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FISHING • HUNTING • ADVENTURE

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Volume 10 • Issue 3 www.aksportingjournal.com PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles WRITERS Paul D. Atkins, Christopher Batin, Bjorn Dihle, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Jeff Lund, Bixler McClure, Krystin McClure SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Jake Weipert WEB DEVELOPMENT/INBOUND MARKETING Jon Hines

World Class Color-Phase Black Bear Hunts with Hounds or Bait

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Aumann

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INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES media@media-inc.com ON THE COVER In Southcentral Alaska’s coastal rivers and throughout the state, silver salmon represent one of the most coveted fish to target for both fly and conventional anglers. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN) 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 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 CORRESPONDENCE Twitter @AKSportJourn Facebook.com/alaskasportingjournal Email ccocoles@media-inc.com

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 3

99

SLAMMING

SILVERS The streams draining into Prince William Sound and off the Wrangell/St. Elias Ranges host legendary silver salmon runs. Chris Batin has traversed many grueling trails here to reach some of the state’s best coho waters. Grab your bear spray and come along as Batin shares favorite fishing holes and tactics for big Southcentral Alaska!

(CHRIS BATIN)

FEATURES 27

39

46

LOOKING FOR A BILLY For the Dihle brothers of Juneau, mountain goat hunts are some of their favorite shared outdoor memories. Correspondent Bjorn and his sibling Luke had quite the adventure on the edge of winter as they chased a billy through steep terrain that was also home to bears. Luke was determined to follow through on his goal and Bjorn was on hand to share their latest adventure. HUNTING ALONE Jeff Lund’s passion for the outdoor playgrounds of Southeast Alaska took a new twist when he embarked on a solo hunt to score a big buck to go with the forked horn he had previously harvested on his own. So on a picture-postcard day, Lund hiked and climbed and stalked through the mountains to fulfill his quest. Find out how he did! THE MAGNIFICENT 7 Paul Atkins has some advice for you: “After 25 years of hunting the Arctic and chasing everything from caribou to muskox to grizzly bear, I’ve come to realize some things,” writes the veteran Kotzebue-based sportsman who this issue shares his “7 for 7” list – seven must-

have items for spending a week on the tundra when September’s seasons open. 67

THE FRIENDLY SKIES Alaska is long known as a place where traveling through the air can be as common as traversing the state’s road system. Krystin McClure wanted to earn her pilot’s license just as her husband Bixler did. Get an inside look at learning to fly during the Last Frontier’s unforgiving winter.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 81 115

Eating well and healthy in the field Ketchikan salmon derby changes dates, species

DEPARTMENTS 17 21 23 89

Editor’s Note Protecting Wild Alaska: Feds want a quick ANWR drilling process Outdoor calendar From Field to Fire: The case for catching pink salmon

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 $39.95 (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 © 2018 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

D

uring my international travels in recent years, I’ve always made it a point to check out the local meat and fish markets in some of the cities I’ve visited. It’s always interesting to see what the locals are shopping for. Whether it was in Athens, Greece; Riga, Latvia; Havana, Cuba; or Auckland, New Zealand, what I remember most is the smell of fresh fish fillets and shellfish emanating from the stalls. This is where the term fresh fish is as literal as it gets. But while that’s a part of the day-to-day life of local residents shopping for dinner, as well as a tourist attraction, the stench of rotting fish carcasses left along the side of a river near Wasilla, north of Anchorage, had the potential to attract a different kind of clientele. The salmon and other fish dumped along a stretch of the Knik Arm at the northeast corner of Cook Inlet was more than noisome, it was dangerous. What if you were walking your dog or going for a run along that same shoreline and stumbled onto a hungry bear getting an easy meal out of the dead fish? “Brown bears, particularly, may aggressively defend those food sources,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Anchorage-area wildlife biologist Dave Battle said in a press release, which added that illegal fish dumping can result in fines from $300 to $1,000. ADFG listed several locations around the state where fish waste can be legally discarded. I’ve laughed a few times at family members who’ve bailed out

State officials have had to clean up the smelly mess of abandoned fish waste in Alaska more than once. It recently happened again north of Anchorage. (ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME)

of fish markets abroad because the odor of spoiled fish was too much to endure. But at least the old octopus, sardine and cod reeking up the Athens seafood supermarket didn’t arouse any nearby Greek bears from shopping for the catches of the day. For the safety of all, please properly dispose fish carcasses. -Chris Cocoles

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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA

FEDS WANT TO MOVE QUICKLY TO JUMPSTART ANWR DRILLING PLANS BY CHRIS COCOLES

T

he Department of the Interior is accelerating a study that would recommend whether or not to allow drilling in a large section of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a plan conservationists have staunchly opposed. In April, the Interior Department signed a contract with a company named Environmental Management and Planning Solutions to provide an analysis of the impacts drilling would have at ANWR. According to the Washington Post, details of the contract were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and the agreement suggests that the Trump Administration is attempting to fasttrack the project and get it up for sale quicker than anticipated for such a controversial project. While the two areas considered for selling drilling lease rights – sections of roughly 400,000 acres each on the ANWR’s coastal plain – are located in what’s considered a barren area, environmentalists argue that it’s also a significant route for migrating Porcupine Herd caribou and other wildlife in the over 19 million acres of federally protected refuge land in the extreme northeast corner of Alaska. The contract suggests that the environmental study process would be rushed, certainly quicker than most comparable research done on potential drilling lands. Under the terms agreed upon by the Interior Department and the Colorado-based firm, a lease sale notice would be able to

Conservationists opposing the federal government’s plans to allow drilling at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge say ANWR’s migrating caribou could be at risk. (STEVE HILLEBRAND/USFWS)

be issued by next summer. The Post reported that Environmental Management and Planning Solutions would have just a three-month window to create a scoping report as part of the timeline for assessments to be made on the effects drilling would or could have on ANWR land. Andrew Mack, commissioner of Alaska Natural Resources, admitted to the newspaper that the process is “compressed.” That all of this in theory could be processed by summer 2019 has many rather frustrated by

such a quick turnaround for a project that, like the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay’s salmon-filled waters, is going to face stiff opposition. “The idea of imposing an arbitrary deadline like this is just horrific to me,” Geoffrey Haskett, former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who now serves as National Wildlife Refuge Association president, told the Post. “I think they’re going to make mistakes because they’re moving so fast. They’re certainly not going to get much input on this.” ASJ

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OUTDOOR CALENDAR

Mountain goat season begins Aug. 1 on Baranof Island (Game Management Unit 4). (BJORN DIHLE)

Aug. 1 Aug. 1 Aug. 1 Aug. 1 Aug. 10 Aug. 10 Aug. 10 Aug. 10 Aug. 11

Elk season opens in Game Management Unit 1 (Southeast Alaska) Deer and elk seasons open in GMU 2 (Prince of Wales Island) Deer season opens in GMU 3 (Petersburg/Wrangell) Goat season opens in GMU 4 (Baranof Island) Caribou season opens in GMU 7 (Seward) Dall sheep season opens in GMU 9 (Alaska Peninsula) Brown bear season opens in GMU 11 (Wrangell Mountains) Brown bear season opens in GMU 14B Valdez Women’s Salmon Derby, valdezfishderbies.com/womens-derby

Aug. 11-19 Aug. 17-19 Aug. 18-19 Aug. 20 Aug. 20 Aug. 22-24 Aug. 25-26

Seward Silver Salmon Derby; seward.com/welcome-to-seward-alaska/ seward-silver-salmon-derby-august Golden North Salmon Derby, Juneau; goldennorthsalmonderby.com First weekend of Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Tournament; ketchikancharrsalmonderby.com Black bear season opens in GMU 6A-6B (North Gulf Coast/Prince William Sound) Moose season opens in GMU 11 Kenai River Classic, krsa.com Second weekend of Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Tournament

Editor’s note: For more detailed hunting information, go to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2018-19 Hunting Regulations supplement, which can be found online at adfg.alaska.gov.

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LAST CHANCE FOR A BILLY WITH WINTER CLOSING IN, TWO BROTHERS HEAD INTO SOUTHEAST ALASKA’S HEIGHTS FOR A GOAT

The mountains of Southeast Alaska hold many memories for the Dihle brothers who’ve chased goats here during good weather and bad over the years. (BJORN DIHLE)

BY BJORN DIHLE

I

n mid-October, on the eve of winter in northern Southeast Alaska, my older brother Luke called to see if I wanted to go mountain goat hunting. He’d gone solo a few days prior and seen a couple while glassing from an avalanche path below them. By the time he’d made it to alpine, the weather had closed in. “I was sitting in the clouds and I didn’t have it in me. In the old days I wouldn’t let a little weather or getting caught out after dark keep me from chasing an animal. I guess I’m just getting old,” he said, his voice trailing off like the last note of a lone wolf’s mournful howl. I’m a sappy sucker and easy to manipulate, so much that I’ve stopped watching television because one out of four commercials make me tear up. “Shut up!” I said.

“What?” “You had me at hello.” Only later did it dawn on me that I’d been hustled to pack meat. That’s OK; I’ll take any chance I can get to wander the high country. Packing a big billy out is a two-person job. An adult billy can yield 110 pounds of meat, not to mention the weight of bone and hide. They also live in some of the steepest terrain around and because of it, are considered by many to be the most dangerous species you can hunt in Alaska. (Nonresidents must also hire a guide to hunt. It’s not uncommon for hunters to be unable to recover goats, or even for mortally hit animals to leap off cliffs. Hunters should always pick their shot carefully and be confident they can recover the animal.) As an Alaskan, hunting these animals of the high country has been a

thrill ride.

DURING ONE OF MY favorite goat hunts, my little brother Reid and I chased a pair of big billies from the edge of a glacier and across the face of a mountain. Goats don’t move nearly as fast as other ungulates. Instead, they rely on their surehoofed ability to cross terrain where predators can’t follow. We’d caught these two out in mild terrain. By sprinting, we had a decent chance of cutting them off before they got to a cliff. We ran through snow while leaping from boulder to boulder. Our race ended atop a tiny spire with a multi-thousand-foot fall on the other side. A few moments later, the two billies appeared atop another small spire – surrounded on three sides by the void. They were less than 100 yards away and Reid had a good rest, but he laid his rifle aside.

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Luke Dihle anchors his boat on a glasslike bay before making the trek up into goat country. (BJORN DIHLE)

There was way too high of a probability of losing an animal. Instead, we watched them watch us as the wind ruffled their majestic winter coats.

LUKE’S PLAN WAS TO make a day hunt up Lynn Canal – a giant fjord prone to sudden storms that has sunk everything from Tlingit canoes to passenger cruisers. The last time I made a hunt in Lynn Canal this late in the year still had me cringing. After my buddy shot a goat and we hauled it down to the boat, he put on snorkel gear. I tried to act cavalier, but there’s only so much bravado you can fake after the 100th wave has crashed over the boat. You’re so hypothermic that you wet your pants for just a glimmer of warmth. With the limited amount of daylight in mid-October, climbing a mountain, finding and getting a billy and making it back to the beach was highly unlikely. Besides having to sleep out and miss work, there was also a decent probability the skiff would blow away if the forecast was right about the storm that was predicted to come the following day. Luke had already had this happen once that fall – luckily, he’d found his skiff washed up on the beach a mile away – but that’s another story. I had 28

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Hunting the Panhandle yields breathtaking views, such as this one across Lynn Canal to 15,300-foot Mount Fairweather in neighboring British Columbia. (BJORN DIHLE)

a sneaking suspicion that this foray would end with at least one night of freezing our asses off in the mountains. If we were lucky, we’d have a goat hide to wrap ourselves in. Each year I get softer, so I revel in the chance to do something miserable even if it mostly just consists of me whimpering and missing my golden retriever Fen.

THE FOLLOWING MORNING, LUKE and I drove along an icy road, joking about how nice of hike we were about to go on. My older brother – the most hardcore hunter I know – seemed oddly resigned. He told me he didn’t really care whether or not he got a goat. This, from

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the same guy who didn’t forgive me for years when I told him not to shoot a nice billy after our friend Ed, unable to pack any meat because he was recovering from being injured, already had one down. I’d heard rumors Luke was doing yoga and eating soy products. His erratic behavior was distressing, to say the least. We launched the boat before first light and roared across ocean as placid as a pond. A 40-knot system, which would stir up 8-foot chop, was supposed to hit the following day. Ten minutes out I asked Luke if he packed his bullets. He had the tag and I was only packing my .44 in case of bear trouble.


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“I knew I forgot something,” he said, and turned the boat around to retrieve his bullets from the truck. By the time we anchored the boat and shouldered our packs, we were both sure the chances we’d be eating fresh goat that night were next to none. The day was bluebird gorgeous, and the mountains were covered with fresh snow that shined crisp and clear. Lynn Canal is one of the most beautiful passages on Earth. It just tends to try to kill you sometimes.

WE TRAVELED QUICKLY THROUGH open forest, following game trails when we could and picking our own way when they petered out. We made the tree line well before noon and glassed the upper slopes and cliffs of the mountain. A black bear moved along the bottom of a cliff band, voraciously eating the last of the year’s blueberries. We barely made out a white speck on a knoll that had to be a goat. I set up my tiny Vortex Razor scope and verified. Goat populations in the northern part of Southeast Alaska aren’t exactly

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Above the blue ice of a glacier, a young billy glances back at a hunter. Alaska game officials ask those who chase the species to be able to tell the difference between male and female goats and to only shoot billies. (BJORN DIHLE)


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booming. They also have the slowest reproduction cycle of ungulates. A nanny won’t have a kid until she’s 5 or older. While killing a nanny isn’t illegal, Alaska Department of Fish and Game encourages hunters to take billies. The easiest way to tell the sexes apart are the horns. Males have wider bases, thicker shafts and more subtle curvature. Females have narrow bases, their horns are spindlier and nearly the same width the entire length and they taper abruptly. Male and females’ horns are similar in length. I studied the goat for a long while and, though it was hard to tell for sure, I guessed it was a 2- or 3-year-old billy. “Let’s try to get closer and then you can decide what you want to do,” I said. I followed Luke as he crept from boulder to boulder. Slowly we got to 700 yards and set the scope back up while a black bear fed on berries beneath the goat. After a better look, we both agreed it was a young billy. There was no good cover, so we crawled through the snow to a brush-filled ravine. Luke looked over

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WHAT TO DO WITH A GOAT’S COAT Because of seasonal hunting regulations, it’s harder for weavers of the traditional Tlingit, Chilkat and Ravenstail robes to get mountain goat wool, the traditional material used to create them, than it used to be. If you don’t know any weavers but want to donate the hide, contact Kevin White at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at kevin.white@alaska.gov. BD his shoulder and hissed with excitement. There was another goat barely visible high on a cliff. I couldn’t get a look at its horns, but its body looked bigger than the other goat. We crawled out of sight and scurried up the edge of a cliff face. Twenty minutes later, we peered around the corner at the big goat. “Billy,” I mouthed, after setting up my scope. “Three-hundred-fifty yards. Do you think we can get him off that cliff?” Luke whispered, putting his rangefinder back in his pocket. We were both carrying ice axes and I had enough cord for short rappels. I checked the terrain and saw a route that looked doable, then nodded. Luke exhaled, chambered a round and tried

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to get a rest on his pack. I plugged my ears and waited. To my surprise and his credit, Luke didn’t shoot. “I don’t feel good about this shot and we’re running out of daylight,” he said, unchambering a round. “I’m going to walk to that boulder. If he leaves that’s fine. If not that’s fine, too.” The boulder was out in the open 100 yards up the mountain. Luke shouldered his pack and stepped out. I rose, too, hoping the goat would fixate on me and not bolt. At any moment I expected the billy to take off, but it just stood watching as Luke marched closer. A minute later, Luke took a good rest on the boulder and at the crack of the shot the billy fell and rolled down the mountain. It came to a stop against a


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rock just a short way from Luke. I was still feeling pretty confused about what had just happened when I came up to my brother kneeling next to the goat.

A black bear in a berry patch lucked out – the hunters weren’t targeting it, and their successful harvest of a goat left spoils behind. (BJORN DIHLE)

I RESTED MY HAND against the warmth of the animal’s side. A young black bear, feasting on blueberries, slowly made its way closer to us as we butchered the goat. It soon became apparent why it hadn’t moved from its cliff. One of its hindquarters had sustained a traumatic injury. It was filled with a couple pints of puss and the ball of its hip was popped out of its socket – the latter of which could have happened during its tumble. Maybe it had been gored, shot or taken a fall. It wouldn’t have lasted much longer once a bear – we’d seen three eating berries on the mountainside – or wolf realized its weakness. We talked loudly as we loaded our packs with delicious-smelling meat. The billy wasn’t that big and, since we couldn’t salvage its injured quarter, I took the hide to give to a Chilkat weaver. I also took bones to boil for soup stock. The black bear was only 70 yards away

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when we finished. We were standing in the open and talking normally, but it still hadn’t noticed us. “There’s enough calories here for the little guy to hibernate after he feasts,” I said, but as soon as we began hiking, the bear charged off. I hoped he’d come back and gorge before a bigger bear came around. I stared back at the once majestic animal now reduced to guts, a few bones and a spoiled quarter. Mountains stretched in every direction as far as I could see. It was a crystal-clear evening and Mount Fairweather, at 15,300 feet, was pink with the first traces of alpenglow. The spell of the mountains felt like a gift as my brother and I hauled the goat to the ocean. ASJ

Luke Dihle with his prize (and a freezer’s worth of delicious meat). Hunting mountain goats can be challenging, not only reaching goat country but getting a shot. When it all came together this trip, it provided a memory for the ages for the Dihle brothers. (BJORN DIHLE)

Editor’s note: Bjorn Dihle is a Juneau writer. He is the author of Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska and Never Cry Halibut: and Other Alaska Hunting and Fishing Tales. You can contact or follow him at facebook.com/BjornDihleauthor.

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ON MY OWN HUNTING SOLO IN THE QUEST FOR A BIG BUCK

BY JEFF LUND

T

here’s a logging road that provides incredible access to the alpine, which makes this mountain really popular for locals and those visitors who think they know about some sort of secret. As far as bargain alpine hunts, I’m not sure it can get much better. By the time mid-August rolls around, most of the big bucks are killed, chased to the backside or down the ridge and across a spine to another peak. I had shot my first buck alone on a little hill the year before – a little rut forkie with eye guards – so I felt ready for the mountain and whatever I needed to do to get a buck where my hunting life started. I had cell phone reception. I had at least some semblance of knowledge when it came to making stalks, plus I

Author Jeff Lund had taken a smaller, forked deer on a previous solo hunt (inset), but he vowed to harvest a big buck when he took on Southeast Alaska’s mountainous terrain again by himself. (JEFF LUND)

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Fellow hunters ascend into the foggy heights in hopes of finding a break in conditions to glass for game. (JEFF LUND)

had boned out deer. I had no choice but to take the next step and go for a big one, solo.

THE WEATHER CALLED FOR clear skies once the sea fog burned off. I camped halfway up the north-facing slope so I could look below me in the morning at whatever might be bedded, and I didn’t have to work as hard to get to the ridge. I was excited but slept well, at least for five hours. When I woke up and unzipped the tent, I saw deer, just not the ones I was looking for. There was a forkie bedded 100 yards below me and two others sparring 500 yards down and to my left. I watched for a few minutes, then refocused. There was fog on the top, which I expected, but the amount was disconcerting. I charged up the mountain to the top ridge and looked down at clouds. Though it was the latter part of mid-August, I was cold. The breeze was cold. The lack of sun was cold. The fact stiff winds hadn’t made it easy for me to 40

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sleep the rest of the night made me cold. The wind had died and the calm was made eerie by the fog. I sat on the ridge and tried to glass through breaks. On one particular break, I saw four deer below me. My $40 binos couldn’t tell me if they were bucks or just does with tall ears. Since the heads didn’t move, I couldn’t tell. Fog. After another break, no more luck.

I MOVED DOWN THE ridge where a finger divided the face I was looking at from another. Near the bottom was a buck. I only knew this because its head moved and some stuff above it moved at the same speed. It would have to do. The binos couldn’t tell me exactly what that stuff was, but it looked worth chasing. I also reasoned in my head that I didn’t want new binos; I needed them. To the right of the deer was a grassy bulge that, if I could get behind it, I’d be right on top of the deer and have an easy shot. The face had a couple chutes

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cut by eroding snow runoff. I dipped into one and started to work my way to that bulge. I’ve never been particularly patient but decided that I’d be a ninja this time. I laughed in my head at the thought of this as I did a crab walk down the muddy cut in the mountain. I was doing it: A solo hunter stalking a deer on a mountain between fog. It was one of the moments that hunters try, and fail, to properly put into words. Rocks tumbled, but not far. I slowed, squatted, then rose slowly to look down toward the deer. I couldn’t see it, but the bulge I’d noticed from the ridge was close. Further. I crawled. I kicked a few rocks, knocked my frame pack and slid, but all in all, I was a decent predator. Close, but a little further. This was the last stalk. The last few dozen yards until I popped up and saw what was what. I was alone. There was no voice of reason, voice of suggestion.


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From his vantage point on high, Lund could see what he’d accomplished more clearly. “I had a buck, a big buck, the buck of my life so far,” the author writes. “And I had done it on a mountain, in fog, on day two, by myself.” (JEFF LUND)

Just me. I crawled up the bulge and snuck my rifle into position. Nothing but a doe.

I HAD SPENT AN hour sneaking my way down a couple hundred feet of elevation to stalk a doe. I’d have to hike all the way back up and over. I rose and sat on the nub. In the grass, 20 yards below me were some reddish sticks. They turned. Horns. The deer knew. I lifted my rifle as the deer stood from its bedded position. I fired. The thick vegetation prevented me from seeing the animal. I had to find the fall line, which I did pretty easily. A few bushes had stopped its slide. I lifted the horns to see my biggest buck. He was a big three-point with eye guards. My heart beat louder and harder than before the shot. Other people had shot bigger bucks, but they hadn’t 42

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shot this one on this mountain. I had. Something primal stirred in me, not the Alpha Killer who dances around the carcass like it’s Lord of the Flies, something anti-hunters might expect. Rather, something deep, reverent, spiritual, something that is missed by comparing slabs of meat under plastic. Something about my value as a provider and participant in life. Something about not being just a consumer, shuffling the money I make to the faceless people who put that meat in stores. When I lifted the head, the body broke free of what held it and the deer slid another 30 yards down the mountain. This time it came to rest on a small shelf flat enough for me to work. I was so excited and frantic, I forgot to take in the moment and memorialize it. I took two bad cell phone pictures and that was it. As if I was almost embarrassed at my good fortune in rela-

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tion to my experience, I went to work taking the meat off the bone, stuffing it into bags and loading my pack. I had a buck, a big buck, the buck of my life so far. And I had done it on a mountain, in fog, on day two, by myself. I had left the nest. Now, I had to get all the way back up and over the mountain to camp, fit all my gear on top of the gear and get back to my truck. Easy. I was a changed man. ASJ Editor’s note: Ketchikan-based Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about fishing and hunting in Alaska and California. Get it at amazon.com.


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A reliable weapon, clothing that keeps you warm and dry and other equipment along with physical abilities are the difference between a good and great hunt in Alaskaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rugged tundra. Veteran sportsman Paul Atkins has seven tips to make your hunt more memorable, safer and comfortable. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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A MAGNIFICENT

SEVEN FOLLOW THIS LIST OF MUST-HAVES AND -DOS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR WEEK-LONG ALASKAN TUNDRA HUNT BY PAUL D. ATKINS

T

he bugs were ferocious! Wave after wave of big ol’ Alaskan mosquitoes swarmed me. They filled my uncovered face and hands and tore at my flesh with their bites. It was miserable, but the moose I had just shot, which eventually decided to drop in the deepest part of this willow-infested swamp, wouldn’t wait. The inch-thick (or so it seemed) layer of Deep Woods Off I had applied everywhere acted more like an attractant than not, so I wanted out of there more than anything. Looking back, oh how I wish I had had a facemask and, even more so, a Thermacell! That was many years ago, before Thermacells and bug-proof suits and other such items that once might have been oddities but today make hunting a lot more comfortable. Oh, how far we’ve come! You hear a lot of older hunters – and me too sometimes – say that they “wish it was like the old days,” when you really didn’t need anything but a little tundra sense and a straight-shooting rifle that hits where it is supposed to. Sometimes yes, that is all you really need and those before us – the old timers – were very successful at it. Do we

have it too easy these days with all the new gadgets and technology? Maybe, maybe not. I can tell you this: After 25 years of hunting the Arctic and chasing everything from caribou to muskox to grizzly bear, I’ve come to realize some things. You still need to know a little about the country you’re hunting in. You need to know something about the species that you’re hunting. Last, but not least, you really need to know how to shoot a rifle or bow accurately. This trio can and will make all the difference, but I’ve also realized that some, but not all, of the new improvements to the hunting world have their place too. Many of those do make life on the tundra a heck of a lot safer and the trip more enjoyable. So here is my “7 for 7” list of seven must-haves for seven days on the tundra come September’s hunting openers.

1

RAIN PROTECTION

Oh, how we have evolved in this area! When I first arrived in Alaska many years ago I was totally new to the concept of constant rain. Heck, I grew up in Oklahoma, where rain was rare. When it did come we weren’t spending seven days in it.

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You may not have a choice on fly-in hunts, where weight has to be considered, but on boat hunts the author and his hunting partner try and take everything that will make life in the outdoors more enjoyable. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

I learned from those early days that cotton doesn’t mix well with precipitation and if you do plan to enjoy your days in camp and even more so afield, then you better try and stay dry when the rest of your world is wet. Those were tough times, but being a novice the worry about being wet didn’t even register compared to the thought of actually being in Alaska when I was up some no-name river looking for moose. A dream for sure. But Gore-Tex had been invented and the price had actually dropped, so many of us could finally afford it. Cabela’s came out with Dry Plus about the same time too (and still offers the line today). I wore it for many years after, knowing it would keep me dry no matter what. I eventually evolved to Sitka Gear and the high price tag the brand carries, but I can tell you with certainty that it works, and it works everywhere. Despite being spendy, it’s worth every 48

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dime, in my opinion. Thus, if you’re planning a hunting trip in Alaska as a nonresident or even a resident, you’re going to need good rain gear first and foremost. Because if there’s one thing I can promise you, it’s going to rain and if doesn’t, it will next time. Staying dry should be a priority.

2

CHOOSING A WEAPON

I always see and read on social media about the pros and cons when it comes to rifle or bow choice. One versus another; this one is better than that one; the debating goes on and on. I’ve been at parties and sat around campfires where discussions about who has the better gun has almost turned to fistfights. It’s crazy! When I first arrived in Alaska long ago, I thought the bigger the better; many thought the same and still do, which is fine. So I went out and bought the biggest caliber with the heaviest

AUGUST 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

loads, thinking these big “Alaska animals” are going to be tough and it’s going to take a real hammering to take them down. Yes, it worked, but on some occasions it still took a few more rounds than I wanted to shoot. The same goes with bows and arrows. Bigger broadheads and more poundage mean cleaner, quicker kills, which in my opinion is what we’re all after. After so many years I realized that this isn’t the case. A rifle that you can shoot effectively or an arrow that you can place precisely is the key to success. To each his or her own, but for the last 20 years I have shot one rifle in one caliber and that’s the 7mm with 168-grain loads. It’s too light, they say; it won’t take down a charging grizzly or a monster moose, they told me. Well, it will, and it has every time without failure. It’s also like that with a bow and arrow. You don’t need to pull 80 pounds


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and you don’t need a heavy broadhead. It’s all about shot placement and knowing the anatomy of the animal you’re hunting. I’m not knocking anyone’s set-up here, but please keep in mind it’s not what you shoot them with – it’s where you shoot them. Practice is the key, so know your rifle or bow and know how it works.

3

OPTICS

Being able to see is the key to success. Being able to pick and choose or identify what you think you see, whether deep in the willows or across the open tundra, will determine your next move and/or your plan of attack. Many years ago, all I had was a cheap pair of binoculars that were fuzzy and not very clear. They did what they could, but not what I needed. After long painstaking stalks through tundra and tussocks only to find small bulls or cows when I thought there were bulls persuaded me to invest in better optics. It has made all the difference. The same can be said about riflescopes. You get what you pay for. Optics come in a variety of configurations and price ranges these days. Unlike long ago, there are good affordable binoculars and spotting scopes that do a good job in the field. It is true what they say: Buy the best you can afford. Instead of spending extra on other types of gear, spend more on good optics. I prefer 10-power when hunting. The 10x42, which is very common, is ideal for anything Alaska has to offer. I also recommend purchasing a tripod for glassing, especially when trying to decide if the caribou that are a couple miles away are worth going after.

4

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL ABILITY

This really has nothing to do with gear or items you might need on a seven-day hunt, but you better have both if you plan to be successful, especially if the quarry you’re after requires it. Many dream of hunting this great land of Alaska. Taking that moose of a lifetime or climbing a mountain after a sheep or goat are dreams we truly all share, but I’m here to tell you that

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Thermacell is the best invention ever made, in Atkins’ opinion, for combating the onslaught of bugs in Alaska. These little units (top) are simple and not too expensive, considering what they can do. A Havalon knife is another great invention that has been around for some time, but not used by many. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

it’s not easy. Good gear helps, but if you’re not in shape – both physically and mentally – you will never accomplish those goals. I know all too well, as I’ve been there many times during a grueling hunt. Even if you’re hunting the flat tundra for caribou or Kodiak for deer you’re still going to have to pack something out and unless you want to pack numerous small loads, you need to be in shape. So, if your plans include the

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above-mentioned species and places, start getting in shape now and not just a few days before you hunt. Start at least six months out. If you do, you will appreciate it more and the hunt will be that much more enjoyable.

5

WADERS

One piece of gear you absolutely need is a pair of waders; don’t leave home without them! Yes, they’re uncomfortable and not the easiest to


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Even though this moose was taken 50 yards from the bank, it required a lot of work and physical ability to transport it to camp. Hours of backbreaking cutting, packing and disassembling of a large game animal will do a number on your body. The same can be said for mountain hunting or any kind of adventure in Alaska, so improve your fitness and strength long before the trip. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

walk in, but you’ll need them, especially while hunting moose or other critters that make rivers and drainages their home. I promise, you’ll have to cross water sometime, whether on a stalk or a packout. Being able to do so with ease gives you a sense of mental accomplishment as well; I know it does for me. Like many, when I first arrived in Alaska I thought leather boots would do. After all, that was what we all hunted in down south. I was wrong. I remember that on my first Alaska hunt I wore leather boots with heavy socks as I rode in an open boat traveling to some remote place upriver. My feet were freezing, and that was just the first hour of a week-long hunt! It was miser52

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able, but like many first times I learned my lesson well; “never again!” becomes a battlecry. These days I prefer waders more and more. They aren’t as thin and painful as they once were and several companies make models that have great bottoms. They offer cushion and great ankle support. Cabela’s neoprene line is one of the best. Or if you’re like my friend and hunting partner Lew, get some chest waders made out of the same material. He can go anywhere the water is deep, and in most cases I usually let him!

6

KNIVES, SAWS AND FRAME PACKS I included all of these as one on my list. Why? Well, they all go hand


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in hand, in my opinion. Remove one of these and you’ll be a lost cause once you get an animal down. I once skinned and quartered a deer with a small pocketknife. Yes, it was slow and we got it done, but only because I forgot my regular knife – again, a big lesson learned. Every hunter must have a good knife and the sharper, the better. It sounds like a no-brainer, but having a good knife that is razor sharp makes things go quicker, cleaner and also more enjoyably. I recently started using the Havalon line and can tell you they work great! Just this last year I skinned and quartered everything from a muskox to a giant grizzly bear with one. Buy one and you’ll see. Saws are important too, but only if you truly need one. I find having a small folding saw a must for any backpack, especially when it comes to taking out ribs and those cumbersome knuckle and leg joints that give most of us trouble. They are lightweight and take up very little room. Lastly, consider your frame packs.

Atkins learned quickly that if you plan to hunt the backcountry in search of big bulls, you’re going to need to cross rivers and streams to get to where they roam. A good set of waders makes that possible. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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Buy a good one that can handle a load and fits you well. Last fall I was on Kodiak hunting goats. We found ourselves overweight on the dock and we had to leave some gear behind. We had two frame packs and thinking we only needed one, I left mine behind. Big mistake. With my regular backpack stuffed to the brim and uneven, plus carrying my regular gear and a rifle, each step down the mountain turned into a death-defying adventure.

7

BUG PROTECTION

Finally, bugs are not to be taken lightly. Alaska has all kinds of them and when early hunting seasons start, usually in August or early September, they are out in full force. Mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums and gnats will drive you crazy, as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. They can and will ruin an entire hunt if you’re not prepared. Having a Thermacell is the key to successfully repelling bugs. Like a dry pair of socks after a long day on the tundra or a hot cup of camp coffee in

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Having a good pack to eliminate as many trips as possible is a must, especially on mountain hunts, where you are chasing sheep and goats. Nobody wants to go up a second time. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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When you plan for seven days of adventure and have all the necessary gear to be successful, it will be. Not only will you share in the bounty for days to come, but also create memories for a lifetime. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

the morning, having the reassurance of Thermacell – either clipped to your pack or strapped to your belt – will eliminate the “buzzing and biting” that will drive you crazy and make you itch for days. I think it’s one of the greatest inventions of all time. I could mention 100 other things that will make your seven days on the tundra more doable, like having a sat phone, a good GPS, good food or a compatible hunting partner. But the seven points I’ve covered are first and foremost in making your hunt a safe, enjoyable and successful experience. If you are planning on hunting the Last Frontier this fall, remember to think ahead, make a list and plan for what I hope is the adventure of a lifetime! ASJ Editor’s note: 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.


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OFF ROAD WITH THE NEW ROXOR

Automaker Mahindra just unveiled a new off-road vehicle called the Roxor, and it not only looks like an original Willys Jeep, but it’s also got the hardware (and the history) to back it up. Better yet: It’s for sale in America and it is built right in Detroit. Unlike many other side-by-sides, the Roxor will feature a very CJ-7-ish steel body mounted on a steel frame. The powertrain will be the ultimate off-roader’s dream: a turbo-diesel four-cylinder motor and five-speed manual – an automatic option will also be available – mounted to a low-range transfer case. The 2.5-liter diesel produces 62 hp at 3,200 rpm, along with an impressive 144 foot-pounds of torque at 1,400 rpm. The wheelbase is about 3 inches longer than a CJ-7, the overall width is narrower and towing capacity is about 3,490 pounds. Maximum speed is limited to 45 mph; it’s a similar top speed to that of an old Willys CJ-2A. Fuel economy is somewhere around 32 miles per gallon. Starting prices for the two trim packages range from $15,549 to $18,999 (FOB Michigan), according to company representatives. At $250 per month, you’re going to want one of these.

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FLIGHT CLUB

Authors Krystin and Bixler McClure are no strangers to experiencing adventure in Alaska on the water and land, but as this view of Bear and Aialik Glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park reflects, earning their pilot’s license and purchasing a Cessna 172 has allowed them to take in the Last Frontier from a whole new perspective. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

FAMILY OF PILOTS NOW ENJOYING ALASKA BY AIR BY KRYSTIN AND BIXLER MCCLURE

H

ow do you know someone is a pilot?” asked Will, my flight instructor, as we wheeled the flight school’s plane to the fuel pump. I paused and thought for a second. “They tell you,” he grinned. I laughed, and I still laugh to this day. Both Bixler and I have our licenses now and have been enjoying flying around Southcentral Alaska this summer. It seems that everywhere we go, even in our hometown of Seward, people get wind of our newfound hobby of flying and establish themselves as pilots too. A fellow boat captain came up to us at the fuel dock recently to say simply that he went for a flight over Resurrection Bay and could see whales feeding below to say, “Hey, I’m a pilot.”

Joining the ranks of private pilot in the “flyingest” state in the union is no easy task. Aside from the obvious time and money commitments, there are two options for wannabe Alaskan pilots: Head south or learn here and be subject to the Last Frontier’s weather. When we talk to other pilots and find ourselves telling them we too are pilots, the subject of instruction often arises. Summertime-only pilots often raise an eyebrow when we say that we learned to fly in Alaska during the long winter. And learning to fly in the winter is an adventure itself.

LAST NOVEMBER, JUST AFTER our son turned 1, the three of us drove to Soldotna, to one of the Kenai Peninsula’s only flight instruction outfits, Missionary Aviation Repair Center, or MARC for short.

The sun had yet to rise as we stepped inside and were introduced to our instructor Will and his quirky sense of humor. Will led us into the hangar where the Cessna 172 used for instruction was stored. The last two letters in her tail number were Juliette Papa, so we called her JP for short. Bixler and I each traded childcare for flight instruction – which would become a regular thing for us at MARC – while we did our first discovery flight. I remember stepping into JP after doing a thorough inspection of the plane and being hopelessly lost looking at the instrument panel. Will explained every gauge in detail and let me get a feel for the plane. I was completely hooked as I flew over the vast frozen landscape. It was not long after that that we became regulars on the books at MARC. After a long evaluation of the road conditions on the Sterling Highway and weather in Seward and Soldotna, we would drive over and one of us would

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Many Alaska pilots only fly in the summer. But the McClures have learned many of their flying skills during the more challenging conditions of winter. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

start the preflight. November went by with a breeze. The weather was relatively dry and the frozen landscape made for smooth flying. As we got closer to Christmas, it got more interesting.

WE SHOWED UP TO MARC and the entire airport was covered in 6 inches of fresh snow. Normally the airport would be closed for plowing, but the Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, said nothing about closures. I put on my winter boots to preflight JP and asked my instructor Will about what to do. “We’ll skip ahead and work on soft field takeoffs and landings,” he said cheerfully. “Once we get moving, just don’t stop or we’ll get stuck.” I followed Will’s instruction and taxied straight from the hangar to the smooth spot by the runway where we run up the engine to test everything. I took off on the unplowed runway and Will whispered “right rudder” quietly, which reminded me to add more rudder on takeoff. Will demonstrated the soft field landing technique and I took a lap around the airport in the traffic pattern to give it a try myself. Soldotna does not plow the runway down to the tarmac and Will sensed that I was a bit lost looking down at the runway. “Today we are going to learn about flying in flat light as well,” he said. “Just aim for the spot in the snow where everyone else has landed, since there are no runway numbers.” I flared too early and JP slammed 68

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down onto the soft snow. Like Will said, I didn’t stop until we reached the hangar.

AS DECEMBER ROLLED INTO January, Will scheduled us for our night flights, another out-of-order requirement traditionally saved for towards the end of flight instruction. Bixler had received instruction previously when we lived in California, so he was well versed in cross country, or airport-to-airport, flights. His night flight from Soldotna to Homer was a breeze; mine was nerve-racking. I was getting over a head cold, which causes disorientation while flying. And flying from Soldotna to Homer on a moonless night means zero visual


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Krystin taxis in after completing her first solo. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

checkpoints. I landed in Homer, only to realize that there is a large hill in the middle of the runway. I was hopelessly disoriented for much of the flight. Will decided it would be good time to practice unusual attitudes and it was the first time the instruments in front of me on the panel were saying the opposite of what my body said. Needless to say, I was happy to be on the ground after that flight. Our son Lynx befriended the entire MARC and was excited each time we showed up in Soldotna for instruction. He cried the morning we turned around because of freezing rain, but he was happy the day we showed up and couldn’t fly because the crosswind was too strong and all that nice snow on the runway had turned into a sheet of ice. We worked on planning our cross country flights and did a lot of ground instruction during February because of inclement weather. A few times I went up with Will, only to turn around and immediately land. The snow socked in and we lost sight of the opposite end of the runway. Bixler soloed early in February and it took me until March to fly by myself in JP because of the crosswind that forms at the Soldotna Airport during the spring. “Be sure to keep the plane centered on the runway when correcting for a crosswind,” Will said for the third time. “You would know if the runway wasn’t a sheet of ice since the ice is sliding the plane back into place on the ground.” We were taxiing back to the hangar at MARC while Will was debriefing the crosswind landings. I took a corner too 70

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One-year-old Lynx McClure checks out his mom’s instruction plane. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

LEARNING TO FLY So you want to be an Alaskan bush pilot? Everyone needs to start somewhere. Here are some tips to help you achieve your flying dreams.

• Learn to fly in Alaska. Nothing prepares you for flying in Alaska like learning to fly in Alaska. Most major cities have certified flight instructors (CFIs) and/or flight schools. Take a discovery flight with a potential flight school and see if you and your CFI click.

• Anticipate costs. Learning to fly isn’t cheap, so be sure you are willing to make the investment before following through with flying.

• Don’t cancel a lesson because of less-than-ideal weather. Nothing prepares you for flying in Alaska better than flying in the wild Alaskan weather. Your CFI will know when to cancel, but don’t expect cloudless blue skies all the time. You never know when you may encounter other conditions.

• Save the beach landings for later. Once you get your license, work on perfecting your skills before you attempt a backcountry landing. Alaska has plenty of small airstrips to practice on.

• Don’t get discouraged. Bad flights can easily discourage a new pilot. Pick a nice day to get back up in the air and keep flying. The best feeling in the world is landing after a good flight. KM and BM

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“Hey, I’m a pilot,” Krystin can now say proudly since learning to fly aboard the plane she and her husband called JP. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

fast in the plane and skidded JP along the ice. I stopped for a second to get my bearings and Will warned me about the

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lack of gravel on the taxiway. I finally soloed just before my birthday on March 1 and Bixler began

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the long wait for a weather window to do his long solo cross country to Talkeetna and back. I managed my solo


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flight to Homer and, on his seventh attempt, Bixler soloed to Talkeetna and then passed his checkride at the end of the month. In early April, I flew to Talkeetna myself. When I landed, Will informed us that he was moving back to Indiana, a huge blow because Bixler and I thought of Will as a close friend. We bid adieu to Will and I finished my instruction with the other two awesome instructors Dwight and Kyle. I scheduled my checkride for the end of May when the examiner came back from vacation. One of the last flights I did with Kyle was on a day with bumpy conditions, downdrafts, and a shifty crosswind. I did my last landing in JP for the day before I called it quits. “You know, these are really tough conditions to be flying in,” Kyle said, sensing my frustration. “You flew the plane and landed safely on the ground. That’s what counts.” “Yeah,” I sighed. “I’m just nervous for my checkride.” “When I first got up here, I had to be re-educated on Alaska flying,” Kyle continued. “These are some of the toughest conditions to learn in.” Kyle and Dwight gave me the confidence to do my checkride, which was obviously a very trying flight to begin with, let alone in gusty and shifty conditions. I learned a lot in the experience, and it made me a better pilot.

FAST FORWARD TO JULY and we now spend every nice day in the air since we bought an almost identical Cessna 172 from a friend of ours. My landings are near perfect and the Kenai Peninsula’s collection of short, gravel runways make for an excellent introduction into bush flying. We have not reached the point of landing on beaches and gravel bars like most true bush pilots, but are happy to have entered the ranks of Alaskan pilots. And often times before anyone even asks, we say, “Hey, I’m a pilot.” ASJ Editor’s note: Krystin and Bixler McClure own and operate Seward Ocean Excursions, which offers boat-based adventures on the Kenai Peninsula. For more, call (907) 599-0499 or go to sewardoceanexcursions.com. 74

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WHAT’S ON THE

MENU? HOW TO EAT HEALTHY YET HEARTY ON FISHING, HUNTING TRIPS

BY JEFF LUND

O

n my passenger seat is a half-eaten tube of pepperoni sticks and a mostly eaten bag of pretzels, leftovers from a low-stress bear hunting trip on the road system. I sat on some tidal flats and waited for a couple hours, hiked around, waited more, then returned to my truck. I normally eat pretty well and make sure I have fresh vegetables and meat I procured myself. Or at least I’ll buy better, more expensive meat at the grocery store. I stay away from boxes and cans except when I’m hunting or fishing. Well, there may also be an empty plastic container behind the seat that once was the home to four raspberry turnovers. With icing. When I lived in California, road-trip food was so accessible. I used to hit the burger place right outside of the town of Escalon in the Central Valley on my way back from fishing the Sierra Nevada. If we were heading south from a weekend in the Redding area, then it was

In the remote Alaskan bush, sometimes it takes a little simplicity to get in that meal your body needs. Grilled cheese and tomato soup cooked on a boat’s stovetop is a great dinner after sitting on the flats all day waiting for bear. (JEFF LUND)

the In-N-Out Burger near Sacramento. That doesn’t really exist here since there are no road trips in Southeast Alaska, which is made up of 1,700 islands. So you just go to the store and pick out what sounds good, in addition to the norms.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT? There is precedent for being able to eat what you want in the field because you

are burning calories. However, while you want to reward yourself for the suffering, you do want to give your body stuff it can use. If your normal diet is high in protein and fat, then hitting the body with a bunch of carbs the night before (the carb-load) can make you feel sluggish, as the body has to deal with a ton of carbohydrates it’s not used to.

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A roaring campfire can also become a makeshift oven for these hearty sportsmen. (JEFF LUND)

My body feels best when I am hydrated, have had a protein-heavy meal – scrambled eggs and a meat with onions, peppers and tomatoes – and a couple of hours to process it before I start up the mountain. No, that wasn’t a euphemism for gas station breakfast burritos. Anyway, your body burns dietary carbohydrates during exercise, then moves on to stored glycogen. So giving your body a bunch of fat won’t really do much in the short term because it takes the body longer to break down the fats and make them available for energy. Same with protein. A boost of energy best comes from sugars, which is why athletes have sugary sports drinks ready rather than something like jerky to consume. However, when the exercise is over, protein like a big fat burger or steak sound perfect. Even a protein bar is not solely protein; it provides sugars and carbohydrates, which is readily available energy. I’ll eat a protein bar or some trail mix that includes dried fruit to give me some light flavor and a little sugar boost. Jerky almost never sounds good halfway up a mountain, but sometimes I do crave salt. Ultimately, it comes down to trying things that work for you, because taste is only part of the equation. 82

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FOOD CONSIDERATIONS It really depends on where I am, and what I’m doing. If it’s a no-big-deal drive around, then it’s easy to buy snack food and graze away (hence the pepperoni sticks and pretzels). Anyway, ideally you catch or kill something and you cook it – because fresh meat, right? But, of course, this requires utensils, plates, a stove and some seasoning. If I happen to be close to my truck, I’ll bring whatever I could need to cook. Hot dogs and brats are a staple of camping, but they aren’t quality meat products. Count on chili dog revenge if you’re leaving base camp for a summit the next morning. For alpine tent camping, the minimal amount of gear is desirable, so pots and pans just add to it. The simple method is peanut butter and jelly sammies – one per meal, and one extra. The sandwiches are light but do the job. I’ll also have a big bag of jerky to replenish protein stores once I’m done moving for the day. A Mountain House meal package provides more calories and flavor, but a couple of those take up space and require a lot of water to digest. I am prone to getting low on salt during long hikes, so I make sure I bring along something salty such as a small

AUGUST 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

bag of Pringles or even a salt packet. Having low sodium in the blood (hyponatremia) can’t be solved with a banana or water. I learned this after my first marathon, when I was nauseous and nothing helped except the packet of salt the dude at the aid tent gave me.

THE WATER VARIABLE: MATCH YOUR MEALS If I’ve gone up a mountain in warm weather, I am going to be behind on water and if there isn’t a water source on top, I have to take into consideration the condition in which I will wake up in the morning. Dehydrated from the hike. Dehydrated from the big Mountain House meal, and dehydrated from sleep. That stalk next morning could be really tough if I am that behind with hydration. If I am standing in cold water all day, say, on a steelhead trip, then few things taste better than hot noodles, and water shouldn’t be a problem since I can boil or filter as much as I want.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROTEIN BAR A Snickers does not satisfy; in fact it feels heavy. It has some sugars that might give me a temporary boost, but they feel clunky and inefficient. Maybe at the end of a hike after the body has come down a bit, but not halfway up a mountain. A protein bar like a PureFit of


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When camping with a vehicle, there are no limits when it comes to food and cookware. But if you’re roughing it or living it up, make sure your menu gives your body what it needs, not what it craves, when on your adventure. (JEFF LUND)

JetBoil and MSR make quality camping products to cook luxuries like blueberry pancakes. (JEFF LUND)

Onnit is the way to go. Onnit bars are great for you, have substance and taste really good without being just a sugar bomb. They supply a good mix of protein, carbs and sugar in a healthy mix. Clif also has some good flavors.

THE REWARD After the hunt – or once you’re back

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at camp – it’s nice to have a reward for your efforts. This is the best part about eating well when you’re not outdoors, because the sweet of a single red Starburst is almost overwhelmingly satisfying. If you eat a pack of Skittles a day, it won’t taste nearly as good. If you do happen to be a fan of,

AUGUST 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

say, apple cider and Pendleton after an alpine hunt, make sure you limit consumption. You can celebrate more when you get home. ASJ Editor’s note: Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about hunting and fishing in California or Alaska. Get it at amazon.com.


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Guide Tom Baumgartner coaches a young angler how to fly fish while targeting pink salmon on the Naknek River. Pinks might not get the same fanfare as bigger and more prized Chinook, coho and sockeye, but they are Alaska’s most plentiful Pacific salmon species. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

PINK POWER

THOUGH LACKING THE STAR POWER OF THEIR ALASKAN COUSINS, HUMPIES ARE PLENTIFUL AND EASY TO CATCH BY SCOTT HAUGEN

GREAT TRAINING SPECEIES

I

Pink, or humpback salmon – due to the large, sharp hump that develops on the back of spawning bucks – are found in most intertidal regions encompassing Alaska. I’ve caught numerous little humpies from the remote Utukok and Kokolik Rivers near Point Lay, on down to the Kenai Peninsula. They could well be Alaska’s most valued salmon, both in the commercial and subsistence realms, and they are very popular among sport

f there was one species of fish to choose in Alaska, where introducing novice anglers to the sport would hook them for life, it would be the pink salmon. Pinks will eat just about any presentation placed in front of them, and given their wide range and mind-boggling abundance in most streams they frequent, hooking fish is highly likely with just about every cast.

anglers, though they are overshadowed by other species such as Chinook, coho and sockeye. Humpies average 3 to 4 pounds and measure 20 to 25 inches at adulthood. Seven- and 8-pound bucks are not uncommon, but the state record of 12 pounds 9 ounces has stood since 1974, and was taken from the Kenai River. Alaska rivers see runs of pinks in odd- as well as even-numbered years, like 2018. If you’re serious about chalking up impressive catch numbers and learning how to fish while actually catching salmon, they're a great target. In some drainages, there may be cyclical shifts of dominant runs, meaning a previously weak odd-year run may be-

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FIELD

YOU SAY TOMATO… BY TIFFANY HAUGEN

T

his is the time of year the pots on our back porch are full of fresh, fabulous produce. Our garden, as well as those of neighbors, is also bursting with flavorful, nutritious life. When I get the question, “Could you use a few more tomatoes?” I always enthusiastically answer, “Yes!” Depending on how they are prepared, tomatoes take on many flavors. Although nothing beats a fresh tomato salsa, slow-roasted tomatoes place a close second. Not only is it the easiest thing to do with an excess of tomatoes, but the benefits can last for months, as the sauce freezes beautifully. Another plus is the smell of roasting tomatoes, onions and garlic, which fill the house with a heavenly aroma, especially if you throw a cedar plank on the top rack.

SLOW-ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE 3 to 5 pounds tomatoes (any size or variety will work) 1 large onion, sliced 90

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5 to 10 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup fresh basil, optional Place onions and garlic in the bottom of a 9-by-11-inch casserole pan. Clean and halve tomatoes and put on top of the onions. Add salt, pepper and oil. Place in a 350-degree oven and roast one hour. Stir mixture and reduce temperature to 300 degrees and continue roasting until most of the liquid has evaporated; check every 20 minutes. The longer tomatoes roast, the sweeter they become. Serve as is if you like a lot of texture in your sauce or use a stand or hand blender to puree mixture. Add fresh basil if desired.

SAUCY PARMESAN FISH Try the sauce with salmon, trout or a favorite bottomfish. Serve warm slow-roasted tomato sauce over grilled fish or cover fish with cooled sauce before baking. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese before or after cooking.

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Author Tiffany Haugen can find a lot of uses for a slow-roasted sauce made with her garden's fresh tomatoes, including combining with Parmesan to top lingcod fillets. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany’s popular book Cooking Seafood, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This and other cookbooks can also be ordered at tiffanyhaugen.com. Tiffany is a full-time author and part of the online series Cook With Cabela’s. Also, watch for her on The Sporting Chef and The Hunt on Netflix.


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FIELD

Because they are easy to catch, pink salmon are great for beginning anglers looking to learn all they can about how to fish. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

come plentiful. Upon entering rivers, pink salmon are silver-bright with a blue back and pronounced black spots, making them difficult to distinguish from other anadromous species. In the males, the silvery appearance gives way to yellowish-brown, sometimes even black skin, above a white belly. Hens turn olive-green with obscure patches or bars running above their pale belly. Pink salmon provide excellent eating when they first enter a river. The fish will head into streams from late June into mid-October and travel relatively few miles before commencing the act of spawning.

PINK SALMON BIOLOGY Spawning in the intertidal zones and mouths of streams is common. Preferred spawning habitat consists of areas where running water breaks over coarse gravel, as well as the bottom ends of large pools, where quality gravel has filled in. Depending on a female’s size, around 2,000 eggs are deposited into the nest, which she digs out with her tail. Upon extrusion of the eggs, one or more males quickly fertilize them. Once fertilized, the hen covers the redd by digging and fanning gravel over top. This ritual may be carried out several times, until the female is rid of all her eggs. Within a couple weeks of spawning, both the males and females perish. Life however, carries on, with the hatching of eggs in early to midwinter. The young fry live off the reserves in their yolk sac until spring, when they emerge from the gravel and move to sea. Interestingly, the outmigration of fry is most common during nightfall, and may last several weeks until all the fry have made it out. Once in saltwater, juvenile pink salmon move in large schools, hugging beach lines near the surface, where they feed on plankton, larval fishes and the infrequent insect. Young pinks grow surprisingly fast, measuring up to 6 inches by 1 year of age. The following year, at age 2, pinks begin their death swim into rivers, where their life cycle carries on. To gain a better understanding of 92

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Author Scott Haugen with some fresh river-run pink salmon. Generally speaking, they make best table fare when caught in the salt and near the mouths of streams, while upriver they're a fun, hard-fighting fish to catch and release. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

how important the pink salmon is to Alaska, in 1991, the state's commercial haul accounted for 96 percent of the entire North American harvest. From 1983 to 1992, an annual average of 77.4 million pink salmon were harvested in Alaska, not including subsistence- and sport-caught fish.

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TIPS FOR NOVICE ANGLERS Due to their abundance, pink salmon can be accessed more easily than most salmonids throughout Alaska, making them great learning tools for beginning anglers. If you want to learn how to cast lures, fish jigs beneath a float, fly fish, backtroll plugs or side-drift bait, it can all be done with high success on pink salmon. With the height of the even-year pink salmon run upon us, now is the time to gear-up and discover for yourself how fun targeting these sometimes overlooked fish can be. ASJ Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a fulltime author and TV host. He has a small booking service specializing in fishing throughout Alaska. Learn more about this and his many fishing books at scotthaugen.com. Follow Scott on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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SILVERS OF THE WILD SOUTH ESPECIALLY STRONG COHO RETURN TO PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS-AREA WATERS BY CHRISTOPHER BATIN

W

hoever said the worst day of fishing is better than a full day of work has never slogged through the wilderness of Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias. My knees were sore from pistoning through a half mile of devil’s club, my face was scratched from crawling through thick alder jungles that blocked the sun, and I was lightheaded from wading through quagmire swamps so noxious and tar-like that I expected to see dinosaur skulls staring out at me from the black ooze. Walking out from a jungle of alders at the base of 4,000foot mountains, I took my first few steps into another world. I had stepped into a time mixer, a strange coexistence of past and present. Over 100 years ago, this area was a portal to Alaska gold and copper country. Historical remnants of their progress – and failures – surrounded me. Miles away near the oceanfront, a skeleton of an old railroad bed is nearly overgrown by tundra. The track was one of many competing railroad companies laid in trying to be the first to reach the mines to the north. This track died out a short distance later, dead-ending near a steam engine, a rusted skeleton of bolts and iron hidden in a coffin of birch trees. If these salt-and-vinegar pioneers gave up, who was I to venture further? I was not there, however, for gold or copper, but for the flashy slabs of silver salmon. I could sense being watched, and looked up to see the brooding countenance of a mountain sentinel watching this valley. Blue-white glaciers were huge eyes that peered coldly from their amphitheater sockets, and they seemed to follow my approach against a distant,

Linda Yu holds a 20-pound coho salmon she caught while jigging from a boat in early August on one of western Prince William Sound’s many remote bays. The creeks and rivers here and in nearby watersheds provide some of Alaska’s best silver fishing. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN) aksportingjournal.com | AUGUST 2018

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backdrop of cerulean sea. Behind me, the tides kept rhythm like a pendulum on a clock, back and forth, their every movement changing the face of the land. Arteries of blue streams pulsed with the lifeblood of not hundreds but thousands of corpuscle-like salmon so thick they were knocking each other onto the bank. I was at the entrance of Alaska’s silver salmon wilderness, which include distant streams that reach out from the saltwater into the Alaska motherland, where the piscatorial riches await anglers bold enough to search them out.

ALASKA SILVER SALMON WILDERNESS is not your run-of-the-mill fishing adventure. As Sir Richard Burton and Ernest Shackleton explored the great unknown continents, so too was I here to explore one of Alaska’s last great salmon fisheries. The academic might see no comparison in the level of difficulty and achievement in these excursions. Yet those who have explored unknown areas despite the complexity of scale know that geography and adversities

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An angler casts to schools of coho, chum and pink salmon in late August. Fish that arrived earlier in August can be seen on the opposite banks, dead after spawning. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN)

are the only changing variables. The heart of the explorer is always constant, anticipatory and prepared to persevere and triumph. Excitement is the one constant in exploration, and I embraced it to empower me to continue. My arms tingled in the breeze, and my footsteps were those of a greenhorn mountain man about to step into the wilderness for the first time. This was no or-

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dinary Alaska fishing hotspot, but rather, a land of self-imposed amnesia. At other fishing locations, one can think of business, work and family while fishing. Lose your focus here, and tidal quicksand can suck you under in less than a minute. Carelessness can also break a leg in the alder jungle, or tons of calving glacier ice can obliterate you. Daydream about anything other than the here and now, and a


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sow and cub might silently walk up on you, with disastrous consequences. For in Alaska’s silver salmon wilderness, you find that life and death both grow on the tree of wilderness angling opportunity. Its fragrance is invigorating yet intoxicating; its bouquet so irresistible that you want to pick and eat every fruit in sight. Ah, but that is where instinct and experience keep you alive, prompting you to choose only the safe fruits of angling adventure. Analysts call it calculated risk. But be forewarned. You’ll find no tackle shops here for the absent minded, and no transportation for the physically unfit. Your ticket to success is wilderness skills and know-how. You’ll also need gut-wrenching, dogged determination to slog your way up miles of natural barricades to unknown waters, sample the fishing and return safely to camp. And if you succeed, you’ll return with a confidence you never knew existed; a quick step of true angling accomplishment that you never felt before.

BEFORE ME STRETCHED MILES of river that biologists, local guides, even old

Reaching remote fishing areas in this rugged, remote country can require a long hike. With salmon come bears, so carrying bear spray and/or a firearm is a good idea. Here, Ken Chin encourages others in his party to hurry, as the fish were waiting. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN)

timers, couldn’t talk about. Not because they had fishing hotspots of their own to protect. Hardly. It was because no one knew what kind of fishing existed beyond, let’s say, The Devil’s Pitchfork, a layout of water named because six main rivers branched off a major stem. The main river had been explored. The numerous tributaries had not. And each tine courses through some of the North

Country’s toughest wilderness. I pushed up the creek and enjoyed what I would later refer to as my “private fishing reserve.” Thirty-five years later, I can rattle off many of these waters that I’ve fished and explored, names known only to me. But on a map, it appears I haven’t made any progress in exploring the area at all, which only proves the vastness of this region and its many angling opportunities.

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Cork poppers are among the offerings that will entice coho to strike. The take is much like the ambush of a northern pike and the punch of a tarpon with the speed of a barracuda. Pack a lot, as the salmon will destroy them. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN)

There are several “gatekeepers” that pioneer and protect this area by running commercial, ethical businesses. Steve Ranney is one of the few pilots skilled enough

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to fly people in this labyrinth of river channels, tidal flats, glaciers and swamp, where safe landing areas change by the minute. Experiencing the unexplored side of

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this fishing requires toil and sweat. Ranney has helped iron out the complex access and support logistics to where the average angler can also experience this once-in-a-


lifetime opportunity. Those who can rough it will be among the first angling pioneers of this new fishery. And those who find it too difficult can still indulge and enjoy the benefits of fringe fishing. A common malady in angling exploration is determination-turned-complacency, which occurs when silver salmon are so thick and aggressive they strike most anything. But Ranney’s anglers embrace complacency enthusiastically – not only because of the exceptional fishing, but also because they don’t have to search for new waters during their seven-day stay. The reason is obvious. There are no other anglers to compete with them. It’s a point worth noting. People stereotype Alaska as nothing but blue-ribbon wilderness fishing. Fishing hotspots, however, throughout much of Alaska often resemble small cities during the fishing season. And for good reason. The southwest region has over 100 fishing lodges, with aircraft dropping off groups of anglers to fish the same waters, day after day. Do-it-yourself anglers are similarly plagued. A DIY float down a major rainbow river will reward you with sandbars covered with river-based, full-service lodges, float camps and other budget-minded anglers. The result can be several hundred fishing parties during a 90-day time frame on one river – all competing for the best holes, all scrambling for the best gravel bars to camp each night. Each summer, pilots like Ranney and Tom and Katie Prijatel, who own Alaska Wilderness Outfitters (907-424-5552; alaskawilderness.com), are constantly searching for smaller, more remote waters that offer what anglers crave. If an area can be fished safely, they open them up to a limited number of anglers to help explore the region. Some camps offer average fishing, while others are special camps, like Sunshine Point, The Wrangell Mountains Cabin, Tsiu River, and The Devil’s Pitchfork. “Most clients fish near the boat and catch-and-release salmon hour-after hour,” Ranney says. “They get tired of catching fish, and don’t feel the need to bust through brush for miles to reach the unfished waters. When we fly in, we see aksportingjournal.com | AUGUST 2018

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Anglers can enjoy 30- to 50coho days in August on remote, wilderness waters of northern and eastern Prince William Sound. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN)

huge schools of fish in these upper reaches, but we usually don’t have any anglers up to the task to pursue them on foot.” Alaska Department of Fish and Game sportfish biologist Andy Gryzka once told me that the eastern Chugach and Wrangell-St. Elias region is unlike any other area of Alaska. “There are no roads and cities in many portions of this region of mountains and glaciers,” he said. “The harsh geography has been a major deterrent to overland travel and aerial access, which leaves many streams unexplored by anglers for years, if at all.” He said ADFG is still inventorying and cataloguing many streams and waters in the region, plus studying fish stocks to get a better idea of what’s available. But he also admitted that even fish cataloguers often don’t explore entire systems, and often just sample portions of them. For the adventurous at heart, the rewards are astounding. I once guided a corporate group on an exploratory venture checking out three rivers in two days. Californian Ken Chin and his brother Jimmy were up for the adventure. What they discovered was fishing beyond their wildest dreams. “When the tide was out, silver salmon were jumping at all times, like a popcorn popper out of control,” Ken remembered. “It was a fish from 12 to 20 pounds on nearly every cast. It can’t get any better than that.”

YOU CAN USE WHATEVER lures you wish for August silver salmon. In the saltwater, B-2 squids work really well. My favorite is white and fluorescent pink, either rigged on a 1- to 3-ounce jighead, or free drifting on an 18-inch leader attached to mooching rig, with a square of herring for scent. While fishing one summer near the outer islands, we watched silver salmon concentrate under our boat, darting and swimming in all directions like ravenous sharks and chasing whatever we dropped down to them. I failed to hook several fish, as I was so mesmerized by watching this feeding frenzy in water that is clear down to 40 or more feet. As much as I enjoy mooching for saltwater silvers, my true love is wading 106

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John Beath casts a fly at daybreak for silvers (inset) on a remote river. (CHRISTOPHER BATIN)

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wilderness rivers, casting my 10-weight Loomis CrossCurrent rod and a vintage System 2 or 3 reel loaded with floating Rio flyline, with a 6-foot length of 20-pound Vanish fluorocarbon leader material. To the end I’ll tie a salmon fly with a metal conehead or weighted eyes, tied with various materials that pulse and flutter, with color dependent on the water conditions. The first flies I use, and often the last ones still fished at day’s end, are fluorescent-colored leeches and my Batin Bunny Leech pattern, as well as Mylar-dressed patterns. It’s important to get the fly down, and impart a flutter-and-twitch retrieve to the fly. You can also catch big silvers on topwater deer hair patterns when they are congregated in huge schools, preferably at low tide. I cast as I wade, slowly working the fly, allowing it to swing in the current, or stripping it cross-current once it has sunk to near bottom. Look for fish holding in and around logs and undercut banks, deep pools, and in deeper sections of runs. They will dart out and engulf a fly if you fish it near bottom, and in a flutter-and-twitch manner. These are the fish that are going to spawn in those spots, so you can hook several if you are careful not to spook them. Others are migratory fish, and you can often see them moving upriver, by the V marks they create on the surface. I enjoy casting to these fish, as these are the slab silvers, 20-pound bucks so full of seething aggression, they chew a fly to bits. Spin anglers also enjoy spectacular action with fluorescent Dardevle spoons and various metallic finishes such as those found with Ko-Ho and Kit-i-Mat spoons that are made by Gibbs Delta Tackle. With their gold and bright orange paint scheme, Kodiak spinners in black,


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pink and orange seem to work quite well in sizes 3 to 5. If any of these lures are equipped with trebles, switch them out for single hooks to reduce injury to fish and to keep fish from shaking off easily. As for reels, I want one as smooth as possible to feel the strikes. I use levelwind Ambassadeur and Shimano reels for saltwater mooching, and for spinning I favor the Abu Garcia Orra Inshore 60 filled with 17- or 20-pound Trilene mono, Trilene Braid with Transition fluorocarbon as a leader when the water is clear or slightly murky, or Solar Collector line when fishing glacially tinted rivers, so you can see the strike against the powder-blue current. Most of the waters I now fish are feeder tributaries of larger streams. Out of these, I have eight that I truly enjoy and one above all else that is my favorite. It’s because of the years it has taken me to learn to fish it due to its many snags, glacially sandy bottom that can be like quicksand, and its complex brush busting to reach. Such fishing spoils a man for life, and I am no exception.

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walk in to these streams, because when the salmon are in the bears are also fishing, or at least nearby in their daybeds. Careless anglers walking through the brush, not making noise, will scare a bear from its sleep and risk getting attacked or mauled. Bear avoidance protocols are necessary. If you don’t know them, learn them. If you’re seriously looking for that prime angling getaway, Southcentral Alaska’s Prince William Sound offers silver salmon fishing in prime remote and wilderness settings that is hard to beat, anywhere, if you are in shape to handle it. And who knows? If we meet eye to eye crawling through the alder jungles, we can pursue the thrill of exploring the unknown together. Don’t be surprised, though, if you see me wearing my track shoes and carrying a bottle of honey. Bears disregard fast-running anglers for the slow-moving, sweet-tasting ones clad in hip boots. ASJ Editor’s note: Christopher Batin is editor of The Alaska Angler and has published numerous books and videos on Alaska sportfishing. He is author of the just released Advanced Alaska Fly Fishing Techniques that’s available from the author online through AlaskaAngler.com.


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CHANGING IT UP LOW KING SALMON RETURNS PROMPT KETCHIKAN CHARR DERBY TO SWITCH DATES AND SPECIES TO SILVERS

BY CHRIS COCOLES

A

s king salmon returns have dropped throughout Southeast Alaska, Ketchikan had to change up its traditional ode to the area’s usually plentiful Chinook runs. Thus, the area’s popular summer CHARR King Salmon Derby was tweaked. Instead, a silver salmon derby will take place on three separate weekends beginning Aug. 18. The king events traditionally began on Memorial Day weekend and continued for two more weekends. But since Umak River Chinook stocks have failed to meet escapement goals four of the last five years, the organizers decided to target more healthy coho stocks. “Throughout Southeast Alaska, there was concern this year about returning stocks of king salmon. As a result, tight restrictions were put on king salmon in our area, with no retention of kings allowed until after June 15,” says tournament director Michael Briggs, meaning the fish couldn’t have been kept during the usual May and early June duration of the Chinook derby. “Through the fall and winter, we monitored the situation and put a contingency plan in place,” he said.

A RICH HISTORY It’s definitely a significant change for an event that dates back seven decades. Official derby records date back as far as 1949. “Back in the (1950s), the winner of the Ketchikan derby won a brand-new car, making this derby one of the more lucrative contests in Alaska,” Briggs says. “Today, we award $10,000 for the top fish, along with about $75,000 in cash and prizes in other categories. Most Alaskan coastal communities have been doing king salmon derbies in one form or another for decades.”

The Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce and the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau have both coordinated the derby over the years, but in 2006 the Ketchikan CHARR (Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association) took the lead in running the show. Proceeds have benefited the Ketchikan CHARR Education fund that distributes scholarship money for area students. The 2017 derby raised $11,500 toward that goal, so

A tradition dating back to the 1940s, the Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby made a change this summer with king salmon stocks way down. Participants will target silvers on three consecutive weekends beginning Aug. 18. (MICHAEL BRIGGS/ KETCHIKAN CHARR DERBY)

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With silvers expected to be abundant, plenty of derby boats will be on the waters off Ketchikan. (MICHAEL BRIGGS/KETCHIKAN CHARR DERBY)

KETCHIKAN CHARR SILVER SALMON TOURNAMENT When Three consecutive weekends of fishing: Aug. 18-19, Aug. 25-26 and Sept. 1-3 (Labor Day weekend). Fishing takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Tickets Individual ticket price is $35. Children under the age of 16 are eligible for the youth prize ladder while fishing with any valid derby ticket holder and will be issued their own “youth ticket” to be eligible for the youth prize ladder. Contact ketchikancharrsalmonderby.com or call (907) 821-8815.

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improvising with a revised schedule and format was a priority.

WHAT TO EXPECT The silver salmon derby runs on Aug. 18-19, Aug. 25-26 and Sept. 1-3, giving participants a full week of days to fish, including Labor Day weekend. “So, like past contests, there will still be seven fishing days, but the three-day weekend will conclude the contest rather than open it,” says Briggs, sales and marketing manager for Ketchikan-based Alaska Sportfishing Expeditions (888-564-4525; KetchikanAlaskaFishing.com). The cash and prizes awarded are similar to past king derbies: $10,000 for the biggest fish and over $85,000 in cash and other prizes, highlighted by two plane tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies and a vacation package to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. And even with the less than stellar numbers of kings in the waters, Briggs does expect plenty of opportunities to catch coho over the three consecutive weeks this month and next. “At that time of year, it usually doesn’t take too much effort to find salmon in our area. My first decision with silvers usually revolves around whether to use a cutplug herring or a hoochie as bait,” he says. “If I am using something and not getting a lot of strikes but I am seeing other people catching fish, I may switch up to


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CATCH KINGS IN

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Although it will be coho and not Chinook weighed, by Labor Day weekend someone will still be grabbing the $10,000 top prize for the biggest one weighed. (MICHAEL BRIGGS/KETCHIKAN CHARR DERBY)

different color hoochies or ďŹ&#x201A;ashers until I ďŹ nd something that works. What worked yesterday may not get a lot of action today, so I am not afraid to change things up as necessary.â&#x20AC;? Briggs, a veteran Ketchikan angler, also pointed out that water depth is important to keep an eye on. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A lot of times, silvers will be in the top 20 feet of water or so, but if it is sunny and warm, they may be a little deeper,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Where I might use a banana weight to stay just under the surface on an overcast day, I may have to switch to a diving weight or a downrigger on those warmer days to ensure I get to the ďŹ sh.â&#x20AC;? For more on the derby, go to ketchikancharrsalmonderby.com or call (907) 821-8815. ASJ 118

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