ASJ correspondent Dennis Musgraves of the Alaskan Salmon Slayers will have a Kenai coho story for our November issue. Dennis provided this video for a sneak preview of what you’ll read about it in the print edition.
Laine Welch, one of Alaska’s go-to reporters for fish-related news, weighed in on the concern about Alaska’s struggling Chinook salmon population.
From Welch’s report in the Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Dispatch:
“It’s not the freshwater production of the juvenile Chinook that is the reason this decline is occurring; it’s being driven by poor marine survival,” said Ed Jones, the lead for the initiative and sport fish coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“We don’t know why but once these juvenile Chinook salmon are entering the ocean they are not surviving at the rates they once did,” Jones added.“And at the same, we also are seeing younger and smaller Chinook returning to spawn, and this obviously results in smaller fish being caught.”
At each river system, the Chinook team is estimating how many young fish are going to the ocean, refining estimates of how many older fish are returning to spawn, and tracking the marine catches.
“That’s an effort to estimate the harvests of these 12 indicator stocks in detail,” he explained. “So we’re going to implement tagging programs on the juveniles, and as they go out to the ocean they’ll be marked with an adipose fin clip. We also will include a tiny coded wire tag in their heads, and those will be sent to the Juneau lab where we can tell when and where those fish were released.With those three components we can do full stock reconstruction.”
Jones said his primary focus is on the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers because of the importance of Chinook salmon to subsistence users.
“A major part of this initiative is to make sure we can help those folks fish when there’s fish around and pull the reins back when they are not around. But we need to gather the information that allows us to do that accurately each and every year. We are trying to learn from the users and gather information on historical harvests, what the people know and what they’ve learned for centuries. We’ll feed that information into our stock assessment program,” he said.
Chinook salmon spend up to five years in the ocean, and production goes through up and down cycles. A few years ago, West Coast and British Columbia stocks were said to be doomed, but they have rebounded and are at record numbers in some cases. Jones believes that’s what will also occur in Alaska.
“The take-home message is that productivity cycles, and unfortunately in Alaska right now, we are at the low end of that cycle,” he said. “We are experiencing a tough time right now, but it will turn around so don’t lose hope.”
The youngster beat out the old fishing veterans. Recently, Idaho teenager Jackson Hobbs, 16, took the lead in the Homer Halibut Jackpot Derby with a 335-pounder.
Hobbs, who was visiting Alaska from his Idaho home, had his big fish hold up to win the derby and its $10,000 prize, plus a bonus for total tickets sold that should as much as double that base award.
From the Anchorage Daily News:
Hobbs had reason to be nervous. He said his grandfather, Tim, had already called a couple times before Tuesday to jokingly tell him someone had caught a bigger fish.
“He’s kind of a joker,” said Hobbs, who lives in Franklin, Idaho.
The derby officially ended Monday night at 9 p.m. For catching the largest halibut, Hobbs will win $10,000 plus 50 cents for each derby ticket sold, according to Jim Lavrakas with the Homer Chamber of Commerce. The exact figure won’t be announced until Monday, when final ticket sales are calculated. However, Lavrakas said Hobbs’ haul will likely be similar to the $21,281 taken home last year by Bellevue, Washington, angler Gene Jones.
Hobbs’ big fish had to withstand a big challenge when another whopper was brought in just three days before the derby’s end. Luckily for the teen, Randall Chadwick’s barn door weighed 301 pounds – a monster flatfish to be sure, but still 34 pounds short of Hobbs’ derby winner.
“That was a scare, but I knew 335 would be tough to beat,” Lavrakas said Tuesday from Homer.
Good for you, Jackson!
From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
Waterfowl Regulations for 2014 Include Good News for Goose Hunters
(Statewide) — Alaska goose hunters will be allowed larger bag limits this season, depending upon where in the state they hunt and what goose species they pursue, thanks to changes in the 2014-2015 migratory bird hunting regulations.
Canada geese (including cackling geese) and white-fronted geese – previously managed together under “dark goose” regulations – are now split into separate categories, allowing hunters to take limits of each species. For example, in the Gulf Coast Zone where dark goose limits last season were a combined four birds per day, hunters this year can harvest four Canada geese and four white-fronted geese per day.
Other changes to this year’s migratory bird hunting regulations include:
- Increased bag limits for white-fronted geese in western Alaska’s Game Management Unit 18. Hunters there will be allowed eight whited-fronted geese per day and 24 in possession
- Canada goose hunters in GMUs 6B, 6C, and on Hinchinbrook and Hawkins Islands in GMU 6D will not need registration permits this year. Registration permits are still needed to hunt Canada geese on Middleton Island.
- A change to the definition of “edible meat” affects hunters who take swans, geese (including brant) and sandhill cranes. For these species, hunters must salvage the meat of the breast, legs and thighs (femur, tibiotarsus, and fibula). Salvage requirements for ducks and snipe have not changed.
Separate Canada goose and white-fronted goose regulations will allow additional harvest of white-fronted geese while maintaining traditional Canada goose hunting opportunities. Alaska hunters will benefit from this change which is primarily intended to increase the harvest of white-fronted geese in the Lower 48. The Pacific population of white-fronted geese has been increasing over the last 30 years, is well above the population objective, and has led to increased complaints of agricultural damage on wintering and staging areas.
Dusky Canada goose populations in the Copper River Delta and eastern Prince William Sound have increased from a low of 6,700 in 2009 to more than 15,000 in 2014. The three-year average population index used for management purposes is 13,700 birds. As a result, the registration permit program for Canada geese has been canceled in GMUs 6B, 6C, and on Hinchinbrook and Hawkins Islands in GMU 6D. The daily bag limit for Canada geese, including cackling geese, is four birds with possession limits of eight.
The Alaska Board of Game moved to expand the definition of “edible meat” with regard to swans, geese and cranes at the statewide meeting in March. The revision was reached in response to public proposals and testimony.
Waterfowl hunting seasons open on September 1 in many parts of the state and hard copies of the 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations Summary booklet will be available soon at Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices and outdoor sports retailers. The new regulations are currently available online at:http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/regulations/wildliferegulations/pdfs/waterfowl.pdf.
Licenses and Alaska state duck stamps can be purchased online at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=license.main .
Discovery Channel’s hit show Bering Sea Gold has seen gold dredger Emily Riedel endure lots of difficulties when it comes to diving.
In this sneak peak of the upcoming Bering Sea Gold: Under The Ice episode (Friday at 9 p.m. on Discovery), The Champagne Kiss-Off, Emily will once again get a chance to conquer her demons in the water:
Here’s the transcript of my interview with Emily from our February issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
CHRIS COCOLES When you were younger, maybe dreaming of being an opera star, could you ever have possibly believed you’d someday be a star of a popular television show dredging for gold? How in the world did this happen?
EMILY RIEDEL [Laughs] Not even a little bit, even remotely close. The person who convinced me to come to Nome, Zeke, I remember hearing he was in Nome dredging for gold. And I was at school at the time. And I thought ‘Wow! That’s completely insane.’ But I went up there after I graduated (from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts). I wanted to put together some funds to go to graduate school abroad. And honestly I had no idea. I was at the airport and got this phone call. ‘The Discovery Channel is wanting to come and talk to people about being on a reality show about gold mining in Nome.’ And I just thought that’s never going to happen. What on earth?
And it’s so funny because, growing up in Alaska and seeing so many reality TV shows coming out of it, I was kind of judgmental about that. I had that Alaskan snobbery a little bit about reality television. But I couldn’t even dream of (being on a show).
CC Did you have any experiences or interest growing up around the gold dredging industry? Did your dad do any of that?
ER My dad was as new to this as I was. I was apathetic to gold. I knew that it was interesting and knew that it was pretty. I just never imagined I’d develop the relationship with it that I did. It was a love cultivated from mining it and love cultivated from the search for it. But before that I was pretty indifferent. But I know that a lot of people went up to Alaska and died for it.
CC So I would guess your first love was always singing and performing?
ER Yes. My mom was an incredible singer and performer, and in Homer, where I grew up, there was an incredible hub for the arts, and there were opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been in Alaska. And it remains a very powerful passion, of course.
CC Did you do a lot of fishing or hunting like so many other Alaskans?
ER Sure. It’s such a big part of peoples’ lives who live in Alaska. I kind of had hippie parents and I did a lot of fishing, thank God. I know my way around a salmon actually with no problem. I didn’t do a lot of hunting. But fishing? Yes.
CC Skipping ahead a little b it during your time on BERING SEA GOLD, were you apprehensive about purchasing your own dredge and captaining it in such a male-driven industry?
ER The point where I decided to move on and have my own dredge, I really wanted to do my own thing. I worked with a couple people but it didn’t work out. But I ventured onto my own, it was really because I had no other choice. The only way it was going to work out if I did my own thing. But I really wasn’t thinking about ‘Oh, I’m a woman, and I’m going to try to be the only female captain.’ But this was the task that was before me. It’s an enormous task and I need to make it work. Otherwise, I can’t keep coming back here. I’m very honest with myself and with my skills and abilities. I knew I wasn’t an engineer, I’m not a mechanical genius. But I’m loving this career; I love the premise of gold mining and the entrepreneurial aspect; the fact that it implies so much freedom to harvest your own money off the ocean floor. That’s highly moving to me.
But my modus operandi was I need to make to make this work. I think I can make this work. If this is going to happen, it’s going to me that’s making this happen. It was never a case of ‘Oh sh*t, I’m intimidated by this.’ This needs to happen, and I need to do it.
CC So it has to make you feel pretty good that you’re doing it now with, do you think, some success so far?
ER In the previous season, you had the feeling that ‘Well, that didn’t go well again.’ And I think it was a feeling of that would have made decent TV off of failing of trying to be a successful gold miner. And that was obviously a huge missing part of my experience up there. But without giving away too many spoilers, I can say that (this season) I was able to walk away in a different spirit than what I had before, once you’re able to make some progress in gold mining. It was mostly orchestrated by me going on by myself and finding a good crew. My spirits about gold mining changed completely.
CC Is too far off base for me to suggest opera singing has always been a passion for you, but dredging for gold is more an obsession?
ER [Laughs] I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about it that way: the passion vs. the obsession. I think for opera I have nothing but respect for the profession. It’s a very difficult thing. I went through four years of schooling to train my voice, and I have a lot more training to accomplish. Opera is something that I knew was decent, and I knew that I could become more decent. Gold mining, you don’t know if you’re EVER going to have a payday. You don’t know if you’re going to hit the honey hole, or if you’re going to just continue wandering over the Bering Sea wishing that you can find gold. I guess it is an obsession, with the possibility of both failure success. Both are these living possibilities that you have to fight with every day.
Sometimes you have success and it’s great, and then you go two weeks and see nothing. And there are the highs and the lows and the endorphin rushes that you get. Gold is just a fickle mistress. I’m married to opera, and gold is my mistress. And the mistress is always kind of more enticing.
CC But if you had your choice right now, maybe you’d rather be singing in a warm opera house somewhere? Because I’ve watched clips of your singing and you have a beautiful voice. But then there’s the allure of doing your thing and looking for gold. Are both of those an equal rush?
ER For me, singing is purely pleasurable and joyful. But I’ll level with you: I almost quit the show before last mining season. The summer season was such a disaster; we lost a good friend (castmate and dredge deckhand John Bunce committed suicide) and everything kind of fell apart. I was trying to be honest with myself and thinking I’m not cut out for this and was thinking about walking away and putting all my attention into opera. And I went back for ice hunting (she appeared on the winter-themed spinoff, BERING SEA GOLD: UNDER THE ICE) and all of the challenges opened up for me again: How hard it is, the problems you have to overcome, and I couldn’t quit. I cannot leave until I have so much gold it’s disgusting [laughs]. The challenges never stop. So I guess I’m addicted to it. A lot of perfectly normal people want to go to Nome and go gold mining. It just messes with your head and you become this crazy person. You see a little bit of it and you need more; it’s like heroin.
CC Are there days when you are freezing in Nome, Alaska and think, ‘I just want to go somewhere warm?’
ER [Laughs with a pause] The short answer is yes. You’re almost schizophrenic to all the phases that you go through every day when you’re in Nome. There are moments when you’re triumphant and think,
‘I’m never going to stop doing this; I’m going to be a gold miner until the very end.’ But there are other days when you want to find a beach. There are always fluctuating emotions.
CC I hope this doesn’t sound too much like a job interview question, but where does Emily Riedel see herself in 10 years?
ER [Laughs] I think about that a lot. I still want to have a career in opera, and I’ve spent three birthdays in Nome. I’ve been single for three years and I’ll probably be single for another three years. It’s Nome. But what I want out of Nome, is to (find) a lot of gold in the next couple of years and beyond. I want to have a singing career. What I want in 10 years is to be content. If those things have to happen to be it, then so be it.
CC I’m sure everyone asks you about your relationship with Zeke and to reminisce about it. But I’d be curious to know how your life has changed for the better or for the worse because of all that.
ER I can say with absolute confidence that my life has changed for the better now that Zeke is no longer in it. However, it’s a tragedy because I’m estranged from him and his entire family. And our families have been friends for our entire lives. My dad and his dad were friends in high school. And now there’s a very broken relationship that will never be recovered. And it’s unfortunate. But that’s the way it is.
CC You spent some time living in a tiny and cold, waterfront shack in Nome. Tell us some good and bad memories of that experience.
ER [Laughs] I’m so fond of it. That will always remain dear to me. One of the best memories for me is when I settled in there and started a fire. I’m in this wooden shack, and I looked out onto the ocean and it was just me, alone on a beach in Nome surrounded by tundra. Any Alaskan knows that feeling. I can’t even explain it. And, of course, the worst memory is probably waking up with frost on my blankets. Then it was kind of like ‘Oh crap, I wish I could be warm right now.’
Editor’s note: The following story is now available in the September issue of Alaska Sporting Journal
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed shutting down brown bear hunting at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge until May 31, 2015.
That’s not going to sit well within Alaska’s borders.
Using state data from the last two decades, refuge manager Andy Loranger said the population of brown bears has declined 18 percent on the Kenai Peninsula because of human-caused deaths. The service proposed a temporary closure of the brown-bear hunting season effective Sept. 1 to May 31, 2015 as a “protective measure to ensure consistency with refuge mandates.”
More liberal hunting regulations were enacted in 2012 by the Alaska Board of Game. As a result, 168 brown bears, including 42 adult sows, have been killed in the last three years, refuge supervisory biologist John Morton said.
“In a small population. If you kill a lot of bears, it will have an impact,” Morton said. “This is why a cautious approach is warranted. The refuge is mandated by Congress to conserve wildlife population – and that includes brown bears.”
Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented a 30-day emergency closure on the refuge. To date this year, 54 brown bears have been killed, including five adult sows, 52 through hunting. Alaska’s Fish and Game agency has set a cap to not exceed 70 bears and that adult-sow mortalities not exceed 17, The Peninsula Clarion reports (http://bit.ly/1CedFXs).
Locals and state officials weren’t convinced.
“What is missing from the discussion is the requests from the public to respond to increasing brown bear populations and negative interactions,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “The refuge is more on management philosophy and ethics than resource conservation. . No definition of natural diversity is offered. I don’t believe the intention of Congress was to allow the federal government to hold such power over fish and wildlife that have been recognized as a state resource.”
Here’s a sample of the report:
We believe the biological information the Service has provided to justify this closure is incomplete and in some cases inaccurate. For instance, the Service asserts that brown bear population densities on the
2 Director’s Comments/USFWS Proposal to Pre-empt State Brown Bear Regs.
Kenai Peninsula should be comparable to those on the Katmai coast, Kodiak archipelago, and portions of southeast Alaska. While all of these bear populations have access to salmon as a food source, the bears on the Kenai lack the access to rich intertidal areas and sedge flats that typify true coastal bear
populations. Expecting brown bear densities on the Kenai Peninsula to match those of true coastal populations elsewhere and managing accordingly is not reasonable, particularly when coupled with the
increased level of human influence on the Kenai.
Unfortunately, Service news releases and background information regarding the current abundance of
brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula inaccurately indicate a finite, static bear population. In other words, it’s like we had a bank account of 600 bears in 2010 and there have been no new ones coming into the
account and every bear killed is a net loss to the account. It is important to recognize that while there has been harvest of bears there has also been recruitment to the population through birth. In fact, in
many Alaska brown bear populations, increased harvest of adult males results in increased cub survival and potentially increased sub-adult survival. We are working with service biologists to develop more
accurate models to predict population trends under various harvest scenarios and expect to have that
work completed by the time the Board of Game meets to consider harvest regulations this spring. In the meantime, we do not agree with the Service’s decision to take management action based on an
inaccurate method of predicting population effects.
In summary, the State of Alaska believes state harvest regulations are sufficiently conservative to ensure the long-term sustainability of the brown bear population on the Kenai Peninsula, and disagrees with the
Service’s decision to restrict hunting opportunity.
Photo courtesy of Waterfall Resort
Gretchen Porter is the Reigning Queen of Waterfall Resort’s
2014 $100K “King of Kings” Tournament in Alaska
Newport Beach, CA’s petite resident catches the biggest king salmon of the season:
A whopping 65.5 lbs!
Ketchikan, Alaska – September 2, 2014 – Gretchen Porter of Newport Beach, CA became the “Queen of Kings” in Waterfall Resort’s 26th annual$100K “King of Kings” Salmon Tournament by reeling in the largest catch of the 2014 season: a 65.5 lb king salmon (Chinook) that weighed more than half her body weight. Porter is no stranger to victory at Waterfall Resort, in 2004 she captured the resort’s record for the biggest king salmon ever caught: a whopping 79.2 lbs, just 10 inches shorter than Porter. An exclusive competition for guests of Waterfall Resort, both novice and avid anglers alike vied for the top spot and bragging rights during the 2014 season, from June 13 through August 18, 2014.
Following daily fishing excursions, resort guests weighed-in their wild Alaskan king salmon to see who won “King of the Day.” Tournament prizes included cash payouts, free trips back to the Resort, Cabela’s Outdoor merchandise, International Princess Cruises, a Ford Truck and more. During the 2014 season, Southeast Alaska experienced some of the best fishing in years due to improved king salmon fishing limits as set by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allowing some guests to take home double their peak season Chinook catch over last year.
Established in 1912, Waterfall Resort was once a fish cannery that broke records for the sheer volume of seafood it caught and exported all over the world. In 1983, The Waterfall Group transformed the property into one of the finest remote sport-fishing destinations in the world. Just a 90-minute flight from Seattle, its unparalleled location on Prince of Wales Island adjacent Alaska’s Inside Passage combined with its all-inclusive four-star guest service, expert guides, historic accommodations, and distinct culinary offerings make for an unforgettable experience year after year.
Waterfall Resort guests participated in the 2014 $100,000 “King of Kings” Salmon Tournament as part of their stay for an additional entry fee of $75, which was valid for the full summer season.
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!