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New Waterfowl Bag Limits Get Increased


Photo by Scott Haugen

Sorry for just posting this now (I was out of the office for a few days around the Labor Day weekend!).

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

Waterfowl hunting season opened on September 1 over much of Alaska and several regulations changes—including increases to daily bag limits for canvasbacks, snow geese, and brant—spell good news for duck and goose hunters this fall:

  • Beginning September 1, canvasback limits statewide will increase from one to two birds per day, six in possession. The bag limit bump comes after 2016 breeding population estimates were determined to be 26 percent greater than the long-term average of the last 50 years. Canvasback populations in North America have increased recently to more than 725,000 birds.
  • The bag limits for “light” geese (snow and Ross’ geese) increase statewide this season from four to six birds per day, 18 in possession. Breeding surveys of light geese in the western Arctic, including on Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plain, indicate these populations are increasing and have potential to reach undesirable population levels. The harvest increase is not expected to significantly reduce these populations.
  • Statewide bag limits for brant will increase from two to three birds, nine in possession. The 2016 winter brant survey counted 140,000 birds. An increased harvest was approved by the Pacific Flyway Council as part of a cooperative harvest strategy when the population exceeded 135,000 birds

Waterfowl hunters are reminded that amendments last year to the federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act raised the price of federal waterfowl stamps from $15 to $25 and redefined which hunters must have a federal stamp to hunt waterfowl. All waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older must have a current federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp; exceptions include those who are permanent rural residents of an “included area” or permanent rural residents eligible for subsistence under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. “Included areas” are those areas where spring/summer migratory bird subsistence harvest is currently legal. Included areas and subsistence harvest regulations can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/alaska/ambcc/Regulations.htm .

For questions or clarifications, please contact the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement at (907) 786-3311.

A reminder to Palmer Hay Flats hunters: Hunters who plan to visit Southcentral Alaska’s popular Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge near Wasilla should be aware of a regional restriction to ATV use on the Cottonwood Creek ATV trail. All but the first mile of the ATV trail will remain closed to motorized vehicles through the fall season as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game works to protect wetlands and mitigate damage caused by expanding tidal guts and ATVs. The closure will affect waterfowl hunters and other recreationists who use ATVs to access remote portions of the refuge via the 6.5-mile-long trail.

Hunters, keep it clean: Waterfowl hunters are reminded that in 2015 several strains of avian influenza were detected in waterfowl in the Lower 48. None of these strains were transmitted to people. Although highly pathogenic avian flu has not been detected in Alaska, hunters should be aware that wildlife can carry pathogens of many kinds. As always, waterfowl hunters are advised to practice routine hygiene when handling, cleaning and cooking wild game. The Department of Fish and Game recommends the following:

  • Do not handle or eat obviously sick game.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • Wash hands and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come into contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked (meat internal temperature of 165° F).

Monitoring for avian flu is ongoing in Alaska and early-season waterfowl hunters in the Cook Inlet region may encounter field technicians seeking samples. For more information, contact ADF&G Wildlife Health and Disease Surveillance Program, phone: (907) 328-8354, or email: dfg.dwc.vet@alaska.gov .

The Alaska 2016-2017 Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations Summary is available online athttp://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.huntingregulations .

Resurrecting A Salmon Tradition

Gulf of Alaska salmon 1



As a charter boat skipper, there is nothing that puts huge smiles on anglers’ faces like the aggressive bite and fight of silversalmon.

Each July, coho flood into the Gulf of Alaska and make their way to the streams from which they came.

The waters surrounding Seward represent one of the top destinations for these hard-fighting fish, and with a limit of six per angler inside Resurrection Bay, it’s no wonder that anglers follow these bright fish right to this amazing town.

Silver salmon usually weigh 8 to 12 pounds, but individuals weighing 20 pounds have been landed, and Alaska’s state record is a near 27-pounder caught in Icy Strait. Coho in saltwater and when they first hit freshwater are bright silver – hence their nickname – and have small black spots on the back and on the upper lobe of the tail fin. They can be distinguished from Chinook salmon by the lack of black spots on the lower lobe of the tail and by their white gums; Chinook have small black spots on both tail fin lobes and they have black gums.

Gulf of Alaska salmon 3 Gulf of Alaska salmon 4 Gulf of Alaska salmon 7



Although each of the five Pacific salmon species has a similar life cycle, each has a different life span. All are similar in the way that a female digs a nest – known as a redd – and deposits thousands upon thousands of eggs, which are fertilized by the male’s sperm, known as milt. The eggs develop over the winter, hatch in early spring, with the alevin remaining in the gravel utilizing their yolk until emerging as fry in May or June.

The amount of time spent in the ocean is where each of the five salmon species differs. Pink salmon return at less than two years of age, thus their small size, while most Chinook stay at sea for several years. Male and female silvers stay in the salt for 18 months before returning as full-size adults. They usually weigh 8 to 12 pounds but often break 15 pounds in the waters surrounding Seward.

According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game, silvers enter their spawning grounds in Alaska from July to November. In the waters near Seward, silvers begin to show in the ocean as early as June and are regularly filling fish boxes by July 10 each year. Resurrection Bay is jam-packed with silvers by the middle of August, plus local rivers like the Kenai begin to produce these salmon as well.

Once these chrome beasts hit the rivers they are much easier to track down, but when targeting them in the salt it can be a bit more of a challenge. The first thing to do is locate bait, as is the norm in most saltwater fishing – as the saying goes, find the bait and you’ll find the fish.

A good pair of binoculars is a must to scan the water for birds hovering and diving or – even better – salmon jumping. Remember that these salmon are heading to their spawning grounds in various rivers, so studying your navigation charts is crucial. For example, Johnstone Bay, which leads to Excelsior Lake, is located in the Gulf of Alaska just to the east of Resurrection Bay and has a run of silvers that push into the lake and then into streams to spawn. I target these silvers every year as they stack up in the saltwater near the entrance to the lake waiting to push in and spawn. Moreover, I have found thatsilvers follow the shorelines or contour lines, which can be seen on your chart plotter. I believe it’s because the salmon are chasing bait that can be found on shelves and structures along the shore.

If you have fished Seward for silvers in the past, you know there are the regular, everyone-knows types of spots like Pony Cove. But trust me: There are so many more places to fish; just study your chart and you will find new hot spots and come home with some big and tasty salmon.

As for catching them, as a charter boat skipper who chases silvers over 60 days each summer, I have two strategies: trolling and mooching. When the salmon are just starting to show in June, I have found that trolling is the best way to find and catch. And once silvers are thick by mid-July, sitting atop a bait ball and dropping a mooching rig is the quickest way to fill the fish box.

Gulf of Alaska salmon 5



The set-up for trolling silvers is simple: I use a Lamiglas
Kenai Kwik 803 Series rod, with the Tica Sea Spirit linecounter reel spooled with 40-pound mono. This rod-and-reel combo is perfect for trolling silvers and can double as a mooching rod. Just troll between 1.2 and 1.5 mph.

For hardware, there is no better flasher than the Yakima Bait Big Al’s Fish Flash (I use the No. 10 size). The reason I only troll with the Fish Flash is more than the high-quality components or huge selection of colors; when you hook a fish while trolling this flasher, you only fight the fish, not the flasher. Thanks to its design, it spins freely in the water – hence no flasher drag.

If you are not trolling with downriggers, use a B-N-R Tackle spreader bar ahead of your flasher. This set-up will keep your dropper weight down and away from your flasher.

Speaking of weight, I recommend a 6- to 8-ounce cannonball sinker. Use an 8-foot leader from the flasher to your bait or spinner and split your leader in the center with a bead-chain swivel to avoid a true mess.

The final step is the bait or spinner selection. Green-label plug-cut herring brined with Pro-Cure Brine-N-Bite is my bait of choice. For spinners, a pink Rooster Tail is hard to beat. When I am fishing more than one rod – and that’s 100 percent of the time – I split my gear 50-50 – half spinners and half plug-cut herring. This combination will fill your freezer!

Gulf of Alaska salmon 6



Once the silvers are thick enough to mooch for, it becomes a crazy feeding frenzy – and one I often dream of. The first thing I look for are birds diving on bait, which is like a big sign that says, catch your limits here!

I make a straight track to the bait ball while stopping short to be sure not to run through the baitfish and push the salmon deep and possibly turn off the feeding frenzy. There will frequently be a few boats mooching a bait ball and having an amazing bite when another boat shows up and drives right over the bait, destroying the bite –don’t be that guy.

Even worse is when a boat gets their limit and pushes up on step, blowing past the other boats and right over the bait. Instead, slip atop the bait and slip out; everyone around you will appreciate it.

The mooching set-up is as easy as it gets. I use my same Lamiglas 803 trolling rod and Tica reel, a 4- to 6-ounce banana sinker with a bead chain connected to one end of the weight. Add a 12- to 20-inch, 40-pound-test leader with a Hoochie King hoochie skirt to the bead chain end of the weight. The plastic squid is such a versatile lure in the ocean. Color and size matter when it comes to your options, so check out hoochieking.com for a huge selection and the best prices I have ever found. You will lose a lot of these amazing baits, so buy in bulk. Pink and chartreuse are my go-to colors.

Once on top of the bait ball, drop your hoochie skirt down past the bait ball. Reel-stop-reel-stop-reel is the best way to work this bait. The bite can be soft, and you will often get bit while dropping your bait. If you’re fishing 200 feet of water and you’re dropping to 80 feet but your line goes slack at 20 feet, it’s not bottom. Close your bail, reel in your slack and set the hook – you have a fish on! With six lines in the water and a feeding frenzy under the boat, there is no better fishing fun in Alaska.


An additional tip that will help make these sometimes nonaggressive fish bite is the Pro-Cure Chum Bomb. If you are marking fish, but they just won’t bite, it’s chum time. Many charters have learned the importance of a chum bag.

Cut about 10 pounds of black-label herring in thin and small chunks, put the chopped bait along with a 3-pound weight in a chum bag, and then soak the chum with Pro-Cure Herring, Squid or Sardine Oil. Place the bag in the water off your stern about 3 feet down. Be sure to shake the bag as you drift to let the scent and herring chunks float out.

You will bring the silvers right to your boat and start a feeding frenzy, plus the school will follow as you drift along. In addition, dropping chum bags will really put these fish on. Chop up 2 to 3 pounds of herring in the smallest chunks as you can. Put the herring chunks in a bag with Pro-Cure Herring Oil. Place a 24-ounce jig attached to a halibut rod in the bag as well – making sure to tie the bag to your line – and cut slits in the bag to let the air out. Drop the jig down to about 30 feet, jerk aggressively to break the bag and free the chum. I do this every 10 minutes at different depths to bring and keep the school at my boat. Using these techniques will bring on a bite, as my best trip in 2015 was 36 silvers for six anglers in 19 minutes. Trust me, it works! ASJ

Editor’s note: Randy Wells is a full-time fishing guide, TV host and outdoor writer. Visit his website or call to book a Seward fishing trip (fishsewardalaska.com; 907-947-3349). 

A Harrowing Alaska Fishing Boat Rescue

Photo by the Hartford Courant via Megan Potter

Photo from the Hartford Courant via Megan Potter

The Hartford Courant shared the story of a University of Connecticut student’s  harrowing brush with disaster at sea while working on her father’s fishing boat off the Alaska coast.

Here’s reporter Christine Dempsey with more from Megan Potter’s experience, when the boat began to take on water:

As the boat’s warning alarms began to sound, her father told the family to put on their survival suits — big, orange, top-to-bottom coverings that protect the wearer from the cold Alaskan waters, which are about 40 degrees at the surface at that time of year.

On the radio, he put out a “mayday” distress call.

A 19-year-old animal science major from Quechee, Vt., Megan grew up with her father spending summers on fishing boats in Alaska. He had worked on the boats for more than 30 summers, and for the last three she had joined him.

In the years she had been helping him, Corey Potter had taught her a lot, like about how boats create sinkholes when they slip under water — if people or another boat are too close, they get sucked down with it.

That could have happened to the Star Watcher, the fishing boat that was closest to the Ambition as it took on water. As the Star Watcher approached, Corey Potter made the decision to abandon ship — everybody but the captain.

The order prompted a quick exchange between the captain and his son.

“Kyle’s like, ‘No way, I’m not going in if you’re not going in,'” Corey said.

Megan and the rest of the crew went to the back of the boat, which was now nearly under water.

In his deepest, loudest voice, her father ordered Potter and Erin Tortolano to go first.

“You girls in the water, now!” he yelled.

Her mom and brother went next, and her father went last.

In the water, Megan thought about sinkholes and getting pulled under by a sinking ship. She could no longer make eye contact with her father.

“I look down into the water and it’s dark, deep, 75 feet down,” she said. “And you don’t know what’s down there.”

It’s an incredible story, so read it in its entirety.  Glad Monica and her family and the crew are okay. She’ll have quite the story to tell to her UConn classmates.


ADFG: Western Arctic Caribou Herd Decline Leveling


Photo by ADFG

Photo by ADFG

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

(Juneau) — A population survey conducted earlier this summer places the Western Arctic caribou herd at 201,000 animals, indicating the herd’s recent rate of decline has eased greatly.

“The results of this photocensus imply that the population has continued to decline since 2013, albeit at a much reduced rate, which seems to be improving each year” said Caribou Biologist Lincoln Parrett.

The summer survey supports information gathered earlier by state biologists indicating improved Western Arctic caribou herd calf recruitment and survival. Biologists and hunters at Onion Portage in 2015 observed that caribou were in very good condition compared to prior years with average body condition of adult females characterized as “fat.” Also, calf weights averaged 100 pounds, which is about 11 pounds heavier than the 2008-2014 average and is the highest average calf weight recorded in the eight years the department began collecting calf weights at Onion Portage.

Overwinter calf survival for the 2015 cohort of calves was 82 percent and the spring 2016 recruitment survey, with 23 yearlings:100 adults observed, was the highest calf recruitment into the population recorded since 2007. High calf survival rates are being mirrored in the adult female survival rate, which is on track to be among the highest recorded in this herd. Biologists documented near record calf production in 2016.

The July photocensus results come as the Federal Subsistence Board deliberates on a Special Action request by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to reverse the board’s April decision to close caribou hunting on federal lands in Game Management Unit 23 to all but federally qualified subsistence users. The closure, which went into effect July 1, 2016, is scheduled to continue through June 30, 2017.

State and federal advisory committees will be meeting this fall prior to January’s Board of Game meeting. The Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group – a cooperative body that meets regularly to reach consensus on research, monitoring, regulation, allocation and enforcement and to support education about the herd—will meet in December to discuss successful ways to keep the herd healthy and thriving. This new information will be essential to discussions about future management of the herd and how the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Cooperative Management Plan will be implemented.

The Western Arctic caribou herd is Alaska’s largest caribou herd. The animals roam an area of about 157,000 square miles that includes many landowners and management entities. Caribou availability and abundance has largely shaped the heritage and traditions of Native Alaskans living in some 40 subsistence-based communities region-wide.

Silver Streak In Valdez

Valdez salmon 5

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


My pace was quick walking down the steep gravel path from the parking area. I was anxious to see how many people were out fishing the afternoon high tide and wondering if my favorite spot on the boulder-ridden oceanfront would already be occupied.

Overhead, the sun was shining brightly in a deep blue sky, the light showcasing the emerald, snowcapped mountains surrounding the saltwater bay.

Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, I was pleasantly surprised to find only about a dozen fishermen spread out intermittently and perched on top of the rocks. They concentrated on keeping their balance while casting into the incoming tide. I was surprised none of them had taken up residence on the flat platform of slate that I had my heart set on fishing from.

Without hesitation, I made my move, carefully traversing the loose shale and slippery, sharp edges towards the particular table-shaped rock I was so familiar with. It is a proven location for me – I have caught countless salmon from it during just as many outings.

After reaching the flat stone, I quickly shrugged off my tackle backpack and positioned myself to make my first cast. My graphite baitcaster was already prepared with a large pink spoon, and I was ready to go to work. I double-clutched the cork handle, pressed the spool release, and with one fluid motion loaded the rod and catapulted the lure as far as I could into the bay.

My second cast produced the distinct feel of a fish smashing down on the bait. I instinctively reacted, lifting the tip of the rod for a positive hookset. From the amount of resistance, the salmon felt like a good-sized one, and feisty to boot. Reeling it to the bank required the right amount of finesse to prevent an inadvertent long-distance release. Hooking a fish is the easy part; it’s the landing that can be unpredictable when fishing from a rocky shoreline without a net.

One thing was for certain: My beloved flat rock was again a perfect stage for producing angling drama at its best.



Valdez salmon 3


ANGLERS WANTING TO TAKE part in Alaska’s largest pink salmon sport fishery don’t need a boat to participate, but they will want to wear footwear with good traction, and almost certainly will need to bring an ice cooler to transport their fish home.

Shore-side saltwater fishing for pinks gets no better anywhere in the 49th state than at the Port of Valdez. During the peak of season from July through August, fishermen of all ages and skill level can catch a limit of ocean-fresh pinks almost effortlessly, right from the shoreline.

Public access can be found right at the Valdez City fishing dock. However, seasoned Valdez shorecasters know even better bank fishing is available directly across the bay at the end of Dayville Road on a small outcropping of land named Allison Point. It’s been my go-to location for catching chrome-sided humpies for more than a decade.

Navigating the obstacle course of slippery, jagged rocks along the edge of the water can be tricky. Having appropriate footwear and an equal amount of patience will help prevent a twisted ankle or gnarly knee scrape. Fishermen can be well rewarded for their efforts of fishing from the danger zone.

Large numbers of returning pink salmon swim by in large schools just off the beach. They are on their way towards the hatchery, creating a perfect situation for an ambush.

The bank at Allison Point is tidally influenced. I like to begin about an hour before high tide and work the water of the incoming tide. Pink salmon swim with the current, and the changing tide brings them closer to the shoreline. Good fishing can be experienced for about an hour past the high tide.

Large colorful spoons are my favorite option for Valdez pinks. Allowing the heavy, oblong-shaped lure to sink a few seconds, and then cranking it in with a slow retrieve to swim the bait is all it takes to entice a bite.

Valdez salmon 1 Valdez salmon 2

PINK SALMON SPORTFISHING IS spectacular at Valdez,  thanks to the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. Operating since 1981, the hatchery’s effort produces over 200 million pink salmon fry every year for release into the ocean. The Valdez Fisheries Development Association oversees management and operations at the hatchery.

In addition to pinks, the hatchery also incubates and releases coho smolts annually. Adult fish of both species return to the hatchery in abundant numbers every year. Silvers follow the pinks and begin showing up near Allison Point right around mid-August.

I did manage to battle a few more pinks from my special perch during the rest of my two-hour-long outing. Most of the salmon I hooked were lost back to the sea.

Valdez salmon 6


I wasn’t disappointed, however, considering that my trip was in the first week of July, still a bit early for the horde of returning humpies. So I was grateful to have managed a couple fish to take home. Walking back up the hill to my vehicle was much easier with a couple salmon; the fish were flawless representations of saltwater salmon, complete with sea lice still attached to their bodies.

Fishing the saltwater shoreline for salmon in Valdez isn’t always automatic, but I always have fun sportfishing outdoors anywhere in Alaska. No boat required.  ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on the Great Land adventures of Dennis Musgraves and his fellow fishing fanatics, go toalaskansalmonslayers.com




Clean Drain Dry App Strives To Prevent Invasive Species

The following press release is courtesy of Wildlife Forever: 

Brooklyn Center, MN – For years, static signs posted at entry points and boat ramps have educated people on laws, rules and regulations. Rightfully so, to protect natural resources, but a new mobile app developed by Wildlife Forever and the Clean Drain Dry Initiative, works to change that using Augmented Reality (AR) technology to educate, inform and inspire conservation stewardship.

The Clean Drain Dry app uses unique campaign marketing materials and graphics to transport users to a video experience that informs and empowers positive actions to prevent invasive species. A pilot project, based in Minnesota with funding provided from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and administered by the Initiative Foundation, has created unique signage, empowered with AR that when scanned with the FREE app, takes the user through a brief survey and ultimately an educational video that reminds people to Clean Drain Dry to prevent invasive species.

“This new app will be a great tool to engage younger audiences and anyone with a phone in their hand,” said Pat Conzemius, Conservation Director for Wildlife Forever. “This beta launch is just the beginning for a new dimension in communications and has tremendous appeal for regional and national outreach and education.”

Don Hickman, Vice President for Community and Workforce Development for the Initiative Foundation said, “Our goal is to press the envelope with new strategies that help prevent the spread of invasive species. The Clean Drain Dry app has great promise and I hope to see it take off.”

New signs will be posted at public boat ramps and entry points throughout northern Minnesota. Four styles will target different user groups all reiterating the common theme and campaign focus of the Clean Drain Dry Initiative. Wildlife Forever would like to thank the U.S. Forest Service and numerous partners for their forward-thinking support and continued investment in outreach and education.

The Clean Drain Dry Initiative™ is the national outreach campaign to educate all outdoor recreational users on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. Working with local, state, federal and the outdoor industry, coordinated invasive species messaging focuses on strategic content, marketing communications and outreach tools for how to prevent.  For more information and tips on how you can help, follow along at Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/CleanDrainDry/

About Wildlife Forever (WF): Wildlife Forever’s mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife.  For over 27 years, WF members have helped to conduct thousands of fish, game and habitat conservation projects across the country. To join or learn more about the award-winning programs, including work to engage America’s youth, visit www.WildlifeForever.org.


Prince William Sound salmon 2


The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal


As we pulled into the next cove in Prince William Sound, we watched as small fishing boats jigged and trolled furiously forsilvers.

Word on the street was that the salmon fishing was slow around the sound. The fish had decided not to congregate around the usual popular spots this year and most people were having trouble finding them. The marine radio was filled with endless chatter about silvers, and many boats were heading for home empty-handed. Rather than pursue silvers ourselves, we continued into the cove and dropped our anchor near some friends of ours on another sailboat.

The weather was hot and the cove was calm compared to the boat-to-boat combat fishing out on the point. Bixler and I waved to our new friends – fresh up from Tasmania – who were enjoying the heat way more than we were with our thick Alaskan blood. I hopped in the dinghy to make dinner plans with them, while Bixler tied up a mooching rig.

Prince William Sound Salmon 1 (2)

AMBLING ALONG AT 6 knots in a sailboat means you must fish opportunistically rather than target species. Many of our largest fish are caught by simply dangling a line over the side while at anchor. Usually, this works wonders for halibut in a cove that opens to the Gulf of Alaska, but we didn’t have much luck in Prince William Sound. With the number of salmon anglers out and about, we changed our strategy to the dangling slip-tie rig: a 2-ounce chartreuse banana weight with a double slip-tie hook and a whole herring on the end.

I came back to our boat, Carpe Ventos, with dinner plans that included our latest haul of spot shrimp, while Bixler affixed bells to the rods. We were tired from sitting in the sun all day and needed some relief inside the cool, dark boat.

As we finished the last chore and climbed into the V-berth, I heard the distinct sound of a jingle. At first I reminisced about those wonderful cold days of ice fishing, but then I realized there was a fish on one of our lines. I nudged Bixler, who ran to grab the rod.

The rod was dancing wildly in the holder as he grabbed it. As soon as he began to reel, the fish took off and performed underwater somersaults like a silver salmon. I grabbed the net off the deck of the boat and waited patiently for the fish. Bixler continued to reel and nudge the drag. Silvers are notorious fighters, and this feisty fish certainly was not giving up.

Bixler reeled up to the surface and, sure enough, a big fat silver had nabbed the herring. Ocean-bright and shiny, the fish had brought an entire school with it to the surface. The rest of the salmon disappeared as we netted this catch – and just in time too; the second rod was now jingling.

I grabbed the rig while Bixler untangled the first and excitedly dropped the slip-tie rig back down. After an equally exciting fight, I pulled up a bigger, plumper silver. In all the commotion, I looked over to our Aussie friends who were watching with much interest as we continued to yard silvers out of the water.

“We might be a bit late for dinner,” I yelled over to them as I hooked into another fish and Bixler pulled it onto the boat.

Prince William Sound salmon 1

THE FISHING STAYED HOT for us, and with the low rumble of boats leaving the point in the distance, we approached our limit. I plugged in the small freezer while Bixler began to fillet the fish. Compared to past years’ catches, each silver was deeply red and the fillets seemed twice the size of normal.

I was starting to tire and lose fish. Even though the slip-tie rig is efficient, silvers have soft mouths and often strip bait off of the hooks. I lost two in a row, and when Bixler finished filleting he took over the fishing to finish out his limit.

Instantly he was on and I dipped the net into the water to nab an even larger silver that we at first misidentified as a king. We again dropped it into the cockpit and watched as it spit scales and blood all over our sailboat.

Prince William Salmon 3 Prince William Sound Salmon 4


I dropped down to finish out my limit of silvers and happened to look at the time. It was the dinner hour, but our Aussie friends were enjoying the show so much they did not seem to mind. Carefully, I managed to pull up the last fish, which we filleted for dinner.

At this point we were hardly acceptable dinner guests. Bixler and I smelled like fish and we were covered with scales. We frantically cleaned our boat to remove the blood and scales before it baked onto the surface.

Then, in more presentable attire, we hopped in the dinghy and headed over to the other boat with the day’s catch of fresh fish and shrimp. We were dead-tired from the long day, but our Aussie friends welcomed the entertainment and the catch. The last fishing boat droned in the distance as we barbecued up our catch and cooled off under their boat’s awning.

“Hey, I hear the silver fishing is hot right now!” I joked to the Aussies in the manner of the radio chatter that was saying the opposite of earlier in the day. They laughed, repeating to us how much they had enjoyed the entertainment and that Bixler and I were quite the team for pulling up a pile of fish.

As much as we would have liked to relax in the boat that afternoon, I’m glad we checked why that bell on the rod was jingling.ASJ

Happy 100, National Park Service!



The great Joseph Gordon-Levitt has it down!

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (and if you haven’t seen Ken Burns’ documentary about the history of the NPS, it’s an incredible experience and as the title suggests, it is America’s Best Idea).

I remember my first trip to Yosemite National Park and driving in with my mom in our beaten-up Ford station wagon. It was a great experience. I had similar chills in some of my visits to other NP locales like Kings Canyon, Yellowstone and other National Park Service locales like Civil War battlefields, museums and monuments. I thought I’d share a few pics from some of my experiences with the NPS.

Cape Lookout (North Carolina)

Cape Lookout (North Carolina)

Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Shiloh National Battlefield, Tennessee

Shiloh National Battlefield, Tennessee

Saratoga National Historical Park, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park, New York

Gettysburg, Pa.

Gettysburg, Pa.


Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Valley Forge, Pa.

Valley Forge, Pa.


Some more folks paying homage via social media:



Alaska’s Pink Salmon Record Shattered Times Two

Thomas Salas briefly held the state-record pink salmon, weighing in at 12 pounds, 13 ounces.

Thomas Salas briefly held the state-record pink salmon, weighing in at 12 pounds, 13 ounces. (ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME) 

Robert Dubar then broke Salas' standard the same day, at 13 pounds, 10.6 ounces. (ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME)

Robert Dubar then broke Salas’ standard the same day, at 13 pounds, 10.6 ounces. (ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME)

A cool story from the Peninsula Clarion on two pink salmon state records being set – in the same day!

Here’s reporter Elizabeth Earl with more:

After 42 years, the Alaska state record for a sport-caught pink salmon was broken — twice.

Thomas Salas hauled a monster pink salmon out of the Kenai River near Big Eddy in Soldotna on Monday night. The California resident, who said he visits the Kenai every other year or so, was originally going to throw it back when a friend told him to hang on to it.

“(He) said, ‘You gotta keep it, that might be a record,’” Salas said.

As it turns out, he was right. When the anglers took the fish into the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna the next morning, it weighed in at 12 pounds and 13 ounces and 28.5 inches long, claiming the state record from the previous 12 pound and 9 ounce fish, caught in 1974. Multiple biologists certified it and sent Salas on his way, the new holder of the state record.

About three hours later, Robert Dubar brought in his own humongous pink salmon. He’d pulled the monster out of the Kenai River just downstream of Angler’s Lodge in Sterling on Tuesday morning.

“I thought it was hooked on a log,” Dubar said. “Then it started moving a little bit. Took about five minutes to get him to the shore.”

Dubar, who is visiting the Kenai Peninsula from Incline Village, Nevada, brought the pink salmon into the Fish and Game office in early afternoon. The biologists there again took its weight and measurements and certified it — 13 pounds, 10.6 ounces, 32 inches long.

The Dos And Donts Of Deer Season Prep Work

Deer hunting prep 5

The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal


I’m not one of those dudes who have been hunting for
30 years.

I don’t have a ring of racks in my garage or an elegant mount in my living room. I don’t have epic stories of 400-yard shots. My hunting career is littered with chaos.

I shot my first deer in the leg.

I was with my high school basketball coach and his daughter. She put one through the neck of a fork-in-horn at 150, and then dropped a 4-point at 250 to set up my beauty of a shot just above the knee.

My next shot dropped it but it was still pretty embarrassing.

Anyway, there are a bunch of “duh” things you have to consider when hunting, such as don’t shoot it in the leg, bring water and take responsible shots, but there are plenty of other things I’ve learned while hunting with some excellent experienced hunters in Southeast Alaska. Here are four tips, one for each of the four points on the buck you’ll shoot:

Deer hunting prep 2


Incredibly obvious, but it cannot be overstated. Check the forecast, but remember that the town in which you are staying is not the mountain on which you are hunting. Upon arrival, ask about the higher-elevation conditions. It might be sunny and clear all week according to your phone app, but the fog might never leave the mountains right behind town. Also ask about the latest weather patterns. Sometimes that fog will lift in the early afternoon rather than midmorning, and sometimes the wind turns off right after dinnertime.

I was on a hunt in which thick clouds shrouded the top of the mountain all morning. We stuck it out because things had been clearing up later in the day. They did and we bagged a couple nice alpine bucks. And I’ve almost gone down a mountain because the wind was so terrible. It shut off and the evening was clear and calm. But be smart with this one. At some point you must be responsible enough to say enough is enough and that returning safe is always the most important part. If the weather is making you uneasy, do the right thing.

Deer hunting prep 3


If you’re from out of state and have a hunting guide, listen to the hunting guide. If you’re going to act like you know more than the local, or otherwise do it your own way, why even bother to get a guide? (Note that big game hunting requires one for nonresidents.)

It baffles me how often my guide buddies report that the biggest issue they have with clients are the ones who say things like, “Well, in [insert state here] we…”

This isn’t California, or Delaware, or last year. If you want to tell a neat little anecdote, cool, but listen to the people you hired. Also, be mindful of the little nuance that the guide, your buddy or a local might show you, but not tell you.

It could be as simple as how they look over ridges, how they navigate terrain, what they bring to eat, how often and how much water they drink or where and how they get rid of said water. Experienced hunters just do what they do – most times they don’t realize their habit could be something that completely changes how you hunt.

Deer hunting prep 1


Just getting to the alpine for an early-season hunt is a pain. There are slick logs with mossy slopes. And when you do get clear of the timber, there’s vegetation that even on dry days wants to send you rocketing down the slope.

My buddy, Beau, who is a bowhunting fanatic and as close to a minimalist as I know, put me on to crampons and I haven’t turned back. I bought a pair for $60 and absolutely love them. The steel spikes fit right over your boots and provide you grip when heading up those steep inclines or while side-hilling.

Some people use corked rubber boots for the waterproofness and grip, though you sacrifice ankle stability. Corked leather boots can be great, but what if you have to navigate rock? It takes just a few seconds to remove the crampons or put them over your boots. Get a pair. Today.

Deer hunting prep 4


Deer Hunting prep 6


A deer is down on top of a mountain. The gnats, no-see-ums, mosquitoes, blow flies and pterodactyls all know it and can’t wait to get at the human who is going to cut it up. Sure, you could “be a man” and just swat them away, but seriously, you just shot a deer and are elbow-deep in its chest cavity, hacking and pulling out organs.

Why not put on some gloves and spare yourself the blood smears that attract the bugs? The Buff brand of headwear is perfect to combat those flies that try to enter your skull through your ears or nose and bite you on your brain. A Buff hides all skin except your eyes, so you’re not waving a bloody knife around at bugs you’ll never hit.

Who cares what you look like? You just shot a deer. The picture of you with the rifle is going on social media, not the one with the blue gloves and covered face.

As a bonus tip, be at least somewhat honest about your kill. Yeah, you can hold the antlers out, lean back, and have your buddy take a photo from ground level so that the rack looks like a set of goal posts, but everyone knows what you’re up to.ASJ

Editor’s note: Correspondent Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about fishing in Alaska and California. For more, go to jefflundbooks.com.