Category Archives: Featured Content

Hunter Injured After Surprising Brown Bear Sow And Cubs

Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia

Alaska moose hunters had a harrowing confrontation with a bear last week around Gunsight Mountain, north of Palmer . Check out the video from KTVA TV in Anchorage, which has more on the story:

“Reportedly the two hunters surprised a sow brown bear with two cubs,” troopers wrote. “The sow attacked one of the hunters causing serious injuries.”

According to AST, the second hunter shot the adult female bear and ended the attack. The hunters then evacuated to a cabin and the injured hunter was flown by helicopter to an Anchorage hospital for treatment.

The report also says the bear was shot and killed during the attack. Here’s the full AST report:

Date: 9/9/2019 10:56:15 AM

AK19061774

Location: Eureka
Type: Bear Mauling

Dispatch Text:

On 9/6/19 at approximately 1900 hours, it was reported to Alaska Wildlife Troopers that a moose hunter was attacked by a bear in the Eureka/Gunsight Mountain area.  Reportedly the two hunters surprised a sow brown bear with two cubs.  The sow attacked one of the hunters causing serious injuries.  The second hunter was able to shoot the sow and end the attack.  The hunters self-evacuated to a cabin where the injured hunter was transported by Lifemed Helo to an Anchorage hospital for treatment of his injuries. Other hunters were able to confirm that the sow was deceased. ADF&G was notified.    

ADFG Seeking Proposals For Mat-Su Valley Habitat Restoration Program

The following is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game;

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish is currently accepting proposals for the 2020 Mat-Su Valley Habitat Restoration & Protection Cost-Share Program. The submission deadline is 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019.

The Mat-Su Habitat Restoration & Protection Cost-Share Program, administered cooperatively by ADF&G and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is a financial incentive and educational outreach program directed towards private landowners and public land managers. The program provides technical expertise about restoration practices, state and federal permitting assistance, and funding for salmon habitat restoration and protection projects along streambanks on the Mat-Su Borough. Funds are limited and not all projects can be funded; however, selected landowners could have up to 2/3 the cost of their project reimbursed. Additionally, ADF&G staff provides educational opportunities to landowners, public land managers and the public on the components and value of fish habitat. The program uses and funds proven bioengineering techniques such as coir logs, willow plantings, cabled spruce trees rootwads, and elevated light penetrating walkways to help stabilize, revegetate, and rehabilitate streambanks.

“Fall is here, which means it’s time for landowners to submit their proposals for the 2020 Mat-Su Habitat Restoration & Protection Program. The deadline for submissions is 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019” stated Habitat Biologist Jessica Johnson. “Even if you are unsure of what needs to be done to help your bank, please contact me so we can discuss your streambank or shoreline. Any little bit a landowner can do to rehabilitate or protect their banks helps support and maintain healthy juvenile salmon habitat and their populations.”

For an application and additional information, please contact the program’s Habitat Biologist Jessica Johnson at (907) 267-2403 or by email at DFG.DSF.StreambankRehab@alaska.gov. Additional information is also available on the ADF&G Cost-Share Program webpage.

NOAA Reveals A ‘Blob’ In The North Pacific

NOAA’s rendition of the new heatwave – aka a “blob” – that’s located up down the Pacific Ocean coast from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest. (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a new “blob”, caused by an oceanic heatwave, is covering waters in the Pacific Ocean and potentially affecting North Pacific salmon. A similar blob was detected in 2014, and this one appears to be even bigger.

Here’s some of NOAA’S release after a conference call was held on Thursday:

About five years ago “the Blob” of warm ocean water disrupted the West Coast marine ecosystem and depressed salmon returns. Now, a new expanse of unusually warm water has quickly grown in much the same way, in the same area, to almost the same size.

The warm expanse building off the West Coast stretches roughly from Alaska south to California. It ranks as the second largest marine heatwave in terms of area in the northern Pacific Ocean in the last 40 years, after “the Blob.”

“It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. He developed a system for tracking and measuring heatwaves in the Pacific Ocean using satellite data. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.”

Cold water welling up from ocean depths along the coast has so far held the warm expanse offshore, he said. However, the upwelling, driven by coastal winds, usually wanes in the fall. The heatwave could then move onshore and affect coastal temperatures, he said. This already appears to have happened along the coast of Washington. …

Like “the Blob,” the new heatwave emerged over the past few months. A ridge of high pressure dampened the winds that otherwise mix and cool the ocean’s surface. The heatwave remains relatively new and is primarily affecting the upper layers of the ocean, it could break up rapidly.

“It looks bad, but it could also go away pretty quickly if the unusually persistent weather patterns that caused it change,” said Nate Mantua, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Current forecasts show the heat wave moderating but continuing for months.

A key question is whether the new heatwave will last long enough to affect the marine ecosystem. Biologists say that its large size means it probably already has. For example, warmer conditions during “the Blob” left lesser-quality food available to young salmon entering the ocean. It also shifted predator distributions in ways that contributed to low returns of salmon. …

..NOAA Fisheries’ two West Coast laboratories collaborate on the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment. This is a joint effort to track and interpret environmental change off the West Coast. That provides a framework to monitor shifting conditions, Harvey said.

One challenge will be applying lessons learned from the last heat wave to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts of the new one. For example, the warm water of “the Blob” led humpback and other whales to feed closer to shore. Record numbers became entangled in lines from crab traps and other fishing gear.

In response, fishermen, managers, and others have formed working groups in California, Oregon, and Washington. They hope to find ways of reducing the risk of entanglements.

PacificOceanAnomaly.jpg

The marine heatwave that has formed off the West Coast of North America is currently close to the warmest area in the Pacific Ocean. Map shows sea surface temperature anomalies, with darker orange representing temperatures farther above average. Image from NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

The marine heatwave that has formed off the West Coast of North America is currently close to the warmest area in the Pacific Ocean. Map shows sea surface temperature anomalies, with darker orange representing temperatures farther above average. Image from NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

Real-time research on environmental changes will give managers the details they need to respond, said Kristen Koch, Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “This is a time when we all need to know how our marine ecosystem is changing, and what that means for those of us who live along the West Coast.” 

The new northeast Pacific heatwave reflects current weather patterns. This includes a band of high pressure stretching north to the Bering Sea and Alaska, which have been unusually warm in recent years, said Nick Bond, a research meteorologist with the Joint Institute for the study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle, a collaboration between NOAA and the University of Washington.

“There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem,” said Bond, who is credited with naming “the Blob.” “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.

Our fearless leader and executive editor Andy Walgamott has more on the story on the Northwest Sportsman blog. 

Kenai Silver Salmon Derby Hoping To Raise Awareness On Riverbank Protection

The following is courtesy of PR Newswire and the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby:

KENAI, Ala., Sept. 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — As part of its mission to educate the public on protection of river banks and other riparian zones in the City of Kenai, The Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center and the City of Kenai are hosting the Third Annual Kenai Silver Salmon Derby. The family-friendly fishing tournament will run from September 13th through September 16th, and September 20th through September 22nd.

Named “The World’s Most Responsible Fishing Tournament,” the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby is a new kind of fishing tournament that reduces selective fishing practices that lead to catch-and-release injuries which compromise the health of the silver salmon population in the Kenai River. Net proceeds will be donated to the Kenai Community Foundation to support management and protection of river banks and other riparian zones in the City of Kenai.

“Fishing is an integral part of Kenai’s culture and heritage,” says Paul Ostrander, City Manager for the City of Kenai. “We invite members of the community to take part in this truly Alaskan experience while also contributing to conservation efforts that support wild salmon populations.”

For fisherman of all types and ages, the day is usually filled with smiles, high-fives, and coolers filled with silver salmon.

Local businesses have been an integral part of The Kenai Silver Derby and have generously contributed to the cause. Sponsors include Three Bears, Phillip Scales, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Main Street Tap & Grill, Buckets Sports Grill, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Country Foods IGA, the Odom Corporation, Northrim Bank, and Bluetick Inc.

The Kenai Silver Salmon Derby awards prizes using a Magic Weight that is randomly drawn at the end of each derby day. Since any fish over four pounds is eligible to win, anglers of all skill levels have a chance to earn prizes.

The daily prize is awarded to the registered participant with a fish whose weight is closest to the daily Magic Weight. All daily entries, regardless of daily winner status, are eligible to win the overall Magic Weight prize, which will be selected at the conclusion of the final day of the Derby.

To register for the daily derby prize at the Weigh-In Station, ticket-holding participants should bring their fish to the Weigh-In Station at Three Bears in Kenai between the hours of 8:00am to 8:30pm on Friday and Saturday of the event and 9:00am to 7:30pm on Sunday.

The Derby Entry fee is $10 for one day, or $50 for the entire Derby. Tickets are available starting September 3rd and can be picked up at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitor CenterThree Bears, and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

To learn more about the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, visit www.KenaiSilverSalmonDerby.com or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KenaiSilverSalmonDerby/.

Early Monster Holds On All Summer To Win Valdez Halibut Derby

Christine Ives photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

The following is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

 VALDEZ, Alaska – In the Valdez Halibut Derby, it was Christine Ives of Fairbanks who held on to win the derby. Ives caught a 285.6 pound halibut on June 6th aboard the Nunatak. Ives said that she had never been halibut fishing before and had to be talked into buying a Valdez Halibut Derby ticket. Ives was surprised at the notoriety she received as the leader of the derby. “I’ve had people stop me around Fairbanks and be like ‘hey you’re the girl that caught that halibut’ and I was like ‘Holy Cow! I can’t believe you know about that’”.

Christopher Barnes of Moorehead, Minnesota captured 2nd place in the halibut derby with a 225.6 pound halibut caught on June 24th aboard the Sea Quester. Joshua Curry of Valdez won 3rd place in the halibut derby with a 213.4 pound halibut he caught on July 21st aboard the Mistress.

Christine Ive’s winning Halibut was caught aboard the Nunatak and the captain of that boat, Dave West, won the $500 Captains prize and the ticket seller’s prize of $500. In the Silver Salmon Derby, it was Jane Karlsten that won the Captain’s Prize. The seller of the winning Silver Salmon Derby ticket was Dixie Shipman. She won a $500 ticket seller’s prize. The winner of Big Prize Friday was John McCay of Valdez with a 12.46 pound silver. Next year’s dates, as well as pictures and information about the 2019 winners, can be found at www.valdezfishderbies.com.

St. Cloud, Florida’s Tom Karlsten won the Valdez Halibut Derby (15.32 pounds)

Tom Karlsten of St. Cloud Florida has been fishing Valdez with his wife Jane for many years, but this year they had to try some unconventional ideas to get the big silver salmon. Jane Karlsten said she prefers trolling for silvers because she loves to watch the shoreline but on August 19th the fish weren’t biting so they anchored up and dropped a line.  “I always thought that jigging was not that productive,” said Jane Karlsten. “I was wrong.” The Karlstens first came to Valdez in the summer of 2011 and they knew they had to keep coming back. “If we were youngsters, we would be living here,” commented Jane Karlsten. Karlsten’s 15.32 pound silver salmon held onto the lead through the end of the Silver Salmon Derby. Karlsten and his wife not only take home the $10,000 first place prize, but Jane also won the $500 Captain’s prize. Tom Karlsten credits his wife for putting him on the fish.

Pravat Phumin of Valdez took 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby with a 14.68 pound silver he caught on August 13th aboard the Seagull II. Phumin’s 2nd place silver netted him $3,000 in cash. Frieda Wiley, who holds the distinction of catching the largest halibut on record in the Valdez Halibut Derby, won 3rd place in the Silver Salmon Derby this year with a 14.48 pound silver she caught August 28th aboard the Orion. Wiley’s catch was worth $1,500 cash. In 2017 Wiley reeled in a 374.0 pound halibut to win 1st place in the Valdez Halibut Derby.

 Halibut Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Christine Ives               Fairbanks, AK              285.6 lbs.         June 6              Nunatak
2nd        Christopher Barnes       Moorhead, MN             225.6 lbs.         June 24            Sea Quester
3rd        Joshua Curry                Valdez, AK                  213.4 lbs.         July 21             Mistress

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners

1st           Andrea Brenney           Cedar, MN                   174.0 lbs.         Aug 27             The Reflection
2nd       Brendan McCabe        Valdez, AK                 165.0 lbs.         Aug 28            The Refraction

 Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Tom Karlsten              St. Cloud, FL              15.32 lbs.         Aug 19            Long Shot
2nd       Pravat Phumin             Valdez, AK                 14.68 lbs.         Aug 13            Seagull 2
3rd        Frieda Wiley               Valdez, AK                 14.48 lbs.         Aug 28            Orion

Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast Tanner Crab Fisheries Seasons And Permits Available

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

(Homer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced today the Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast sport and subsistence Tanner crab fisheries season, gear, and limits for 2019-2020. In Kachemak Bay, east of a line from Point Pogibshi and Anchor Point (see Areas D & E in maps below), the sport and subsistence fisheries will provide more harvest opportunity than the remaining areas. The 2017 through 2019, legal male abundance estimates from the Kachemak Bay trawl survey exceeded the restrictive fishery threshold levels and allows for less restrictive fisheries. To ensure that the Tanner crab harvest in Kachemak Bay remains less than 10% of the 3-year average legal male abundance, the season will be from October 1 through December 31, 2019, and January 15 through March 15, 2020. Participants harvesting crab are allowed two pots per person and a maximum of two pots per vessel. The bag and possession limit is five legal sized male Tanner crabs per person in Kachemak Bay.

In all other Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast areas (see Areas A, B, & C in maps below), the sport and subsistence fisheries seasons, pot and bag/possession limits will remain the same as the last two seasons. This includes an open season from October 1, 2019, through February 28, 2020, with participants allowed one pot per person and a maximum of one pot per vessel. The bag and possession limit is three legal sized male Tanner crabs per person.

A valid permit is required to participate in either fishery. Permits are ONLY available online through the ADF&G online store located under the “Fishing Permits” tab. Permits will be available starting Wednesday, September 4, 2019. While a Tanner crab fishery permit may be obtained online, participants are required to have a printed and signed copy with them while fishing for Tanner crab and harvest must be reported in ink on the permit before catch is concealed. Please refer to the online permit for maps and regulations of the sport and subsistence Tanner crab fishery areas.

To receive a Tanner crab sport permit, a sport fishing license is required. Alaskan residents may receive a Tanner crab subsistence permit without a sport fishing license; however, we encourage individuals to obtain only one permit type. There is no added benefit to having both permits.

Each permit holder is responsible for reporting online by March 31, 2020, even if the permit holder did not fish. Individuals who fail to report online by March 31, 2020, WILL NOT be eligible for a permit the following year.

As a reminder, in May 2019, ADF&G issued letters to inform individuals that they will be denied a permit for the 2019-2020 season due to not reporting their 2018-2019 harvest. Approximately 16% of individuals issued a permit last season will be denied permits this season. The list of individuals that are denied a permit will be incorporated into the online store to prevent them from obtaining a permit this season. Denying permits to those individuals that failed to report last season is expected to improve compliance and lead to more timely and accurate harvest information.

For additional information, please contact Sport Fish Area Management Biologist Mike Booz or Commercial Fisheries Area Management Biologist Jan Rumble at (907) 235-8191.

Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast Tanner Crab Fisheries Seasons and Permits Available

Spearfishing World-Record Halibut In Homer

KTUU has the details on a world-record halibut that was taken via spearfishing.

Finally, Dornellas was able to exhaust the fish, swim back up current to the boat, and hand it off to the crew, who could gaff it in the gills and haul it out onto the boat. The exhausted diver collapsed on the deck.

“Everybody on the boat just blows up in laughter and disbelief, and just screams of joy, and I just laid back and breathed for a little while, because I was zapped,” he said. “I’ve fought some big fish in my life. I’ve hunted dogtooth tuna, I’ve shot and landed more than I can count, and that fish has me more addicted to that kind of a fight than any dogtooth tuna has ever given me.”

The fish was brought to shore, weighed at the Homer harbor, and is now pending world record status, which could be certified by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association. Currently the record for Pacific Halibut is listed as 96.2 lbs, hunted with a polespear. Dornellas’ monster: 149 lbs.

On The Comeback Trail From Despair

Photo courtesy of Gwen Grimes

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES 

After what she’d been through, how low she’d gotten and how empty she felt, there was no way Gwen Grimes was going anywhere.

Never mind that she was suffering through triple-digit Mexican heat coming from her snow-covered Alaska homestead, being ravaged by bugs and bitten by a tarantula. In other words, a miserable place to spend 21 days with no clothes and just a few tools to help you get through. 

Grimes, just a few years removed from having her law enforcement career ruined in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, agreed to participate on the Discovery Channel series Naked and Afraid when the show contacted her with an invitation. It was one of two phone calls that have given Grimes a second chance. 

“That was one of the questions production had asked before they even sent me out into the field. ‘What would be one thing that would make you tap (out)?’” Grimes, 48, says. “I said nothing’s going to make me tap. I don’t care what you throw at me.”

Fate threw Grimes an unwanted changeup four years ago. In an instant, that car that smashed into the rear of her patrol car while she was on duty with the Wasilla Police Department. Injuries suffered in the wreck effectively ended her career as an active-duty police officer. 

“Everything’s gone. Completely gone,” was how she describes the aftermath.  

So maybe this was an opportunity to get something back.

Grimes (right) with fellow Alaskan and Naked and Afraid alum LeeAnn Duncan.

AS A KID GROWING up in western Oregon, Grimes’ family didn’t totally live off the grid, but it was certainly off the beaten path. Halfway between Eugene and Florence on the Oregon coast, Grimes grew up in the ultimate rural household. She was so far away from civilization, she referred to the little “Podunk town” of Elmira as the closest to the family home. And even that community was a 45-minute drive.

“We were pretty poor. We hunted, trapped, fished,” Grimes says. “In the morning, before I’d hop on the bus to go to school, during hunting season my dad would wake me up at friggin’ four in the morning and we’d go out and hunt until it was time for me to go to school.”

Grimes, the oldest of five siblings, experienced even more of a “country” upbringing when her dad moved the family to Point Hope, Alaska, a North Slope community of mostly Native Alaskans on the Chukchi Sea. 

“We were the only white family out there. (But) we actually integrated really well into the community out there,” Grimes says. 

(Point Hope would become a rather sentimental place to Grimes and her family. “I was reassigned to Point Hope when I was a North Slope Borough police officer, so it was like coming home. Being welcomed back into the community. That was pretty cool. And my brother also is a police officer up there. And he’s stationed at Point Hope right now. So it’s cool because of the deep family ties to some of the communities that are up on the slope.”)

Alaska would become home for Grimes, who would have a family and ultimately nine years as an officer on the North Slope. But the widespread coverage area she was working – her schedule was two weeks on and two weeks off – and the chance to be closer to her kids prompted a move to Wasilla, where she joined that Mat-Su Valley community’s police department. 

Things were going well in Wasilla also three years into her stint there. 

 “I was the department’s hostage negotiator, so I was gearing my career up. I was doing patrol work, I was a field-training officer for rookies coming in,” she says. “I was doing all this cool stuff. It was awesome and I was having fun. Then, bam.”

Officers around the globe are sometimes injured, or worse, in the line of duty, a risk of the job. But Grimes was seriously hurt not in a shootout, a fight or even while engaged in a high-speed chase. She was simply stopped at a traffic light on Main Street in Wasilla. 

“Out of the blue the inside of my patrol car just exploded. Glass in slow motion was just flying around my face. I felt this really sharp pain in my upper chest. I thought I’d been shot because it felt like this instant explosion and then this searing pain,” she says. 

“I didn’t realize at the time that I’d been hit from behind by a ¾-ton pickup trip that had been traveling 55 mph and not paying attention to anything. Didn’t see the red light, and without even putting on his brakes he hit me at full impact while I was in a dead stop.”

 The point of impact most affected Grimes’ left shoulder, which was pulled by her seat belt and caused severe nerve damage. She would lose 40 percent of usage in her left arm. And the news gets worse when you consider that Grimes is a natural left-hander. 

“So with that lack of sensation and that nerve damage, I can’t fire a handgun anymore so I can’t keep doing police work, because that’s kind of a critical aspect of being a cop,” she says with a sheepish laugh. “I was not ready for that to happen.”

It got worse. While she was eligible for disability, it just didn’t pay as much as she made working for the force. It became too expensive to raise her kids in Wasilla. So she settled on the homestead in Eagle, hard on the Yukon River just west of the Canadian border. She was able to build a house on the property, but it wasn’t the easiest of transitions. 

Grimes felt alone. She’d spent most of her savings in a desperate attempt to save the Wasilla home (she’d lose it to foreclosure). 

“I lost my house, my job. I lost everything, so it was like you were at the bottom of the bucket and everything looked grim,” she says. “All of your friends kind of shied away from you, because cop-wise, you were kind of the leper now. You got hurt and, holy crap, they could get hurt too. So it was in the forefront of their minds that this happened to this person and could happen to them too.”

One thought was constantly in the back of her mind: “I’m not ready to be done being a cop.”

So what next? 

Photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel

IF THERE’S ONE MOMENT in Grimes’ Naked and Afraid appearance – her episode, brilliantly titled Baked Alaskan, premiered in March – it was that damn tarantula. After Discovery Channel producers found out about her story and offered her a chance to participate, Grimes took it. 

She and partner Jon Hart, a Pennsylvania endurance athlete, were dropped off in a southern Mexico coastal forest, where the heat index – even in spring – can rise to as much as 130 degrees.

“I went from Eagle, where I think it was 20 degrees outside and snowing,” Grimes says.

Climbing a steep ridge to get to a drinking water source was as difficult a task as she would face upon the partners shedding their clothes and studying a map.

Over what would become a successful 21-day stay, Grimes and her cohort caught elusive crabs from the beach – “We figured out that you couldn’t catch them by yourself. One would find them and the other would come up and stab it with a stick,” Grimes admits – gathered fruit and berries and finally got a fire started to help fend off flesh-eating sand fleas and ants. They made the duo miserable over an entire fireless night.  

“I was covered from head to toe. I felt like a meth addict. I had scabs all over my body. It probably took six months to heal from all those,” she says. “That was the hardest part. Just constant aching pains.”

But it was another insect friend that would define Grimes’ three nude weeks south of the border. One night of sleep was interrupted by a tarantula’s bite. 

“Son of a bitch. That hurt. Something just bit me,” Grimes, channeling her inner Forrest Gump, called out in the middle of the night. 

Gwen and her partner Jon Hart successfully got through 21 days in sizzling Mexico. (Photo by Discovery Channel)

Grimes, who was also temporarily sidelined when she severely stubbed her toe earlier in the challenge, enacted her spider revenge when her stomach was rumbling for protein – any protein. Granted, when they found a big, hairy arthropod hanging on a tree branch, there was no way to know if it was the same spider that hanged its fang into the Alaskan. But why not conclude it was so you can play out the ultimate eye-for-an-eye result?

And then, hungry and not picky about foraging for a food source, they ate the tarantula.

“It was so nasty. Just like burnt ass,” Grimes says of the taste. “The thought never crossed my mind to eat a tarantula until one bit me.” 

They were so close to completing their challenge as day 21 beckoned. It started with another brutal climb and descent from a ridge while carrying limited water sources. And when they got to the beach, they faced a swim over raging waves crashing into the shore and then a swim through the choppy waters to reach their extraction point boat.

As crazy as it sounds the lesser concern for Grimes was probably that bull sharks inhabited the bottom of the sea. Remember that her barely working left shoulder makes it impossible to make a typical swimming motion. 

“The first time we’d gone out we tried to get into it and it wasn’t happening. One (wave) whitewashed me onto the bottom of the ocean, and I knew there were bull sharks down there. I am not that familiar with ocean swimming,” Grimes says. “We had to wait down there for about five hours for the tide to go out enough that the waves weren’t so bad that you couldn’t physically go into them.”

“By the time we finally got those breakers past the reef, my arm was just shot. I couldn’t move it anymore and the nerves were too inflamed. I was doing the one-armed dog paddle.”

But she made it. And nothing felt sweeter than exchanging hugs and high-fives with Hart, devouring the watermelon and cantaloupe the producers brought for them, a much-needed meal of chicken enchiladas, and the extra day she spent drinking beers and bonding with the local villagers. 

“I was proud of myself for accomplishing it on and not letting that stuff crush me or beat me. It was something I needed to do and I did it,” she says. “I love challenges and it was an epic challenge. It tested everything – physical, mental, spiritual. It was an incredible inexperience.”

A couple years after Grimes felt like her life had no purpose, 21 days on a television show she’d never heard of would change everything. And then the phone rang again.

NAKED AND AFRAID CHANGED Grimes’ life. After her episode aired, she was contacted by a representative from The Wounded Blue, which helps brother and sister law enforcement officers injured or traumatized on the job. 

“He said, ‘You’re an injured officer. We’re an organization that’s for you. That’s what we do. We help wounded officers. It’s like a lifeline,’” Grimes says. “They were interested in having me as one of their peer support counselors. I’m like, ‘Holy crap! That would be fantastic! I’d love to do that.’”

The plan is for Grimes to train for her position this fall, then become The Wounded Blue’s Alaska representative for officers who endure similar trauma that she suffered. 

“I’ll be able to talk to them through all the things that happen when you get injured in the line of duty. I didn’t even know there was any help available when I got hurt. I felt cut off, abandoned, alone,” she says. “But there is an organization around there to help and now they want to be a part of it. At least I have direction now. I’ve got something to where I can keep helping other people.”

The helping hands part has spilled over to her home life as well. Grimes and her boyfriend Nate, a wounded veteran, are establishing their own nonprofit group, Wyldwoodz Wilderness Retreat. Grimes will soon be an empty nester, and she and Nate plan to build a cabin on their homestead, which will house disabled veterans and police officers.

Gwen and her boyfriend Nate have started a nonprofit to assist veterans suffering from PTSD.

Eagle seems like an ideal place for healing injuries and PTSD symptoms. 

“There’s nobody up here, it’s quiet, you’re not running into people and there’s no drama. There’s no internet unless you go to the library. Nothing. It’s remote,” she says. “I wanted the peace. I needed the peace. I needed to be able to mentally deal with all the crap that I’ve done in the last decade.”

The hope is any broken men or women who visit her retreat can spend a day fishing, hiking or biking, or that she counsels through the pending gig with The Wounded Blue, can have someone who understands that sh*t happens in combat or on duty.  

Grimes had an informal chat with a friend and colleague who recently visited her homestead. The man was involved in a shooting and opened up to someone who can relate to when something goes bad. 

“He said, ‘This is the place where I can come and find peace and just let everything go,’” Grimes recalls. “This is the place where people can come, heal mentally and kind of get away from that rat race down there.” ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on The Wounded Blue, go to thewoundedblue.org. Wyldwoodz Wilderness Retreat’s website is wyldwoodz.com. Check out discovery.com/tv-shows/naked-and-afraid/ for more on the Discovery Channel series. 

 

Florida Participant Takes The Lead In Valdez Silver Salmon Derby

The following is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

VALDEZ, Alaska – It’s a pretty sure bet that there’s a silver salmon bigger than 15.32 pounds swimming around in Prince William Sound but whether an angler with a Valdez Fish Derby ticket will catch it and weigh it in before the end of the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby is anyone’s guess. Currently Tom Karlsten of St. Cloud, Florida is leading the derby with a 15.32 pound silver he caught August 19th aboard the Long Shot. Karlsten said his wife is the Captain and credited her for putting him on the fish. If Karlsten’s silver is at the top of the leader board at the end of derby Sunday, September 1stat noon, he stands to win the $10,000 first place prize. The angler taking 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby will win $3,000 and the 3rd place derby angler will win $1,500. The smallest silver to ever win the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby was Jim Burzinski’s 15.11 pound silver caught back in 1971. The largest silver salmon ever caught in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby weighed in at 22.14 pounds.

St. Cloud, Florida’s Tom Karlsten moved into first place in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby (15.32 pounds). (VALDEZ FISH DERBIES)

Silvers are being caught in the Valdez Arm in good number and the concentration of silvers in Port near Gold Creek, Allison Point and even the Valdez Boat Harbor is increasing. The Valdez Silver Salmon derby is the oldest derby in the state, but records for winners only date back to 1971. The derby was started by the Chamber of Commerce in 1952 and many years back Bill Wyatt, owner of Bear Paw RV Park and owner of a small hotel in the 50’s, recalled the prize for the first derby was $500 and the first winner of the silver derby was Loren St. Amand with an 18.8 pound silver salmon. A history of the Valdez Fish Derbies can be found HERE.

The lead in the Valdez Halibut Derby is still being held by Christina Ives of Fairbanks. Ives reeled in a 285.6 pound halibut June 6th aboard the Nunatak. The 1st place prize in the halibut derby is $10,000 cash, the 2nd place prize is $3,000 and the 3rd place prize is $1,500. The largest halibut ever caught in the Valdez Halibut Derby is the 374 pound fish caught by Frieda Wiley of Valdez in 2017. Halibut fishing has been good for most anglers getting out further. Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests trying large bait on muddy bottom off a rocky slope in 200 to 300 feet of water when fishing inside Prince William Sound.

The final Big Prize Friday of the season is this Friday, August 30th.  The angler catching the largest silver salmon this Friday will take home $500 in addition to the daily prizes. The Valdez Fish Derbies, both halibut and salmon, will end Sunday, September 1st. Weigh-In will close at Noon on Sunday, September 1st and the derby awards party will be held 6pm Sunday night at the Elks Lodge.

New week, same leader in the halibut derby. Christina Ives has held the top spot since early June.

Halibut Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Christine Ives               Fairbanks, AK              285.6 lbs.         June 6              Nunatak
2nd        Christopher Barnes       Moorhead, MN             225.6 lbs.         June 24            Sea Quester
3rd        Joshua Curry                Valdez, AK                  213.4 lbs.         July 21             Mistress

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners

1st           James McCay               Valdez, AK                  98.2 lbs.           Aug 19             Lena Claire
2nd       Steve Hylton               Boise, ID                     92.2 lbs.           Aug 20            Orion

 Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Tom Karlsten              St. Cloud, FL              15.32 lbs.         Aug 19            Long Shot
2nd       Pravat Phumin             Valdez, AK                 14.68 lbs.         Aug 13            Seagull 2
3rd        Tobey James Fisher    Tifton, GA                  14.42 lbs.         Aug 16            Kittywake

Drought-Like Conditions Creating Issues For Salmon, Wildfires

Alaska has endured a summer that the Last Frontier usually doesn’t experience. It’s been hot and dry, and salmon have been affected to the point that rising water temperatures are believed to be the culprit in fish die-off scenarios in multiple rivers (we’ll have a full report in our September issue.

Here’s the Washington Post with more:

Just about every temperature record has fallen in a state that’s running 6.2 degrees above normal since June. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all hit 77 degrees in Anchorage, setting record high temperatures for the date, compared with the average high, which is 65 degrees. …

The balmy weather sounds nice in theory, but for Alaskans watching their landscape melt and burn, it’s anything but. Nearly 2.5 million acres have burned in more than 600 wildfires this year in Alaska. This is not yet a record for the season, but according to Thoman, the 1991-2010 median-to-date is 681,000 acres.

Now it appears that several regions throughout the state are in full-fledged drought mode. And as Alaska Journal of Commerce says, salmon are being affected:

Shallower lakes and rivers across Southcentral and Southeast Alaska were the first to heat up. In the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, lakes like Larsen and Judd, where the Alaska Department of Fish and Game operates weirs for sockeye salmon, reached 80 degrees. The Kuskokwim River in western Alaska registered water temperatures about 10 degrees greater than normal, likely contributing to a reported salmon die-off as the fish headed upstream.

On the lower Kenai Peninsula, the Anchor River hit its warmest temperature on record on July 7: 73 degrees. It’s dropped since then to about 66.2 degrees, but the spike was troubling, said Sue Mauger, a scientist with Homer-based conservation nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper. The lack of rain has contributed to the temperature increases too.

“I think (the snow) melted out fast,” she said. “It takes a really long time for that volume of water (after a rain event) to warm up again … a rain event can be really significant in these streams.”