Category Archives: Featured Content

Local Fishermen, Washington senator apply anti-Pebble Mine pressure

Sen. Maria Cantwell (in green), joins local fisherman and community members at Thursday's Stop Pebble Beach Rally in Seattle.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (in green), joins local fishermen and community members at Thursday’s Stop Pebble Mine rally.

By Chris Cocoles

SEATTLE – Chilly temperatures greeted a hearty group of an estimated 150 fishermen and community members attending Thursday’s Stop Pebble Mine rally at the Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Among several speakers who took the podium was Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), who has penned a letter headed to President Obama in Washington pleading to kill the proposed mining operation that could affect Bristol Bay’s rich salmon fishery and the 14,000 jobs it supports.

“We’re certainly sending a letter today, and we’re emphasizing the regional economic importance of the salmon industry to Washington State and to the larger region, and asking (the president) to take action to protect it,” said Cantwell, who was then asked if she was frustrated with the lack of a public statement from the president on this matter.

“Well, this (Environmental Protection Agency) report just came out last week, and obviously there’s a lot going on. We certainly want to sharpen the focus of the administration that this is an important economic issue, and a vital one for everyone.”

You can read Cantwell’s full letter to Obama here, but she wrote in part:

“I write you today to urge your Administration to use its authority to safeguard the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, and keep them protected from devastating mining pollutants. Washington state’s maritime economy is worth more than $30 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 148,000 jobs. Recent scientific evidence shows that pollutants from the proposed development of large scale mining near Bristol Bay would irreversibly harm this vital salmon habitat and put in danger Washington’s entire maritime economy.”

“I think the important thing is we forced the science to be done,” Cantwell said after the rally. “A lot of people I think were thinking, ‘Let’s wait until a later point in time.’ But this industry, here in Ballard, said to me this is too important an issue to wait and see what happens when it’s millions of dollars through the process. It’s going to cause a problem; let’s realize that right now. And I think that scientific study that was done really helped crystallize that.”

On her reaction to last week’s lengthy EPA findings, Cantwell said: “I was kind of shocked that a (mining) proposal like this would be proposed given the economic impact and the dangers of that material to something as critical as a vital watershed for salmon. When you look at the information, you are shocked that anyone would propose such a thing. I think the science was a very long process and thought out. And that’s what’s important about science is to do that homework. It’s pretty indicting of the notion that anybody should propose something on that scale on that headwater.”

Local chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas is spearheading a campaign of more than 250 chefs who also plan to put the full-court press on the Obama administration to block the proposal led by mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

“We have 800 co-workers who use salmon as their living, and we are so proud of that,” Douglas said.

One of the most impassioned speeches Thursday came from Alannah Hurley of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay; she is a Yup’ik Eskimo who is a subsistence fisherman and a commercial set netter.

“The EPA watershed assessment said it loud and clear: If our salmon are harmed in Bristol Bay, it will devastate the nutritional, the social and the spiritual health of our people. I don’t have to think about that very hard because they are referring to me. They are referring to my neighbors,” she said.

“The pro-mine folks say mining and salmon can coexist. All of us here today know that is not possible. The science of the assessment proves that this type development of within our watershed will devastate it. And therefore, it will devastate people like you and me who rely on it.”

Local fisherman Brett Veerhusen spoke for his colleagues who attended the rally, He is one of thousands of Pacific Northwest commercial fisherman and sport anglers who work Bristol Bay’s waters

“I think what’s really brought this attention, is the Bristol Bay fishery provides 14,000 jobs nationwide. And what we’ve been able to do is rally fisherman across the country and get them to understand how important it is to protect our natural resources. And we’ve been able to put a lot of pressure by educating and doing outreach with other fishermen nationwide,” Veerhusen said

“We’re not against mining. This is just the wrong mine in the wrong place. We don’t need the gold that bad.”

Photos By Chris Cocoles 
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Moose Season Extended in Barrow

If you have desire to hunt moose in the extreme northern part of Alaska, you’ll have more chances to do so. The Alaska Board of Game agreed to extend the moose hunting season by 16 days and will affect the areas around Nome, Bethel, Barrow and Kotzebue.

From the Bristol Bay Times:

The season has been extended by 16 days and now runs from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30. Hunters in the region have long been requesting the extension to the end of September to allow for cooler temperatures, which offer better conditions to take care of the meat. The moose harvest is relatively low — just nine moose taken in the area in 2012 and five the year before. And while the population of moose in Unit 26A declined significantly between 2008 and 2011, the moose population within the trend-count area has increased as of late. In the 2012, the bull-cow ratio was 68 -100, “suggesting that small increases in the harvest of bulls are unlikely to interfere with population growth,” read a comment report from ADF&G.

Board of Game member Bob Mumford was one of two members who did not support the proposal.

“At this point we should err on the side of caution,” he said at the meeting on Monday.

But other members were confident with department’s promise to watch the population closely and adjust accordingly.

“… the department has made me feel comfortable that they feel comfortable,” said member Nate Turner.

Board of Game chairman Ted Spaker added that there is reason to be cautious, but he thinks bulking up the season by two weeks will not affect the population adversely.



EPA’s Final Assessment Finds Plenty Of Risks In Bristol Bay Mine

EPA’s Final Assessment Finds Plenty Of Risks In Bristol Bay Mine

By Andy Walgamott, on January 15th, 2014


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released its final Bristol Bay Assessment describing potential impacts to salmon and ecological resources from proposed large-scale copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The report, titled “An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” concludes that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures. Bristol Bay supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, producing nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year.



“Over three years, EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources,” said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. “Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years. The assessment is a technical resource for governments, tribes and the public as we consider how to address the challenges of large-scale mining and ecological protection in the Bristol Bay watershed.”



To assess potential mining impacts to salmon resources, EPA considered realistic mine scenarios based on a preliminary plan that was published by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. EPA also considered mining industry references and consulted mining experts. Numerous risks associated with large-scale mining are detailed in the assessment:

Risks from Routine Operation

Mine Footprint: Depending on the size of the mine, EPA estimates 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes would be destroyed. EPA estimates an additional 9 to 33 miles of salmon-supporting streams would experience altered streamflows likely to affect ecosystem structure and function.

Waste and Wastewater Management: Extensive quantities of mine waste, leachates, and wastewater would have to be collected, stored, treated and managed during mining and long after mining concludes. Consistent with the recent record of similar mines operating in the United States, polluted water from the mine site could enter streams through uncollected leachate or runoff, in spite of modern mining practices. Under routine operations, EPA estimates adverse direct and indirect effects on fish in 13 to 51 miles of streams.



Risks from Accidents and Failures

Wastewater Treatment Plant: Short and long-term water collection and treatment failures are possible. Depending on the size of the mine, EPA estimates adverse direct and indirect effects on fish in 48 to 62 miles of streams under a wastewater treatment failure scenario.

Transportation Corridor: A transportation corridor to Cook Inlet would cross wetlands and approximately 64 streams and rivers in the Kvichak River watershed, 55 of which are known or likely to support salmon. Culvert failures, runoff, and spills of chemicals would put salmon spawning areas in and near Iliamna Lake at risk.

Pipeline: Consistent with the recent record of petroleum pipelines and of similar mines operating in North and South America, pipeline failures along the transportation corridor could release toxic copper concentrate or diesel fuel into salmon-supporting streams or wetlands.

Tailings Dam: Failure of a tailings storage facility dam that released only a partial volume of the stored tailings would result in catastrophic effects on fishery resources.

The assessment found that the Bristol Bay ecosystem generated $480 million in economic activity in 2009 and provided employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose and caribou.

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under the Clean Water Act to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper, gold and molybdenum mining venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. Other tribes asked EPA to wait for a mine permitting process to begin before taking action on the potential environmental issues Pebble Mine presents.

Before responding to these requests, EPA identified a need for a scientific assessment to better inform the agency and others. EPA and other scientists with expertise in Alaska fisheries, mining, geochemistry, anthropology, risk assessment, and other disciplines reviewed information compiled by federal resource agencies, tribes, the mining industry, the State of Alaska, and scientific institutions from around the world. EPA focused on the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds, which support approximately half of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon runs.

EPA maintained an open public process, reviewing and considering all comments and scientific data submitted during two separate public comment periods. The agency received approximately 233,000 comments on the first draft of the assessment and 890,000 comments on the second draft. EPA held eight public meetings attended by approximately 2,000 people. EPA consulted with federally recognized tribal governments and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act village and regional corporations.

The study has been independently peer reviewed for its scientific quality by 12 scientists with expertise in mine engineering, salmon fisheries biology, aquatic ecology, aquatic toxicology, hydrology, wildlife ecology, and Alaska Native cultures.

The agency reviewed information about the copper deposit at the Pebble site and used data submitted by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including the document titled “Preliminary Assessment of the Pebble Project, Southwest, Alaska,” which provides detailed descriptions of three mine development cases representing 25, 45 and 78 years of open pit mining. The 45-year development scenario was presented as the reference case in the Northern Dynasty report.

Over the course of the assessment, EPA met with tribes, Alaska Native corporations, mining company representatives, state and local governments, tribal councils, fishing industry representatives, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, and members of Congress.

EPA produced the report with its authority to perform scientific assessments under Clean Water Act section 104. As a scientific report, this study does not recommend policy or regulatory decisions.

For more information on the EPA Bristol Bay Assessment, visit


Nushagak king salmon run looking strong for 2014

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Photos courtesy of Jake’s Nushagak Salmon Camp


Eli Huffman of Jake’s Nushagak Salmon Camp offered this report:

The 2014 Nushagak king salmon run is predicted to be a very good year.

The economy of the last five years has been a challenge for most outfitters in Alaska with a 60-percent  decline in fishermen and many operators going out of business.

Fortunately, the last 3 seasons have seen some of the best king salmon fishing in the Nushagak’s history The phenomenal fishing, and a high percentage of return guests, has helped Jakes prosper during the economic turmoil. We just celebrated our 30th year thanks to wonderful guests, excellent employees, and the best king runs in the world.

The 2013 run was in full blossom by middle June with the kings streaming through. For the 3rd year in a row the fishing was amazing with our boats setting records for the number of kings caught per day. The most unusual aspect was the fact that for the second year in a row early June through the third week were very warm with NO rain. Dillingham set a record of 19 days of pure sunshine.

The 20 hour a day sunshine caused the water to warm and the flood of sockeye began weeks early. Escapement for the reds is usually reached during the second week of July or later. This past season escapement was reached by the end of June which never happens. With the king escapement numbers running substantially ahead of schedule Fish and Game opened up commercial drift and setnet fishing 24 hours a day and our fishing slowed.
July is normally some of our best fishing with the stronger part of the run streaming through. But the fishing slowed when the nets went down.. Although some days in July were challenging by Nushagak standards our guests still harvested their limits and released plenty of fish back in the river to spawn. You know you are spoiled when over a dozen kings is a slow day.

Please click the links at the bottom of this page for fishing reports and articles from recent years.


Please give us a call if we can answer any questions or help you plan a visit.

Eli Huffman


713-865-3932 cell
866-692-9085 toll free

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Another Pebble Mine Story

Not a lot of newsy material here that isn’t already known, but a nice perspective from a couple journalism students writing for McClatchy News Service about the fishing vs. mining debate (and if both industries would ever be able to succeed working side-by-side) that is the Bristol Bay Pebble Mine controversy.

Here’s a segment of the report from Diana Blass and Marina Cracchiolo:

Oil and gas largely drive revenue in Alaska, but those resources mainly stay in the U.S. – and they’re dwindling. Over the last decade, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association reported a 39 percent drop in production.
State Rep. Mia Costello, a Republican from Anchorage, thinks the Pebble Mine could be a way for Alaska to diversify its economy.
“Pebble is like a second Prudhoe Bay,” she said.
Sitting in the living room of her Anchorage home, Costello remembered the excitement that surrounded the discovery in the 1970s of Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in North America.
Right now, fishing and mining are the titans in Alaska’s export game. Might the dramatic expansion of one industry decimate the other?
“I think we ought to have both,” said Alsworth, the flying mayor.

Read more here:





Happy New Year from Alaska Sporting Journal

It’s hard to believe 2014 is already upon us. I’m now working on my fifth edition of Alaska Sporting Journal, and both the magazine and editor are works in progress. I hope we’ve delivered you some intriguing storylines thus far. And we hope to continue that well into 2014.

Here’s a good story to chew on for your Jan. 1 entertaintment. Arkansas native Sheri Coker recently moved to Alaska, and she’s fitting in this hunting-crazed state nicely. Here’s a story via the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Coker, who is one of 12 finalists for the 2013 Prois Award, an annual national hunting prize given to a deserving female hunter. Here’s a little of Coker’s story:

The decision to submit an essay for the contest was a last-minute one, Coker said. She knew about the award after befriending last year’s winner, Ruth Cusack, from Chugiak, Alaska, on Facebook to ask her advice on what kind of hunting gear to bring to Fairbanks when they made the move north this past spring.

When she saw something posted on the Women Hunting Alaska Facebook page in November encouraging women hunters in Alaska to enter the contest, Coker decided to give it a shot. She submitted her essay on the last day of the application period.

“I wrote an essay and sent in a picture and thought that’d be the last I heard of it,” Coker said by cellphone Friday from Georgia, where she was preparing for a hog hunt with her husband. “I was very shocked when I got a phone call two weeks later and they told me I was a finalist.”

Coker is the only Alaskan among the finalists and even though she’s new to the state, she’s hoping Alaskans get behind her like they did Cusack last year to put her in the running to win.

“I’ve had a lot of support from Alaskans and people in Arkansas,” Coker said.

Congratulations to Sheri, and Happy New Year to you all.


Fairbanks newcomer up for national hunting award

Photo courtesy of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner



Atz Lee Kilcher Children On Reality Show

 By Chris Cocoles


Our Alaska Sporting Journal cover story is on the popular Discovery Channel reality show, Alaska: The Last Frontier. Correspondent Luke Kelly, who just happens to be an avid watcher of the show that chronicles the homesteading Kilcher family of Homer, Alaska, submitted a series of questions that were answered by Atz Lee Kilcher, son of the family’s current patriarch, Atz Kilcher, whose father Yule Kilcher immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland and settled on Alaska with the intention of living a simple life away from bright lights and big (or even little) cities.  Atz Lee’s answers were rather short, but they seemed adequate enough to capture what the Kilchers are all about. Here are a couple of Atz Lee’s responses to Luke, and a few of the Discovery Channel photos we didn’t have room for in the story:

Luke Kelly When Yule Kilcher came to Alaska in 1936, he had a vision of the self-sufficient lifestyle that he wanted his children and grandchildren to live. How does that vision affect you today? Do you feel like you’ve lived up to it?

Atz Lee Kilcher His original vision was of a large scope. Thanks to my grandparents’ hard work, I am able to carry on the vision as well as pass it down to my kids, the fourth generation of Alaskan homesteaders.

LK Is all of the action that appears on screen real, or do you ever have situations that are presented to you?

ALK I am proud to say it is a non-scripted show! Some of the stuff they capture is by the pure luck of being around with a camera rolling.

 LK What would you like viewers to take away from your show?

ALK That regardless of where you live, you can do your own version of subsistence living; whether it’s growing herbs in a skyscraper window or catching a trout in a nearby pond instead of buying one.

The Kilchers are greeted with gorgeous settings like this every day. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

The Kilchers are greeted with gorgeous settings like this every day. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Another of the Kilcher brothers, Eivin. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Another of the Kilcher brothers, Eivin. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

A group gathering on a beaiutiful Alaska day. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

A group gathering on a beautiful Alaska day. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

The Kilchers are their DIY finest. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

The Kilchers at their DIY finest. (THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Merry Christmas from Alaska Sporting Journal

By Chris Cocoles

Merry Christmas, everyone. The January edition of Alaska Sporting Journal should be available for sale in the next week. We think this is an excellent issue to kick off the New Year. We have a diverse collection of stories, with everything from a cover story on the hit reality TV show Alaska: The Last Frontier, features on Alaska’s craft beer and distillery industry, a first-person account of  a Lower 48 man fulfilling his dream of fur trapping Alaska, and plenty more.

I’ll have some previews of those stories later this week and into next week leading into the New Year. So enjoy your holiday and be safe!




Michigan Hunter’s Remarkable Survival Story

A Michigan hunter detailed his Alaska survival story. Adrian Knopps, 51, was stranded for almost a week back in the fall after his hunting partner drowned. Here are a few details, courtesy of an Associated Press report out of Detroit:

Resigned that he would die, the 51-year-old electrician from Grand Ledge carved a farewell message on his rifle and collapsed.

That’s when a Coast Guard helicopter came to his rescue.

“It probably was the most wonderful sound I ever heard,” he told The Detroit News.

Knopps was stranded for seven days in September after his hunting partner, Garrett Hagen, drowned while boarding their boat.

Knopps, who shared a river delta with bears and wolves, was pelted by rain the entire time, including a storm that packed 70-mph winds. Because of the wet conditions, he rarely sat or lay down, sleeping three hours all week. During high tide, Knopps clutched the upright roots of an overturned tree while surrounded by a mile of water in all directions.

How he survived is a minor miracle.