Category Archives: Featured Content

Diving With Emily Riedel of Bering Sea Gold



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.’

Casting And Blasting The Interior

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Note: The following story appears in the September issue of Alaska Sporting Journal
By Dennis Musgraves
Alaska announces a “last call” for migrating salmon every season near summer’s end. Inevitably, the fish stop entering fresh water. It’s annoying for many sport fishermen, including this self-diagnosed fishaholic.
I am among a group of relentless anglers who pursue salmon until the unwelcome finale, and September normally marks my last chance to break out my rod and reel. As nature’s clock ticks down to closing time I begin thinking about additional outdoor activities to help fill the impending void.
Developing a condition which I refer to as “bird brain” during this transitional period is not uncommon. The seasonal changes and dwindling opportunities chasing wild salmon invoke a desire in me to experience adventures found in Alaska with upland bird hunting.
The thrill of flushing grouse and the challenge of shooting them in flight are compulsive and consuming. Aside from plotting dates for a final bent rod with a salmon, I simply can’t keep my thoughts away from wingshooting in the fall.
Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Casting and blasting 
Fortunately, a window of opportunity exists between September and October, when Interior Alaska outdoorsmen can find good bird hunting and salmon fishing in the day. Unlike hunting for big game, I can accomplish a grouse hunt in a few hours, harvest a meal, and have the enjoyment of being in the outdoors with a shooting sport. Such a combo satisfies both outdoor afflictions in a simple day trip. A special “cast and blast” trip is achieved for me and a good friend, Jeff Beyer.
Small game hunting opportunities in Alaska are plentiful. Nearly every region has good populations of upland bird species, which include three species of ptarmigan and four types of grouse.
Sharp-tailed grouse are exclusively found in the central portion of the state, specifically in the interior valleys and foothills of Alaska’s Game Management Unit (GMU) 20. Sharp-tails thrive in the vicinity of Delta Junction because of an ideal supporting habitat.
Grouse options 
The grouse are medium- to large-size birds with an almost chicken-like appearance. Spotted colors of brown and white cover their feathers. Their distinct short-pointed tail feathers allow for an easy identification in the field. Male birds display bright yellow-colored, eyebrow-like bands (called combs) above each eye.
The pointy-tailed game birds can be found in low-lying areas of muskeg, brushlands and near shrub-spruce treelines located along the Richardson Highway and Alaska Highway. Sharpies will also favorite recently burned out areas and agricultural plots. The agricultural areas located east of Delta Junction host plentiful numbers of birds, but most of the area is private property.
My approach to hunting these tasty game birds is not complex. Public hunting areas in GMU 20D can be accessed by several unimproved roads and trails that lead off from the highways. I normally trailer my ATV so I can ride farther away from the road before stalking the dirt trails, low grass-brush line or wood line, trying to flush or spot birds perched directly atop spruce trees.
The fertile grouse hunting grounds are in close proximity to Delta Clearwater River. A short drive of less than 15 miles from either highway system allows easy access to the state recreational site and boat launch. The distance is perfect for a combo hunting and fishing trip during the short fall season.
Coho final run                
Delta Clearwater River happens to host the largest congregation of returning coho, or silver, salmon from the Yukon River drainage. Coho begin entering the DCW in September, which coincides with the sharp-tails presence in the area brushlands. The fish have traveled over 1,000 miles from the ocean up the mighty Yukon River and through the silt-laden Tanana River before reaching the final tributary. The salmon are no longer mint bright silver. Their sides are now colored a vibrant brick red and male fish display large pronounced black kypes.
Although these salmon do not have the typical appearance of saltwater-caught table fare, fish are often harvested by locals. Since the flesh is firm and acceptable for consumption, it’s not uncommon to see a limit on a stringer near the campground. Current fishing regulations allow anglers to retain three coho per day from Delta Clearwater.
Coho fishing on this river system is normally a catch-and-release event for me (although I have harvested fish in the past for a meal on the grill or so I can put a wood smoker to them). Some anglers may thumb their nose at the outward appearance; however, I am no salmon snob. I find the Clearwater coho taste just fine and actually hold a certain majestic look in their spawning phase coloration.
The blushed salmon can be caught using a 6-7 weight fly rod by drifting streamers and leech patterns in the current close to the bottom. The fishery provides an excellent amount of action for anglers at varying skill levels. Having a boat will enable anglers to find deep holes that hold large groups of salmon. But access by boat is not required in order to achieve success; casting from the riverbank or wading in the current near the state campground will also produce hookups with passing fish.
Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Combining two loves 
The idea of a “blast and cast” was co-conspired between Jeff and me a couple years ago. We found ourselves in a dilemma over planning a quick one-day outing, which had to be relatively close to our homes in the Tanana Valley. Deliberations seemed to be in a deadlock with Jeff wanting to get his jet boat wet for coho and my ideas leaning towards feeling the recoil of a shotgun on a sharp-tail shoot. Our discussion was inclusive, and did not take long for an obvious question to arise. “Why not do both?” we concluded. Merging both events would be doubling the fun. So it was decided to make a go for feathers and fish in one day.
We planned on dividing the day equally to allow appropriate time for each activity. Bird hunting would be first, in the early morning when sharp-tails seem to be most active. Setting a four-hour cutoff time for bird hunting ensured good time management and allowed sufficient amount of remaining sunlight in the day to make the switch for fly fishing coho during the late afternoon.
I prefer to carry a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, using 2¾-inch shells in a number 6 shot count. Choosing a firearm for grouse hunting varies between hunters and is a personal choice.
Most use lighter shotguns in 20 or 28 gauges. Some grouse hunters choose to target the grouse with a .22-caliber rifle since it helps prevent numerous pellets in the meat and allows for increased precision while making a distant shot.
Locating game birds is not difficult if they are present. Most of the time you can find them perched like a Christmas tree ornament on the top of spruce trees, or in a small covey just shy of a tall grass line along a dirt trail. Unlike their close relatives, docile spruce grouse, the birds spook quickly and flush easily when within range of a good shot.
Last year Jeff and I were able to kick up several large coveys of birds, harvesting a total of five between us in fewer than three hours of hunting.
Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Onto the salmon 
The intermission between acts is short. Moving down the road and dropping a boat into the Clearwater takes only minutes. The fishing is neither technical nor difficult. Catching coho has an almost consistent predictable conclusion in September. Locating groups of bold red-colored salmon swimming in the clear-running river can be done with little effort. It’s not the challenge of finding and catching the fish that draws me; it’s the ability to catch oodles of fish.
Fly fishermen will find fish very responsive, almost automatic with any type of bright-colored streamer. I prefer drifting a purple Egg-sucking Leech close to the river bottom. Fishermen casting hardware will find large spinners also work very well using a slow-and-low retrieve method. In addition, resident Arctic grayling are among the salmon and found in good numbers.
During peak timing of the salmon run, catching and releasing a dozen fish in one hour is representative for most anglers.
Fishing typically ends because of dropping daytime temperatures and  diminishing light. It’s cold enough on some days is to lock up fishing reels and smother line guides with ice. Moisture dripping off the fly line or fishing line from repeated casting accumulates quickly and hardens like concrete. The frustrating frozen water in the line guides prevents casting and requires constant cleaning to keep the spaces open to allow fishing line to pass through.
But at the end of the day, the pesky cold is easily overlooked in the entire scheme of a completed blast-and-cast outing. The productive salmon waters and generous numbers of grouse found in this game management unit keep me coming back for the combo event every season.
The experience leaves me satisfied yet exhausted at the end of a day, providing a short-term escape and temporary relief to my outdoor addiction urges. Even better is the opportunity for friends to share time in the field and on an open river once more before the harsh winter arrives.
I also really appreciate tasty bacon-wrapped sharp-tail grouse breast fresh off the grill.  ASJ
Editor’s note: Author Dennis Musgraves sportfishes all over Alaska 100-plus days of the year and is a member of the “Alaskan Salmon Slayers.” Read more about them at


Talking Hunting With Hillarie Putnam

Editor’s note: The following story is now available in the September issue of Alaska Sporting Journal 

Photos courtesy of Hillarie Putnam and the History Channel 
By Chris Cocoles
Sometimes, you’re just preordained to have an adventurous disposition.
You’re named for one of the men on the first team to reach the summit of mighty Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak; your dad was so in love with the outdoors he moved his family from the Midwest to the Last Frontier when you were a year old; you have no qualms hunting giant brown bears by yourself on one of the most dangerous, killer-bruin-infested stretches of land on Kodiak Island.
You are hunter/actress/adrenaline-seeking and proud Alaskan Hillarie Putnam, and it seems like you can take on anything, from the high jump to high mountains to the highest levels of Hollywood’s A-list.
Putnam, 25, recently was one of the participants – along with her dad, David – on the successful History Channel debut series, The Hunt, which follows bear hunters throughout Alaska.
She’s also an up-and-coming actor (we’ll have more about her powerful turn with Nicolas Cage and more in part two of this interview). So needless to say, Putnam is keeping busy; she’s in negotiations to host her own hunting show from a woman’s perspective.
She and longtime boyfriend, Dylan, have talked about getting married someday, and whenever she does tie the knot, this full-throttle outdoors junkie wants to channel her inner namesake, Sir Edmund Hillary, and exchange vows high atop a peak in the Himalayas.
Putnam, who splits her time between Alaska and Seattle, sat down with us recently to talk about a wide variety of subjects.
Hillarie Putnam 1
Chris Cocoles So tell me about how your passion for the outdoors began.
Hillarie Putnam We moved from Michigan to Alaska, because Dad always wanted to climb the mountains of Alaska; he’s a big mountaineer. I have two deaf siblings, so I don’t know what the heck my parents were doing moving us to Alaska, but we drove everything up there to Wasilla; my mom’s a special education teacher specializing in child development for (the hearing impaired). And my brother and sister kind of moved to all-deaf schools. So I was pretty much raised as an only child. And I grew up hunting and fishing. I think I shot my first gun at 4 and started going out hunting with my dad at 8. I also had my first swill of whiskey at 8 [laughs]. My dad wanted me to be the youngest girl in Alaska to get all five large game – it didn’t work out. He wanted me to be the youngest girl to climb Denali – that didn’t work out. I was balancing outdoors with the sports I played and the acting I did. But he taught me to have high goals; even if you don’t achieve them, it’s good to put that carrot out in front of you.
CC I would imagine as a little kid in Alaska, you are bound to get naturally attracted to the outdoors. So he didn’t have to drag you out?
HP Not at all; I’m so similar to my dad as I’m now older, it’s getting scary [laughs]. My brother – not interested in it at all. He has kids of his own now and is into insects and bugs and bringing them into the outdoors. But he’s not much of a hunter, and if you asked him for his perspective, he would just assume people not hunt. My brother supports me to the end of time, but we were talking about me doing some projects with traveling and hunting, and he told me, “Just to let you know, if you go to Africa, I’m not going to be in favor of it.”
CC While we’re on that subject, so many women who hunt have been ripped for it on social media. Has that happened to you like the Texas Tech cheerleader, Kendall Jones?
HP TMZ did a thing about her, and just because I’m in the entertainment industry, next thing you know my (Twitter feed) was getting this and that from people about hunting. It’s interesting how much technology we have at our fingertips these days. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. People don’t go out and witness stuff for themselves anymore. They just click a button, and you don’t always get the appropriate information; or don’t have the experience of being out there of taking an animal’s life. There’s a whole lot that goes into that. Nobody understands the gravity of that except for the person who pulls the trigger and the creature that passes away. It’s interesting seeing so much input on that split second.
CDid you get a lot of negative backlash after The Hunt premiered?
HP The show got great feedback, partly because of how they shot everything. I did have one woman who commented because we didn’t do anything with the bear meat. Honestly, if anyone can hunt bear above the Arctic Circle, the bear up there tastes like pork. They are better than any moose, goat or sheep – anything I’ve ever had. But the bears on Kodiak Island are so large because they feed on a lot of decaying salmon. So you can’t really do much with them; it’s more of a game management and trophy hunt. But it was interesting how many people said, “You’re an Alaskan who appreciates the Alaskan way of life, but you don’t eat the bear meat.” Any Alaskan Native will tell you’re an idiot if you’re going to eat that (Kodiak) bear meat. There are certain things you eat, certain things you don’t eat in the state of Alaska. It’s wild, and you’re not going to somebody’s farm or ranch. There are no fences everywhere, and you’re very much stepping into that circle of life that happens.
CC On the show, you and your dad were hunting and he said goodbye to you and had you continue your hunt alone – of course, with a cameraman filming you – but I could sense that was a genuine release of emotions by your dad.
 HP He was moved, and it’s happened before. We do a month-long float trip – I can’t say where exactly – above the Arctic Circle and you can hunt all of Alaska’s big-game animals. He had some of his buddies from Michigan with him. So we were on the river and I said I wanted to hang back on my raft, and the guys can push forward. I had my tags, but I mostly just went as an outfitter and to help out. And the guys were like, “You know where we’re at, right?” And sure enough, I ended up meeting back up with them, with a 58-inch bull (moose) with extremely heavy brow tines. It’s probably one of the nicest racks I’ve ever seen. So that was one step of him seeing, “She doesn’t really need me anymore.” And I think he thinks, “I don’t have to tell her how to set the tent, tell her how to do this. All these things she can do without me having to tell her.”
So I think hunting on Kodiak was something he always wanted to take me to do because very few people get to go do it. As soon as he found out my bear went down (on the show), he called my sat phone and asked how many shots did it take? He said, “I think if I would have been there, I might have been able to get you in a better position.” So there’s always critique and feedback.
The footage they got in the show, it was amazing how close it hit home. They didn’t talk about it on the show, but I had a dear friend [Lorri Egge] who passed away two days before we filmed that. She was my female role model growing up. So I think that played into (the emotion) too when he left. My dad is this super tough shell and everyone kind of thinks he’s a bit of an (ass****) and he’s this mountain man who does it his way. But he’s the most kind and caring person, and I was glad you were able to see that side of him.
CC So how did you handle all that? You seemed to have your game face on.
HP It was emotional. I had one day, and when you watch the show it kind of skips ahead a day, where I didn’t leave the tent very much.
CC What was your overall experience on the show?
HP It was reality, though I shouldn’t say “reality” as it was more documentary-series television. But being a focal point was very strange. I’ve done tons of theater, films, television shows and commercials. And with film and television it’s an escape; you get to be somebody else for a few days. With this it was not so much shooting it, but afterwards, it was a little scary that it was just me. How was I going to be perceived by the public?
CC Did you get a chance to see the show before it aired?
HP Nope. I’m working on coming up with my own stuff. Then you have a bit more of an idea of how you want it. There was no feedback and you don’t know how they’re going paint you. A lot of things happen out in the field, so it’s really trusting to build a strong relationship with your shooter/producer. Because they are the ones reporting the story back to the network. Chad, my shooter/producer, was phenomenal. He and I bonded really well, and I think he took the time to get to know us as people and not just as gun-totin’ Alaskans. I think History did a great job.
CC Tell me about the moment you got your bear on the show.
HP As soon as the bear goes down and takes off into the woods, I said “Alright, we gotta go.” We went down the hill – and we’re talking steep. We were all over the place running down the hill and I could hear Chad laughing. I’m like, “What are you doing?” He said, “This is insane! It’s like Indiana Jones. I’ve never been on a show that’s this real.” He was elated to be doing this, but he realized we were going into an extremely dangerous situation; the brush on Kodiak is insanely thick. He’s worked on tons and tons of shows, and he just couldn’t believe how raw and real hunting in Alaska is. People ask what’s real and what’s not real on that show, and I just tell them to spend a night on Kodiak.
CC How do you feel women are perceived as hunters compared to men?
HP I’m not the only woman who hunts. And there’s always going to be criticism, because we’re kind of stepping out as the first women who are doing this. And I think everyone believes all women should have this immense amount of compassion and not want to kill things. But you go out into the field with women and men and ask the men, “Who does better in the field?” It’s usually women. It’s a really strange element. We’re very patient in the field. The Hunt got really great feedback. They showed the camaraderie of the people.
CC Would you like to be back on The Hunt for season two?
HP We’re waiting to see if they renew it [by the time this issue comes out, that may be decided]. If it does and I come back, that would be awesome. I’m in a holding pattern, so if The Hunt does well, the direction they want to take is that I’ve had a rare opportunity to work as an outfitter for one of the guides on Kodiak. I’m hoping the show gets picked back up so people can see what that process is.
CC So what kind of hunting show do you hope to develop yourself?
HP There isn’t a series out there with a strong female lead, as far as docu-series television that puts a woman in a man’s element and shows how she can succeed. And I think that’s a reason why The Hunt did so well. And the network wasn’t quite expecting that. Because we still have to put things in these boxes. What stories sell? Fish-out-of-water stories sell. I think that originally what they were thinking [with Putnam’s part of the overall storyline]: Here’s a girl and a coming-of-age story. But once I got out there in the field it was more of, “Wow, she actually knows as much as the guys who were out there.”
CC So about this wedding someday on the top of a mountain …
HP My parents have been together since they were 11 and got married at 18. And they are now, 59, 60? So they’ve been together for a long time. My boyfriend and I have been together for seven years. So what we’ve said is if we do decide to get married, it’s going to be by a Sherpa and somewhere in the Himalayas because I want it to be somewhere Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbed. And anyone can come, but you’ll have to climb the mountain to get there. ASJ
Editor’s note: Look for part two of our interview with Hillarie Putnam in the October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. 




four mile



ADFG’s Opposition To Kenai Bear Hunt Closure

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale


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.

From the Fairbanks News-Miner: 

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 (

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.”

ADFG officials posted its response

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.




Fishing With The “Queen Of Kings”


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.

To book a stay call 800-544-5125 or visit

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