Category Archives: Featured Content

Huge Homer Halibut Quite A Catch

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Photo courtesy of Nyle Lightcap Homer/Chamber of Commerce

Jackson Hobbs has quite a tale to tell to fellow Eagle Scouts. He caught a 335-pound halibut that put him as the leader in the clubhouse during the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby. This could turn out to be very profitable visit to the Last Frontier for Hobbs, who was vacationing from his home in Franklin, Idaho.

From the Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch:

Fishing aboard the Venturess with skipper Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing, Hobbs, 16, hauled in a monster 335-pound fish that bested the previous leader by more than 57 pounds.

Homer Chamber of Commerce director Jim Lavrakas said official derby records don’t list the age of previous champions, but nobody he’s spoken with can remember a younger angler winning the derby, which began in 1986.

 “We believe this is the youngest possible derby winner in derby history,” Lavrakas said Wednesday from Homer.

If Hobbs’ fish remains the derby leader through the event’s Sept. 15 conclusion, he’ll take home at least $10,000. Before Hobbs weighed his fish, only one halibut weighing more than 200 pounds was on the leaderboard.

The fish was turned in just half an hour before Tuesday night’s 9 p.m. deadline, narrowly escaping disqualification. Derby rules say any fish has to be caught the same day it’s punched on an angler’s derby ticket. Between the late weigh-in and the large size of the fish, Lavrakas speculated the fishing party must have gone far out of port to land the leviathan.

Hobbs reportedly told derby officials the fish “only took a half-hour to bring in.”

We’re rooting for you to take home the big money, Travis!

Bering Sea Gold Returns Friday




Last winter, we profiled the Discovery Channel show, Bering Sea Gold, focusing our story on opera singer/gold dredger Emily Riedel. The show returns with a new season on Friday night; here are some details on the upcoming season, plus  couple preview links:


 Series Premieres on Friday, August 22, at 9 PM E/P on the Discovery Channel

(Los Angeles, Calif.) – The ambitious treasure hunters are back at it again.  Life isn’t easy for the gold dredgers in the frontier town of Nome, Alaska.  But that doesn’t stop them from hunting gold in one of the world’s most inhospitable places – the bottom of the frozen Bering Sea beneath four feet thick sheets of ice.   From Original Productions, creators of the multiple Emmy Award-winning series DEADLIEST CATCH, the fourth season of BERING SEA GOLD premieres Friday, August 22, at 9 PM E/P on the Discovery Channel


To the Nome dredging fleet, gold equals freedom.  This year, the fortune seekers head out in search of the American dream – each determined to top last year’s record-setting gold haul.  But can they put their personal battles aside, withstand the arctic environment and concentrate on finding treasure? 


After establishing herself as a successful captain, 26-year-old Emily Riedel is back at it again with a brand new, expensive state-of-the-art ice dredge.  Facing major debt, Emily is feeling the pressure to find gold fast and prove that her success as Nome’s first and only female dredge owner was not a fluke. Meanwhile, Emily’s eccentric father, Steve Riedel, is sidelined and planning his ultimate comeback after bottoming out and losing his dredge to the repo man. The Pomrenke duo are back at it as well – this father/son team pulled in a record-setting haul last summer but Shawn Pomrenke, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Gold,”  has never succeeded under the ice.  This year’s ice season crews include:

 Bering Sea Gold 2

Emily Riedel returns to Nome to try and strike it rich on the news season of Bering Sea Gold. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL) 


  • The Shamrock:  Shawn Pomrenke and his dad Steve are fixtures in Nome year-round, running their increasingly successful mining company.  However, the guys have never had a lot of success during the winter dredging season – with sub-zero temperatures and snow storms hammering their crew.  Also, Shawn can be short-tempered and combative which doesn’t help. Can he keep his cool even when the going gets tough?
  • The Reaper: Having severed ties with Steve Riedel, the fighting Kelly’s are keeping it in the family this season.  Sons Kris and Andy are working with their dad, Brad, but there’s one big problem.  They rarely see eye-to-eye.  Let the fighting begin!
  • The Eroica: Emily Riedel has faced a lot of uphill battles over the years.  Last season, she parted ways with her former childhood friend (and love interest) Zeke Tenhoff – following the suicide of their close friend John Bunce.  As Nome’s first and only female dredge owner, Emily has a lot to prove and hopes that she can earn enough money to pay off her debts and save up for her big opera ambitions.  She has floundered as a greenhorn and exposed her fear of diving.  However, she eventually struck gold last summer and now everyone is back for more.
  • Miss Nomer: Zeke Tenhoff has returned to Nome and is ready to strike it rich.  After facing his personal demons – and a few battles with the law – Zeke is back with a new girlfriend, Sarah, who he met while visiting New Orleans. Zeke has teamed up with dredge-geek Glen LeBaron.  But can Glen keep his ego in check?  Or will this turn into the ultimate grudge match?
  • Steve’s World:  Steve Riedel is hoping for some major change in luck.  He was fired from his first dredge, failed at ice mining and lost his dredge from last summer after it got repossessed.  Once the summer season kicks in, Steve plans to pull out all the stops.  But for now, he’s sidelined in a remote compound on the edge of town, simply known as Steve’s World.
  • The Wild Ranger: Over the past three seasons, Vernon Adkison has leveraged everything he owns – with nearly a million in the hole – for his dream of striking the mother lode.  For Vernon, the stakes have never been higher – and he’ll either make it or truly break it this season.

reveals the real-life dangers of a job with no typical day at the office.  As each day passes, the ambitious fortune seekers have only one option: find the gold before debt takes hold.  BERING SEA GOLD is produced for Discovery Channel by Original Productions, a Fremantle Media company.  For Original Productions, executive producers are Thom Beers, Philip D. Segal, Jeff Conroy and John Gray and Sean Dash. For Discovery Channel, Executive Producer is David Pritikin.

About Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.8 million U.S. homes, can be seen in 210 countries and territories, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please


Deadliest Catch Scores Big At Emmys

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Deadliest Catch, the Discovery Channel’s ode to Alaskan crab boat skippers and their crews, has appeared on our cover twice this year (see above), and we were excited to see the show that’s now in its 10th season scored bit at the 2014 Primetime Creative Arts Emmys earlier this month. Congrats, guys!

Here’s the release from our friends at the Discovery Channel:

Discovery Channel’s DEADLIEST CATCH won big at the 2014 Primetime Creative Arts Emmys® on Saturday, August 16, taking home three awards including a win for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.  The series, which recently wrapped its landmark 10th season on Discovery Channel, also won for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming and Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming.    

 These latest wins are in addition to an Interactive Emmy for Multiplatform Storytelling for SKYWIRE LIVE WITH NIK WALLENDA.  The companion website for the live event for tightrope walker Nik Wallenda’s epic walk over the Grand Canyon featured compelling video, 360-degree interactive views, backstage moments, real-time social updates and many other digital elements.

DEADLIEST CATCH profiles the men who risk everything to work the most dangerous job in the world – crab fishing in the icy, treacherous waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea.  This past season of Deadliest Catch had a ratings streak, as the #1 show on cable on Tuesday nights among key demos for 16 consecutive weeks.

In the Emmy®-winning season 10 premiere, the wary veteran skippers cement their legacies on the Bering Sea with the young guns trying to create their own… But they better be careful what they wish for.  This King Crab season they are here to stay, but it’s not going to be easy. A government shutdown shortens the season, which starts off a series of dangerous chain reactions that force the fleet to fish harder and faster to make the market deadline.

DEADLIEST CATCH is produced for Discovery Channel by Original Productions, a FremantleMedia Company.  The following people were recognized for their work on DEADLIEST CATCH:


Thom Beers, Executive Producer
Jeff Conroy, Executive Producer
John Gray, Executive Producer
David Pritikin, Executive Producer
R. Decker Watson, Jr., Co-Executive Producer

Johnny Beechler, Supervising Producer
Geoff Miller, Supervising Producer

Cinematography Team 

Josh Earl, A.C.E., Supervising Editor
Rob Butler, A.C.E., Editor
Art O’Leary, Editor

B.C. Mine Accident And Alaska Response

Here’s an interesting take on last week’s Mount Polley mine accident in British Columbia that was sure to trigger a response in Alaska, which has been locked in a tug-of-war over the Pebble Mine project. 

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam “validates fears Alaska fishermen have regarding Canada’s proposed development of large-scale hardrock mineral mines near transboundary rivers with Alaska,” Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has opposed EPA intervention at the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, asked Kerry to intervene to ensure regulation at Canadian mines.

“The tailings breach at Mount Polley mine … has renewed the specter of environmental impacts from large scale hard rock mineral developments in Canada that are located near transboundary rivers,” Murkowski wrote.

“Thousands of Alaska natives, commercial fishermen, and tourism industry shareholders have legitimate concerns about the potential impacts that large scale mining in Canada could hold for them.” …



Environmental Protection  on the concern regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project:

“We don’t want this to happen in Bristol Bay,” said Kim Williams, director of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of Alaska Native Tribes and corporations. “With all the similarities between Pebble and the Mount Polley copper mine, we’re urging the EPA to take immediate action to finalize mine waste restrictions in Bristol Bay,” she continued.

On Monday, a tailings dam failure caused over five million cubic meters of wastewater to spill from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper and gold mine, flowing into the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed, and causing officials to enact a number of water use and drinking water bans. The Mount Polley Mine in B.C. and the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska are both large, open pit, copper porphyry mines, with a modern tailings dam design, located at the headwaters of an important fishery.

“Our research shows that these tailings dam failures are far more common than the industry wants to admit,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks northwest office.  “In the U.S. more than a quarter of the currently operating copper porphyry mines have experienced partial or total tailings pond failures.” She continued, “That’s why the EPA’s plan to restrict mine waste in the Bristol Bay watershed is so critical to the future of our nation’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, ”

Such an event will only add to the tension.






Deadliest Catch Season Finale Coming Next Week

Our friends at the Discovery Channel have been great in setting us up with some interviews to do profiles on both Johnathan Hillstrand, captain of the crabbing vessel Time Bandit, and the Northwestern father and daughter team of Capt. Sig Hansen and his new deckhand, Mandy Hansen.

The show’s 10th season finale is this Tuesday, Aug. 5. Here are some photos courtesy of Discovery:

Discovery Channel


Discovery Channel


Discovery Channel



Peculiar Choice Added To Alaska Fisheries Board By Parnell



Alaska’s Pebble Mine opposition is feeling a little miffed right now. Word is out that Gov. Sean Parnell has named Ben Mohr as his “fisheries advisor.” A big deal? Well, if you factor in that Mohr spent six years representing the fisherman’s biggest enemy, the Pebble Mine project.

You can only assume how this news is being received in the Last Frontier:

The Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch

This is the time of year year when the governor appoints people to official positions. Parnell is delivering a couple of real doozies. In searching high and low (especially low) for a fisheries advisor, the governor landed on the six-year spokesmodel for the Pebble mine project, a guy named Ben Mohr. You know Pebble, the project that plans to build a giant poison lake at the headwaters of Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers. Mohr is definitely a guy you want making policy to ensure the health of our fisheries for the next millennium.

 In 2011, the governor appointed Mohr to the board of directors of the Alaska Humanities Forum because … well, I have no idea. Good grooming comes to mind.

 Yes, the guy who pimped Pebble and then worked as campaign manager for Ohio’s golden boy, Dan Sullivan, is now advising the governor on fisheries policy. Good thing we care so little about our fish that we’re comfortable letting political hacks manage them.

Undercurrents News 

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s recent selection of the next fisheries advisor is likely to leave some scratching their heads.

He appointed Ben Mohr, who worked for the Pebble Partnership and worked for years as a Pebble Partnership employee, reports Fish Radio.

“Alaskans overwhelmingly oppose the Pebble Mine, yet Parnell has done everything in his power to push this mine through the permitting process and wreak havoc on Bristol Bay’s valuable fishery,” Kay Brown, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, said.

Ben Mohr has been appointed by Parnell to replace Stephanie Moreland. Mohr worked six years as a spokesperson for the Pebble Partnership. He also has worked as a campaign manager for Dan Sullivan, the candidate for U.S. Senate who previously pushed for Pebble mine as DNR Commissioner.

Northern Dynasty is attempting to develop a copper, molybdenum, and gold deposit on state land despite peer-reviewed scientific studies finding that the mine would negatively impact salmon in Bristol Bay.  Local Lake and Peninsula Borough residents passed an ordinance opposing Pebble Mine, and public opinion polls show overwhelming bipartisan opposition to the project.

Ben Mohr is just the latest controversial appointment of Parnell’s.

And that’s the way it is on a Thursday in Alaska.






Kenai River Salmon Fishing Shut Down

You could see this one coming.

All the signs were dismal pointing toward the 2014 Kenai River king salmon season.  Then came the news the famed river would be closed to fishing until July 1. 

Bears will have the Kenai River salmon to themselves due to a closure to all fishing for kings. (EARL FOYTACK)

Bears will have the Kenai River salmon to themselves due to a closure to all fishing for kings. (EARL FOYTACK)


Now comes the sobering news the Kenai will be closed to all sport and commercial fishing for the remainder of the season that was scheduled to run through July 31.

Just last week, the river was limited to a first: catch-and-release only with barbless hooks due to declining return projections.

From the Peninsula Clarion:

The closure, effective Saturday, triggers a closure of commercial setnet fishing on the East Side of Cook Inlet and is meant to conserve Kenai-bound king salmon which are not currently projected to return in large enough numbers to make the escapement goal on the Kenai River.

As of July 23, the sonar estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River was 8,023 fish and current projections put the final escapement between 13,500 and 14,000 fish — below the river’s escapement goal range of 15,000-30,000 fish.

Daily estimates of king salmon passage into the river have remained in the low hundreds of fish — the highest passage to date was Sunday, which saw more than 1,000 fish pass the sonar. Counts have since dropped significantly.

Fish and Game sport fish division area management biologist Robert Begich said the high passage on Sunday helped bump projections upward but continued low counts kept projections lower than what is needed to make the escapement goal.

Begich said projections would have to increase dramatically for the fishery to be reopened.

“If 5,000 kings came into the river overnight, if a miracle happened, yeah we’d turn it back on,” he said. “We just want to make the goal and it’s just a day-to-day thing. It’s going to take a lot to (reopen).”



EPA’s New Proposal Limits Could Scuttle Pebble Mine Project

The Environmental Protection Agency made a new proposal that could threaten the Pebble Mine project at Bristol Bay. Opponents to the mine point to Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery, and the EPA has come to the area’s defense and opposed the project.

Opponents of the Pebble Mine have some new hope with the EPA's latest proposal. (CHRIS COCOLES)

Opponents of the Pebble Mine have some new hope with the EPA’s latest proposal. (CHRIS COCOLES)


Here’s a portion of the EPA’s latest report:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 is requesting public comment on a proposed  determination to restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed for disposal of dredged
or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit, a large ore body in southwest Alaska. EPA
Region 10 is taking this step because of the high ecological and economic value of the Bristol Bay watershed and the assessed unacceptable environmental effects that would result from such mining.
This proposed determination relies on clear EPA authorities under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and is based on peer-reviewed scientific and technical information. Its scope is geographically narrow and it
does not affect other deposits or mine claim holders outside of those affiliated with the Pebble deposit.
EPA Region 10 is taking this step pursuant to Section 404(c) of the CWA and its implementing regulations at 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 231.
Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed (Figure ES-1) is an area of unparalleled ecological value, boasting salmon diversity and productivity unrivaled anywhere in North America. As a result, the region is a globally
significant resource with outstanding value. The Bristol Bay watershed provides intact, connected habitats—from headwaters to ocean—that support abundant, genetically diverse wild Pacific salmon
populations. These salmon populations, in turn, maintain the productivity of the entire ecosystem, including numerous other fish and wildlife species.


The Nushagak River is one of Bristol Bay's vital salmon spawning grounds that opponents of the Pebble Mine fear could be affected by mining. (BRIAN LULL)

The Nushagak River is one of Bristol Bay’s vital salmon spawning grounds that opponents of the Pebble Mine fear could be affected by mining. (BRIAN LULL)

The Los Angeles Times  had a report on the report:

EPA officials said they would prohibit any discharges or dredging from the planned Pebble Mine above Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay that would result in significant destruction or alteration of salmon-bearing streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds.

Plans for mining copper, gold and molybdenum by the Pebble Limited Partnership call for an open pit operation nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon that would result in “excavation of almost unfathomable amounts of rock,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran told reporters.

Even the most limited version of the project studied by the federal agency would dig up enough matter “to fill one of the largest professional football stadiums more than 880 times,” McLerran said Friday. “Quality salmon habitat is at a premium, and we can ill afford to lose so much of it at the headwaters of our greatest remaining fishery.”



Blue Crab Caught In Alaska

I remember going to Baltimore a few years back – for some reason choosing this mid-Atlantic destination with a friend in the middle of torrid and humid July. Perhaps it was because my vacation window was usually open in the middle of the summer, or that we made the plans around a visit from my beloved Oakland Athletics to see them play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Baltimore's famed aquarium and Inner Harbor.

Baltimore’s famed aquarium and Inner Harbor. (CHRIS COCOLES)


When my friend left to go back to Washington D.C. for a few extra days and I had a day to myself before catching an evening flight, I took the water taxi to Fells Point and had lunch at a quiet pub. I had some Maryland crab soup with some of the famous blue crabs the Chesapeake Bay region is famous for. 

But I never envisioned a blue crab like the one that was pulled out of Alaskan waters:

As seen in the Nome Nugget, crab fisherman Frank McFarland holds up a rare blue-colored red king crab that he caught in his commercial crabbing pots. Frank Kavairlook Jr. looks on. (Photo: Scott Kent, ADFG)

 Photo by Scott Kent, ADFG

From the Associated Press:

KNOM reports Frank McFarland found the blue king crab in his pot when fishing on July Fourth off Nome. The blue king crab is being kept alive at the Norton Sound Seafood Center until McFarland can have it mounted.

The rare blue king crab has become a rock star of sorts, with people showing up at the center to have their photos taken with it.

Recommended: Name that animal!

Scott Kent, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Nome, says he has no idea why the red king crab is blue, but suspects it’s just a mutation.

Kent says a blue crab “turns up once in a blue moon.”


That would make for a rather large meal in Baltimore.





Lower 48 Men Die In Tragic Accident

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Many of our stories in Alaska Sporting Journal provide you with tips and experiences for do-it-yourself Alaskan adventures. While having a guide is comforting, and, in many instances, more likely  conducive to fishing or hunting success, there’s a freedom and peace of mind in doing your own research and catching that monster Chinook or bagging that Sitka deer.

But there are risks involved, even if you know the area, which two Lower 48ers apparently were when they traveled to the Petersburg area for a fishing trip.

Here are the details from WYFF in Greenville, S.C.:

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen identified the men as 45-year-old Jonathan Comfort, of Clayton, Delaware, and Kenneth Rupprecht, 58, of Tamassee. She says they had plans to spend about a week in the area.

Troopers said the men had called police for help, but were found dead hours later after a major search according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“These two gentlemen went to a lodge to do a self-guided fishing trip,” Ipsen said. “They have done this fairly often and know the area.”

Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert said Comfort and Rupprecht were in an 18-foot Lund skiff on Sumner Strait, north of the Level Islands and south of Kah Sheets Bay, when they went into the water.

They called the Petersburg Police Department shortly before 6 p.m.

“It looks like the people in the water had contacted PPD via cellphone for 45 minutes,” Eggert said. “They (said they) had (personal flotation devices), but no survival suits; the cellphone call cut out.”

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to search for the skiff, with Alaska State Troopers in both Wrangell and Petersburg alerted to assist with the search. While a full shoreline search of the area was unsuccessful as of 10 p.m., troopers found the capsized skiff and the Jayhawk crew found a cooler it had been carrying.

At about 11 p.m., Eggert says the Jayhawk’s crew reported spotting the two men in the water near the overturned skiff.

“The MH-60 directed troopers to the location of the people; each was recovered and determined to be deceased,” Eggert said. “Neither of them were wearing a life jacket with personal locator beacons when found.”

The last paragraph stands out that the men were without a flotation device. No matter how many times you’ve done such a trip as the report suggests, it’s always wise to take every possible safety precaution in a place as unforgiving as Alaska.