Category Archives: Featured Content

Valdez Halibut Derby Off To Strong Start

North Pole’s Doris Miller leads the Valdez Halibut Derby with a 109-pound-plus fish. (PHOTOS BY VALDEZ FISH DERBIES)

The following press release  is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

Tim Hastings caught a 105-pound, 6-ounce halibut, good for third place in the Valdez derby.

VALDEZ, Alaska – Dorris Miller of North Pole is currently leading the Valdez Halibut Derby with a 109.6-pound halibut caught May 21st aboard the Dan Orion. Rosina Mancari of Anchorage, AK in 2nd with a 107.4-pound halibut caught May 24th aboard the Reel Nuts; 3rd place is held By Tim Hastings of Valdez, AK with a 105.6-pound halibut caught May 22nd aboard the Redhead.

The Valdez Halibut Derby kicked off May 18th and a halibut weighing more than 100 pounds took the lead right away. By day five of the derby, all three overall leaders weighed in at more than 100 pounds. Sunny weather and good conditions allowed charters and personal anglers hit the waters of Prince William Sound and the harbor was busy with anglers cleaning their catch.

Charter Captains in Valdez are preparing for a busy season as anglers have high hopes of being the winner of the $10,000 first place prize in the Valdez Halibut Derby. The investment to compete in the Valdez Halibut Derby and have the chance to win the $10,000 first place prize is $10 for a daily ticket. Those who fish a lot can pick up a halibut season ticket for $50. The 2nd place prize in the Halibut Derby is $3,000 and 3rd place prize is $1,500. Ticket sale locations can be found at www.valdezfishderbies.com. The limit for halibut in Prince William Sound is still two per person, and one of those fish can be no longer than 29 inches in length. Halibut weigh-ins are conducted at the derby shack, located kitty corner from the Harbormasters office.

Halibut derby anglers can also win weekly 1st and 2nd place prizes in the derby. The Halibut Hullabaloo is slated for June 8th through 17th. The angler catching the largest halibut during this period will win $1,000 in addition to the daily prizes. Weekly prizes include glacier cruises, accommodations and retail gift certificates, fishing charters, and Valdez Fish Derbies apparel.

This year, the Valdez Fish Derbies will also hold a “Tagged Fish Contest” August 9th through September 1st. If an angler catches a tagged silver salmon during that time period and turns it into the Valdez Fish Derbies weigh-in shack, they win cash or prizes. All silver salmon derby rules apply for the “Tagged Fish Contest” and anglers must present the fish with the tag fully intact and attached to the salmon.  

Rosina Mancari is second in the derby thus far (107 pounds, 4 ounces).


The Kids Pink Salmon Derby has been set for Saturday, July 20th and will feature 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes in four different age divisions. The Kids derby is free and open to kid’s age 5 to 16 years of age. The Silver Salmon Derby in Valdez will again boast a $10,000 first place prize and daily prizes and runs July 20th through September 1st. The Annual Valdez Women’s Derby is slated for Saturday, August 10th with an opening ceremony Friday, August 9th and the closing ceremony Saturday night.

There will be a $500 prize for the vendor and operator selling the winning derby ticket in both derbies. For more information on the Valdez Derbies, visit: valdezfishderbies.com

Halibut Derby – Overall Leaders

1st Dorris Miller      North Pole, AK             109.6 lbs. May 21 Dan Orion

2nd Rosina Mancari Anchorage, AK 107.4 lbs. May 24 Reel Nuts

3rd Tim Hastings Valdez, AK             105.6 lbs. May 27            Redhead

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners – Week #1

1st Dorris Miller      North Pole, AK             109.6 lbs. May 21 Dan Orion

2nd Rosina Mancari Anchorage, AK 107.4 lbs. May 24 Reel Nuts

Remembering Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

Photo by Chris Cocoles

Here’s to a great day of barbecues, getting outside and enjoying the spring but also remembering why we’re able to do all of this. Here’s the National Park Service with more: 

Freedom

It is a gift. It is a sacrifice. It is a duty of many, taken up by few. This site is dedicated to the men and women of the American military, past and present. The National Park Service preserves and shares the stories of the American military over the last three centuries. We also provide opportunities for our military community to connect to the beautiful landscapes and important history they defend.

National parks and the military have strong ties going back to the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. The U.S. Cavalry watched over America’s national parks and did double duty, serving as the first park rangers until the National Park Service was created 44 years later. During World War II, many parks were set aside for the training and care of military personnel. Today, dozens of national parks commemorate military battles and achievements.

Discover the people who have protected our freedom. Learn about the places that shaped our military history and culture. Explore opportunities for active-duty military, veterans, and their families.

Memorial Day 2019

The National Park Service remembers the servicemen and woman who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. 

Members of the U.S. Army attend a reenlistment ceremony.

National Park Service photo

Youth-Only Fisheries Set For Homer Area

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

(Homer) – Two Youth-Only Fisheries are scheduled in June for the Homer area for angler 15 years of age and younger. The first event will be held on Saturday, June 1, 2019, from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) staff will be present at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon from noon to 3:00 p.m. to help young anglers gear up and fish for king salmon. Fishing rods will also be available for kids to check out and use. The youth-only fishing area will be marked; however, the remaining area of the lagoon will be open for fishing by anglers of all ages.

The second event will be held Wednesday, June 5, 2019, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:59 p.m. at the Ninilchik River. The youth-only fishing area is from the mouth of the Ninilchik River upstream to the ADF&G markers near the Sterling Highway Bridge. ADF&G staff will be present at the river section under the Sterling Highway Bridge from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to help young anglers gear up and fish for king salmon. Fishing rods will also be available for kids to check out and use. Youth anglers may only harvest one hatchery king salmon of any size and gear is limited to one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure.

Although youth angelrs do not need a sport fishing license or king salmon stamp, they do need a Harvest Record Card. Anglers are reminded that all other sport fishing regulations and emergency order restrictions remain in effect for these fisheries. Please be respectful of the Youth-Only Fishery Zones. For additional information on these Youth-Only Fisheries, please see page 74 for the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and page 72 for the Ninilchik River of the 2019 Southcentral Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet.

For more information, please contact Fisheries Biologist Holly Smith or Assistant Area Management Biologist Mike Booz at (907) 235-8191.

Hatchery King Salmon Fishing Opportunities Opening In Southeast Alaska (UPDATED)

The following releases are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: (Updated with Juneau and Hidden Falls information)

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Opens In Hatchery Areas Near Petersburg And Wrangell

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today, sport fishing regulations for Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon in areas near Petersburg and Wrangell.

Wrangell Narrows/Blind Slough Terminal Harvest Area

Described as that portion of Wrangell Narrows south of 56° 46′ N. latitude (Martinsens’s dock) and north and east of the northern tip of Woewodski Island and includes the freshwaters of Blind Slough upstream of a line between Blind Point and Anchor Point (see attached map). The following regulations will be in effect beginning Saturday, June 1 through Wednesday, July 31, 2019:

  • Bag and possession limit (residents and nonresidents) of 2 king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length, and 2 king salmon less than 28 inches in length;
  • King salmon caught by nonresidents in this area do not count toward the nonresident annual limit.

Anita Bay Terminal Harvest Area

Described as the waters of Anita Bay south and west of a line from Anita point to 56° 14.26′ N. latitude, 132° 23.92′ W. longitude.

  • Anita Bay will be open to the sport fishery beginning June 1. The Southeast Alaska regional king salmon bag, possession, and annual limits will apply in Anita Bay.

City Creek Release Site

Described as the marine waters adjacent to City Creek between a marker on the Mitkof Island shore, at 56° 47.83′ N. lat., 132° 51.57′ W. long. to 56° 48.30′ N. lat., 132° 51.50′ W. long. to 56° 49.77′ N. lat., 132° 55.78′ W. long. (navigation buoy) and back to the Mitkof Island shore at Hungry Point (56° 49.36′ N. lat., 132° 56.38′ W. long.) and includes the freshwaters of City Creek (see attached map). The following regulations will be in effect beginning Saturday, June 15 through Sunday, July14, 2019:

  • Bag and possession limit (residents and nonresidents) of one king salmon any size;
  • Nonresident annual limits continue to apply in this area.

Anglers are reminded that when in possession of king salmon less than 28 inches in length they should not then fish in another location where possessing a king salmon under 28 inches is illegal. For further information concerning this announcement please contact Petersburg/Wrangell Area Management Biologist, Patrick Fowler at (907) 772-5231.

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Opens In Hatchery Areas Near Petersburg And Wrangell

Hatchery King Salmon Harvest Opened in Coffman Cove

Beginning Saturday, June 1, through Friday, June 14, 2019, the king salmon regulations in Coffman Cove are as follows:

  • In the continuous waters (black area — See Map) of Coffman Cove west of a line from the mainland of Prince of Wales Island at 56° 01.23′ N. lat., 132° 49.86′ W. long. to Coffman Island at 56° 01.37′ N. lat., 132° 50.20′ W. long. and south of a line from the mainland to Coffman Island at 56° 1.69′ N. lat.
    • The bag and possession limit for all anglers is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
    • The nonresident annual harvest limit is three king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries authorized the department to use its emergency order authority to open terminal harvest areas to target surplus Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon. The area opened by this emergency order will allow anglers to target Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon originating from the Port Saint Nicholas hatchery near Craig. The last release of king salmon in Coffman Cove occurred in 2016, which may result in a return of up to 760 5-year-old fish in 2019. Broodstock are not collected at Coffman Cove providing a surplus of hatchery fish for harvest by sport anglers.

Anglers are reminded that until June 15, the salt waters outside of Coffman Cove Terminal Harvest Area are closed to king salmon retention. Therefore, anglers fishing in multiple areas for other species must be diligent to ensure they do not possess king salmon in areas that prohibit the retention of king salmon. On June 15, 2019 regionwide regulations will apply in these areas.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Prince of Wales Area Management Biologist, Craig Schwanke at (907) 826-2498.

Hatchery King Salmon Harvest Opened in Coffman Cove

Ketchikan Terminal Harvest Areas Open to Harvest Hatchery King Salmon

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish announced today that the bag and possession limit for all anglers in three Ketchikan terminal harvest areas, is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. For nonresidents, the annual limit is three king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. The terminal harvest areas are defined as follows:

Open June 1- June 14, 2019:

  • Thomas Basin: seaward of the Stedman Street Bridge to the breakwater.
  • Mountain Point Area: the waters of George and Carroll Inlets north of a line from Mountain Point at 55°17.57? N. lat., 131°32.41? W. long, to Cutter Rocks Light at 55°17.34? N. lat., 131°31.47? W. long, to 55°17.57? N. lat., 131°28.18? W. long, and south of the latitude of the George Inlet cannery site at 55°23.00 N. lat., and all waters of Carroll Inlet are open. (see attached map).

Open June 15- Aug 14, 2019:

  • Neets Bay: the waters east of the longitude of the eastern most tip of Bug Island.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries authorized the department to use its emergency order authority to open terminal harvest areas to target surplus Alaska hatchery king salmon. The areas opened by this emergency order will allow anglers to target Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon originating from the Deer Mountain Hatchery, Whitman Lake Hatchery, Neets Bay Hatchery and the Carroll Inlet remote release. Projected returns to these facilities will exceed broodstock needs, thus a surplus of hatchery fish are available for harvest by sport anglers.

Anglers are reminded that until June 15 (Thomas Basin and Mountain Point) and August 15 (Neets Bay) the salt waters outside of the designated terminal harvest areas are closed to king salmon retention. Therefore, anglers fishing in multiple areas for other species must be diligent to ensure they do not possess king salmon in areas that prohibit the retention of king salmon. On June 15, 2019 regionwide regulations will apply in the Mountain Point, Thomas Basin and surrounding areas and on August 15, 2019 regionwide regulations will apply in Neets Bay and the surrounding area.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Ketchikan Area Management Biologist, Kelly Reppert at (907) 225-2859.

Ketchikan Terminal Harvest Areas Open to Harvest Hatchery King Salmon

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Opens In Hatchery Areas Near Juneau

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish announced today that sport fishing regulations for hatchery-produced king salmon will be liberalized in a designated saltwater hatchery sport harvest area near Juneau (see attached map). These new regulations are intended to provide opportunity to harvest surplus hatchery-produced king salmon returning to the Juneau area.

The hatchery-produced king salmon regulations in the designated saltwater hatchery sport harvest area will be in effect from 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 15 through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, August 31, 2019. These new regulations are as follows:

  • The daily bag and possession limit is 2 king salmon of any size;
  • King salmon harvested by nonresidents in the designated saltwater hatchery sport harvest area do not count toward their annual limit.

The department is liberalizing sport fishing regulations in the designated hatchery sport harvest area due to the number of returning hatchery-produced king salmon exceeding brood stock needs for the hatchery program.

Anglers should note that the bag, possession and size limits for king salmon in the salt waters outside of the designated saltwater hatchery sport harvest area are more restrictive, and that regulations prohibit anglers from possessing fish that exceed the limits for the waters where they are fishing. Therefore, anglers who catch king salmon within the designated saltwater hatchery sport harvest area may not continue to fish outside of that area if they possess king salmon that do not comply with the regional king salmon bag, possession and size limits.

For additional information contact the Division of Sport Fish Region 1 office in Juneau at (907) 465-4270

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Opens In Hatchery Areas Near Juneau

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Near Hidden Falls Opens

Beginning Saturday, June 1 through Friday, June 14, 2019, the king salmon regulations in the vicinity of Hidden Falls Hatchery are as follows:

  • In the waters within one nautical mile of the Baranof Island shoreline south of the latitude of South Point and north of 57°06.83? N. latitude excluding waters of Kelp Bay and westward to a line from 57°13.18′ N. latitude, 134°51.88′ W. longitude to 57°12.91′ N. latitude, 134°51.50′ W. longitude to 57°12.81′ N. latitude, 134°51.48′ W. longitude to a point on the Baranof Island shore at 57°12.65′ N. latitude, 134°51.48′ W. longitude as identified by the crosshatched area (See Map):
    • The bag a possession limit for all anglers is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
    • The nonresident annual limit is three king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
  • In the remaining waters of Kasnyku Bay identified by the black shaded area (See Map):
    • Closed to the retention of king salmon.

King salmon returning to Hidden Falls Hatchery are expected to meet broodstock goals in 2019 allowing for some harvest opportunity for these king salmon of hatchery origin. For further information, contact the Sitka ADF&G office at 907-747-5355 or visit:

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/EONR/index.cfm?ADFG=area.R1

Sport Fishing For King Salmon Near Hidden Falls Opens

Salmon Are Alaska’s ‘Way’ Of Life

 

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

Editor’s note: “Throughout my Alaska travels, I posed the question, ‘What would your life be like without salmon?’” Amy Gulick writes in her new book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind. It’s a question with a lot of different, if not complex answers. And it’s at the heart of Gulick’s look at Pacific salmon and how the fish and the fishing industry affect so many in the Last Frontier. Tagging along with recreational anglers, guides and commercial fishermen, Gulick explains why the fish and the residents of the 49th state are kindred spirits. The following is excerpted with permission from The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind (Braided River, May 2019) by Amy Gulick.

Photos courtesy of Amy Gulick/The Salmon Way

BY AMY GULICK 

Squeezed between two companions in the back of a Cessna seaplane, I feel small. Not because of our cramped quarters but because of the grandeur we are soaring over. 

The vast tundra below is beginning its fall transformation to a luxurious carpet of orange and red. Rays of light bend and extend over mountaintops as the rising sun pierces the dawn. Everywhere there is water – inkblot ponds, curlicue creeks, and oblong lakes. What I can’t see are the millions of fish in all that water amid all that beauty.

It’s not so much about the fish; it’s about where the fish take you. These words have been spoken to me many times by my longtime friend Ed, a 73-year-old retired motorcycle-riding preacher who wields a fly rod as his instrument to enlightenment. 

Although Ed is not with me in the plane, his words are. Never having been much into sportfishing, yet surrounded by many people in my life who are, I’ve often scratched my head over the appeal. But as I gaze out the window at a view of perpetual glory, I start to get it. I begin to understand Ed and the legions seduced by the allure of fishing.

The pilot skims a lake in the middle of nowhere Alaska and deposits our group of four on the shore. Clad in chest waders and carrying fly rods and camera equipment, we set off across the tundra, a living mosaic of lowbush cranberry, reindeer lichen, and the ever pungent Labrador tea plant. 

The spongy ground and our clunky boots make for slow going, giving us time to enjoy our stunning surroundings of nothing but wild country. After a wobbly 45-minute trek, we arrive at a high ridge overlooking Nanuktuk Creek, also known as Little Ku, in Katmai National Preserve.

It’s spawning season, and this stretch of the creek is shallow, narrow, and jammed with tomato-red sockeye salmon. Katmai National Preserve is part of the Bristol Bay watershed, an enormous and rich system of rivers and lakes that boasts the world’s largest run of wild sockeye. 

Every year, tens of millions of sockeye stream into nine major rivers, some of the state’s largest lakes, and countless tributaries to spawn the next generation. But we are not here for salmon. We are here because of salmon. Of the many species that feast on this plethora of protein, none seduce more sport fishermen to this part of the world than rainbow trout. And nowhere in Alaska are the rainbows as abundant and large as they are here. It’s easy to see why. 

Salmon provide a plentiful diet: nutrient-rich eggs, spawned carcasses of the adults and young salmon that emerge in the spring. Rainbows here can reach monster size – a mind-boggling 30 inches in length. These “trophy” trout are the reason that Bristol Bay fishing is deemed world-class and tops every serious fly fisherman’s bucket list. They are also the reason that another fishing friend of mine has christened the region “The Holy Water.”

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ALTHOUGH WE’RE HERE IN pursuit of trout, we learn that trout aren’t the only beings in pursuit of salmon. From our vantagepoint above the creek we spot a big brown bear immersed in a pool upstream. He’s gorging on easy pickings – the salmon swim past him in a steady stream as if they were on a liquid conveyor belt. 

“We need to stick together as a group and keep an eye on our packs at all times,” says Heidi Wild, our guide for the day. “The last thing we want is for a bear to come between us or get into our packs while we’re at the creek.”

So we’re going toward danger? With a can of bear spray clipped to Heidi’s slight frame as our only defense? And we’re how far away from any kind of emergency aid? I keep these thoughts to myself as we begin our steep descent. When we reach the creek, the bear is gone from the pool, but there are bruin freeways along both brushy banks. I surrender my reservations and put my utmost trust in our guide.

With wavy blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that makes you feel all is right with the world – even if a bear suggests otherwise – Heidi looks much younger than her 38 years. She’s been guiding sport fishermen for only a few years, but her background assures me that she’s got this. 

Born in western Canada, Heidi grew up in Washington state and Oregon, spending much of her childhood fishing the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. She became a U.S. citizen at age eighteen so that she could join the U.S. Air Force and serve the country she was proud to call home. She was stationed in the Middle East during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Upon returning stateside, Heidi landed in Alaska for the first time, assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.

“It was quite the contrast going from sand to salmon,” she says. “Alaska felt like coming home, but to a home I had not yet known. Returning to streams, rivers, and mountains, which were always the backdrop to my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, rejuvenated my soul.” 

After her time in the military, Heidi remained in Alaska and began a career in the financial services industry. But something kept calling her back to her dual loves of fishing and serving others. So she volunteered with Project Healing Waters, an organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled military personnel and veterans through fly fishing.

“The time that I spent with these incredible soldiers was both humbling and profound,” she remembers. “Many of them had difficulty talking about their experiences. But casting into a stream in the wild, the silence of nature enveloped them, speaking volumes where words often fell short. They could just be. Be embraced by the beauty of the land and the abundance of the rivers. Return to something inherent in them, in all of us. I knew with every fiber of my being that I had to bring this sense of purpose, healing, and wonder to people. To reconnect them with nature and fill the devastation and void that life often leaves in its wake.” 

Heidi now guides sport fishermen full-time from May through October through a fishing lodge in the Bristol Bay region. She spends her winters building custom fly rods and volunteering with organizations that promote clean water. She wants to ensure that her 14-year-old son and the generations that follow have the opportunity to fish and experience thriving wild places.

THE CURRENT GENERATION OF sockeye before me in Little Ku is ensuring the creation of the next. Paired up and bunched up, the salmon fill this narrow stretch from bank to bank. The trout lurk beneath the salmon, slurping stray eggs floating downstream. 

I gingerly walk down the middle of the creek and a wall of fish opens and streams along both sides of me. It’s impossible not to feel like Moses parting the Red Sea. The water sings with the riffles of the shallows and the ripples of the salmon swaying in the current. The rhythms of this place find us and extend an invitation to go with the flow of what is real. 

We accept, casting into the water, into our minds, fishing for whatever this way comes. Few words are exchanged. The shared connection to the land, the fish and the crisp air bonds us together better than words ever could. Time slows and becomes irrelevant. What matters is what’s happening now, not what happened years ago or what will happen tomorrow. It’s intoxicating, this business of feeling alive.

“Ooh – is that a bear?” says Heidi, peering toward the willows along the bank.

My inner calm is disrupted by her voice, but I remain hyperfocused in the moment. All that matters is what’s happening now, and what’s happening now is that two of us are downstream of a bear, two of us are upstream, and our packs are in the middle on a small gravel bar in the creek. Exactly the scenario we’ve been so good at avoiding all day. All we can see is the bear’s face peeking through the brush, but it’s clear he’s enormous, his ears melding into the furry hump behind his head. He creeps into a clearing and turns broadside to us – a polite way of intimidating his neighbors by showing his size. It’s effective.

“Let’s slowly wade toward each other and to our packs,” says Heidi, giving a calm command while keeping her eyes on the bear at the water’s edge. As we clump together in the creek and gather our gear, the bear ambles upstream from us and stops. He turns broadside again. I think he’s exercising his patience by not running us off, but I also think he’s telling us that we have overstayed our welcome in his dining room.

 “We need to leave the creek now,” Heidi says in a steady voice with a hint of urgency, “but we can’t go back up the bank the way we came down because that’s where the bear is.”

We splash across the creek, salmon bodies thrashing against our legs as they race away from us. When our boots hit the ground on the other side, we pick up the pace, scrambling up a steep bank entangled with a wall of willows. Bashing through the brush, we come into a small clearing, only to discover it’s a bear bed dug into the side of the bank. Fortunately it’s unoccupied. Then we see another bear bed, and another. We keep climbing, announcing our presence with “Hey, bear!” shouts, all the while leery of what might be obstructed just steps in front of us. It’s like we’re on an endless staircase to nowhere. 

We push, pull, and grunt our way up and finally reach the top. Flopping onto our backs, blood pumping, hearts racing, no one speaks. The adrenaline subsides and our breathing slows. And then the laughter begins. Laughter at the comical bushwhack up the bank of “bear condos.” Laughter at ourselves for fleeing the scene. And laughter because it’s exhilarating to be in this staggeringly beautiful place sharing this world-class moment with new friends. 

My old friend Ed is right. It’s not so much about the fish; it’s about where the fish take you. ASJ

SIDEBAR: Q&A WITH AUTHOR AMY GULICK 

BY CHRIS COCOLES 

She grew up in the Heartland of America, but Amy Gulick’s heart now belongs to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and salmon.

Gulick hails from Illinois farm country, but after relocating to Washington state, Gulick began to understand how coveted these remarkable fish are along the Pacific Coast. 

“Intrigued that there are still places where people are an integral part of a salmonscape, I set to explore the web of human relationships that revolve around salmon in Alaska,” Gulick writes in her second book about the Last Frontier, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State Of Mind. 

We caught up with Gulick to get a little more details on her fascination with salmon. 

Author Amy Gulick.


Chris Cocoles
 Congratulations on a fantastic book. I know you’ve previously written a book about Alaska, but what was your motivation to take on this project?

Amy Gulick I live in Washington state, where there were once staggering runs of salmon, but today we have less than 10 percent of our historical abundance. And so I’ve always been intrigued that Alaska is still a place – probably the last place in the world –where the lives of people and salmon are linked. I wanted to know what it’s like for people whose lives revolve around these remarkable fish.

CC You touched on this in the book, but what attracted you to your fascination with salmon considering you grew up in Illinois?

AG There is something about salmon that makes me reflect on my own life. The fish face obstacles at every stage of their life cycle, and yet against all odds they persist. Even those that don’t make it to spawn serve a purpose, passing on their life force to bears, birds, marine mammals and people. Salmon teach us that life is temporary and to make the best of it while we’re here.

CC What was your first experience like in Alaska? 

AG My first time in Alaska was life altering. In my late 20s, I drove from Puget Sound in Washington through British Columbia, took the Alaska ferry to Haines, drove through the Yukon to Tok, and down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer. I had never seen so much wild country. It was September, and I watched brown and black bears, the Nelchina caribou herd, beluga whales, and spawning salmon all functioning pretty much as they have for millennia.  

CC This is your second book about Alaska now – Salmon In The Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest in 2010 being your first project from up there. Do you learn something new about the state and maybe about yourself every time you’re there? 

AG Every time I’m in Alaska, I am reminded just how enormous and diverse the state is. And how Alaska Natives, as well as newcomers, have adapted to live in temperate rainforest, boreal forest, tundra, the Arctic, and coastal environments. I am constantly humbled by the raw beauty, the harshness of the wild, and the graciousness of the people I meet.

 

CC In my job as editor of this magazine, so many Lower 48ers I’ve encountered have been mesmerized by the lure of Alaska. Why do you think that is? 

AG In much of the Lower 48, we’ve created living environments where most people are disconnected from what’s real, where we don’t have to think much about where our food or water comes from. We control our temperature, our sound, our scenery by pressing a button. Alaska shows us what is real and helps us connect to our true nature.

CC Your husband Chris was raised in a commercial fishing atmosphere and you wrote about both the commercial fish industry and sportfishing in The Salmon Way. Were you able to get a lot of perspective about the similarities and differences between both industries? 

AG When I was working on The Salmon Way, I spent time with a diversity of salmon people to understand the similarities and differences among commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, Alaska Natives, subsistence folks, and people who fish for personal use. And you know what? Regardless of whether people fish for their food, livelihood or fun, I found that when I asked people what salmon meant to them, everyone said the same thing: Family, community, culture, and connection to the land and a valued way of life.

CC From what I read you were able to really capture the essence of why salmon are such a critical natural resource in Alaska. Given the political climate right now and the controversy of salmon conservationists fighting against projects like the Pebble Mine, how important is it for Alaskans and others to keep fighting for salmon? 

AG Because I live in a region that has decimated its salmon by degrading their habitat, I see how difficult it is to bring the fish back. And once they’re gone, people move on and pretty soon they don’t even know what they lost. Alaska is the last place in the world where we have an opportunity to get it right. It’s why I made my book: To celebrate that the salmon way is still a way of life. 

But there is a cautionary tale to tell too. We live in a time where salmon won’t be around if people don’t fight for them. Whether it’s a Pebble Mine, Susitna Dam, Chuitna Coal, or who knows what else, we lose salmon one stream at a time, one river at a time. It’s a gradual process, but in a few generations they’re gone. So it’s clear that a salmon-filled future in Alaska depends on people fighting for the fish and for a way of life.

CC Throughout the book you’ve profiled many different folks who are involved in one way or another with salmon and/or fishing. Was there was one person you met who really had a lasting impact on you? 

AG Everyone I met touched me in some way, but if I had to choose one person who made a lasting impact on me I would say it was a Native Tlingit woman in Sitka. She taught me the difference between viewing salmon as a “resource” or viewing them as a “relationship.” The word “resource” implies an end product, a commodity. But “relationship” is so much deeper and multi-faceted. If you have a relationship with salmon, then you also have a relationship to a river, a home stream and the ocean. And you probably have relationships with people in your community connected to each other by way of salmon. We show gratitude for healthy relationships because they make our lives richer.

CC In recent years, Alaska and throughout the West Coast, from your current home near Seattle all the way down to California, have endured some difficult times with salmon runs. Do you feel good about the health and future of Pacific salmon here on the West Coast? 

AG Salmon have survived ice ages, volcanic eruptions, drought, floods, and fire. They are hardy creatures that can thrive as long as they have what they need. And that’s the kicker – salmon are one of those species that needs it all. They need clean, healthy, unobstructed freshwater rivers, streams and lakes to spawn and rear, and they need a productive ocean to mature. 

In the Lower 48, their freshwater habitat has been decimated and so the outlook there isn’t good. But in Alaska, the habitat is largely intact. Threats to salmon in Alaska include those that are preventable – overfishing and habitat degradation; and those that are unknown – the effects of a changing climate and acidifying ocean. Maintaining as much healthy habitat as possible will be key to the resiliency of salmon to withstand whatever stressors they’ll face in the future. I have hope for salmon in Alaska because there is still so much habitat for them and many people want their salmon ways of life to continue. Forever.

CC In the book you refer to salmon as “a gift.” Can you expand on that a bit? 

AG Throughout my travels while I was working on the book, no matter where I went or whom I met with, I always seemed to leave with salmon in my hands. I was so touched by the generosity that the salmon people showed me. Many Alaskans told me that salmon are a gift – to the land, waters, animals, plants, and people. And when you’re on the receiving end of a gift, you give back. It’s a way to honor, respect and give thanks to the fish. It’s the salmon way, and it’s the Alaska way. 

Editor’s note: Writer and photographer Amy Gulick has received numerous honors including a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation, the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League. She is the recipient of both the Mission Award and the Philip Hyde Grant Award from the North American Nature Photography Association. 

Her first book, Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest (Braided River, 2010) is both a Nautilus and Independent Publisher Book Award winner. She lives with her husband on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound. Follow Amy at amygulick.com. For more information on her book visit thesalmonway.org.

 

Forbes On The Value Of Copper River Salmon

Perhaps no Alaska fishery gets more attention than the Copper River and its salmon run, which last week got its annual first-class treatment from Alaska Airlines as the first catches of fish were shipped out.

And at a time when wild and fresh salmon are at a premium as many in the industry fight against fish farming in U.S. waters, Forbes magazine asks a relevant question: What is the true value of Copper River salmon?  Here’s a bit from Forbes’ Leslie Kelly:

“It’s really the ultimate salmon eating experience because it’s the first wild salmon run of the season,” said Robert Spaulding, executive chef at Elliott’s Oyster House, where Copper River salmon entrees run between $56 for Sockeye and $66 for King. “It’s kind of like the first tomato of the summer. It’s something you crave.”

I would say yes, Copper River salmon is expensive but worth every penny of it!

Missouri Man, Dog, Eat Berries And Plants To Stay Nourished While Lost In Interior

As the tweets above explain, another tale of survival in Alaska took place recently, when Holmer, 26 and from Missouri, and his dog Mike were lost for 3 1/2 days in snowy and foggy conditions in the Alaskan Interior. Here’s the Fairbanks News-Miner with a little more:

Holmer brought two days of food. He camped alone the second night, and continued hiking the third day, thinking he was on route and would soon reach Chena Hot Springs Resort. However, at some point he realized “things just didn’t look right.”

He spent the third and fourth day doing some “heavy hiking,” trying to find a familiar landmark. Most of the hiking he realized was in the wrong direction. He ate the last of his food — a tortilla and some peanut butter — on the morning of his fourth day. …

Holmer started supplementing his diet with bearberries and a rooty moss. He chose the rooty moss because it was plentiful and he had heard somewhere that roots are usually safe to consume. The roots were painful to chew, but he believed he gained some nutrition from them, especially on the cold night when he struggled to stay warm enough to sleep.

A helicopter finally spotted Holmer and Mike. Man and dog are both doing fine.

First Copper River Salmon Delivered In Seattle

The salmon are here! The salmon are here!

So it goes as the first load of Copper River fish were shipped on Alaska Airlines and arrived today at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. KING5 in Seattle shot video of the event:

 

ADFG Joins Western Native Trout Challenge Program

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

Deep in the West, under a secret rock in a cool stream, lies a prize worth finding. Anglers of all skill levels are invited to participate in the Western Native Trout Challenge and put the lure of the West on their bucket list. In addition to earning bragging rights and prizes at the Expert, Advanced and Master Levels, participants will help the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) conserve 21 species of native trout.

The 12 states where these native trout can be found are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The state fish and wildlife agencies in each of the 12 states are partnering on the effort, along with the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited.

“We are excited to showcase some of Alaska’s exceptional native fish species as part of this challenge,” Dave Rutz, the director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game – Division of Sport Fish, said. “Alaska is known world-wide as an angler’s paradise. We hope anglers who participate in this challenge use this opportunity to explore Alaska’s vast waterbodies to knock a few species off their list. Get out and fish!”

Native trout are the embodiment of the West. The wild rivers, alpine lakes, and trickling arroyos – the fiber of Western geography – are the habitat for the redband, the cutthroat, and the Gila.

The Western Native Trout Challenge invites anglers to help celebrate this legacy by catching native trout and char in each of the 12 Western states, at their own pace. There are three levels of achievement: Participants who catch six trout species across four states will earn “Expert Caster” rewards. Those who catch 12 trout species across eight states will earn “Advanced Caster” rewards. And those who catch 18 species across all 12 states will not only enjoy the adventure of a lifetime, they will also be designated as a “Master Caster” with rewards to match.

Anglers can get details on which fish to catch and where to find them by registering on the WNTI website. Registration is $25 per adult and is free for those 17 and under. The vast majority (92%) of the fee will go toward helping conserve native trout populations for future generations to also enjoy.

“We’re thrilled to be launching this fun way to support native trout conservation across the West,” said WNTI Coordinator Therese Thompson. “For every $25 program registration fee, $23 will go directly back to conservation projects that are helping native trout populations thrive. We want anglers to learn about these unique species and where they can go to catch them. In addition, catching the selected species helps conserve them by promoting angling and fishing license sales for native trout species, which also supports conservation efforts. It’s a wonderful way to help conserve these beautiful species, in beautiful places, at your own pace.”

The Western Native Trout Challenge is complementing a similar effort in some states. Anglers can participate in the Western Native Trout Challenge at the same time they participate in state specific programs, including the Arizona Trout Challenge, California Heritage Trout Challenge, Nevada Native Fish-Slam, Utah Cutthroat Slam and the Wyoming Cutt-slam.

Learn more, and register at www.WesternNativeTroutChallenge.org.

Follow the action on:
Twitter: @WNativeTrout
Instagram: @WesternNativeTrout
FB: /westernnativetrout

The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) is a program of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a nationally recognized partnership under the National Fish Habitat Partnership program that works cooperatively across 12 Western states to conserve 21 native trout and char species across their historic range. Since its inception in 2006, WNTI has directed more than $29 million in federal, public and private funds to serve 139 priority native trout conservation projects. WNTI and partners have removed 87 barriers to fish passage, reconnected or improved 1,130 miles of native trout habitat and put in place 30 protective fish barriers to conserve important native trout populations.

The Great Steelhead Debate: Jigs Or Beads?

Photos by Tony Ensalaco

 

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

BY TONY ENSALACO 

This country is being torn apart, and it appears that our differences won’t be resolved anytime soon. 

No, this isn’t about politics. Both sides of the aisle have been acting like stubborn, immature siblings who are fighting over the last scoop of ice cream, and I want no part of that toxic dialogue. The subject I’m referring to hits closer to my home and is much more relevant for the readers of Alaska Sporting Journal. It’s the long-running debate about what’s the best bait to use for spring steelhead: jigs or beads. 

This has become a hot topic among river rats lately, a debate that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon. I recently sat through a heated discussion between two hardcore metalheaders who saw eye to eye on just about everything that has to do with the sport – until this particular question came up. That is when the camaraderie went south and the gloves came off. 

One of the guys who happened to be a huge jig fanatic swore up and down that a properly presented jig dangled beneath a bobber was the perfect weapon to entice an Alaskan steelhead. 

The other dude was a devout bead junkie and stringently professed his loyalty to those tiny round devices. He wanted no part of the opposing testimony of the jig fan. It was fun listening to how passionately they defended their choices, and they were even more adamant about not giving in to the either’s opinion. 

Of course, bar stools and an abundance of libations were mixed into the fray, which didn’t affect the validity of the conversation. But it did make the verbal sparring quite fascinating throughout the bout.

 

There was a period of time when a plastic single egg or a yarn fly secured to a tiny hook were author Tony Ensalaco’s “go to” baits of choice. After three decades things really haven’t changed. I pretied my leaders and used them in low water or heavy fishing pressure,” he says. (TONY ENSALACO)

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL FOR anglers to become overprotective about their personal preferences. It’s also a fair bet to assume that beads and jigs account for the majority of steelhead landed by gear anglers throughout the Last Frontier, and there is no denying that either of them can be deadly at any given time. 

The bead guy made a compelling argument that salmon eggs make up a large part of a juvenile steelhead’s diet while they are still living in their parent streams, and they will spend months gorging on them before heading out to sea. 

When the fish return as adults, they will recognize something that resembles an egg, which automatically triggers a learned feeding response. 

Then, it was the jig man’s turn to chime in. He claimed that since steelhead feed on squid, crustaceans and small fish in the saltwater, the most effective presentation would have to be a jig. He attributed the jig’s success to the undulating action created by the marabou body, which mimics food found in their ocean diet. 

Steelhead will actively feed up to the time they enter the streams, and it would make sense for them to continue attacking something that they have been recently foraging on. 

When the clash ceased to make progress, they looked to see what I had to say.

And that is when I purposely chose diplomacy by replying that both of them made convincing arguments and had interesting theories on why those baits are so effective. I added something about each method having its place in a steelheader’s arsenal, and neither of them should be fished exclusively or be overlooked. 

That wasn’t quite the answer that either one was looking for and I knew that, but I also realized that ambiguity was the best way to step away from a conversation between two mooned-up steelheaders who had just completed 12-hour shifts on the river.

Besides, whatever I came up with would have been long forgotten by the time they woke up, bleary-eyed with pounding headaches, unfortunate derivatives from their inevitable hangovers. I also knew that if I shared my thoughts, it would have prolonged the conversation until last call, and I wasn’t really looking to start a two-front war with either one of them.

    

Ensalaco fighting one of the many Alaska chromers he’s hooked on jigs along the opposite bank holding under the shadows of the trees. (TONY ENSALACO)

TRUTH BE TOLD: I’M always apprehensive about expressing my opinions when the subject of adult steelhead feeding in freshwater comes up. There are a lot of fishermen who believe the fish will continue to feed once they have entered a river. But from my experience, I haven’t found that to be true. 

I have performed countless makeshift autopsies on hatchery steelhead that were taken home for the grill or the smoker and haven’t found any definitive evidence that steelhead feed in streams. 

Can it, or does it happen from time to time? Probably, but I don’t believe they enter a river with that intention, as much as they are instinctual creatures that will bite something that happens to float past them. 

I have found an occasional egg or two in the stomach of steelhead, but that was a rarity, even when the river was teeming with spawning salmon. I’ve also found bits of twigs and leaves, along with unidentified river gunk, which tells me they’re picking up whatever that comes at them. 

Besides that, on several occasions I have observed steelhead holding along a current seam that appeared to be mouthing and rejecting various debris that drifted past, telling me that it’s their way of defending their space. The fact of the matter is that we will never know the true reason why a steelhead hits a bait until we find a way to communicate with animals. The most important takeaway is knowing how to get fish to bite and not be too concerned about why they do it. 

When re-examining that night at the bar, I don’t know if anyone was trying to imply that spring steelhead actively feed once they enter the streams, as much as they believe a steelhead will hit something because it resembles a past food source. My perspective is that although steelhead have no intellectual abilities, they are certainly territorial and will instinctively respond to objects that approaches them. 

It doesn’t matter if an offering appears to be an exact facsimile of something found in a stream or happens to look like it has been fabricated by a flamboyant circus clown. Steelhead respond to various presentations because they are predators.

There is nothing in the wild that resembles an erratically vibrating plug, yet a steelhead will often pulverize the lure if it comes within 10 feet of the fish. Why? Because it instinctively knows that it has to protect its space. Anglers call that a reaction bite and it’s possible to trigger a response from a fish even when you present something that looks nothing like anything found in nature. That example seems to prove that steelhead will react to or ignore different presentations because they are territorial, and not because it was a past food source.

One of the many piles of jigs the author tied in preparation for his April spring steelhead trip to Alaska. These are some of his favorite color schemes. (TONY ENSALACO)

 

SO, WHICH BAIT DESERVES the top honors in the aforementioned debate? I can say without hesitation that it depends. I’m sorry about the evasiveness, but I have to analyze the conditions before I can determine what I’m going to use. 

I will consider several factors, such as how long the fish have been in the river (stage of the run), fishing pressure, water clarity, current speed and the depth of the holding water. All of these things influence my decision about what I attach to the business end of my leader.

What I can tell you is that I have been using some sort of egg imitation since I started pursuing salmonids back in the early 1980s with fantastic results, and I don’t think it’s ever a mistake to try faux eggs in any condition. 

There was a period of time when a plastic single egg or a yarn fly secured to a tiny hook were my “go-to” baits of choice whenever I wasn’t able to get my hands on the real thing. I have always fished them with complete confidence. I would use an imitation almost exclusively, even on rivers that didn’t enforce a bait ban. A lot of the guys around me were using fresh eggs, but their catch rate didn’t seem to be significantly higher or lower than mine, so there was no reason for me to change my style.

Fast forward 30-some years and now beads are the “glamour bait” in the steelheading community, which doesn’t surprise me. They’re inexpensive, simple to use, and most importantly, they’re super effective. You can fish them under a plethora of conditions and remain confident that you are fishing at a high level. 

What I like about beads is that they can persuade a neutral or negative fish into hitting, which can be a difficult task when the fish have been in the river for a while or there is heavy fishing pressure on the stream. There are days late in the season when small beads and light tackle are the only way to get a response.

Beads are also hard to beat when fishing in clear, shallow water, especially when you can see the fish holding in front of you. Beads are the perfect size to get a steelie’s attention, but subtle enough so they will not spook the fish. 

Another productive way to present a bead is to remove the bobber, add some weight to the mainline and roll them along the bottom. This allows you to change and control the route the bead is traveling downstream, which can help entice a finicky steelhead to bite.

If there are any disadvantages to bead fishing, the most obvious one would be that beads might not be the best choice in off-colored water due to their small size. When the river is running high and dirty, you will be better off using a bait that has a large profile, or better yet, something that creates some flash and gives off a vibration, such as spinners or spoons.

Besides the problem with the visibility issue, beads aren’t very intimidating to a steelhead in heavier current flows. Oftentimes, a steelhead will ignore an offering and/or move out of its way if it doesn’t appear to be threatening. 

If you insist on drifting beads in excessive river flows, then I recommend trying to compensate for the poor visibility by using fluorescent, supersized beads that could help increase your chances of a hook-up. But in my opinion, there are better options when faced with high-water conditions.

  So, it sounds like I’m a dedicated bead disciple, right? Wrong. I’m a hardcore jig man. I love fishing painted lead and colored feathers whenever I can, but I didn’t initially embrace the jig revolution the first time I tried the method. It took some time.  

An Alaskan steelie taken on a bead. So we can probably say you can catch fish via both beads and jigs. And as veteran angler Ensalaco writes, this represents “A debate that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon.” (TONY ENSALACO)

I WAS INTRODUCED TO jigs by a well-known guide on the Skykomish River, near Seattle, Washington, back when the method was just starting to gain momentum. My guide anchored the driftboat over an uninviting, slow-water side pool, and he handed me a long spinning rod rigged up with a bobber and some sort of pink, fluffy concoction attached to the end of my line. 

He instructed me to let the rig float downstream until I lost sight of the bobber – then do it again and again. The time it took to finish a drift could have been measured in minutes, which doesn’t really hold the attention of someone who suffers from ADHD, like myself. 

The guide didn’t fully grasp the concept at the time and thought jigs were only used in slow currents because of the expanding and contracting motion of the marabou. After going fishless for about 20 minutes, I wasn’t all that impressed by the new sensation, so I asked him if we could scrap the plan and go back to plugging. In the guide’s defense, he admitted that he’d just started experimenting with jigs and hadn’t figured out all the nuances.   

 It wouldn’t be until several years later that jig fishing became a regular fit into my steelheading regimen. I learned how effective the technique could be while I was fishing with my buddy Danny Kozlow on a less-than-average week of steelheading on Alaska’s Situk River about a dozen years ago. 

The spring run was late that year because the river’s water temperature was averaging in the low to mid-30s during the week we were there. Due to the frigid water temps, there was only a trickle of fresh steelies that were willing to leave the saltwater and ascend the stream. 

The fall-run holdovers hadn’t flushed back downstream out of Situk Lake and the few ocean fish in were bright. Despite the icy water, they were more than willing to play if you happened to find them. We did have some sporadic action, but unfortunately, there weren’t very many fish congregated in any one area. 

Danny elected to use a bobber and jig, while I chose to stick with a traditional drift-fishing presentation. I would start at the top of the run and systematically work my way downstream, making several repeated casts through the holding water. It would take me several minutes to thoroughly cover a run. 

Meanwhile, Danny would position himself in the middle of the run and cast as far as he could upstream and let the bobber float to the end of the drift. It only took Danny a handful of casts to cover the water. 

Because he was fishing quickly and efficiently, Danny was able to pick off most of the cooperative steelhead before I got the chance to get my bait in front of the fish. That experience (ass kicking) taught me that a bobber and jig set-up was the perfect tool to search for active fish, and that I needed to re-examine the jig phenomenon if I wanted to keep up with the times. 

Since then, I have implemented a jig strategy whenever there is a recent push of fish in the system, and I am sure that the change in tactics has improved my fishing. It’s no secret that when an ocean-run rainbow first enters a tributary and becomes acclimated to the freshwater, it will be at its physical best. There is a definite advantage to tossing jigs. 

DON’T GET ME WRONG: A chromed-out steelie that is fresh in from the salt will attack almost anything. However, I prefer to use jigs when the fish are super aggressive. A brightly colored marabou jig with pulsating action seems to challenge the fish to attack.

I also dig the larger and stronger hooks found on most steelhead jigs because they increase my landing percentage. These new arrivals haven’t been subjected to fishing pressure and they’re definitely not line shy, which means you can get away with using heavier equipment. 

I enjoy putting the “screws” to a steelhead from all of the years I spent fishing the log-infested tributaries of the Great Lakes. It’s reassuring to know that I can lean back a little harder when I am fighting a hot fish. Bead fishing is more of a delicate presentation, which normally requires lighter line and smaller hooks that matches the size of the bead. 

That’s fine if the river is wide open and void of snags or if the steelhead have been in the stream for a long period of time and they are not at their physical best. Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to land large fish on light tackle. Noodle rod enthusiasts have been proving that for decades. 

However, a good fisherman knows that the odds of landing a steelhead are usually stacked against him, so it makes sense to use stout equipment whenever you can to help balance the playing field.

Another scenario when a bobber and jig might be the best option is when you are fishing from a moving boat and you’re targeting pocket water, the small, relatively shallow areas around or behind rocks, logs, or other obstructions where fish will often rest. 

When you pitch a jig into these places, the weight of the lead head will straighten out the line and pull the jig down into the fish zone. Your jig will be fishing shortly after it enters the water. That’s important when you are floating downstream and you might only get one chance to place a precise cast into the pocket water. 

Unfortunately, the reason why a jig works well at times can also be a disadvantage in certain situations. I’m talking about fishing in water about 2 feet or less. The difference between jigs and beads is where the weight is located. The weight of a jig is attached to the body of the bait, while a bead rig is weighed down by a sinker – usually a split shot – that is secured several inches above the bead. 

If an angler misjudges the depth of the holding water and has too much line between the jig and the bobber, the jig will dredge the streambed and won’t be very desirable to a steelhead. I have seen steelhead dig a jig out of the gravel, but I wouldn’t recommend fishing that way. 

A bobber and bead combination have more room for error. If you run a bead rig too deep, the bead will still drift downstream below the weight while still continuing to fish. 

There are times when I am bead fishing and I will purposely hold the bobber back in the current by creating tension on my mainline. This causes the bead to drift in front (downstream) of the bobber instead of letting it suspend directly underneath of the float. 

Fly anglers who use indicators have been practicing this technique for years while sight fishing for fish in shallow water. This trick works great when the steelhead are holding in water that can be measured in inches, and there isn’t enough depth to fish the rig the way God intended it to be used.

THESE ARE SOME OF the things that I have discovered from my past piscatorial experiences in the 49th state. I strongly recommend cataloging some of these ideas in your steelheading archives under the title “Loose Guidelines to Follow” section. 

None of these concepts are written in stone anywhere; just ask any veteran steelheader. He will most likely tell you that there is an exception to every rule, and to fish whatever way that gives you the most confidence, which is probably the best advice an angler can receive. 

One other thing: Remember the two guys I mentioned at the beginning of the story who were arguing at the bar? Well, I saw one of them on the river the next morning. He appeared to be a little slower than usual, probably due to the residual effects from all of the escapades of the previous night. 

I am not going to say which one, but as soon as he caught up to me, he looked over his shoulder and whispered, “Dude, don’t tell ‘so and so,’ but do you have any extra __? I never carry the stuff.” 

What can I say? Steelheaders can be opinionated, but they certainly listen to one another! ASJ