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Fishing Scenes From The Balkans

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I recently returned from a week road tripping through four different nations/territories (technically five, as our rental car briefly crossed into Croatia but only for about an  hour’s worth of driving) that were once part of the now dissolved Yugoslavia: Serbia, Kosovo (a fascinating place that,  despite claiming independence from Serbia in 2008,  is still not recognized as an independent nation by 110 other flags), Montenegro and Bosnia. I could relay a lot about the cultural diversity and strong opinions my friend and I experienced spending time in nations that hate each other and had a war to prove it.

But this is a far less tension-filled fishing and hunting website. So rather than show off my less than knowledgeable stand on politics and religion, how about simply a collection of fishing images I snapped throughout my trip:

I never figured if these Belgrade, Serbia anglers were fishing the famous "blue" Danube or the converging Sava River that also flows through the capital city.

I never figured if these Belgrade, Serbia anglers were fishing the famous “blue” Danube or the converging Sava River that also flows through the capital city.

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Belgrade has fishing shops too!

Belgrade has fishing shops too!

This guy (pictured above) had quite a great time around the Bay of Kotor

This guy (pictured above) had quite a great time around the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro catching a lot of small fish that he surely made a great meal from.

Lake Skadar is a massive freshwater fishery that is bordered by Montenegro and Albania on its southeast shoreline. We saw a lot of folks fishing for trout, carp and even eel, which is a delicacy in this part of the country.

Lake Skadar is a massive freshwater fishery that is bordered by Montenegro and Albania on its southeast shoreline. We saw a lot of folks fishing for trout, carp and even eel, which is a delicacy in this part of the country.

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I stumbled onto the remains of a Bosnian fish hatchery next to the Buna River.

I stumbled onto the remains of a Bosnian fish hatchery next to the Buna River.

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In the same area, a cool outdoor restaurant patio had a small pond of seemingly carefree trout that will likely become a pond-to-table dish.

In the same area, a cool outdoor restaurant patio had a small pond of seemingly carefree trout that will likely become a pond-to-table dish.

Gold Rush Season Premiere Friday

One of the Discovery Channel’s flagship shows has been Gold Rush, which we profiled in the December, 2014 magazine. The show’s sixth season premieres on Friday. Here’s the Discovery Channel with more:

As the Klondike winter comes to an end, a new mining season begins. And this year, the tables have certainly turned. There are bold new challenges, new equipment and massive power shifts. It’s a battle like never before among the crews as they push to find the most gold yet. Gold mining is a dangerous business and you never know who’s going to come out on top. Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH returns for its sixth season on Friday, October 16 at 9 PM ET/PT, with the pre-show, The Dirt, at 8 PM ET/PT.

Last year, Todd Hoffman rose from the ashes and brought his crew back from the brink of bankruptcy. This season he has gold-rich ground, a seasoned crew and is in position to keep his hot streak alive. But Todd’s a big dreamer and this year even his crew is blown away by the staggering season goal he sets. For the first time, he’ll have three generations of Hoffman men working on the claim as Hunter, his 16-year old son, keeps the family tradition alive. The only thing standing in Todd’s way could be his ego. Can he keep it in check and finally give young Parker Schnabel a run for his money? Or will his lofty season goal backfire leaving the Hoffman crew disappointed yet again?

Meanwhile, Parker Schnabel has his hands full. Last season, he mined an unprecedented $3 million of gold. But it came at a price as he drove his crew into the ground leaving many questioning whether they would ever work for the young mine boss again. Parker, who turns 21 this year, finds out the hard way that one season of gold mining has nothing to do with the next. He’s forced to draw on everything his beloved Grandpa John has taught him in order to avoid a disastrous season. Parker has to do more than find a lot of gold this season, he has to figure out how to become a leader of men.

Tony Beets, aka “The Viking,” is a Klondike legend. As winter closed in at the end of last season, Tony was finally about to resurrect his million dollar, 75-year-old gold mining dredge. But this year, he has to get the machine, which hasn’t run in 30 years, to actually produce gold. Tony desperately needs the dredge to start paying for itself but more than anything, he wants to shut up the naysayers that think he’s crazy to gold mine the old fashioned way. This season it’s all hands on deck as dredging for Klondike gold becomes a family affair. Can the Beets, the first family of Yukon gold mining, revive an ancient way of pulling gold out of the ground or will the massive undertaking turn into a giant money pit? Tony’s out to prove that the old timers had it right…that dredging is the future of gold mining in the Klondike.

Also returning is the GOLD RUSH pre-show “The Dirt,” a series of one-hour shows, beginning 8 PM ET/PT on Friday, October 16, where the miners give the inside scoop on all things GOLD RUSH and where fans can get access to behind-the-scenes, cutting room floor material that never makes it into the show.

Season 6 of GOLD RUSH is full of shocking twists and far more gold than our miners have ever seen before. The question is…who gets it all? Tune in on October 16 to see all the drama unfold on Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH.

Photo by Discovery Channel

Photo by Discovery Channel

 
Here’s my interview with Parker Schnabel (above right) that appeared in the December, 2014 issue of ASJ:

By Chris Cocoles

Parker Schnabel is just 20 years old, so please forgive the young man if he’s not satisfied with finding over $ 1 million in gold last year.
“We’re going all out this season – I’m setting a 2,000-ounce goal for us,” the Haines, Alaska, resident tells his crew from his claim on Scribner Creek in the Yukon, during a Season 5 episode of the Discovery Channel hit, Gold Rush.
Schnabel’s rookie season running his own Klondike operation brought in quite a haul – 1,029 ounces worth a cool $1.4 million. You know that had to bring a smile to the face of Parker’s grandfather John Schnabel, an Alaska-toughened 94-year-old who has battled through an aggressive prostate cancer to see his original mining company, Big Nugget, handed down to his wunderkind of a grandson.
At one point, John visited Smith Creek, a Southeast Alaskan mine site the family’s patriarch has vowed to find gold at before he runs out of time, and found his son, Roger and grandsons Parker and Payson. It was an emotional moment for the family.
“I think my grandpa was really pleased to see us up here working together, side by side,” Parker Schnabel says. “That’s a big thing, and at his age he’s gotten pretty sentimental about family.”
It’s become the most human element of Gold Rush. Sure, it’s about striking it rich; but for young Schnabel, it’s about carrying on a family tradition at the youngest of ages and doing quite nicely for himself.
We caught up with Parker Schnabel and talked success, family and his clashes with landlord and fellow miner, Tony Beets.

Chris Cocoles I’m sure you get asked this all the time: you’re 20 years old having  this success and leading your own crew, but have there been moments when you’ve asked yourself what you’ve already accomplished before the age of 21?
Parker Schnabel It’s a little surreal sometimes, for sure. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m awfully lucky; I’ve had a hell of a lot of good opportunities. It’s not like I started at the very bottom shoveling ditches or anything. Really, a whole lot of it has to do with being at the right place and the right time, and I don’t forget that.

CC But you’re clearly way ahead of the curve from a business sense.
PS I grew up doing this, watching my dad run a business –  and a pretty successful one. And I was pretty lucky because he didn’t really keep any secrets from me. He was letting me watch what he was doing. I’d sit in his office during meetings while he’d hire people and fire people; anything I wanted to see as a far as a business goes, I could. It got me into a position where, two years ago, it wasn’t all completely foreign. So while a lot of it is a little scary and daunting, if you just tear into it it’s not that bad.

CC What kind of positive influences have you had from your family?
PS My grandpa was the one who was doing the gold mining. My dad runs a construction business. But it’s the same idea. You’re trying to move dirt from Point A to Point B as smooth as you can. And it’s not like I’m the most organized person in the world. I pay my bills as long as I have money in the bank, and that’s about it.

CC What I love most about the show is the dynamic of the relationship between you and your grandpa. How much of an impact has he had on your young life?
PS It’s pretty easy to say that none of this would be happening if it weren’t for him. But he’s definitely a big part of my life and my whole family’s life. He’s one of a kind – that’s for sure.

CC Is there one moment that stands out between your relationship?
PS There’s no one thing, really, I don’t think. I basically spend three to four months a year with him for almost 10 years, from the time I was 8 until I was 18. When I’d get out of school I’d still be staying at home. But I would go there every day. I can’t really say there’s one specific thing that defines us.

CC Is there one word that defines what it takes to be successful in finding gold? Persistence? Patience?
PS Stupidity? Honestly, it’s probably that you have to be a pretty stubborn. You look at the guys who have been in the Yukon for a while mining like Tony and a lot of those other guys, you’re a long ways away from anything that you need. If you need parts or some steel, things like that, you’re not going to be able to get it anytime soon. So you really have to work with just what you’ve got and to make due what you have there. And I’m not very good at that; I don’t have the greatest imagination. But the guys on my crew like Gene (Cheeseman) and Mitch (Blaschke), and another new mechanic I brought in, Mike Beaudry – they’re some of the best of the best when it comes to that kind of stuff. We can pretty well make do with whatever we have laying around.

CC As a team, have you built it around each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
PS For sure, especially this season because it’s our second year together for most of them. And now that we kind of know what everybody’s good at and bad at, things go together fairly smoothly, usually. [pauses] Maybe I shouldn’t put my foot in my mouth too far in case a few things don’t work out too well.

CC Over the course of time, have you found yourself needing to earn the respect of a crew that’s mostly older than you?
PS There are always issues with that. I don’t really think it has to do with my age; maybe it does. But I haven’t had those kinds of issues before with people. I’m going in blind to certain extent and I do the best I can. But it’s still tough. I would say it’s still an issue. When you watch this season you’ll see there are still some of the same issues with my crew as there were last season. And it’s just part of the game.

CC Does it sort of feel like a big family that you know will have moments of insanity?
PS Yeah, one big dysfunctional family.

CC What about Tony Beets? I’m sure at times he’s been both a mentor and the enemy along the way.
PS Tony is a tough guy to work with. He’s very demanding as far as the way he wants things done. And that’s OK, but it changes too. You think you’re doing everything perfectly fine, he’ll see you doing it and won’t say a thing; and the next day, you’re doing the worst thing you could do in the world. And that I don’t really appreciate. He’s probably the toughest guy who I’ve ever worked with.

CC What was life like growing up in Haines? Was it normal or pretty unique?
PS For Alaska and the town I grew up in it was normal. There were a lot of kids I grew up with, who, at the same age I started doing what I was doing, they bought a fishing boat and started commercial fishing. Or there were other people who don’t really own a business but are running a business. Everything is obviously smaller, but it’s still a lot of responsibility. I still (had time to) play basketball. I played all four years of high school. And it wasn’t like I was some social outcast.

CC Was the haul you had last season with over 1,000 ounces in gold a surprise?
PS Last season was [pauses], we were surprised with it, but, at the same time, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have anything to base it off of. We didn’t know what the grade in the ground was going to be as far as how much gold we were going to get every day or every week, or anything. We didn’t how to deal with permafrost or any of that kind of stuff. So anything would have been a surprise – either 500 ounces or 5,000 ounces.

CC It had to be awfully satisfying to accomplish what you did.
PS Yes, it was. And it put us in position where there is a huge amount of startup cost with a new operation.

CC On an episode recap show your mom and you talked about wanting you to go to college. But what’s in store for you in the future?
PS There are a lot of things I want to do, like getting back to college. But, at the same time, I’m getting the opportunity do something (special). I’m not going to learn any more than I am now sitting in college.

CC I guess what you’ve done is already quite the education.
PS Two days ago I was having lunch with the COO of Discovery Channel. That’s not going to happen sitting in some college classroom, as fun as that sounds. ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Gold Rush can be seen on the Discovery Channel on Fridays at 9 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Central. Check out Parker Schnabel on Facebook (facebook.com/pages/Parker-Schnabel/266076300104716) and Twitter (@goldrush_parker).

‘Dropped’ Survival Show Features New Twist

 

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Last year, we introduced you to the Keefer Brothers of Dropped: Project Alaskaa Sportsman Channel series that saw brothers Chris and Casey Keefer use their outdoor skills and creativity to survive the Alaskan wilderness. The new season of the show is premiering this month a bit of a twist.

A father-and-son team from Fairfield, Utah will appear this season as the show alters its format a bit.

KSL in Salt Lake City had the details:

Kaid Panek said he and his father, RL Panek, both love hunting, camping and spending time in the outdoors. RL Panek always had a life goal of hunting moose in Alaska, but his dream was put on hold when he was diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer in 2011. He underwent radiation and surgery to have the tumor removed and was declared cancer free by the end of the year.

After the near brush with death, Kaid Panek told his father to book an Alaskan moose hunt.

“We told him it was time — that he needed to start chasing some bucket list items,” Kaid Panek said.

In 2013, RL Panek booked a hunt in the Yukon, and while preparing for it, began watching the first season of “Dropped,” a reality TV show featuring two brothers who get dropped into the wilderness and have to hunt for food and survive 28 days in rugged Alaskan terrain.

“He got hooked on the show and loved what they stood for and their mission,” Kaid Panek said. “And it was just kind of a, ‘How cool would that be?’ “

Typically, “Dropped” features brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, but for its fourth season, the producers decided to invite two guests on the show. A video contest was created to select the participants and RL Panek decided to enter with his son. They made a submission video and were shocked when they were contacted by the Keefer brothers.

For Some Reason, The LWCF Is In Jeopardy

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Editor’s note: Andy Walgamott is the executive editor for Alaska Sporting Journal and the editor of our sister magazine, Northwest Sportsman. 

 

Despite a wave of support from Northwest hunters, anglers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the important Land and Water Conservation Fund may not be reauthorized by the deadline to do so, today, Sept. 30.

Supporters are deeply worried that the fund, created in 1965, will for the first time ever not be allocated new revenues.

 

A hugely important funding mechanism — Washington alone has benefited to the tune of $600 million — for setting aside lands to hunt on, access fisheries and provide other outdoor recreation, LWCF has been put on hold by a Utah representative who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Revenues for the fund come from royalties on offshore gas and oil leases and are then disbursed through federal agencies and to the states. Rep. Bob Bishop’s stated beef is that 60 percent of the LWCF is earmarked for stateside programs, but in 2014, only 16 percent was actually sent to them.

He claims he wants to modernize the fund to “(protect) state and local recreational access.”

I don’t really buy that. I think it’s cover for the greater Sagebrush Rebellion II going on in the West, one that is not in the best interests of hunters, anglers or other outdoor users of any political stripe.

LWCF needs to be put above politics. Washington Reps. Dave Reichert (R) and Derek Kilmer (D) have recognized the value of the program. They’ve called on Congress to reauthorize the fund.

(It should be noted that in July, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) teamed up to unveil a bipartisan energy bill to endorse and renew the LWCF before it expires). 

In an urgent email earlier this week, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association director Liz Hamilton pointed out, “LWCF is responsible for hundreds of miles of river access, thousands of acres of land for hunters to enjoy, and numerous national parks.”

“NSIA commissioned study in 2013 which found that more than 7,200 jobs are created due to fishing on public lands in Oregon and more than 10,000 jobs in Washington.  Not surprisingly, 65% of fishing related spending takes place due to public access.  Our access to public lands means that guides, tackle makers, rod builders, etc. have a strong and faithful customer base,” she added, urging readers to email their U.S. Senators.

Though LWCF can disburse up to $900 million, last year it was funded to the tune of $306 million.

But it wasn’t included in Congress’s continuing resolution to keep the government operating for a couple months, so no money may be available for 2016.

This is just dumb.

Flat stupid.

But maybe not the end of the world. The call for permanent reauthorization is going on as I write this.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R) just tweeted out, “HAPPENING NOW: I’m leading a group of Senators in calling for permanent reauthorization of . Watch live:

His counterpart on the other side, Sen. John Tester (D), earlier tweeted, “ is one of the most important conservation tools we have & the majority is letting it expire.

LWCF needs to be above rightwing and leftwing politics. It’s for the good of all. Permanently reauthorize it so we don’t have to go through this BS during hunting season, some of the best fishing of the year, and most scenic hiking weather.

Size Matters: Alaska’s Salmon And Halibut Shrinking?

Aaron Williams with a pink of 5.46 pounds

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Fascinating report in The Alaska Dispatch analyzing the size of some of Alaska gamefish like salmon and halibut.

Here’s reporter Sean Doogan:

Small fish were also gumming up the top of many of the state’s silver salmon derby leader boards. And fisheries biologists say that red salmon in Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound were noticeably smaller this year, too.

Cook Inlet commercial fisheries biologists are still crunching the numbers from this year’s run, but they’ve already have noticed a trend — shorter, and thinner sockeye salmon.

“That was the attention-grabbing species during course of summer,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Cook Inlet Commercial Fisheries Biologist Pat Shields.

Bristol Bay, which hosts the largest wild run of sockeye in the world, saw reds arrive small and late. According to Fish and Game, the average size of red salmon caught commercially in Bristol Bay in 2015 was the smallest on record: 5.12 pounds — almost 13 percent smaller than the average. By contrast, the average weight for Bristol Bay reds last year was 5.96 pounds.

There were similar stories throughout Alaska.

“The size of sockeye is much smaller than average this year, and we are seeing that around the state,” said Jason Pawluk, a sportfishing biologist with Fish and Game’s Soldotna office.

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Whether or not this is an anomaly or a sign of things to come, it’s something to think about and continue to monitor for sure.

 

 

Brown Bear That Mauled Hunter Found Dead

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale

 

This is a few days old, but a brown bear that mauled a hunter has been found dead close to the original attack site.

From the Associated Press:

The adult female bear was found Wednesday mortally wounded about 100 yards from the attack site in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge after being shot. Officials say two bullet wounds were found in the bear.

There were no signs of her cubs. Game officials said the bear was not actively nursing, suggesting the cubs were at least yearlings and possibly 2- or 3-year-olds old.

Gregory Matthews of Plano (PLAY’-noh), Texas, is recovering at a nearby hospital after being attacked Tuesday while moose hunting.

King Salmon, Alaska Named One Of Top Destinations

The Bristol Bay area was named one of nine destinations to visit in USA Today's fishing and hunting magazine. (BECCA ELLINGSWORTH)

The Bristol Bay area was named one of nine destinations to visit in USA Today’s fishing and hunting magazine. (BECCA ELLINGSWORTH)

 

 

USA Today’s summer/fall fishing and hunting guide is out, and King Salmon, Alaska, made the list of nine top destinations to head to.

Here’s some of the description:

The name says it all — King Salmon, a small town in southwest Alaska that provides access to the Bristol Bay watershed and its run of the five species of Pacific salmon. The fishery hosts more than 37,000 anglers annually, but don’t worry about crowds — we’re talking 40,000 square miles of unspoiled wilderness the size of Wisconsin that encompasses five national parks and streams so numerous many of them aren’t even named.

   Among salmon, kings and silvers draw the most attention from sport anglers; kings arrive mid-June and silvers in August.

   In between, sockeyes, pinks and chums return to their natal waters — the sockeye run can reach 40 million. The Naknek and Nushagak rivers are best for kings but also boast strong runs of silvers, which return to streams distributed throughout the watershed.

  

Evidence Of Ancient Alaska Salmon Fishing Found

 

 

Photo by Thomas Quine/Flickr

Photo by Thomas Quine/Flickr

I’m a big history geek and love stories like this one in the Alaska Dispatch. Evidence has been unearthed linking this state’s dependence and reverence for salmon fishing dates back thousands of years:

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the earliest known evidence Ice Age humans in North America used salmon as a food source. Ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis from salmon vertebrae bones found in Interior Alaska indicate sea-run chum salmon were consumed by North American hunters 11,500 years ago.

 The study notes that the findings are significant because it shows that Ice Age Paleoindians also fished, altering the understanding that the group was focused primarily on hunting big game. The study also notes that the findings at the Upward Sun River site — approximately 1,400 kilometers upriver from the coast — show chum salmon spawning runs were established by the end of the last Ice Age.

 “There’s such economic and cultural importance (of salmon) to Native Alaskans and Native Americans,” said Carrin Halffman, UAF biological anthropologist and lead author of the study. “To find out that salmon fishing has such deep roots in Alaska and North America is very significant.”

 

Dr. Ben Potter, UAF professor of anthropology and project director at the Upward Sun River site, said the findings also have broader implications toward understanding the technology, economy and settlement patterns of early Alaskans.

 

He said the salmon, with their large, annual runs, likely played into how early humans collected the resource and shaped their life patterns.

 

“It’s a very predictable resource, versus going after caribou, which is not quite as predictable,” Potter said.

 The bones were found in a hearth at the Upward Sun River site near the Tanana River located east of Fairbanks. The same site is the location of the oldest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic and subarctic.

 

 

Sportsman Channel Host Faces Poaching Charges

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Clark W. Dixon of Hazelhurts, Miss. has hosted the Sportsman Channel series The Syndicate. But Dixon faces multiple poaching violations in Alaska.

Here’s the Associated Press:

“The charges show five years of documented, illegal take of wildlife involving over two dozen big game animals,” Loeffler said.

There were at least four hunts conducted for the show in Alaska over that time span, said Steven Skrocki, the lead prosecutor.

“All of the Alaska hunts that appeared on his show were conducted illegally,” he said, adding they “were edited to appear not illegal.”

Loeffler noted that various types of hunting, including commercial and subsistence hunting, is allowed in the preserve, north of the Arctic Circle.

“This is an amazing state, and what we have here is very inviting to people from outside and should be,” she said. “We just want people to do it legally.”

Prosecutors charged a host of the show, Clark W. Dixon, 41, of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, with two felony violations of the Lacey Act. The others who were charged, from Alaska, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Nevada, face misdemeanors or ticket offenses.

A message left by The Associated Press at Dixon’s home Monday evening was not immediately returned. Sportsman Channel spokesman Tom Caraccioli said the channel has no comment.

Among those charged is Dixon’s father, Charles W. Dixon, 70, of Brookhaven, Mississippi, and authorities are seeking forfeiture of his aircraft.

 

Lost Hunter Subsisted On Berries, Bird

Photo by Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Photo by Kristine Sowl, USFWS

 

 

Hunters and anglers get lost in Alaska all the time, sometimes with tragic results. But a reported happy ending  for 49-year-old Charlie Hull.

From KTUU:

“Every time [people] come back from moose camp there’s always a different story and that’s what I said before I left. I want my own story,” said Hull. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

The trouble began last Saturday, Hull said, when he told his fellow hunters he was going for a short walk to look for moose around 7 a.m. He quickly became surrounded by fog, he said, and couldn’t see more than 15 feet. 

He was wearing sweatpants beneath neon green rain pants, two layers of shirts, a sweatshirt, a beanie and rain boots at the time. The only other items he had were two guns and a Bowie knife. …

He slept in the cold without a sleeping bag and lived on fresh river water and berries. On Tuesday, the third day of the ordeal, he used a rifle to shoot a spruce hen, he said. 

“Believe it or not but grouse ain’t bad, raw grouse is not bad,” said Hull.

Here are the Alaska State Troopers dispatches on the case: