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FISHING • HUNTING • ADVENTURE

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Volume 10 • Issue 9 www.aksportingjournal.com PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles WRITERS Paul D. Atkins, Lauren Dean, Tony Ensalaco, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Tony Lolli, Mary Catharine Martin SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Jake Weipert WEB DEVELOPMENT/INBOUND MARKETING Jon Hines PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Aumann INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES media@media-inc.com ON THE COVER U.S. Coast Guard yeomans Ashley and Branson Wallace, both first class petty officers, are dedicated outdoors lovers who take advantage of the fishing and hunting opportunities around them while serving at Base Kodiak. For more, turn to page 41. (ASHLEY WALLACE)

MEDIA INDEX PUBLISHING GROUP WASHINGTON OFFICE 14240 Interurban Ave South • Suite 190 Tukwila, WA 98168 (206) 382-9220 • Fax (206) 382-9437 media@media-inc.com www.media-inc.com CORRESPONDENCE Twitter @AKSportJourn Facebook.com/alaskasportingjournal Email ccocoles@media-inc.com 10

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 9

41

AT HOME ON KODIAK The U.S. Coast Guard has a base on Kodiak Island which, thanks to its relative isolation, offers USCG personnel some outstanding outdoor opportunities. It’s been a perfect duty station assignment for Petty Officer First Class yeomans Ashley Wallace and her husband Branson, who trade their dress blues for camo every chance they get to fish and hunt. Petty Officer Third Class Lauren Dean of Base Kodiak’s public affairs detachment profiles the happy sporting couple.

(P (PETTY PETT ETTY TTY OFFI O OFFICER FFICER FFI CER ER R FIRST FIIRST R T CLASS RS CLASS ASHLEY ASHLE AS H Y WALLACE) HLE WALL WALL ALLACE AL AC )

FEATURES 19

51

DUSTIN’S DESTINY Growing up on the tough streets in and around New Orleans, Dustin Hurt admittedly “grew up with tough knuckles.” The fights he was constantly getting into were part of the problems he had. But Hurt found himself after getting away from the bad influences and demons around his home. He eventually joined his dad Fred in Alaska mining for gold on the Discovery Channel series Gold Rush and returns for another shot at riches on the spin-off show Gold Rush: White Water. He chats with editor Chris Cocoles about what it’s like to mine for precious metals in the Panhandle’s McKinley Creek. LET ME BE YOUR GUIDE Our Arctic adventurer Paul Atkins has both gone on and taken many friends on hunting and fishing trips throughout Alaska. Along the way, he has pondered whether or not he should have pursued a career as a big game hunting guide in one of the continent’s – if not the world’s – premier outdoor playgrounds. Atkins offers his own take on the question: to guide or not to guide?

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THE RABBIT WHISPERER For all the game animals Alaska offers, sometimes it’s easy to overlook smaller species to target like snowshoe hare. Some of Scott Haugen’s most memorable experiences when he was a schoolteacher in a remote North Slope village were hunting for these swift white rabbits that provided meat for not just himself but fellow Native residents of Anaktuvuk Pass. And to top off our Field to Fire feature, Tiffany Haugen whips up a zesty rabbit dish.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 71 77 87

Alaskan apparel, gear company’s school-bus roots Steelhead fishing is a father-son tradition Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament preview

DEPARTMENTS 29 37 74 89

The Salmon State: Worldwide summit teams up for salmon research Outdoor Calendar Gear Guy: Optics options Guide Fly: The Bunny Muddler

Alaska Sporting Journal is published monthly. Call Media Inc. Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Inc. Publishing Group and will not be returned. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues) or $49.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Inc. Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Ave South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168 or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues may be ordered at Media Inc. Publishing Group, subject to availability, at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Copyright © 2019 Media Inc. Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. 12

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EDITOR’S NOTE

“When I left Oklahoma for Alaska I wanted to go on far-off adventures, up rivers, across tundra and into the hills, all the while hunting the mighty beasts of the wilderness,” says Paul Atkins (right, with fellow ASJ correspondent Scott Haugen). (PAUL D. ATKINS)

W

hen I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were arguably less a priority than tuning in to Superstation WTBS in midafternoon. I can’t remember if it was a doubleheader or if they were on during separate seasons, but I rarely missed Fishin’ With Orlando Wilson and especially Fishing With Roland Martin (YouTube allowed me to catch an old show recently). Most of my childhood fishing excursions where I grew up in Northern California were for trout, but watching Orlando and Roland fight bass in faraway lakes in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, etc., and talking about their experiences on the Bassmaster tour convinced me I was destined to be a pro bass angler. Of course, I made the massive mistake of combining my love of sports – then the outdoors – and writing into a journalism career. But I still play the what-if game, like our Paul Atkins does this month as he wonders how his Alaska life would have been different had he become a professional guide (page 51). Atkins and I traded emails about his boyhood passions. “I never really dreamed of becoming a big game or fishing guide in Alaska, not until I had lived here for a few years,” says Atkins, who’s originally from Oklahoma. “I think after learning the area, land and water and then seeing how accessible everything was (here in the Arctic) and the abundance of wildlife available, I thought, ‘You know, I could do this.’ I thought about it hard.” “I had a chance to buy a plane a couple times, but didn’t for my fear of flying – or I should say crashing – and in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t. I was offered apprenticeships but turned them down. I do think though that if I had come earlier in life I would have went through with it.” ASJ Agreed. -Chris Cocoles

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Dust Du Dustin sti tin in Hurt Hur urtt is is ffrom rom ro m Ne New Or New O Orleans rle lean lean anss bu but fo but foun found und un da homee iin home ho n Al A Alaska lasska ka aass a go g gold ld m miner. iner in er. Hu Hurt rt is is le leading ead adin ing ing hiss cr hi ccrew rew w iin n Mc M McKinley cKi Kinlleyy C Creek reekk iin re n th the he se ssecond seco econd d sseason easo ea son so n o Go of Gold oldd Rush: Rus ush: h: White h: Whi h tee Water. Wat ater ter er. (DISCOVERY (DISCO (DI SC VER SCO RY C CHANNEL) HAN HA AN NNEL NEL) NE

CHASING GOLD CAN HURT SO GOOD MINER DUSTIN HURT FINDS PURPOSE IN ALASKA ON DISCOVERY CHANNEL SERIES BY CHRIS COCOLES

D

ustin 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 backsto-

ry of growing up as a troublemaker in New Orleans and his redemption as a hard-working gold miner.

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.

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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.

McKinley Creek’s fast-rushing waters, steep canyons and resident bears can make life difficult for Hurt and his crew. “I’ve never been in more danger in my entire life,” Hurt says of his most recent season mining the stream near Skagway at the northern end of the panhandle. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

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.

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 dis20

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couraged 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.

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

“Dakota” Fred Hurt (right) and son Dustin are close enough that they can fight, bicker and disagree often but somehow find a way to get along. “I don’t know that we communicate like normal people do,” Dustin says. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

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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


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Gold mining rarely follows any script, as Hurt (second from right) and his crew found out last season, when a landslide and flash flood wiped out their claim. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

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 22

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need to get done, and faster than you ever thought it could happen.

you just have to prepare the best for them and get out of the way when you can.

CC How did you react over the last year

CC Is it safe to say that your time in Alas-

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

ka 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.

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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.


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Hurt Hu rtt h had ad d a ttroubled roub ubl ble led ch led chil childhood hilldh dhoo ood oo d g ow gr growing owiin ing up p in in tough-as-nails to oug ghh as as-n -n nai ails ls New Orleans, New Orle Or leean ans, s b s, but ut h hee rre realized eal aliiz ized th that hat he he was was on a d wa downward o nwar ow nw war ard d sp spiral pir iral iral a before bef efor oree he left or lef eftt to ttravel raave vell and fin an and find d some s me purpose so pur urpo p see iin po n his life, his liife fe, e, in including nclud din ing fig ing fighting ght htin ing in g wildfires California. wild wi dfir fi es e iin n Ca alilifo forn fo rnia rn iaa. (DIISCO (DI (DISCOVERY SCOVER VERY VER YC CHANNEL) HAN AN NNEL N ) NE

“I have to think out of the box constantly and I don’t just have to put my head down and dig ditches,” Hurt says of his new life as a gold miner. “It’s attracted me to Alaska in a way that I had no idea that I would love a place.” (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

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 24

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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.


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Sometimes you have to put up the little electric fences to stop them.

CC Tell me about your relationship with

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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

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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.


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YEAR OF SALMON EFFORT RESEARCHES STOCKS’ STRUGGLES NEW GLOBAL PROJECT ASPIRES TO STUDY FISH IN ALASKA AND BEYOND BY MARY CATHARINE MARTIN

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Experts from around the world will come together in 2019 to do extensive research on salmon as part of the International Year of the Salmon. (JASON CHING/INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON PHOTO CONTEST)

018 was a mixed year for Alaska salmon. Bristol Bay saw its biggest run on record when 62.3 million sockeye returned to the bay. Other Alaska runs, in contrast – the lowest number of sockeye returned to the Chignik River since statehood in 1959 – were disastrous. In 2019, however, salmon in Chignik and Bristol Bay will have something in common – not only with each other but with populations across the Northern Hemisphere. This will be the International Year of the Salmon, when researchers around the world will be collaborating to help solve shared problems.

POND TO POND SALMON STRUGGLES Atlantic salmon were once just as abundant as Alaskan salmon were during their healthiest periods. Roman soldiers invading Britain wrote home about feeding the army with vast quantities of salmon fighting their way up the Thames River, which flows through London. On the East Coast of the United States, salmon were once taken for granted as a food source and used to fertilize fields. The plight of salmon in the Lower 48’s Pacific Northwest – their historically impressive populations were damaged due to dams blocking fish passage, overharvesting, development and other human-created problems – is another familiar story. But whether their populations are healthy compared to historic levels or not, Pacific and Atlantic salmon now share many of the same threats and are displaying the same trends, says Mark

Saunders, International Year of the Salmon director for the North Pacific Region. In the 1990s, Saunders says, salmon populations in very different parts of the world began to change “at an almost exponential rate.” Fewer were coming back from the ocean. Those that did were coming back smaller. A now-retired Canadian scientist, Dr. Dick Beamish, suggested the International Year of the Salmon, or IYS, should promote research on how ocean conditions are contributing to those changes.

A GROWING MOVEMENT It has now grown into an effort to ensure the “resilience of both salmon and people” in a changing climate. In one of the first research efforts under IYS, more than a dozen scientists from every country participating in NPAFC, or the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (Japan, Korea, Russia, the United States and Canada) will be on board the ship the Professor Kaganovsky from mid-February to mid-March. They’ll do trawl surveys of surface-level fish in “a checker-

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The Russian research vessel Professor Kaganovsky will host scientists from the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan and Korea for a high seas survey in the Gulf of Alaska from mid-February to mid-March. (PACIFIC SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FISHERIES CENTER)

as to test for 46 pathogens. They’ll also be noting the salmon’s overall physical health and measuring ocean conditions by taking plankton surveys and testing temperature at depth.

SEEKING FUTURE ANSWERS

board” of around 40 stations in the Gulf of Alaska, Saunders says. Some fish will be funneled into an aquarium-like tank, allowing all five species of salmon to come on board in good condition to be tagged and released. Special satellite tags will help scientists track the migration routes of salmon while they’re feeding in the open ocean.

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Scientists will keep some salmon to collect their otoliths, ear bones which, like tree rings, carry information about a fish’s life history. Otoliths can be used to determine the age of a salmon and where it has been in the ocean during different stages of its life. Scientists will use the latest genomics technology to figure out salmon’s natal streams as well

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The overall hope is to figure out what’s going on in the high seas in the winter – a critical time in a salmon’s life. By 2021, they hope to expand the surveys beyond the Gulf of Alaska to include the entire North Pacific, Saunders says. “The salmon can teach the climatologists and ecologists a lot. What the salmon are telling us can really help us understand what is changing out there in the open ocean,” he says. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), which includes Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, the Kingdom of Denmark’s Faroe Islands and Greenland, and the European Union, is an equally central part of IYS. “If we’re not collaborating, we’re missing an opportunity to find the an-


aksportingjournal.com aks aaksp ak kksp sport po orti ort rti rrt tingj ng ngjo n gjjou urna r al.l.c rna l.co l.co ..cco .com com | FEBRUARY FEB FEBR EB EBR EB BR RU UA UARY UAR ARY A Y 2019 201 20 201 019

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Dignitaries of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission member countries gathered during the launch of the International Year of the Salmon, held last October in Vancouver, British Columbia. (INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON)

swers much more efficiently,” Saunders says. One of the main goals is to encourage scientists, governments and organizations to share data.

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“We can’t solve it all in four or five years, but our institutions and people can be connected,” he says. “The clues lie in comparisons across hundreds, if

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not thousands, of populations that are experiencing these changes differently. A lot of 2019 is about bringing people together to work on setting the conditions


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Mark Saunders, the director for the North Pacific Region for IYS addressed the crowd at the Vancouver event and hopes the connections among so many fisheries’ experts will help solve a lot salmon mysteries. “If we’re not collaborating, we’re missing an opportunity to find the answers much more efficiently,” he says. (INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON)

for resilience for both salmon and people. I liken it to an intelligence network.” A central part of that intelligence network is indigenous knowledge in Russia, Alaska and Canada. So is looking at how climate change and its effect on salmon will impact people. “Sometime in the next 10 years, Atlantic and Pacific salmon are going to meet in the mid-polar region,” Saunders says. “What does that mean to people? What does it mean, culturally, as these distributions change?” Saunders suggests those interested in getting involved with IYS go to the website, yearofthesalmon.org. People can also alert IYS about local salmon-related events, knowledge and studies. “There’s something in it at every level if you’re interested in sustaining salmon,” Saunders says. ASJ Editor’s note: Mary Catharine Martin is the communications director of SalmonState, a nonprofit initiative that works to ensure Alaska remains a place wild salmon thrive. For more information on their work, go to salmonstate.org.

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OUTDOOR CALENDAR Residents can hunt caribou bulls this month in Game Management Unit 23 (Kotzebue). (ZAK RICHTER/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

Feb. 1 Feb. 2 Feb. 1 5

Feb. 22-23 Mar. 1 Mar. 2 Mar. 15 Mar. 15 Mar. 15 Mar. 24

Spring resident bull caribou hunting season opens in Game Management Unit 23 (Kotzebue) Yukon Quest sled dog race begins, Fairbanks; yukonquest.com Draw, Tier I, Tier II, and Community Subsistence Harvest results expected to be available online at adfg.alaska.com Alaska Hunting Expo and Sportsman’s Banquet, Dena’ina Center, Anchorage; aksafariclub.org Spring bison hunting season opens in GMU 19 (McGrath) Expected start of Iditarod sled dog race; iditarod.com Spring brown bear hunting season begins in GMU 1 (Southeast Mainland) Resident spring brown bear hunting in GMU 3 (Petersburg-Wrangell) Spring brown bear hunting opens in GMU 4 (Admiralty-Baranof-Chichagof Islands) Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament; homerwinterking.com

2019 OUTDOORS SPORTS SHOWS Feb. 6-10 Feb. 28Mar. 3 Mar. 14-17 Mar. 22-24 Apr. 4-7 Apr. 24-26

Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com The Idaho Sportsman Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; idahosportsmanshow.com International Sportsmen’s Expo, Mountain America Expo Center, Salt Lake City; sportsexpos.com Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show, Menard Center, Wasilla; chinookshows.com Great Alaska Sportsman Show, Sullivan and Ben Boeke Arenas, Anchorage; greatalaskasportsman show.com Fairbanks Outdoor Show, Carlson Center, Fairbanks; carlson-center.com/outdoor-show aksportingjournal.com | FEBRUARY 2019

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A KODIAK LOVE STORY

U S. U. U.S. S C Coast oaast s G Guard uaard d yyeoman e maan As eo Ashl Ashley hley hl ey W Wallace alla al lla lace ce aand nd dh her er h husband ussba band dB Branson raans nson on aare on ree sstationed stat st tat a io ione ned ne d at a B Base a e Ko as K Kodiak diakk aand di nd d tthey hey ta hey he take ake k aadvantage dvan dvan dv anta taage ge o off tth the he is island’s sla land d’s h hunting unti un t ng ti g and fis and an fishing shi h ng gw when hen he n no n not ot on d duty. uty. ut ty. y. (PETTY (PE PETTY TTY Y OFFICER OFFIC OF FICER FIC ER R FIR FIRST IR RST CLASS CLA ASS ASHLEY ASHLEY ASH Y WALLACE) W LLA WA LLACE)

COAST GUARD WIFE AND HUSBAND CHERISH THE OUTDOOR OPPORTUNITIES WHILE STATIONED IN ALASKA BY PETTY OFFICER THIRD CLASS LAUREN DEAN

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or 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

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W lll ac Wa Wallace acee gr g grew ew w up up in in Cheyenne, Ch heyyen e nee, Wy W Wyoming, omiin om ing, g where wher wher wh eree sh shee jo joined oined dh her er er dad, who was dad, da d, w ho w ho ass aalso lso in lso ls in the Guard, on th he Coast Co oas astt Gu Guar a d, ar d o n many many outdoor ma out utd tdo door door or aadvendven dven dv entures. turees. tu s (ASHLEY (AS (AS ASHLE HLEY HLE Y WALL W WALLACE) ALLACE AL ALL AC )

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

B the By the he time tim ime Ashley Ashl Ashl As hley e aand ey nd dB Branson raans nson on on weree assigned we were ass ssiig igne ned d to to d duty uty at B ut Base asee Ko as K Ko-diak di diak, ak,, they th hey began beg egan an n tteaching each chi hin ing at ing a No North rtth Star S ar St ar Elementary Eleement ntar a y school, scho sc hool ol, where w er wh eree sh shee taught taug ta ught h students stu tude dent nts ts archery, arch ar cher her e yy,, a ssport p rt po r she her Coast she learned leear arne n d early ne earl ea rlyy in nh er C er oaastt Guard Guar Gu a d ca ar ccareer. areeer er. (ASHLEY (ASHLE (AS ASHLE HLEY Y WALLACE) WALL WALL ALLACE AL ACE) AC

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 intro-

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HARVESTING FOR A GREAT CAUSE As part of several charitable activities they are involved in, the Wallaces will donate fish from their freezer when they don’t catch enough salmon and rockfish with the veterans they take out on their boat. (ASHLEY WALLACE)

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or 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).

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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!” ASJ

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ducing 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


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Base Kodiak Island has been a great jumping-off point for a wide variety of ďŹ shing, hunting and even trapping opportunities for the Wallaces. (ASHLEY WALLACE) 46

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Ashley A As shl hley ey iiss gl g glad lad d tthat hat att a young ha you oung g aage ge sshe ge he a co ac accompanied omp pan a ie ied d he herr dad dad on m da multiple ullti tipl p e hu pl hunt hunts ntss nt a what at wha hat wa was kn was kknown now wn as “man “maan ca camp.” amp p.” “IIt wa “It w was as ve veryy n very neat eaat to b be e a fe fema female maale iin n th that hat a worl wo world, rld, d, and d, and d to to bee aaccepted. c ep cc eptte ted. ted d. I ffeel eel lilike ee ike ke th that’s hat a ’ss where whe heree m here myy lo love ove o off wi w wildlife ild dlilife fe rreally eallllly ea star st started.” a te ar ted. ted. d ” (ASHLEY (ASHLE (AS ASHLE H YW WALL WALLACE) ALLACE ALL AC )

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

mount 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 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 para-

When they were assigned duty on Kodiak, Ashley and Branson weren’t quite sure what to expect. But they love it. “I feel at peace in Kodiak,” she says. “I’ve never felt so much a part of a community as I have here.” (ASHLEY WALLACE) 48

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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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TO GUIDE OR NOT TO GUIDE A LONGTIME ALASKAN SPORTSMAN PONDERS WHAT IF BY PAUL D. ATKINS

I

ran into an old friend the other day while I was visiting back home in Oklahoma. After the usual long-timeno-see greetings, he asked me, “Are you still guiding up there?” “No,” I said, “never was.” He looked at me funny. “But what about all the animals you kill?” “Most of them were DIY-type hunts and just for me,” I told him. “Well, I sure wish I could come there

and have you guide me for a moose or a bear sometime.” I just smiled. I get asked about guiding all the time and I guess it makes sense. Hunting and fishing consume most of my free time, and the fact that I’m a hunter who writes and is in the “business,” people naturally think that it’s what I do. Sometimes I wish that I was a guide, even though those days are long gone. If I could go back, maybe it would have unfolded that way. There was a time when I first arrived in Alaska that it did cross my mind. I remember even

looking into becoming one, but spending three years as an apprentice guide and also trying to be a schoolteacher wouldn’t have worked out too well. I imagine guiding would have been fun – up until the time you get the one client who nobody can please. That’s probably where it would end with me. You know the guy – the one who complains about everything from the food to the weather. Nothing you can do will ever please him. God forbid if he doesn’t kill animal! I’ve been in camps where this

Being able to spot and stalk and help a friend get his first blacktail in remote Alaska is something Paul Atkins (right) wishes all could share. It even has him wondering if, with all his years of hunting and fishing in Alaska, he could have been a guide given his prowess and knowledge of the outdoors. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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Dall sheep represent one of Alaska's toughest hunts, so Atkins has great respect for guides who can somehow get hunters on the ram of a lifetime. It’s hard work, but if the client and the hunter are in sync and the hunt proves to be a success, it’s an incredible experience. (PAUL D. ATKINS) happens and it isn’t pretty to watch. I do tip my hat to those guys who do take it on, though. It’s hard, laborious work that requires grit, patience and humility, plus the ability to bite your tongue when something is said or directed in your direction. Going guided versus unguided is an easy choice for some and not so much for others. Living here has made it easy for me. Being able to venture out and do the things that I like to do, hunt the incredible species we have here and then write about it makes me very lucky indeed. It’s not something I take for granted. Having to only please myself has served me well. In this era of social media, with its seemingly never-ending need for “likes” and people trying to become “famous” 52

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via the internet, I’ve wondered about the future of hunting. It’s been tough to watch, but here lately I’m starting to see a change and it’s a good one. People are getting back to the basics and pleasure of hunting and not worrying about what others think and the number of clicks they can get on Facebook or Instagram. I hope it continues.

TO ME THERE IS nothing better than the beginning of a hunt. Nothing. The anticipation of what is to come and what can happen is almost as good as Christmas. You have all the gear you hopefully need, your bow or rifle is dead on, and you’ve researched and found the perfect spot to set up camp. You know that somewhere out there is the animal of your dreams, and with a little luck and

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hard work you’re destined to match wits. There is nothing better if you’re a hunter. There are basically two types of hunts that a person can participate in, either guided or unguided. Even though each offers a different path, it doesn’t really matter which you choose; it’s still hunting and in my opinion the quality of any hunt is what you get from it. These days I like to see others succeed and share the joy of what transpires on their adventure. Hunting with good friends and seeing them make a stalk with me following behind or in front and then finally pulling the trigger and making a good clean kill is special. The high fives and the sheer joy while taking photos and then the Herculean task of getting the animal back to where you came from are all memories shared


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Hunting with friends for caribou (Jerry Banta) and muskox (Lew Pagel) bulls make for satisfying memories. “These days I like to see others succeed and share in their joy from what transpires on the adventure,” Atkins writes. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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by each in the group. I think this is what it would feel like to be a guide, or I hope so anyway. I have been asked many times, “Which is better: being guided or doing it yourself?” That is easy to answer for some of us, but for others it might not be as clear. There are a ton of factors you have to consider. I have been lucky enough to take most of my animals with a bow or rifle on DIY hunts, with most all having taken place with good friends. There is a certain satisfaction in doing it this way. For some of us it is the only option, especially when all of your effort combined with a little luck comes together and the result is an animal you’ve been dreaming of for years. Nothing is more satisfying for everyone involved. Guided hunts also provide that same satisfaction. A hunter still has to be out there trudging up and down mountains or crossing rivers trying to find what they’re looking for. The anticipation is the same and the physical effort isn’t any different. But the big difference is that these hunts are conducted by an outfitter or a safari company and you’ll have a guide. You basically are paying them for their services in which all the pre-work has been done for you. They’ve scouted for you, hung stands, placed blinds and hopefully know what the animals are doing before you get there. In addition – but not always – they will provide food and accommodations. You basically are paying for their expertise, land access and the use of their equipment. Yet not all guided hunts are created equal. You’re relying on the guide’s knowledge and the more research you do about an outfitter, the better off you’ll be. One of the best hunts I have ever been on was for mountain lion a few years ago in Arizona. The guide was renowned around the world for getting hunters their lion. Due to a freak blizzard I had to go back a second time, but we got it done. The thing I remember the most was how happy my guide felt and the pure joy he showed me once the cat was down. That is something I would like to think I would have felt if I was a guide. Being a fishing guide is the same, mi-


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These days Atkins’ “guiding” tends to involve hunting with family and friends, especially with his son Eli. “They have become my best moments,” he says. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

chance at bagging an animal or catching a fish that otherwise they would never be able to do. It has been fun and to tell you the truth, I have enjoyed each one of those trips, even though I ended up usually doing a lot of the “guide” work. However, the best camps were those where my friends jumped right in there and helped as much as they could. Those really stick out in my mind and have all made great stories. I have also been on a lot of guided hunts, where I paid the outfitter for his or her experience and a chance to take whichever species we were looking for or could hunt. I have to say that I have never had a bad one and each time they gave everything to help make it happen. Most times we were successful, while in a few others we weren’t. But even when we didn’t score, we had fun and the hunt was enjoyable. Memories are all we have anyway, so some of those hunts when we came home empty-handed actually have ended up as some of my favorites.

nus having to be an indentured servant for three years. Here recently my good friend and hunting/fishing partner Lew Pagel and I have ventured into the guided fishing business – ice fishing, that is. Is it easier than hunting? Yes, I would say so, but you still have to follow the same rules, provide a service and hope-

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you truly enjoy seeing new country and hunting in places that you’ve never been. Being in the Arctic all these years and living in a place that is about the size of Indiana, I get to see a lot of those. But Alaska is much bigger and being able to venture to other parts always provides the awe of being somewhere else too. I’ve written about that

fully leave your clients happy, satisfied and with an experience that they will carry with them forever. That’s one must-have for all guides.

OVER THE YEARS I’VE had a lot of friends come north to hunt with me. Each was looking for the “Alaska experience” and a

Whether you go guided or not, bush and floatplanes are the best ways to get to some of North America’s most remote, wild and beautiful places and the adventure they offer – and back again. (PAUL D. ATKINS) 56

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many times, and for some hunters that's all they need. So to sum it up, I’m guessing that being a guide, whether it’s in Alaska or elsewhere, is something you set out to do when you’re young. I don’t know for sure, but it makes more sense. I’m too old now; the mountains, hills and deep tundra are a lot tougher to navigate these days. Even though the knowledge is there, the ability may not be. I look toward the new year, and like usual, I have many adventures planned. Most would be considered unguided hunts with good friends. I like it that way. There’s less pressure to get it done and it's more about the experience of sharing. It can be hanging out in camp or helping pack meat back to the plane or the boat. Yes, I would have liked to try the guide life, as it would have been fun if not lucrative. But not so much now. I’ll leave that to the young guys coming up and the old professionals who have it down to a science. May they provide adventure and hopefully make dreams come true for those who seek adventure outside. ASJ Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on big game hunting, and fishing throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.

The author and a friend have become ice fishing guides targeting the Kotzebue area's plentiful sheefish, and while Atkins says it's easier than being a hunting guide, client happiness is still key, he notes. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

Atkins A Atki At tki k ns calls cal alls ls this thi h s hi hiss “m “mixed mix ixed ed b bag” ag”” of ag of ffriends, rien ri ien e ds ds, gu ds, g guys ys w who ho ccame a e fr am from rom d different iff ffer ffer eren entt en paart rtss of tthe he ccountry oun ou ntryy tto ntry nt o se see hi see him m an aand d ha ang go u o ut n th he tu und dra ra.. So iin n ma m any parts hang out on the tundra. many w wa y , he’s ys hee’ss b een ee n a gu g ide al id all al all aalong alon lon ong g du d uri ring ing gh iss ttime ime in ime im in A laask skaaa.. (PAUL (PA (PA AUL UL D. D AT ATKINS ATK ATKINS) INS)) INS ways, been guide during his Alaska. 58

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KEEPING WITH TRADITION

FIELD

SNOWSHOE HARE PROVIDE FOOD, SMALL GAME HUNTING EXPERIENCE AND EVEN FAMILY RITES OF PASSAGE BY SCOTT HAUGEN

H

unting small game is how many of us cut our teeth in the outdoors. After all, when it comes to Alaska there are some pretty big extremes in the size of animals being hunted and the physical demands required for success. Enter snowshoe hares, which are abundant in much of the state and the perfect game on which to build hunting skills.

WHEN I LIVED AND taught school in the remote Arctic village of Anaktuvuk Pass, the elders taught me how to make snares from the sinew of caribou. They took me out and showed me how and where to set the snares in the willows. We searched for fresh hare sign such as droppings, tracks, trails and places where the hares had been eating the bark off willow branches. The bigger the willow patches, the more hares they seemed to hold. As snow levels rose and fell, you could clearly see where the hares had stripped the willow bark. In late spring, when the snow melted for good, bark was often stripped 10 feet or higher from the willows, marking the deepest snow level of winter. I set only a handful of sinew snares. In the old days, the people of the village would set hundreds of snares. In addition to snowshoe hares, they caught willow ptarmigan. The people of Anaktuvuk Pass were nomadic and followed the caribou herds as their primary source of food. But

Author Scott Haugen hoists a pair of snowshoe hares taken near Kotzebue. These are fun animals to hunt â&#x20AC;&#x201C; no matter what your level of experience â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and great eating. (SCOTT HAUGEN) aksportingjournal.com | FEBRUARY 2019

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FIELD

TAKE CARE OF YOUR HARE BY TIFFANY HAUGEN

S

nowshoe hare is a fantastic, lowfat, high-protein game animal that is available to hunt year-round. There are no bag limits throughout most of the hares’ range in Alaska. Not only are they versatile to cook with but also easy to butcher and prepare. Hare is mild tasting and can be cooked up as you would free-range chicken or upland game birds. They are very lean, so be sure to use a quality oil when frying and keep them moist if slow cooking. The legs, thighs, backs and ribs cook up nicely in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. But as with big game, the backstrap of the hare is considered the finest eating. In order to optimize the flavor of your hare meat, take proper care of it. Be careful not to handle it too roughly, as the meat can bruise. Clean all meat of bloodshot and trim any wound channels. Quickly cooling the meat will also help enhance its quality. Quarters are easy to remove, as are the backstraps; just take

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care not to damage these delicate cuts. Two to four snowshoe hare backstraps 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons gochujang or chili sauce 2 tablespoons honey 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil Two or three cloves garlic, pureed 2 teaspoons fresh minced or grated ginger ½ teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil for frying Fresh basil and/or cilantro for garnish In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, goghujang, honey, oil, garlic, ginger and black pepper until thoroughly combined. Slice hare backstrap into bite-sized pieces across the grain. Marinate hare in soy sauce mixture 20 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. If hare has been refrigerated, bring to room temperature about 20 minutes prior to cooking. Heat olive or coconut oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Stirfry hare until browned on all sides.

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Just like caribou, moose and other Alaskan big game, the best part of a snowshoe hare is its delicious backstrap, which Tiffany Haugen likes to let simmer in a slow cooker until the meat is tender. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

Don’t crowd your pan; if you need to do this in two batches you will have a better caramelization on the meat. Once meat is browned, add it all to the pan as well as the remaining marinade. Stir-fry two to three more minutes or until hare reaches medium doneness. It is not recommended to eat hare meat rare or medium rare. Try serving it with or without rice in large lettuce leaves. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s best-selling cookbook, Cooking Big Game, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or order online at scotthaugen.com. Follow Tiffany on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Watch for her on the online series Cook With Cabela’s, The Sporting Chef TV show, and The Hunt on Amazon Prime.


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FIELD when they settled in the present-day village site amid the towering peaks of the Brooks Range, the men continued to chase caribou. Sometimes they would be gone for weeks, if not months. The women and children who were left behind to await the return of the hunters had no way of knowing when or if the hunters would make it home. They didn’t know if they’d bring any meat back to the village either. So snaring hares and ptarmigan became a life-saving responsibility for the women and children of the village. The elders who taught me to snare were the very children who 60 years earlier kept the people of the village alive. Today, many youths in villages throughout remote Alaska hunt snowshoe hares. Not only is it a food source – it’s admittedly not as vital as it was decades ago – but it’s a right of passage that helps build hunting skills, and Anaktuvuk Pass is proof positive of this grand tradition.

HUNTING SNOWSHOE HARES REQUIRES first spotting them, and this is done by locating animal sign this time of year. Snowshoe hares are white as snow in the winter, so finding them with the naked eye is very challenging. Once hares are located, hunters must connect on the shot. Be it with a rimfire or shotgun, it’s not always easy getting within range or hitting the mark. Using shooting sticks when hunting in the snow helps achieve a solid rest, which greatly helps with shot accuracy. This winter, taking a kid hunting should start by targeting snowshoe hares. Even if there’s an adult you know who wants to learn how to hunt big game, snowshoe hares are the perfect training ground for all ages. Heck, even veterans can have fun hunting hares. The skills acquired through hunting small game naturally transition into the 66

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Fresh snowshoe hare tracks atop the snow give hunters a solid starting point. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

world of big game hunting, and Alaska’s abundance of snowshoe hares makes them a quarry worthy of pursuit. Snowshoe hares are excellent eating. They can be cooked multiple ways. Due to their thin skin, if the entrails have been ruptured by the shot, quickly remove them. This will optimize the quality of the meat, thus its flavor, once cooked. Last winter I hunted Alaska’s snow-

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shoe hares out of Kotzebue, something I had not done in years. It was a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again soon. ASJ Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s best-selling book, Hunting The Alaskan High Arctic, visit scotthaugen. com. Scott is the hoswt of The Hunt on Amazon Prime. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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Nomar, a Homer-based company, offers outdoor gear and apparel that can handle the toughest Alaska conditions. (NOMAR)

THEY’VE GOT YOU COVERED BUSINESS NAME Nomar LOCATION Homer, Alaska CONTACT INFO nomaralaska.com; (800) 478-8364

A

laska Sporting Journal Tell us a little about how Nomar got started and how it got its name. Founder Kate Mitchell The business started in Ketchikan in 1976 and it was named Mitchell's Boat Tops. We were in an area with 12,000 people, 6,000 boats and it rained 200 inches a year! We were stationed there with the Coast Guard. We owned a boat and it needed canvas. Slowly it became a business and there were certainly enough people there who needed a cover to keep the rain off. In 1978 the Coast Guard moved us to Homer, where there were not many sport boats, but lots of commercial boats. The fishermen needed a better way to hold and move the salmon they were netting. Because I owned a commercial sewing machine and knew how to sew, they came with an idea for a bag that would gently hold the salmon without marking the skin, then quickly pick out of the hold to deliver a bag that No-Marka the fish. (It) became the Nomar brailer bag, and that became the company name. It was the large Alaskan commercial fishing fleet that boosted us out on a one-machine-in-a-school-bus kind of business and into manufacturing. Slowly, the town found us.

ASJ You literally did work out of that bus in the early days. There must be some great stories about that. KM We were a new Coast Guard family in town. Small communities are suspect of new people and no one would rent me a garage or small building to get started. We found the bus on the sale lot in Anchorage. Five airmen had stripped it out, put a pot-bellied

stove in it and camped all over Alaska in it. We bought it, drove it to Homer and the town thought we were just another (group of) hippies in an old school bus. The bus was parked at a small storage yard. When we didn't leave with the cold winds of fall we slowly got a little sewing done. The next year, we moved into a dirt floor Quonset hut there at the storage yard.

ASJ You take a lot of pride in being an Alaskan company. What does that mean to you? KM We’re creating a product that so many Alaskans needed for their fishing businesses. They were able to get a higher price for their salmon in our Nomar brailer, which in turn helped my Alaska business. I am proud to be a part of improving the quality of the salmon going to market. The Nomar brailer is built so well that they use this bag year after year to deliver their catch and make their living. Your product becomes a family friend almost – something aksportingjournal.com | FEBRUARY 2019

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that they count on. When we were not building products for the commercial fisheries there was time to listen to other Alaskans who love the outdoors. They gave us ideas for products they wished they owned but no one was making. We continued to expand our offerings. First, it was to keep our well-trained employees with us full time year-round. Second was to have unique, high-quality items that people would own for years. These items became trusted friends too! We did not send these ideas overseas to be produced. We hunkered in, accepted smaller profits but employed Alaskans and helped build a community.

ASJ What are some of your most popular items that you sell? KM Of course, our commercial fishing items continue to be important. The outdoor items that are our best sellers include the waterproof gun scabbard, the Seatarp duffels and gear bags, Polartec Windbloc jackets and pants. We have really warm clothing for Alaskan weather conditions.

This Thiis Th is school sch hoo ooll bus bus became bu becaame the beca be the he company’s com ompa paanyy’ss p first fi st fir s workspace wor orks kspa kspa ks p cee in in its itts early eaarl rlyy days. days da ys. s. (NOMAR) (NO NOMAR NO MAR)) MAR

ASJ It looks like you, your husband – “head fisherman and fixer of things” Ben Mitchell – and a lot of your employees love the outdoors as well. Can you share some of your favorite fishing/outdoor memories? BM We came to Alaska in 1970 as young people with a boat. We were on every beach within 50 miles of Ketchikan. We fished and hunted when it seemed like there would be no end to the resources of Alaska. Ben has been on many great hunting trips to Nome and Kodiak. As old timers we love to troll for king salmon year-round here in Kachemak Bay. And we’ll drag a line on the bottom for a halibut once in a while

ASJ Is there anything new that you're planning for 2019 that you'd like to share about Nomar? KM Our two kids, who grew up living and working in the business, are buying the business and taking it forward. The marketing and website seem to set a 40-year established business on a path to success, with the same high-quality, well-made items that serve the Alaskan outdoorsman and visitors who want to buy quality items, then get outside and enjoy the adventure. ASJ Editor’s note: Like Nomar at facebook. com/nomaralaska.

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TAKE GLASSING TO A NEW LEVEL

You can’t hunt what you can’t find. While optics can be way out of your price range, make sure you spend enough to get a good pair of glasses to help your success rate. (PAUL D. ATKINS) 74 7 4

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FEBRUARY FEBR FEB EB BRUARY RUARY ARY 2019 A 20 9 | aksportingjournal.com 201 20 a spor ak p rtting tin ti in in ing ng gjour jou ou our o urrnal. u nal na alll..cco aal. com om om


BY PAUL D. ATKINS ILLUSTRATION BY JOSEPH FRUEAUF

D

o you see a bull in the gel asked me herd?” Lew Pagel while I peered through my binoculars. “No, not yet,” I said. th he I was trying to focuss with the w temperature at minus 30 and snow blowing in my face. Even more so, itt nguish thee was hard trying to distinguish ntiny dots peppered on the moun mounway from u I us. tainside a mile or more away out the sp potknew it was time to break spot-ting scope. ile hunting g iss Being able to see while uree. the key to success on any adventure. Having good glass, whether it’s a good set of binoculars or spotting scope, or both, plays a major part in that success. It’s the difference between “Should we venture over there and have a closer look” and “Man, that’s a great bull; let’s make a plan and go after him!” Deciding on what glass to buy usually has a lot to do with the environment you’re hunting in or what your quarry may be. If you’re hunting sheep compared to maybe deer, it can be considerably different, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You still need to be able to see. It took me years, but eventually I saved up to buy the best optics I could afford. I personally like the Leica brand and Swarovski, and each has served me well over the years. These are high heap, end, meaning the price tag isn’t cheap, d me but they worked well and allowed shest envie to see in some of the harshest sevveral ronments. However, there are several re that can c really good brands out there u an arm m be had and won’t cost you and a leg. et what what Still, the saying “you get een truer trueer you pay for” has never been osing op ptics. than when it comes to choosing optics. sions There are a lot of factors or decis decisions y, but you’ll have to make before you buy buy, he best you a rule of thumb is to get the can afford. ASJ

Paul prefers binoculars Gear Guy Pau ul Atkins pre efe f rs b in noc ocullars in a 10-powmagnification. They allow ample er magnificati ion T h y allo he ow am ampl p e clarity and good pl light in a variety of situations. These made by Leica are among his favorites. The built-in rangefinder makes them even better. (LEICA)

Swarovski spotting scopes are among the best on the market. They come in a variety of powers and can be purchased either with an angled or straight eyepiece, depending on what you are most comfortable with. (SWAROVSKI)

Vortex V Vo ort rtex e h ex has become very popular p po opu pu with hunters ever ev everywhere. e er For the co cost, ost the quality you g ge gett is solid. Leupold is a ho h household usse use name, and tthey hey aare re kknown n for quality, pl p plus lus tthey heyy ccome in a variety he of o of objectives bjec bj ecti ecti tive vee and power arrangements. raang ngeem men nts t . (V (VORTEX/LEUPOLD)

Editor’s note: Follow Paul Atkins kins on TwitT ter (@AKtrophyhunter). aksportingjournal.com ak aaks aksp ksp ksp sp o ort or orti rttiingjo rt rti ing ngj ngjo n gjo gj g jjo ourn urn ur urna rna naal.c n ll.co .co .c cco om | F FEBR FEB FEBRUARY EB EBR EBRUARY BR RUAR UARY UA U A ARY AR R 2019 20 201 2 01 019

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THE MEN OF STEEL FATHERS AND SONS AND A LIFETIME OF STEELHEAD FISHING BY TONY ENSALACO

I

could have grown up normal. I could have been like most teenagers by staying out late on weekends – chasing girls and stirring up trouble. Instead, I went to bed early so I could wake up at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night and voluntarily leave the sanctuary of my warm cozy bed. It was all done just so I could secure a decent hole on an ice-cold stream before daybreak. My intent was to pick a fight

with a creature that may or may not be within 100 miles of my location. I could have grown up rational. I should have learned to embrace warm summer days instead of despising them. While other people were basking in the sun, I was secretly wishing for fall to arrive sooner than later and wanting the inclement weather to be as harsh as possible. I could have easily chosen a sport

that didn’t involve sleep deprivation, twisted ankles, hard falls on a slippery trail, periodical baptisms in 36-degree river water, and dismissing early signs of hypothermia. I could have grown up accepting myself as an angler rather than having a deep desire to become a steelheader. One of the many differences between the two species is that a fisherman will select his time on the water wisely, and

From the time he was a Midwestern teenager, author Tony Ensalaco was more interested in chrome-bright steelhead than hanging out with school buddies. The migrating sea trout so prevalent in coastal Alaska rivers have been inspiring him ever since. (TONY ENSALACO) aksportingjournal.com | FEBRUARY 2019

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Memories of Midwest fishing: Above: Tony’s father Bob with a beauty from Wisconsin’s Sheboygan River and caught in 1988; Upper right: Father and son with a couple of steelhead; Lower right: 14-year-old Tony and his coho caught at a warm-water plant discharge in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1982. (TONY ENSALACO)

he will know when to say when if the conditions become unfavorable. He understands that there will be better days in the future. But steelheaders let it rip. They will assault a stream like it is their last day on earth. Then, after going fishless for 10 hours without taking a break, they will have to decide if it’s really worth sticking around until dark, which is usually answered with a “Hell yeah” attitude. In the January 2019 issue of Alaska Sporting Journal, I discussed how the behavior of steelheaders – even the most intelligent ones – will change from their everyday demeanor by allowing their cognitive thinking to become consumed with visions of gray ghosts holding in the current within casting range. They allow their normal thought process to become severely diminished. Translation: When steelhead fishing penetrates their souls, even the smartest dudes will do some outrageous s%$# when pursuing fresh chrome, and they will exhibit the common sense of a billy goat in heat. I shared some of the quirky traits and an assortment of offbeat antics that steelhead enthusiasts have been 78

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known to do. And if you happen to disagree or take offense to any of these statements, then you, my friend, are not familiar with the world of steelheading. What I failed to mention in that story is how someone discovers steelhead fishing. That’s an interesting conversation that will result in a wide variety of answers, depending on which river rat you ask. Some come from a background of steelhead fishing in their bloodlines and will have been exposed to the sport at a young age. Although growing up around experienced steelheaders will definitely help shave time off of the learning curve, having the pedigree alone doesn’t guarantee that they will have the desire. I have known guys who come from steelhead royalty and who have tried it, but they decided that all of the misery and madness wasn’t for them. The fact is that most steelheaders happen to be like myself – guys who have made the transformation after spending years fishing for other species. It doesn’t take someone long to convert once they connect with their first ocean-bright steelie and experience all of the mayhem that ensues

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shortly thereafter. It’s amazing how violent head shakes and 5-foot aerial displays just before you get your ass handed to you result in a life-changing event. This type of brief encounter has caused more than one person to veer off the righteous path of life in favor of the twisted and sadistic angling subculture known as steelheading.

SO, WHAT’S MY BACKSTORY? It can be summed up in two words: Bob Ensalaco. That’s my father, and it’s his fault that I got into fishing in the first place and later became an addicted steelhead junkie. He tried it, so I tried it. What was I supposed to do, not emulate my hero? In his defense, he did the best that he could and I don’t think he


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could have predicted how it was going to turn out. It all started when I was very young, when my dad wouldn’t hesitate to include me on most of his outings. They were mostly day trips, but there were a couple of overnighters as well. I remember those days being long, and when the fish stopped biting, which always seemed to happen, it became very boring. There was nothing for me to do – other than fish, of course. There weren’t video games or other electronics back then to keep me occupied, so I learned the virtue of having patience sooner than any young man should. All of the modern rules of childcare, along with the proper way to introduce a 6-year-old to fishing, were obliterated in one afternoon’s worth of bass fishing. He also would take me night fishing in the fall for walleyes in Wisconsin – close to our home in Chicago – and to this day, I have never felt colder. Tony’s (left) and Bob’s trips to the Situk and other Alaska rivers put them in steelhead paradise. (TONY ENSALACO)

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It was brutal and it was miserable, but you know what? I survived. To be fair, he never forced me to go. I volunteered, fully knowing what I was getting myself into. My dad refused to coddle me like some fathers often do with their children, and he made it a point to treat me like a small adult when we were fishing, which I attribute to my development. It’s because he gave me the opportunity to figure things out for myself and allowed me to learn from my mistakes. He hoped that I’d learn discipline and build a strong sense of fortitude, which I still use to my advantage every time I step into a stream. My dad didn’t know it then, but he was already laying down the foundation for my future obsession with steelhead.

IF I HAD TO DEFINE my father, I would say that he is a complex individual. He’s a psychologist by trade and a fishing fanatic when at play. People who know him would describe him as a cerebral, down-to-earth man who would never let his emotions interfere with making a wise decision. He subscribes to the philosophy of measuring twice, contemplating cutting and then measuring it again – just in case. But even though his personality makes him look before he leaps, there have been times when he didn’t let sound judgement get in the way of a good fishing trip. Here is one of the many things that he’s done that I am still questioning to this day. When I was 7 years old, my dad purchased a used, 12-foot aluminum jonboat to go along with his Shakespeare Wonder Troll 606 trolling motor. It was an ideal set-up for fishing some of the small Midwestern lakes and ponds that were near our home. The only problem was that we didn’t have enough money to buy a marine battery to power the electric motor. My dad wasn’t going to let a minor detail like that to keep us off the water. To compensate for the lack of juice, he would disconnect the car battery from the same vehicle that we came in, and used it to run the motor all day. I might have only been in the second grade, but I knew the consequences if


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Bob B Bo b En Ensa Ensalaco, salla sa laco c , a Ch Chicago hic icag icag go psyc ps psychologist, y ho yc holo logi g st st, t, iss aalso lso somelso ls some some so me-th thing hin ng of o a steelhead-olste teel teel elhe head he ad-o d-o ologis ogi og ogist ist himself, hims hi mssel elf, f a ttrait f, raait it h hee pass pa passed ssed do on n to T Tony o y an on and d some so something meth me thin th hin ng th they hey ccontinue onti on t nu ti ue to o sshare. haree. (TONY ha (TO (T TO ONY NY ENSALACO) ENSALA ENS ALA LA ACO) C )

there wasn’t enough wallop left in the battery to turn over the car’s engine. Can you picture what it must have been like to see my father under the hood, reconnecting the clamps to the battery terminals while his adolescent son stood there, shaking his head in disbelief with a disgruntled look on his young face? Who does that? I’ll tell you who does: future steelhead anglers.

IT WASN’T UNTIL YEARS later that my father and I decided to try our luck at steelhead fishing. Our early attempts could by summed up in two words: train and wreck! We made so many mistakes that could have been easily avoided – if only we had had some guidance. The world is different now than it was back when we were learning how to fish for steelhead. The internet did not exist, so we weren’t able to refer to YouTube to help guide us through the simple procedures that I now find ridiculously easy. We tried to find literature that would help navigate us through the 82

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learning curve, but when you live on the outskirts of Chicago, finding any material pertaining to river fishing for steelhead was hard to come by. Nothing came easy for us. We tried to tie flies, but our thread was too light, so it would break before we could finish tying the fly. We attempted to build our own rods without the proper equipment, and that was a debacle. The equipment we owned was completely wrong. Our rods were too light, the line was too weak and the hooks were too small for most of the places we fished. I didn’t own waders, so my feet were always soaked when I fished. I can remember the first time my dad and I took on the modest task of tying spawn sacs. We had to resort to using previously frozen untreated salmon skein and tying material purchased from a local bait shop. The mesh was so rigid that it felt like it had the same properties as Kevlar. Because the skein was uncured, we needed to start with 15 to 20 eggs just so four or five of them would survive

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the bag’s construction. It only took one drift to instantly turn it into a milky white glob of snot. When I tried using them the following weekend, another fisherman saw what I was using. “What the hell do you have dangling on the end your line, son?” he asked me. When I sheepishly told him that it was a “spawn sac,” he immediately laughed and called his partner to come over and investigate my strange concoction. I was so embarrassed that I decided to cast spoons for the rest of the day. The difficulties we experienced should have been enough for us to hock our meager supply of fishing gear and use the money to purchase a couple sets of golf clubs. But then it eventually got better. We met anglers who were more advanced, and they became a tremendous asset to us. They were able to answer most of our questions, and they were willing to share some of the tricks and tactics they had learned. We were finally making small im-


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FOR INSTANCE, I WAS recently intro-

“I own more sets of waders than I have pairs of dress pants. What hasn’t changed over time is my passion for steelheading,” Tony Ensalaco writes. (TONY ENSALACO)

provements on every outing. We went from catching one steelhead every few trips to landing a fish or two every time out to ultimately experiencing multiple hookups each day while bringing several fish to the beach. The fishing was good back then – offthe-charts good – which helped compensate for our inexperience. It finally felt that we could swing a bat in the big leagues. Of course, we still got hit by a pitch once in a while. But even when we stumbled, we were able to get back on track. The success we were enjoying encouraged us to expand our horizons to different states and eventually brought us to the Last Frontier.

STEELHEAD FISHING IN ALASKA felt like an unobtainable pipe dream when I was growing up because I thought it was too expensive, that it was only for the most hard-core anglers. I could have never imagined that someday an annual spring steelhead pilgrimage would become a normal part of my fishing regimen. 84

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It wasn’t easy persevering through all of the trials and tribulations that I underwent when learning to unlock the secrets of the elusive steelhead. But after nearly four decades, things have changed for the better. I used to walk the streambanks for hours with wet, frozen feet. Now, I am able to stay dry because I have the right gear and do the majority of my fishing from a boat. I have accumulated a forest of graphite rods that lets me select the correct one for any situation that the fish gods can throw at me. And to my wife’s dismay, I own more sets of waders than I have pairs of dress pants. What hasn’t changed over time is my passion for steelheading. Although the mystique isn’t quite the same as it once was when I first started, I still maintain a deep respect for this magnificent creature. I would never have felt that way if it weren’t for all of the pitfalls that I was forced to endure. So forgive me if I take offense when I feel genuine steelheaders are being disrespected.

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duced to one of my firm’s clients, who somehow found out I’d just returned from a steelhead trip to Alaska. Within seconds of meeting him, he told me that he also was a devout steelheader, and a darn good one at that. This immediately captured my attention, because what chrome junkie wouldn’t want to take a break from his job to swap stories with a fellow metalheader? He began the conversation by showing me several pictures of his most notable conquests, including shots of a couple of steelies that appeared to be in the 16– to 18-pound class. I was beyond captivated. It’s not an everyday occurrence that I have another river lunatic sitting across the desk from me. And then the bottom fell out. He told me that he has been going out with the same guide, twice a year since 2000-and-something. Fair enough, I’ve hired guides in the past to extract information, and I don’t feel that my status as a competent steelheader should be tarnished because I reached out for some help. But then he completely lost me for good when he started describing his “adventures,” which included being served hot meals by the guide in the boat’s heated cabin while his choice of music was being piped in via satellite radio. He actually used the word “toasty” when he talked about the boat’s amenities, and boasted that the only time he needed to wear his winter coat was when it was his turn to go outside to fight a fish. That was the last thing I remember. The rest of his drivel reminded me of when Charlie Brown’s teacher was speaking to the class: “Waaaa, waaaa, waaaa, waaaa.” Finally, he excused himself, saying that steelheaders should stick together and we’ll probably see each other on the river someday. Yeah, right! I didn’t show my true feelings at the time, but I was infuriated. This guy actually believed that he had the right to classify himself as a serious steelheader because he reeled in a few fish – when it was his turn. He thought that just because he went out periodically and sat in a tem-


perature-controlled floating box while wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt – which was probably purchased at an all-inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas – and chowing down on a made-to-order omelet waiting for a rod to bury that he was steelheading. If that qualifies him to classify himself as a steelheader, then I can legitimately call myself a mountain climber every time I have to step over dog poop left in my front yard whenever the neighbor’s German shepherd leaves a deposit. Damn, how dare that guy think that he deserves the entitlement without paying his dues like the rest of my steelheader brethren had to do? Did he ever experience what it was like to struggle to regain his footing on moss-covered rocks in midstream while his legs were completely numb? I’m sure he’ll never know what it’s like to feel the excruciating pain that a person suffers when he becomes impaled by devil’s club or the stinging sensation from frostbite after his fingers become exposed in the cold for too long. There is no chance that he will ever walk through a pitch-black forest two hours before dawn, attempting to race other fishermen to “the sacred spot.” And then praying to the heavens that there isn’t a mama grizzly bear bedding down with her cubs along the trail. This poser will never be one of us! But then, as my mental dustup began to settle, I started to feel sorry for him. That man truly believes that he’s crushing it, but we all know the truth. He doesn’t get it and probably never will. He’ll never know what it’s like to stalk, hook and land a wild steelhead all on his own, plus feel the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that follows. He’ll never truly appreciate that it took thousands of years of evolution to create this magnificent creature, and how rapidly it can all be taken away with a few bad environmental decisions. He will never experience the jubilation that overcomes someone when they’re about to release one of God’s perfect specimens to continue its journey upstream so it can complete its mission. He doesn’t get it, but authentic steelheaders like my dad and me do. ASJ aksportingjournal.com | FEBRUARY 2019

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HOMER EVENT FIT FOR KINGS MARCH SALMON TOURNAMENT OFFERS MASSIVE PRIZE MONEY

Local angler Charlie Edwards won the 2018 Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament with a 24-pound, 6-ounce Chinook, taking home over $56,000 in prize money. The 2019 event is March 23. (JIM LAVRAKAS/FAR NORTH PHOTOGRAPHY)

M

ark your calendar, get your boat ready, buy your fishing license and new salmon tackle and prepare to fish in one of Alaska’s largest fishing competitions. The Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center will host its 26th annual Winter King Salmon Tournament on March 23. This is considered the premier fishing tournament in the state and every year

anglers take to the waters of Kachemak Bay in search of king salmon that could win them some great cash prizes. The one-day tournament awards tens of thousands of dollars in prize money for the largest kings caught. In 2018, Charlie Edwards of nearby Fritz Creek caught the tournament winner, a 24-pound, 6-ounce Chinook while fishing with Capt. Daniel Donich on his boat, the Optimist.

Edwards (left) joins the other two anglers who finished in the top three for 2018. Jerry Huff finished second with a 20.95-pounder caught on the Olyjohn and Janet Donnell was third with a 20.75 caught on the Drag N Bait. (JIM LAVRAKAS/FAR NORTH PHOTOGRAPHY)

Edwards’ fish was also best in the white king salmon category as part of the overall competition. His total winnings, including the side bets that are a big tradition with this tournament, totaled $56,902.50. The total payouts in 2018 included $160,000 in cash and prizes For this year's derby there have been substantial efforts towards king salmon conservation. The tournament committee and Homer Chamber of Commerce directors are committed to the long-term sustainability of the winter king fishery, and the chamber would like to say a special thank you to the anglers this year who have supported the tournament’s conservation efforts by harvesting one fish. Prizes will be offered every hour of the 2019 tournament. After the fishing lines are pulled from the water, join the festivities at the weigh-in located at Coal Point on the Homer Spit (4306 Homer Spit Road). For more information, contact Debbie Speakman, executive director for the Homer Chamber of Commerce (907235-7740; exdir@homeralaska.org). You can also go to homeralaska. org/winter-king-salmon-tournament and facebook.com/HomerWinterKingSalmonTournament. ASJ

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THE BUNNY MUDDLER I

went to high school with Bunny Muddler. Of all the girls, she had the biggest pair of … ears. But, I digress.

GUIDE FLY

Josh Hayes owns and operates Alaska Trout Guides (alaskatroutguides.com; Instagram: alaskatroutguide). For 20 years he’s been guiding on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula on the Kenai River, a river that’s produced more fly-caught rainbow trout over 30 inches than any other river in the world. Hayes reports he has always swung flesh flies because Kenai River rainbows prefer to look up and ambush from below. When swinging, he likes a fly with a strong profile/silhouette. It needs to be something that holds its shape but still has an undulating action. His favorite flies are those that will fish with any style (dead drift, swung, cast and strip, jigged) and in all water conditions. He also wanted a fly that has some buoyancy, allowing the fly to hover a bit in the strike zone when on the hang down or wash around a bit when dead drifted. Hence, the deer hair head as opposed to wool or some other material, something Hayes learned from watching Larry Dahlberg videos. He fishes his Bunny Muddler mainly in the winter and spring. In the former months, once the major salmon spawning events are done, trout become more opportunistic feeders. They will eat anything they can easily acquire with minimal effort. “My best guide day with the Bunny Muddler was the result of a last-minute call during an especially cold day,” Hayes recalls. “I wasn’t expecting much but the angler wanted to go anyway. To my surprise, fishing from the anchored boat in the first hole, my client managed to hook four fish and land three, two of which came on the hang down directly below the boat.” “I pulled anchor and rowed to a gravel bar to build a warm-up fire. As I collectBy Tony Lolli

ed wood, he hooked and landed another nice rainbow. Soon, I heard him yell and recognized the unmistakable rod bend of a good fish. In a short time a gorgeous, fat, chrome 23-inch hen was laying in the net. Laughing out loud, we slapped cold high-fives and admired the beautiful native rainbow. I couldn’t tell you how many fish we managed to catch that short, cold February day. But more importantly I shared time on my home water with an angler who had a lifelong dream realized.” I’ve had some dreams of Bunny Muddler too, but none involved a net, unless you count net stockings. Hey Bunny, if

you’re out there, I can get a net. I already have a garter belt. But, I digress, again. If you’re a guide with an innovative fly to share, contact me (tonylolli@yahoo .com) and I’ll send the details. ASJ Editor’s notes: This new column rotates each month between Alaska Sporting Journal and sister titles California Sportsman and Northwest Sportsman. Autographed copies of Tony Lolli’s new book, Art of the Fishing Fly, with an intro by President Jimmy Carter, are available from Tony Lolli, 1589 Legeer Rd., Grantsville, MD 21536 for $30 with free shipping.

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