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Environmental Group: Pebble Plan Is Incompatible For Salmon

 

The folllowing is courtesy of Earthworks Northwest:

Pebble enviro impact statement proves EPA right, mine incompatible with salmon

Statement of Earthworks Northwest Program Director Bonnie Gestring

“The draft environmental impact statement the Army Corps of Engineers released yesterday highlights the unacceptable consequences of the proposed Pebble Mine on the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery and those that depend on it.

“After years of study, EPA amassed a body of science on the effects of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed, and proposed safety limits to protect salmon. The DEIS predicts that even the “small” mine plan will destroy more than 80 stream miles and 3,500 acres of wetlands. The permanent loss of salmon streams surpasses the 5-mile safety limit EPA proposed to prevent unacceptable harm to salmon. These impacts are just the tip of the iceberg.  The mine’s inevitable expansion would cause even more expansive damage.”

“Every major mining company invested in the Pebble proposal has ultimately decided to pull out. Today’s environmental impact statement illustrates part of the reason why: it’s simply too destructive to one of the world’s most valuable fisheries.” — Bonnie Gestring, Earthworks’ Northwest Mining Program Director

Trump Administration Releases Draft Environmental Review For Pebble Project (UPDATED)

Today, the Trump Administration released the environmental review for the controversial Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay. Public comments are available to be sent on March 1.

Here’s a little more from the Anchorage Daily News about the release:

A tribal group on Wednesday immediately slammed the “woefully inadequate” report, saying it ignores major impacts to fish and people from the region. The draft review shows the process is rigged for Pebble, said Alannah Hurley, United Tribes of Bristol Bay executive director.

“The Army Corps’ review ignores the very real concerns about the changes and devastation Pebble would bring to our region, and is clearly the result a rushed process that has ignored local voices and ignores the existing science in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that shows how devastating this project would be in Bristol Bay,” Hurley said.

Developer Pebble Limited Partnership said Wednesday it believes the review demonstrates that its proposed 20-year mine plan can be done in an environmentally responsible way.

Update: Save Bristol Bay released a statement:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement today and we have serious concerns. The DEIS is a government document describing the environmental risks of a proposed project, and is one of the biggest steps toward an agency making a permitting decision.

 

While we are still digesting the technical materials in the DEIS, immediate problems stand out. The document is riddled with pro-Pebble bias. For instance, when discussing social and economic impacts, the Army Corps focuses on the importance of copper to the global economy over the importance of renewable subsistence resources to Alaskans.

The DEIS fails to even address the prospect of a catastrophic tailings dam failure, which is the single-largest danger associated with Pebble. Earthen tailings dams fail all the time. The firm that designed the Pebble dam was responsible for Mount Polley Mine’s dam, which failed in 2014.

The proposed public comment period is completely inadequate. The public needs more than 90 days to review 3,000+ pages of technical information. This is yet another indication the Army Corps is rushing toward approving a mine.

A reasonable DEIS would not have these immediate, glaring issues. It is deeply concerning that the Army Corps appears to favor a mine in this process. That is not their job. This is supposed to be an impartial and scientific process, and at this point it does not appear to be.

Given the failure of the Army Corps to meet its statutory mandate in evaluating this mine, it is time to explore our options for action.

The public comment period opens on March 1. It is crucial for everyone reading this to submit comments to the Army Corps. These comments are the foundation of our efforts to force the government to go back and do the job right.

We need to demand accountability at all levels of government. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has consistently said she wants a robust permitting process that involves Alaskans and addresses their concerns. This DEIS fails to meet that standard and Lisa Murkowski needs to know you care. She holds an important gavel in the Senate and can demand answers from executive agencies that are failing Alaskans.

Sincerely,

The Save Bristol Bay Team

 

It’s Moose Survey Time In Anchorage

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

Anchorage) —- The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking citizens to report moose sightings this weekend for the Anchorage winter moose count. Now entering its third year since an initial pilot project in February 2017, the novel, ground-based survey technique uses DNA taken from city moose to estimatemoose numbers in the Anchorage Bowl. Moose sighting reports from Anchorage residents are key to the count’s success.

“The public’s help last year made all the difference,” said Wildlife Research Biologist David Saalfeld, “With residents pitching in, we were able to establish a minimum count of 143 individual moose.”

That count included 95 cow moose and 48 bulls. Of those, 43 were calves, including 19 females and 24 males. Data gathered from this weekend’s count will allow biologists to determine an even better estimate, Saalfeld said.

The groundbreaking count technique works like this: With citizens’ help moose are located and DNA collected with specialized darts. The darts strike moose lightly, collect a skin sample in the tip, and fall to the ground to be gathered after the animal leaves. Genetics from those samples is used to identify individual moose and generate the count.

Department research and management biologists are using this technology because traditional aerial moose counts within the Anchorage Bowl are impractical due to flight restrictions imposed over the busy metropolitan area. Inconsistent early-winter snow conditions needed to enhance moose visibility from the air were also a factor.

Citizens are invited to report moose sightings within the Anchorage Bowl from 8:00 a.m. Friday, February 22, through 5:00 p.m. Sunday, February 24.

Sightings may be reported as follows:

Reports should include the number of moose observed, the time of the sighting, and most importantly the location of the moose.

“This technique has the potential to improve our knowledge and management of Anchorage area moose populations,” said Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle.

Safety is a critical concern with this project. Moose can be dangerous and citizens are reminded to avoid approaching moose, and to please give department survey teams collecting DNA samples plenty of space. Staff wearing bright orange or chartreuse clothing with stencils clearly identifying them as Department of Fish and Game employees will be using dart projectors that closely resemble long-guns or hunting rifles. Additionally, staff will be driving state trucks marked with the department logo.

Project expenses are covered by funds generated by hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts through payment of federal taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, and through state hunting license and tag fees.

For more information about the Anchorage moose count, contact Ken Marsh at (907) 267-2892 or ken.marsh@alaska.gov.

Early-Run Kenai River King Fishing Will Be Catch-And-Release Only


The following press releases are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Soldotna) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restrictions for the early-run king salmon in the Kenai River drainage downstream of the outlet of Skilak Lake effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2019. From May 1 through June 30, king salmon of any size may not be retained in the Kenai River from the mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. That restriction will continue July 1 through July 31, in the waters from an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. Only one, unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the waters restricted to catch-and-release. King salmon caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

However, from July 1- July 31, 2019, anglers will be able to retain king salmon in the Kenai River from the mouth upstream to the ADF&G markers 300 yards downstream from Slikok Creek. In this section, bait is allowed; however, only a single hook lure or fly may be used during this time.

“In an effort to protect our king salmon fishery resources, which are important to anglers and our fishery managers, and ensure our fishery management is consistent with the regulatory management plan, the early king salmon run on the Kenai River is restricted to non-retention in an effort to meet our 2019 early-run escapement goal,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka. “Anglers have noticed that the Kenai River king salmon and other king salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet are experiencing an extended period of low productivity and restricting the fishery preseason is warranted.”

ADF&G staff will be closely monitoring this fishery inseason and if data assessment projects indicate further action is warranted in season actions may be taken.

The 2019 Kenai River King Salmon Early-Run Forecast can be found on the Northern Kenai Peninsula Management Area webpage under Annual Run Outlook. For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka at (907) 262-9368.

Kenai River Early-Run King Salmon Open to Catch-and-Release

 

Kasilof River Early-Run King Salmon Restricted to Hatchery Kings

(Soldotna) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restriction for king salmon in the Kasilof River drainage effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 30, 2019. The bag and possession limit for king salmon 20 inches or greater in length is one hatchery fish. Hatchery king salmon are recognizable by the healed adipose fin-clip scar. Naturally-produced king salmon may not be possessed or retained and are distinguishable by an intact adipose fin, a small fleshy fin on the back of the fish just ahead of the tail. Naturally-produced king salmon that are caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

In addition, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Kasilof River from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge. Single-hook means a fishhook with only one point.

“To ensure a successful naturally-produced king salmon broodstock season in 2019, ADF&G has determined restrictions to the early-run king salmon sport fishery in the Kasilof River will provide the best chance to achieve these goals,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka. “Its important to our staff and anglers that we continue our efforts to protect and rebuild our wild king salmon stocks. ADF&G does anticipate an increase in angler effort on the Kasilof River due to early-run king salmon restrictions on the Kenai River and we have to manage accordingly with restrictions only allowing hatchery king salmon to be retained on the Kasilof River.”

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka at (907) 262-9368.

 

A Coast Guard/Kodiak Love Story

Photos by U.S. Coast Guard’s Lauren Dean and Ashley Wallace

 

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

BY PETTY OFFICER THIRD CLASS LAUREN DEAN

For Petty Officer First Class Ashley Wallace, a Coast Guard yeoman, occasionally her blue uniform is hung in the closet and replaced with camouflage, zero-degree thermals and hunting boots. 

On weekends, she and her husband, Petty Officer First Class yeoman Branson Wallace, layer up, pack their rifles, emergency signaling devices and a surplus of food and clothing. They like to escape the daily grind while experiencing some of the world’s best hunting and fishing opportunities on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Wallace says when she was a child growing up in a military family in Cheyenne, Wyoming, her father made every effort to immerse the family in the local culture and lifestyle. They went camping almost every weekend, and often this included hunting and fishing. 

Hunting has been in Wallace’s blood since those days, and it all began with her father’s steady guidance, she says. 

“My dad used to take me hunting with him and I’d go to what he called ‘man camp,’” Wallace says with a smile. “It was awesome. I got to go to man camp and hang out with a bunch of retired chiefs. My father was an active-duty Coast Guard chief damage controlman at the time and his two best friends were both recently retired Navy chiefs.” 

“It was very neat to be a female in that world, and to be accepted. I feel like that’s where my love of wildlife really started.” 

Wallace also mentioned that this experience was invaluable for her unforeseen life in Kodiak, where her dreams of Alaskan adventure came to life. 

WALLACE SAYS SHE WENT from shooting milk jugs with her first shotgun, a .410 gifted to her by her father, to shooting a bow and arrow at targets when she picked up archery in high school. This was the first place she learned to shoot a compound bow.

“I’ve been an archer since high school,” Wallace says. “When I first came into the Coast Guard, I was in an archery league in Traverse City, Michigan. I was one of the only females in the league and that kind of lined me up for hunting.”

She says she went to Traverse City for her first tour in the Coast Guard, left for specialized schooling for her job as a yeoman, met Branson and then traveled on to New Orleans and Texas. 

“My husband and I got orders to Kodiak in 2013 and knew nothing about Kodiak, but we were so excited,” Wallace says. 

“We started helping teach at North Star Elementary where they were introducing the National Archery School program in town,” says Wallace. “It’s been part of the Alaska school curriculum or extracurricular activities since 2013, where they teach kids how to shoot compound bows. It was a very cool experience to see them fall in love with archery at such a young age, like I did.”

From there, Wallace says she and her husband got into fishing. But, after the thrill of fishing, it wasn’t long before it gave Wallace an itch to begin hunting, since hunting from a boat is common in parts of Alaska.

“I wanted to spread my wings a little bit, so Branson and I bought a boat,” says Wallace. 

“I think it’s important that they [women] see that you can be the girl that puts on makeup and dresses up, and then all of a sudden you’ve got war paint on, and you’re in camo, and guttin’ something and haulin’ meat out.”

From there, they branched out to fox calling, which entails a lot of thought because foxes are very intelligent animals, often cautious and simultaneously curious. With some beginner’s luck, she got a silver fox on her first hunt. 

Ashley and Branson also got into beaver trapping. 

“I think it’s really important to note the importance of beaver trapping,” Wallace says. “They wreak havoc on the ecosystem. They block off the stream so salmon can’t get upstream.” 

She noted that she and her husband are completely against using foothold traps because they think the traps are inhumane, and they also make every effort to use what they harvest.

WHEN SHE’S NOT TRAPPING, Wallace seizes unique opportunities for special hunts. 

“I just went on two of the most incredible hunts I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she says. “I can check those off my bucket list.”

One was a rigorous mountain goat hunt, where they had to battle sketchy terrain, extremely high elevation, sheer cliffs and the world-renowned Kodiak brown bears. 

“Planning ahead is super important,” Wallace says. “You constantly have to be ‘bear-aware.’ You’ve got to know about the weather change, that the floatplane may not be able to get in to get you back out. We always pack an extra bag, a dry bag with another set of clothes, an extra coat and extra food for at least two or three days, and we leave that at base camp. We also carry a Delorme, which is a Garmin product that has a built-in map, and we can text on it too, which is pretty great.”

For Wallace, hunter safety is paramount in the woods, but there are some big benefits of hunting that tie back into wildlife conservation.

“The majority of the money that hunters pay for tags, for guns, for bullets – a portion of that money actually goes back to wildlife conservation,” Wallace says. “It’s important that people realize there is a purpose to it.”

It takes a lot of work, experience, safety and skill to hunt safely, so she is extremely grateful to have a spouse who loves to hunt as much as she does. Wallace says she couldn’t do it without Branson and she also really appreciates the native influence on the island, the creativity of the people here and the blending of cultures. 

“You fly out to this island and you forget all the problems of the Lower 48,” Wallace says. “I feel at peace in Kodiak. I’ve never felt so much a part of a community as I have here.” ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak, go to dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Director-of-Operational-Logistics-DOL/Bases/Base-Kodiak. 

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HARVESTING, SHARING GAME MEAT
For Petty Officer First Class Ashley Wallace and her husband, Petty Officer First Class Branson Wallace, being stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak not only means they can get their hunting and fishing fix on the island but also eat and share the wild fish and game with others. 

“Branson and I love living off of the meat/fish we harvest and we love sharing our passion with other members,” Ashley says. “We started canning and have given both canned and vacuum-sealed fish to several of our co-workers who aren’t able to get out.”

The Wallaces’ send their fish and some game for canning to Indian Valley Harvesting in Anchorage and brought back some delicious protein-packed treats from their previous hunts. 

 “We had deer bacon, caribou beef sticks and goat jerky made with our harvests this year,” Ashley says. “We will use them on our upcoming Dall sheep hunt.”

Ashley and Branson are involved with several veterans groups that help introduce the outdoors to those who have served in the armed forces, including Project Healing Waters (projecthealingwaters.org), the Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) and the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (wwiaf.org).

Giving back to those organizations and helping fellow servicemen and –women is important to both Ashley and Branson. 

“We take military veterans out on our boat fishing and teach them how to fly fish on the rivers. We also donate a box of fish for the Wounded Warriors in Action veterans every year when they come up,” she says. “Every veteran who gets underway with us takes home all the fish we’ve harvested for the day. If we don’t catch anything that day, or get too little to fill a 50-pound, box then we top it off from our personal freezer.” 

And some of their USCG colleagues also get to be a part of their Alaskan adventures. 

“We enjoy taking our coworkers out hunting and teaching them,” Ashley says. “We just took (Branson’s) co-worker out deer hunting, and he harvested his first deer here in Kodiak!” 

Pebble Mine Company CEO, Opponents Debate

Anchorage hosted a Pebble Mine panel discussion earlier this week, which included Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier debated the mine’s viability with opponents of proposed Bristol Bay project that conservationists continue to fight against the idea of mining in around Bristol’s fertile salmon spawning waterways.

Bristol Bay’s KDLG radio was on hand and filed a recap:, which included an appearance by longtime anti-Pebble advocate Rick Halford. Here’s KDLG with more:

Representing opposition to the mine, Halford raised several concerns. Among them, he believes the tailings pit lake that would form in the excavated area of the deposit after mining operations are complete would pose a grave risk to Bristol Bay’s water quality.

“It’s got arsenic, cadmium,” said Halford. “All the things that were left on the pit walls are now poisoning the water. So it’s a lake of poison that backfeeds all the drainages that it drew out of, and those are undefined. The environmental baseline data talks about the geology of the area and how porous it is, how there’s exchange between groundwater and surface water.”

Collier did go onto say that environmental safety was a priority for Pebble Partnership, though opponents of the mine probably won’t buy that argument.

 

 

 

Finding Gold Can ‘Hurt’ So Good

Dustin preparing to use his drill & hammer to secure a cable in to the rock, surrounded by water. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

In our February issue, we chatted with Dustin Hurt of the Discovery Channel series Gold Rush: White Water. You can catch a new episode tonight (check local listings).

Here’s a sneak preview of tonight’s episode:

 

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

BY CHRIS COCOLES

Dustin Hurt is the exception to the rule: the transplanted Alaskan who’s not here for the salmon.  

The Last Frontier’s gold is on Hurt’s mind. He’s been mining the state for years now and has been chronicled on the Discovery Channel shows Gold Rush and now Gold Rush: White Water. The show recently premiered its second season following the “Dakota Boys,” Dustin, his dad Fred Hurt (Alaska Sporting Journal, March 2018) and their crew’s ups and downs seeking riches on McKinley Creek, a rugged and treacherous stretch of water in Southeast Alaska. 

Dustin and Fred both have ties to Louisiana – Dustin’s accent is straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire central casting – where fishing both inland waters and the Gulf of Mexico is a way of life. Yet Dustin’s time in the Last Frontier doesn’t include casting for the state’s iconic fish. 

“I used to love bass fishing when I was young. I would try to skip school and skip work so I could go bass fishing,” Dustin recalls. “For whatever reason, once I got to Alaska I’ve become a landlubber. Here I am near all this ocean and I keep putting myself in the mountains where there’s no fish. Everyone around me fishes. And it’s not something that I’ve embraced about Alaska.”

But while some anglers may consider Alaska’s sockeye, coho and Chinook to be worth their weight in gold, the Dakota Boys are after the real thing. We asked Dustin Hurt about his obsession to strike it rich, plus his rather diverse backstory of growing up as a troublemaker in New Orleans and his redemption as a hard-working gold miner.  

Dustin wearing dive suit at McKinley Creek.

Chris Cocoles What has your Alaska experience been like given the highs and lows gold mining are sure to create?

Dustin Hurt I think I experienced Alaska differently than most people do when they come up there, because I go to some of the hardest-to-get-to places in this land. Some of the places have been explored but don’t get a lot of traffic. It’s led to me to love the area, but everywhere we go we have to try hard to get there. There’s no easy way to do anything here. I was born and raised in New Orleans, (where) everything’s flat and you can pretty much ride a bicycle through it. So it’s quite a change.

CC Has the state driven you crazy a few times and has it been an exhilarating place at the same time?

DH I’ve done a lot of different things in my life and this is the one thing that I keep coming back to. Because it makes me feel great about myself. I love to work hard – I’m a construction worker – so this kind of combines all the things that I’ve done in my past all into one, with an adventure ahead of it. Every day you really don’t know what you’re going to get. It is dangerous; we try to mitigate everything we can, but it does just make it exciting as hell. Every day is kind of a new adventure.

CC When I talked to your dad last year, he talked about what an amazing place McKinley Creek was. Is that how you see it?

DH I hiked through these (mining) claims many years ago and I fell in love with the difficulty of them. The place is trying to shut you down every day. Every time I go to McKinley Creek it feels like there’s something there trying to stop you from being there. And it’s a fight to the finish. To try to have the lowest impact and try to mitigate all the dangers is a daily goal. I don’t know; it’s just been one hell of an adventure. It maxes out your creativity every single day. 

Dustin Hurt & Fred Hurt.

CC During the last season of mining McKinley Creek, you and your crew had to endure a landslide and subsequent flash flood that damaged your mine site. How did you handle such a letdown in a project that surely sees a lot of highs and lows?

DH It’s hard to explain what it feels like to spend months and months and months doing just grueling hard work with just the most difficult uncertainty after pushing forward, and then in an instant, it just all gets taken from you. From all the lifting and the pulling, the countless hours, it kind of crushes your heart when you see it happen. It can be taken away in 20 seconds. It’s incredible to see and feel it. I don’t know how else to explain it. It would have to be like building a house and just about to finish it and it starts to burn down. It definitely pulls the heart from your chest. 

CC You can probably react to something like that multiple ways, from being discouraged enough to walk away or motivated to go back and try again. I can guess what you got from it. 

DH In my life I’ve found out that there are two different types of people: People who use failure as an excuse or who use failure as inspiration. And I fall into the latter category. When something challenges me I really like to try to complete my task – whatever that might be. To fail or win, I just want to do it the best I can. I’m not proving it to anyone else but myself. I need to know that I can do it. It’s something deep inside me that has to come out. I don’t know how to begin any other way. 

(From left to right) Carlos, Wes, Fred, Rich, Dustin + Paul in the water at McKinley Creek. They are known as the “Dakota Boys.”

CC Your dad told me that you had some tough times personally growing up around New Orleans. Was there a turning point for you that changed your life for the better?

DH The turning point. It’s been a gradual battle to figure out who I am. I was definitely raised in an area to where I could have definitely gone the wrong way, and was headed that way for sure. But I got turned around somehow and it was a gradual exposure to literature and different experiences; traveling; seeing my little world from an outside vantagepoint while stepping out and seeing different countries. I forced myself to do these things to look inward and see what was actually happening in my life. It opened up a whole new world that I knew I had to have a piece of. I’m still expanding my knowledge of the world and looking at my tiny life seeing how I can make it better.

CC You probably had to be pretty tough as a New Orleans native. 

DH I grew up with tough knuckles. I learned to fight at a very young age. I don’t like to fight as an adult and I won’t do it. But what it did do was give me some sort of drive to know that I did not want to be a part of that world – the street hustles and all those types of stuff that I grew up around. New Orleans can be a pretty harsh place where I was. It did give me an outlook on life that a lot of people don’t get to see. I did grow up fighting and as an adult, I think I can look back and say it did make me as tough as nails. But now I’d rather use my mind instead of my fist. That’s what I’m doing now. 

CC Part of your life journey was spent in California fighting wildfires as a hotshot. What was that experience like?

DH I moved to California when I was 24 years old and joined the hotshot crew and fought fires for maybe four years in different areas. It was a perfect match because I was used to the heat, being from New Orleans. Most of the people around me couldn’t stand heat as well as I could. I was accustomed to it. What they thought was really hot standing next to a fire with a chainsaw, I was pretty comfortable. 

With my fitness level at the time, that made me perfect for the job. I excelled for a couple years fighting wildland fires. It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Every time I see one of these fires I think about the work that it takes to put them out by hand. It’s absolutely incredible what a group of people can do with some hand tools and chainsaws in putting out a fire. It taught me that with a good group of people, you can almost get anything done that you need to get done, and faster than you ever thought it could happen. 

(From left to right) Carlos, Wes, Fred, Rich, Dustin + Paul in the water at McKinley Creek.

CC How did you react over the last year or so given that many places in California have been devastated by these blazes?

DH Well, I don’t want to come across as insensitive in any way, but for me being born and raised on the outskirts of New Orleans, we flooded constantly. Almost every year people would lose houses by the hundreds. Finally a big hurricane (2005’s Katrina) came through and almost wiped out the whole city. It’s just been a part of my natural life watching natural disasters. With fires, I’ve seen the destructive force of it and it can be the equivalent of a real big hurricane. When I see it I can sympathize with the people, but I’ve become so accustomed to losing stuff – I’ve lost seven vehicles to floods as a young adult.

I can understand how it feels to lose all your things and people dying because of these natural (disasters), and it’s horrible. I’ve just become used to natural forces destroying things. That may sound harsh, but I just see it that way. It’s a horrible thing but part of living on this earth, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never lived in a place that doesn’t have its dangers and you just have to prepare the best for them and get out of the way when you can.

CC Is it safe to say that your time in Alaska and gold has changed your life and your dad’s life?

DH Well, I was on track after the fire crew to be a construction worker. It’s always my fallback to be a construction worker. And now that I’ve found adventure in the mountains and something I truly love to do, it’s made me a different person. I have to think out of the box constantly and I don’t just have to put my head down and dig ditches. It’s attracted me to Alaska in a way that I had no idea that I would love a place. Sometimes you just hate it because of the weather, and the ice gets there way too fast. Sometimes the rain doesn’t stop for months. Then when it’s beautiful out you just fall in love all over again. It’s a love-hate relationship, and Alaska’s been really good to me. I love it here. I see it forever changing my world. 

CC Can you share some experiences about the wildlife there – specifically all the bear encounters you’ve had in Alaska?

DH [Laughs] There have been a lot of bear encounters up there with us – some of them stranger than you can ever imagine. 

Sometimes we’ll get these juvenile bears that are just bullies. And they just won’t take no for answer. And my crew and I were against shooting the bears, so we haven’t harmed any. But man, has it come close? Bluff charging and sometimes they want to take over an area. You almost have to hit him with a stick or a rock or something to get them to respond at all. We’re not going to shoot them unless we absolutely have to. 

But there have been a few times where I wish the film crew was around for some of these instances. Because we get bears that don’t know that you’re not a bear. They’ll run into you on a trail and they’re really young bears by themselves. And they want to test you, so they’ll bluff charge you, they’ll stop, run back, roll around, climb a tree and they’ll want you to come and play. Then they’ll bluff charge you again. 

You’ll just look at this bear and say, “What are you doing?” And you realize that it doesn’t know if you’re a young bear because it’s never seen a human before. And this bear wants to play and then wants to challenge you, and then it doesn’t know what to do. It’s not afraid of you; it’s just confused about what you are. You’re just an upright, skinny pink bear to them. And they want to play and then they want to fight. 

Thankfully we’ve never had to hurt a bear, but they get ornery, especially when the berries aren’t out and they want to come into your house or your tent. They just won’t take no for answer. Sometimes you have to put up the little electric fences to stop them. 

 “I’ve never been in more danger in my entire life. My hair’s gotten a little bit grayer from i,” Hurt says about this season of Gold Rush.” 

CC Tell me about your relationship with your dad. On camera you guys seem to live for arguing and bickering with each other. But is that relationship also stronger because of it all? 

DH Well, every season is a surprise for Fred and I. I worked for him for nine or 10 years when I was younger and he taught me quite a lot of stuff. I got a lot of my construction skills from him. We fought tooth and nail back when I was just a young dumb fella. 

Now we even fight worse sometimes. I often start every season wondering if we’re going to be friends at the end of that season. But we keep working together because we see value in each other’s minds. Because even though he has some crazy ideas, one in 20 of those ideas is brilliant and I’d never be able come up with it. It works perfectly. But those other 19 ideas can be absolutely ludicrous. 

I think he enjoys fighting with me to a point and I (do) too, just a bit. I don’t know that we communicate like normal people do. There’s no one on Earth I would communicate like that to and still be able to stay around him. So somehow we have this way of communicating that’s understood that we’re gonna be a little rude to each other. That’s just how it’s going to be, and we both accept that. We’re not offended and one year we’ll come away and swear we’re never going to talk to each other again, and the very next season we’re best friends. It’s just the weirdest situation ever. 

CC Without giving much away, what can viewers expect from the Dakota Boys this season on Gold Rush: White Water?

DH I’ve never been in more danger in my entire life. My hair’s gotten a little bit grayer from it. Some of the scariest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff. If I go past that, I’m not sure I’m going to survive to make another season. ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Gold Rush: White Water air on Friday nights on the Discovery Channel (check local listings). For more on the show, check out discovery.com/tv-shows/gold-rush-white-water.

One River Closure, One Restricted For Kodiak King Salmon Fishing

The following press releases are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Karluk River Closed to King Salmon Fishing

(Kodiak) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation closure for king salmon in the Karluk River drainage including the lagoon and its outlet stream effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2019. This closure prohibits sport fishing for king salmon including catch-and-release. During the closure, king salmon may not be targeted, possessed, or retained; king salmon that are caught incidentally while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In addition, as an added measure to reduce incidentally hooked king salmon, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Karluk River drainage below Karluk Lake including the lagoon and its outlet stream.

“Although escapements have occasionally improved slightly since record lows in 2008, the recent trend of poor runs and very low king salmon returns warrant closing the Karluk River sport fishery,” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “Since 2006, the Karluk River king salmon escapement goal has only been achieved four times, even with management actions to reduce king salmon retention in sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries. In January 2011, the Board of Fisheries designated Karluk River king salmon a stock of concern.”

King salmon angling opportunities may be restored in the Karluk River by a subsequent emergency order, if inseason assessment indicates the king salmon run is stronger than anticipated. Beginning late May, ADF&G staff will closely monitor this fishery at the Karluk River salmon counting weir.

Ayakulik River King Salmon Restricted to Catch-and-Release Only

(Kodiak) – In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation restriction for king salmon in the Ayakulik River drainage effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2019. During this restriction, king salmon may not be possessed or retained; king salmon that are caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In addition, as an added measure to reduce incidentally hooked king salmon, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Ayakulik River drainage.

“Even with management actions to reduce king salmon retention in sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries, the king salmon escapement goal has not been achieved for several years,” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “The recent trend of poor king salmon returns warrants the regulation restrictions of the king salmon sport fishery in the Ayakulik River drainage.”

Retention opportunities may be restored in the Ayakulik River drainage by a subsequent emergency order, if inseason assessment indicates the king salmon run is stronger than anticipated. Beginning late May, ADF&G staff will closely monitor this fishery at the Ayakulik River salmon counting weir.

For additional information, please contact the Division of Sport Fish Kodiak Office at (907) 486-1880.

 

Registration Nearing For Homer Winter King Tournament

 

The following press release is courtesy of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau:

2018 Homer Winter King Salmon TournamentJim Lavrakas/Far North Photography2018 Homer Winter King Salmon TournamentJim Lavrakas/Far North Photography

HOMER, Alaska: The Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center will host its 26th annual Winter King Fishing Tournament on March 23rd.  Online registration for the tournament will begin February 1.  Mark your calendar, get your boat ready, buy your fishing license, and prepare to fish in one of Alaska’s largest fishing competitions.

2018 Champion Charlie Edwards of Fritz Creek, Alaska, won last year’s tournament with a fish weighing 24.6 pounds. Edwards payout was $56,902.50. The total payouts were over $160,000 in cash and prizes!

Other 2018 stats:

379 Boats

1,267 Anglers

105 fish caught & weighed

For registration information and tournament stats visit www.HomerWinterKing.com.

Beginning at 3pm, March 23rd, the public is invited to celebrate with anglers at Coal Point Seafoods (4306 Homer Spit Road) Winter King Tournament Headquarters.  There will be food available for purchase, music, fish weigh-in, and an awards ceremony.

For more information about the tournament please contact Nyla Lightcap at the Homer Chamber 907-235-7740 or wkt@homeralaska.org

 

Multiple New Fishing Regulations Announced For Tanana River Drainage

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

The Alaska Board of Fisheries, at the January 15-19 Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim meeting in Anchorage, deliberated on 16 and adopted 11 proposals that will change sport fishing regulations in the Tanana River drainage for the upcoming fishing season. These new regulations will be in the following water bodies:

  • Chena River: a youth-only sport fishery now allows kids under the age of 16 to harvest Arctic grayling with a bag and possession limit of one fish of any size. The youth-only area of the Chena River extends downstream from a regulatory marker 300 feet downstream of the Chena flood control project to the confluence with the Tanana River. The youth-only fishery will occur weekends only over four consecutive weekends beginning with the third Saturday in June.
  • Koole and Dune lakes: the bag and possession limit for all stocked species combined is now 10 fish, of which only one may be greater than 18 inches. Previously, the bag and possession limit was five fish, of which only one could be 18 inches or longer.
  • Delta Clearwater River: the bag and possession limit of one Arctic grayling, 12 inches or smaller is now open year-round. Previously, the open period for harvesting Arctic grayling less than 12 inches was from June 1 to December 31.
  • Chisana River drainage: the bag and possession limit for northern pike in all flowing waters and lakes is five fish, of which only one may be 30 inches or greater. This was increased from a bag and possession limit of two fish.
  • George and Volkmar lakes: the open season for northern pike is now year-round. Previously, the season was open from June 1 to April 20.
  • Little Harding Lake: is now open to sport fishing for northern pike year-round with a bag and possession limit of five fish, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. Previously, Little Harding Lake was closed to fishing for northern pike.
  • Toklat River drainage: is now open to sport fishing for all salmon and nonsalmon fish species year-round, except for within a three-mile section of the mainstem Toklat River that will be closed to all fishing from August 15 to May 15. The three-mile section extends from approximately one mile upstream to approximately two miles downstream of the Kobi-McGrath trail crossing. Precise waypoints of the boundaries will be provided in the new regulation summary booklet. Previously, the entire Toklat River was closed to all sport fishing from August 15 to May 15.

These regulations will take effect with the release of the 2019 Northern Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary. To find a preliminary summary of all actions taken at the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim meeting please check the Alaska Board of Fisheries website at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

Any questions regarding these changes to the sport fishing regulations in the Tanana River drainage can be directed to either Heather Scannell (907) 459-7357 or Klaus Wuttig (907) 459-7344 at the Fairbanks Fish and Game office.