar). Still, Molls was well on his way to eventually opening his own big game guide service.

“My first two years as a packer I was definitely a grunt. It was my job to carry heavy things. (But) I was pretty good at skinning and I knew a lot of the basics of hunting. I had so many years of trapping and being a farm kid in general, I knew a little bit about everything. I could run chainsaws, had common sense and could drive vehicles and think on my feet,” he says.

“And I had a good work ethic more than anything. To me, none of it was ever work. I could carry heavy loads all day. I mean, that was my dream. I was in Alaska; it didn’t matter what I was doing.”

THESE DAYS, MOLLS GUIDES whitetail hunts in Wisconsin and spends parts of spring and fall taking hunters out for Dall sheep, moose, caribou and, of course, bears. Trips like these are expensive hunts but bucket-list items for everyone from the wealthy to average Joes – just like the Molls – who have saved for years for that one special trip.

“I’m not so much about getting a 28-year-old kid that’s an ultra-marathon runner a Dall sheep. I want to get one for that 65-year-old man with two artificial knees who worked his full life so he can finally afford to go on his dream hunt,” says Molls, referring to one of his most memorable hunts.

“This guy’s only got one climb up the mountain, so he’s got to make it count. For me, that’s where I get the most satisfaction and personal pride in what I do. I really try to take all my time and experience to make the client’s dream a reality. It makes it pretty rewarding.”

Zig Ziglar, the famed motivational speaker, talked a lot about dreams during his seminars during his 1970s and ’80s heyday when he barnstormed the map inspiring businesspeople. That includes that aspiring Wisconsin hunter.

“I’m paraphrasing (Ziglar) now, ‘If you want your dreams to come true, make enough other people’s dreams come true,’” says Molls, who himself hopes he can someday educate those unsure about the sport or even anti-hunting activists.

He even made his dad’s dreams – and in many ways, Grandpa Bill’s – come true when Joe made it to Alaska to hunt with Billy a few years ago, and one of Joe’s high school buddies joined them.

It was a sentimental experience for the Molls – Billy made a DVD about it called Hunt for the Unknown – as they paid tribute to Bill, who never had that chance to join his son and grandson in Alaska.

“(Joe) used my grandfather’s old .303 Savage rifle that my grandfather deer hunted with. So in a way it felt like my dad, my grandpa and I all hunted together,” says Billy, who in many ways feels like he’s living out two dreams as he’s evolved into the big game hunting guide he vowed to follow through on.

“You might even say he kind of lives inside me. A lot of times when I’m in the wilderness, I still kind of feel connected to him,” he says of the old trapper Bill. “I know him better even though he’s been gone 14 years. I feel like I have a better idea of who he was now. The more I’m in nature, the more I understand about him.” ASj

Editor’s note: Check out billymollsadventures.com for more information on his hunts and DVDs. Like at facebook.com/TheModernDayMountainMan and follow on Instagram (@themoderndaymountainman).

Sidebar

A GUIDING DEBUT TO FORGET

Billy Molls knew right away that Alaska was where he wanted to be to experience the hunting guide lifestyle. But like so many eventually hitting it big in various fields, he had to pay his dues first.

Molls’ early jobs reinforced the notion that spending multiple days in remote, weather-affected locales in Alaska isn’t always as exciting as it sounds.

He recalled one of his first trips as a packer for a hunting guide on Kodiak Island after he left the Lower 48 for Alaska. The party headed out into a snowy area after spotting a brown bear, and Molls knew as the “last man on the totem pole” he was going to do the dirty (and wet) work.

“The guide and the client both had snowshoes but we only had two sets. So I had to go without them. So we’re going through 4 or 5 feet of snow during a 2-mile stalk,” he says. “I would go crotch-deep with every step. My hip boots were filled with snow.”

Molls as a youing packer as he was given a rude introduction to Alaska big game hunting.

As can be the norm on bear hunts, the long wait for the bruin to move was doubly difficult for the group’s packer. The snow that had accumulated in Molls’ hip boots turned to freezing water during the duration of the four-hour standoff. Hypothermia would have become a concern had he been stranded.

The good news? The client finally shot the bear, which fortunately was in a spot where they could return the next day to pack it out.

The bad news? Molls, as the newbie packer, was going to have to go through another brutal experience.

“We got back to camp and I couldn’t even eat; I just huddled in my sleeping bag all night,” he says.

When they got back to the shooting site, they found it was a big, 10-foot-7 bear, which meant it was going to be a pretty heavy pack that the new guy would be carrying back to base camp, though at least he had snowshoes this time around.

“We’ve got about a 150-pound bear hide (to take) 9 miles back to camp. So that was just grueling. I took it like 6 of the 9 miles and I just couldn’t pack it the whole way. It was just so heavy. I think the guide was a little bit disgusted. We switched packs, and his was still real heavy but not as heavy as mine,” he says.

The lesson here, kids, is this was the moment when 19-year-old Billy Molls might have become discouraged or doubted that such a life was for him, even after dreaming of Alaska as a youngster in Wisconsin. Even after spending a couple years learning the ropes in Idaho and Montana.

But what happened on the way back to civilization made this a defining moment of a career, which has gone on now for more than two decades.

“I felt like I was a failure. I thought, ‘There goes my dream. I’m not man enough to pack that heavy load.’ We cruised in our Zodiac for about 5 miles on the ocean back to our spike camp. As we’re riding back, I’m looking at the mountains on Kodiak Island, the guide and the client are on either side of the Zodiac,” Molls says.

“I was just kind of despondent. I wouldn’t say depressed but I kind of felt lost. And after a while, I don’t know if the guide sensed it or not, but he punched me in the thigh and said, ‘Hey, you did a good job.’ That meant a lot to me – just that he recognized that I had a very heavy load. I didn’t get it all the way out but that he was happy with what I did. That gave me the confidence that I could actually do it.” CC