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FISHING • HUNTING • ADVENTURE AKSPORTINGJOURNAL.COM

KING LINGS! Tips For Catching Gulf Trophies DISCOVERY CHANNEL’S

HOMESTEAD RESCUE Off-The-Grid Makeovers

50 COHO A DAY?

Scott Haugen Shares His Sweeeet Set-up! ALSO INSIDE

Russian River RAINBOWS

Cook Inlet CLAMMING

Preteen Girl’s FIRST HUNT

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LOCATED IN HELLS CANYON ON THE SNAKE RIVER AT RM 195.4 Call for Pricing • 4 acres of private property with beautiful cabin 1 mile north of Dug Bar with air strip • 3 bedrooms / 1 bath • 1,480 square feet ‡ ,QGRRUVKRZHUDQGà XVKLQJWRLOHW • Main great room with loft • Fully furnished • Full kitchen with new appliances • Built-in AC and heaters • Set up with satellite TV and WiFi

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Go with Experience….Go with Mark Grant & Blaine Bickelhaupt 509-382-2020 | www.bluemountainrealtors.com

RING CANYON RANCH Tucked away in a quiet location just minutes from Downtown Dayton this property includes 2 homes under one roofline. These 754.95 +/- acres (76.11 tillable & 313.81 pasture PER ASSESSOR and 294.75 tillable & 70.28 pasture PER FSA records) are made up of 284.70 acres currently enrolled in government CRP program that expires in September 2016 with annual income of $18,578. Outbuildings include a detached double car garage, 768 square foot shop attached to 2400 square foot machine shed and a 1920 square foot Quonset building. Remaining acreage is rangeland. This property can be easily set up for livestock. Nearby recreation includes both snow and water sports, and is located just a few miles from Walla Walla Wine Country. An abundance of wildlife graze in the grassland and add to the tranquility of this rare opportunity.

PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS: Price: $1,400,000 Acres: 754.95 County: Columbia Closest City: Dayton

ALASKA

SPORTING JOURNAL Volume 8 • Issue 2 www.aksportingjournal.com PUBLISHER James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tom Reale WRITERS Dave Atcheson, Paul D. Atkins, Bjorn Dihle, Kiah Dihle, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Jeff Lund, Bixler McClure, Krystin McClure, Dennis Musgraves, Randy Wells SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Michelle Kovacich, Steve Joseph, Garn Kennedy, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Michelle Hatcher, Sam Rockwell, Liz Weickum WEB DEVELOPMENT/INBOUND MARKETING Jon Hines DIGITAL ASSISTANT Samantha Morstan PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker CIRCULATION MANAGER Heidi Belew DISTRIBUTION Tony Sorrentino, Gary Bickford OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTS Audra Higgins ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@nwsportsmanmag.com ON THE COVER They might not have the same sexy appeal as Alaska’s halibut, but lingcod also provide saltwater anglers with huge fish that make for delicious tablefare. Jerry Han of Tri Cities, Wash., landed this Southeast Alaska beauty fishing with Capt. Andy Martin. (WILD RIVERS FISHING) 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 8 • ISSUE 2

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TO THE RESCUE The romance of living the simple life away from civilization is tempting, but going off the grid is a bigger challenge than some fledgling pioneers can handle. In the new Discovery Channel show Homestead Rescue, Marty Raney and his children Matt and Misty help struggling families in Alaska and the Lower 48 solve their obstacles. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

FEATURES 45

PROTECTING PANHANDLE SALMON RUNS So much attention has been placed – understandably – on the sockeye-rich Bristol Bay area because of the potential threat from the Pebble Mine, but Southeast Alaska’s salmon runs are also susceptible to hard-rock operations across the border in British Columbia, as the Mount Polley breach 2014 showed. Tom Reale introduces us to Salmon Beyond Borders, a campaign to better protect the Panhandle’s fish runs.

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RUSSIAN RIVER RAINBOWS Most Alaska anglers time their summer trips to a particular region’s salmon runs, and why not, given how strong the state’s sockeye, kings, coho and pink stocks are? But don’t forget about trout and other species in gorgeous rivers like the Russian. Dennis Musgraves and friends show why not to pass up the rainbows and Dollies on this Kenai Peninsula stream.

101 CHASING MONSTER GULF LINGCOD Guide Randy Wells discovered lingcod decades ago while fishing the Oregon coast with a childhood friend. These days, when Wells fishes the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, he frequently passes on trophy halibut and targets the big lings that lurk beneath those waters. Find out more about how the Sewardbased charter skipper fishes for the most fearsomely faced fish in our seas!

139 IN HER OWN WORDS: PRETEEN ON HUNTING Meet Kiah Dihle, 12 years old and quite the Alaska adventurer already. She joined her dad Luke and her grandpa on Admiralty and Douglas Islands blacktail hunts last fall, her first experiences seeking the big game her family pursues across Alaska. Kiah wasn’t sure how she felt about shooting a buck, but she gained great perspective. She shares an account of her 2015 deer hunting season in her own words. ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 35 Remembering Southeast author, bear guide Ralph Young 91 Taking better care of your catch 112 Clamming the beaches of Cook Inlet 124 Planning your hunt, Part I: the perfect hunting partner 149 An Ohio couple’s Alaskan dreams fulfilled 157 Q&A with Legendary Arms Works DEPARTMENTS 13 The Editor’s Note 59 Protecting Wild Alaska: State disagrees with federal caribou restrictions in GMU 23 60 Outdoor calendar 63 From Field to Fire: Float fishing for coho; cooking tips

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 © 2015 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. 10

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EDITOR’S NOTE

E

ver had a really bad vacation? Of course you have. And if you said no, you’re either lying or the world’s most adjusted human being, so congratulations in advance for that. This issue, our correspondent Paul Atkins contributed a report on choosing the ideal hunting partner, and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re heading to Alaska for a weeklong outing. If you’re not sure how you’ll get along in the bush with your buddy, family member or someone you’ve never roughed it with before, think about how you’ll react if things don’t exactly go to plan – which they will. I’ve had fishing trips with friends – mostly when we were dumb and young – when we all felt like throwing each other in the lake. I remember one day as teenagers we rented a rowboat for what was supposed to be a leisurely day of urban trout fishing. The arguing escalated quickly and our outing was ruined. O n e of Atkins’ points that Our correspondents Scott Haugen and Paul Atkins really struck get along great when they hunt together, which a chord with makes their Alaskan outdoor adventures that me was this much better. (PAUL D. ATKINS) one: “The planning and preparation of any hunt is a joint effort with equal involvement by all parties.” I think that’s great advice for those of us who travel together on fishing and hunting adventures. Of course, we all have different ideas on what kind and how much food and drink we should bring; who should be responsible for specific gear; and where the best area to camp is. Great outdoor adventures – or simply vacations in general – can be ruined by a couple of petty and insignificant moments that can be avoided by just compromising a little. I think back to a cross-country driving trip 25 years ago with a good friend. By the end we were at each other’s throats so much he finally said, “I’ll probably never travel with you again.” I’ve reminded him of that moment twice the last two years – as we toured Europe together. Happy hunting or fishing. –Chris Cocoles aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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HELP FOR THOSE IN

HOMESTEAD HELL

Marty Raney (left) and his son Matt and daughter Misty are accomplished outdoorsmen in some of Alaska’s most rugged places. They travel the country to try and help struggling families attempting to live off the grid in Discovery Channel’s new series, Homestead Rescue. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

MARTY RANEY AND HIS KIDS ASSIST STRUGGLING OFF-THE-GRID RESIDENTS IN ALASKA AND ELSEWHERE IN NEW DISCOVERY CHANNEL SERIES BY CHRIS COCOLES

M

arty Raney’s first view of Alaska was from high above the ground, and it almost felt like it was from the heavens. In the 1970s, a then-teenaged Raney, who grew up exploring the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle but longed for even more wide-open spaces, was flying to Ketchikan from the Emerald City and ran into a friend who worked for Alaska Airlines, Duane Tibbles. “He told me, ‘Wait until we fly and I’ll have a surprise for

you.’ I was just sitting there in the tarmac and, sure enough, he came back, pulled me away from my seat and let me ride in the cockpit of the 737,” Raney says. “To this day, I certainly have never forgotten his role in inspiring me to pursue the Alaskan lifestyle.” Raney didn’t need to spy the terrain from the cockpit to know the Last Frontier would become his most hallowed ground. He conquered Alaska as mountain climber – he’s reached the summit of Denali multiple times and guides on North America’s tallest peak – logger, musician, survival specialist and homesteader. aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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Raney, who turns 60 this month, grew up near Seattle dreaming of the wide-open spaces of Alaska. He quit school as a teenager to begin his quest to get there. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

The latter two traits have made Raney a somewhat reluctant TV personality after he was a regular contestant in the National Geographic Channel series Ultimate Survival Alaska. This summer, he and two of his four children put their offthe-grid skills to good use by helping struggling families on Discovery Channel’s rookie show, Homestead Rescue. “Coming off 35 episodes (of Ultimate Survival Alaska), I watched and listened and learned, and now I’m at a point where I know what type of show I want to be involved in,” he says. “It was going to be real and if everyone wasn’t on board we would just stop dialogue right then.” Raney, who turns 60 on July 28, appears to have gotten the series he signed up to star in. It’s real people facing real problems in really remote spots from Pennsylvania to Montana to, naturally, Alaska, where those who dream of tall mountains, pristine lakes and the wilderness – like Raney himself did – migrate.

MAKEOVER SHOWS ARE SOME of reality TV’s founding fathers as the genre evolved. Have a problem with your wardrobe closet? You can’t get your house decorated? Your dog growls at the neighbors? Never fear; the experts are here to solve your tales of woe. 18

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THE WILDERNESS FAMILY

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arty Raney’s kids are just like him in that they are constantly seeking something to push them. “It’s just been recently that National Geographic and others have found out about us and want to sing our praises and make money off us. But I’ve never answered a casting call,” Raney says. “National Geographic knocked on my door. I don’t watch TV. (But) I think about the fact that I probably take for granted what people like about our family.” Marty’s and wife Mollee’s oldest daughter, Melanee, owns and operates an Alaskan whitewater rafting guide service, Chugach Adventures (alaskanrafting.com). Mindy and the family’s youngest, Matt Raney, who appear with their dad on Homestead Rescue, are accomplished in the outdoors. And then there’s their brother Miles, who might be this adrenaline-seeking clan’s biggest badass. The bio on martyraney.com states that Miles “may be the most traveled human being in the world.” Marty Raney admits that is “a boisterous, bombastic and arrogant statement, perhaps. But what I really mean is that it’s inarguable. Some of the trips he’s done he should have


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“Discovery is calling me an expert, but I’m not an expert in anything and I told them that,” Raney says. “(But) if anybody is going to look me in the eye and call me out for being on this show, I want to know who it is. I’ve had to this day a hard life.” Still, when Raney and his daughter Misty and son Matt agreed to makeover the homesteads of off-the-grid residents for the Discovery Channel project, the family patriarch was adamant there would be no forced drama, no showmanship and, most importantly, no scripted material. Raney, who said he was presented with multiple show pitches and nearly agreed to a deal with the History Channel, praised Discovery and Homestead Rescue’s production company, Raw Productions and producers Sam Maynard and

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been killed on.” Miles’ passion is mountain biking solo across entire nations – and a few years back he took perhaps his most daunting trip on two wheels. Miles biked from Madrid, Spain, eventually crossing between the European and African continents into Morocco and continuing all the way down to the west coast of Africa before ending his journey in Cape Town, South Africa. The most dangerous part of the ride was through the nation of Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast. “You tell me right now: Can someone bike from Madrid to Morocco, and Morocco down through Ivory Coast to Cape Town and survive, alone? (Ivory Coast) is teeming with al-Qaida and tribal factions of people who hate Americans.” “There was a dark cloud over my presence when my son biked Africa; it was 25,000 kilometers (about 15,500 miles). There were weeks at a time where we never heard from him. And I constantly watched the news wherever he was and I wouldn’t have been surprised had we never heard from him again. I was almost preparing for myself for that.” But Miles made it back after 10 months in Africa, and he’s biked throughout China, Australia and New Zealand, among other places. Melanee, Misty and Matt have also pushed the limit at various levels throughout their lives. But considering how often their dad has climbed Denali, which per the National Park Service has officially claimed at least 120 deaths since 1932, the apples haven’t fallen far from the tree in this family, which is very tight-knit, Marty Raney says. And its zest for life made creating a series centered around three members a no-brainer to pursue. “Discovery really liked that they came across an Alaskan family. You don’t have to climb Denali to be a real Alaskan – but you certainly have to love Alaska and have to live an Alaskan lifestyle,” Raney says. “Everyone gets along and I’ve never seen my kids fight. We’re just not that type of people and everyone’s pretty mellow and easy-going. But when it comes to adventure or a task, they’re incredibly intense.” CC

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VETERANS FOB Outdoor Expo Coming to Montana The Veterans Family of Brands is hosting a public Outdoor Expo on Saturday, July 23, in northwest Montana. The event will feature rifles, bows and more outdoor equipment from Proof Research, NEMO Arms, Falkor Defense, Kimber and others. There will be a Women’s Conceal Carry fashion show, and competitions at nearby ranges. Held at 425 Quarter Circle Way, south of Bigfork on the northeast side of Flathead Lake, tickets are $3.50 if purchased online, or $5 the day of the expo. Proceeds go to Lone Survivor Foundation and Special Operations Wounded Warrior. For more info, see veteransfob.com

OUTDOOR EXPO aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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In one of the episodes of

Mike Griffiths, for adhering to his wishes Homestead Rescue, Misty Raney helped construct for a show without an agenda. “They basically found real people who a greenhouse to allow some Montana residents lived off-grid for a variety of reasons. There a chance to grow crops were no camouflage-wearing, gun-toting, at their isolated Wolf government-hating doomsday types on Creek property. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL) this show,” Raney says. “I really have to tip my hat to Discovery for hitting the ball with the big end of the bat and finding real people for me to visit and help.” In one episode the Raneys went to Montana’s Wolf Creek area to assist a couple with no water source, no livestock or garden and suspicions of a mountain lion lurking close to their dwelling (evidence of the cat walking on the roof was visible). Marty goes to work on finding water so the husband can stop making daily trips to and from town; Misty, an established farmer, shocked me, an amazing amount of bird predators, and you helps develop a system for growing crops; Matt, whose expercan’t kill them because they’re all protected. They’re rampant,” tise is hunting and tracking, becomes a sleuth to help detect Marty Raney says. “We looked up during filming on location in the likely appearance of a mountain lion. It’s safe to say that Pennsylvania, on camera, and I counted 20 vultures, hawks with every homesteader who takes on the challenge of living and bald eagles circling the homestead at one time. Crazy.” far from civilization, predators pose one of the most concernRaney didn’t want to give too much away about what he, ing safety threats. Misty and Matt encountered on their wilderness home im“There are definitely coyotes and fox, and definitely, which

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Kodiak Lodge is being sold as a turn-key business with all boats, vehicles, gear, furnishings, valuable client list, and website included. Boats and vehicles included in this sale consist of: 2012 28ft Fish Rite 2008 26ft Hewescraft 2001 23ft Pacific 1999 23ft Pacific (2) 2013 Polaris ATVs 2001 Polaris Ranger 2001 Polaris 6 wheel Sportsman 1989 GMC 12 passenger van 1999 F250 Pickup (2) 2001 Ford pickups Tackle and gear includes downriggers, Daiwa rods and reels, Xtratuff boots, Helly Hansen raingear, Reddington waders and much more.

Visit our website! www.alaskacoastalrealty.com Art Swisher: Owner Broker • Ken Swisher: Associate Broker art@alaskacoastalrealty.com • ken@alaskacoastalrealty.com

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Matt Raney’s background as an Alaskan hunting guide served him well, helping homesteaders in isolated locales cope with the threat of predators. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

provement tour, but he couldn’t resist teasing one memorable moment. “We drilled a well in Nevada and the drill owner told me, ‘Yeah, Marty, I’ll take your money. I’ll drill 500 feet and it’s going to be dry; 500 feet and dust is going to fly out of this hole,’” Raney says. “I told him to drill that hole anyway. And I’m going to tell you right now that the hole wasn’t dry. What happened was a miracle.” Hyperoble? You don’t get that sense when chatting with Marty Raney. He’s convincing when he tells you that no, none of what you see with he, his kids and those they try and help is contrived once the cameras are rolling. Marty is the epitome of a no-nonsense Alaskan. Roll the camera and let’s see what happens is the mantra of his vision for Homestead Rescue. In another moment at the 9,000-foot level in Colorado, a trail cam looking out for predators revealed something Raney says will “blow peoples’ minds.” “They’re going to think it was scripted and hopefully they’ll know by then that we don’t script that stuff. You can’t get off-grid and leave civilization for the wilderness and be at the top of the food chain anymore,” he says. “You move into the predators’ neighborhood and are gonna have to deal with the 24

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problems because he’s not the best neighbor.” Raney could relate from his early days in bear-infested Alaska.

NORTH BEND, WASH., HAS a TV claim to fame beyond native son Marty Raney’s ties to the Seattle suburb about 30 miles east of the Space Needle. Many of the filming locations for the 1990s cult hit Twin Peaks were shot in North Bend. The city is also known for the surrounding foothills of the Cascades as Interstate 90 begins its climb to Snoqualmie Pass. Raney grew up “in the last house on Mount Si Road.” The nearest neighbor was about a mile away. He took advantage of the country framing his rural Washington home. “I think when I was 12 or 13 I went up the Mount Si Road to Goldmeyer Hot Springs and basically hiked from there to Stevens Pass, 35 miles through the Cascades,” he says. “I lived at the base of Mount Teneriffe behind Mount Si. I’d climb that a lot and didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really have any technical skills but definitely scrambled a lot through the Cascades. I just loved the outdoors. And obviously, I ratcheted that love for the outdoors and mountains to a place more wild and where the mountains were bigger, and that was Alaska.” By the time he was 16 in the early 1970s he was ready


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Marty oversees a building project during one of the makeover projects that included stops in Alaska, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

to quit school, which eventually led him north. Raney’s welcome-to-Alaska moment came as a logger on Prince of Wales Island, where his home was a floating logging camp. “I was on the tail end of a romantic, beautiful but hard lifestyle of logging. Those trees were so big they would cut them down to about 40 feet long, tie them together and have a massive float that you could put anything on. You could build a skyscraper on them,” Raney says. “So they built houses and fourplexes and they dragged trailers onto them. And they would just tow these rafts – floating camps, if you will – from bay to bay.” After he married his girlfriend, Mollee Roestel, they longed to get further away from civilization and built a home near the shores of Chilkoot Lake, 30 miles north of the city of Haines. Nearby streams teemed with spawning salmon, providing the couple with a convenient food source. But where there’s a salmon run there are also hungry bears seeking fresh fish. “It was crazy,” Raney says of the bruins that shared the land and competed for the watershed’s coho. Raney finds the irony now that his life experiences make him an off-the-grid guru. In reality, in his younger days Raney 26

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struggled to keep Mollee and their newborn oldest daughter, Melanee, fed. And there were other challenges: Mollee went into labor on the homestead, and when complications arose, Melanee was delivered after an emergency plane ride to Whitehorse, Canada, in the Yukon Territory. “Even though my Haines homesteading days were long ago, I was taken back there constantly when I saw how hard it is just to get water,” Raney says of filming Homestead Rescue. “When I saw there’s no refrigeration and there’s no power, I realize how hard my life was.” “And at times we were hardscrabble. I’d come home after a hard day of logging skinny and hungry. I would fish for salmon just on the edge of Chilkoot Lake. And hopefully I’d catch something for food for my wife and me. So I could relate to a hard life; trust me.” But that’s exactly what makes this family what it is. The four kids, Melanee, Miles, Misty and Matt, are chips off the old block (see sidebar). When Marty was traversing the Cascades as a young boy looking for more, he found it on the floating logging camps or dodging the brown bears while subsistence fishing and hunting in around Chilkoot. And he’s never regret-


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ted the choices he’s made to live off the land. “I don’t know if I’m special in any way, but I certainly like adventure and I live in Alaska, where adventure abounds and it calls. So it seems incessant – sometimes loud and sometimes quiet – but certainly a ubiquitous call from the wilderness to explore – to climb that mountain and ask, ‘What’s on the other side of that ridge?’” Raney says. “Just in the subsistence lifestyle in Alaska, you’re going to have an adventure. You can’t dipnet the Copper River without an adventure; you can’t moose hunt without an adventure. And for much of the subsistence lifestyle – I don’t know the percentage and it’s probably more than I want to admit – that it isn’t so much about the fish or the meat, but it’s about the experience and the unknown and unpredictability of each and every moment.” One of the themes that will resonate for viewers of Homestead Rescue is this: If you aspire to abandon city life to live like our forefathers, be prepared “I cried like a baby on this show because I got emotionally involved with (the homesteaders’) stories. I became empathetic with their struggles,” Marty for some of the most difficult times of your life or Raney says. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL) risk the consequences. “I think every family didn’t realize how hard it was going to country,” Raney says. “But what I think was something that I be – the lack of electricity, the lack of water, the lack of modern never predicted was that I would be emotionally impacted by conveniences, and the problems you were going to have from these peoples’ reasons for being off the grid.” rattlesnakes to bears – because now you have moved to the Don’t let the cowboy hat, the stern grimace and the wal-

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rus-style mustache fool you. If Raney’s appearance screams gruff and tough, he’s anything but. “I cried like a baby on this show because I got emotionally involved with (the homesteader’s) stories. I became empathetic with their struggles,” he says. “I don’t think any of these homesteaders went out there totally prepared, and certainly unforeseen circumstances happened, sometimes daily, that compounded the challenges of making such a life-changing move to the country.”

RANEY FIRST CLIMBED DENALI, all 20,308 feet worth of North America’s highest point, in 1986. Every member of his family has also reached the top. He’s hit the summit in all its glory in his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. “And I’ll climb it in my 60s,” he predicts. These days, when he finishes the journey up “the high one,” Raney will sometimes break out his guitar – he strums one that’s shaped like an Alaska state map – and play one of the tunes he’s written. (He released an iTunes album, If That Bus Could Talk, with Raney recreating the iconic photo of Into The Wild subject Christopher McCandless.) The trek up what was formerly known officially as Mount McKinley is now a routine part of this Alaskan’s journey from a restless youth seeking an escape hatch from civilization to a go-to source for how to survive and thrive in the desolate backcountry. But ask him about his first successful ascent at Denali in 1986 and Raney’s emotions get him again. “As I approached that last 20 feet to the top of Denali, I was crying and the tears were freezing …” Raney recalls, his voice trailing off before pausing to collect himself. “The tears were freezing in my face. And when I got to the top I remember being ever aware that I was standing on the top of the continent and that there was no place higher than this point. And I had never felt so small and insignificant in my life.” “It wasn’t about jumping up and down or taking the photos or stabbing the flag (in the ground). I never felt so insignificant looking at 360 degrees of foreboding, wild, jagged ridges and glaciers. It was the most scary terrain as far as the eye can see in any direction.” It was a view not unlike the one he had from the cockpit of that 737 years before, the world he longed for in front of him – the best view in the world. ASJ

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Editor’s note: For more on Marty Raney, check out his website at martyraney.com. New episodes of Homestead Rescue can be seen on Fridays on the Discovery Channel. Like the show at facebook.com/HomesteadRescue.


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REMEMBERING AN OLD BEAR HUNTER

“I loved my wife, but I loved the bears more. That’s legal grounds for divorce in Alaska and perhaps elsewhere as well,” the late young Ralph Young wrote in his classic Alaska book, Grizzlies Don’t Come Easy. His death continues to impact hunters like the author. (BJORN DIHLE)

BY BJORN DIHLE ater in life, bear guide Ralph Young found himself sitting alone at a bar in Petersburg well before five o’clock. His wife had left him on grounds of “incompatibility of temperament.” As he writes in his book, Grizzlies Don’t Come Easy, “I loved my wife, but I loved the bears more. That’s legal grounds for divorce in Alaska and perhaps elsewhere as well.” He’d become a drunk and obese. The wilderness he’d

L

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Author Bjorn Dihle never met Young, who died in 1985, but his two books captured how Dihle views his Southeast Alaska home. (BJORN DIHLE)

known in his youth was lost. The high adventure of stalking brown bears with famous trophy hunters like Jack O’Connor was mostly, at best, a bittersweet memory. Then, something like a switch turned inside of Young. He left his unfinished drink on the bar, got up and left. It was late in the year and snow was creeping down the mountains. The sound of geese and light in the sky grew dimmer with each passing day. It was time to stagger home. Home for Young was the mountains, 36

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forests and ocean of Southeast Alaska. He put together a kit, untied his skiff and motored out into the swift current of the Wrangell Narrows. He went past Sasby Island and out into the slate-gray of Frederick Sound. He dropped anchor in a protected cove of a bay that he purposely didn’t name, although anyone familiar with the area would know it from reading his descriptions. Inside the guard timber were the relics from a camp he used to share with his friend and seal hunting partner, a man he referred to as “Sock-less


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George.” George had gone missing, swallowed by the ocean or the land some years prior. Young shot a seal for food, slept out and wandered. He looked for and found gold, and then decided he didn’t want it. He got beat up and almost died in the crush of a maze of icebergs. He had a religious experience. Normal stuff that happens when a person goes out alone into the Southeast backcountry. I never met Young – he died an old man in 1985 when I wasn’t more than a toddler. I’ve asked some Petersburg old timers about him and “rough” is the word that seems to come up the most frequently. I know him through the words of his two books, My Lost Wilderness and Grizzlies Don’t Come Easy, both of which he wrote shortly before he died. For me, there are few other books that ache of Southeast Alaska so profoundly. I’d like to think life got better for Young when he returned to town, that the ornery old cuss was able to bury his past, real and imagined, sins and demons. Life is hard enough already, and most of us don’t make it any easier on ourselves. Young’s health fell apart in the following year. He gave up guiding soon after. He still made the periodical journey into the wilderness, but more and more these trips became journeys of nostalgia rather than discovery. Young mused about the possibility of there being a bear somewhere in the rainforest with his number on it. He’d been in on hundreds of kills and was charged several times by

“He spent his life killing what he loved. Maybe what he loved was killing him, too, but in a painfully slow and passionless manner,” Dihle writes of his admiration for Young. (BJORN DIHLE)

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bears wounded by his clients, yet he’d never been so much as touched by a living bear. His longing seems romantic, but understandable. He spent his life killing what he loved. Maybe what he loved was killing him, too, but in a painfully slow and passionless manner. The sudden rush of a bear, the intimacy and horror of its touch and the possibility of being consumed: there was no way to get closer to the bear. Instead, Young tried to pay his debt to bears and wilderness by ďŹ ghting to keep Admiralty Island from being thoroughly logged. K.J. Metcalf, the president of Friends of Admiralty, remembers Young showing up to meetings in the 1970s

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and telling him that he would do anything to save Admiralty Island. Last August, on Admiralty Island, my older brother Luke and I carried deer off a mountain down to the ocean. Tired but happy, we inated a raft near a small stream that had clusters of pink salmon spawning. We heard the bear before we saw it galloping down the stream, chasing ďŹ sh, in our direction. A quick yell made it peel off and run for the woods. Later, a sow with a cub emerged on the tide at. Deer came out to feed near dusk. Harbor seals swam around Luke’s boat, eyeing us with curiosity. Bald eagles and ravens were perched in trees watching. Blue heron, ducks and geese were everywhere, ďŹ lling the world with their calls. I thought of Young and understood his brutal love for this place. ASJ Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Juneau Empire and was reprinted with the author’s permission. Bjorn Dihle is an occasional contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal. You can reach him at bjorndihle@gmail.com. Ralph Young’s books can be purchased at amazon.com/Ralph-W.-Young/e/B001KIRW48/ ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1.

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FIGHTING FOR WILD SALMON WITH SOUTHEAST ALASKA’S SALMON STREAMS AT RISK FROM B.C. MINES, THE SALMON BEYOND BORDERS CAMPAIGN WORKS TO PROTECT THEM BY TOM REALE

O

n Aug. 5, 2014, the Mount Polley dam in British Columbia was breached, dumping 17 million cubic meters of water and 8 million cubic meters of tailings

and materials into nearby streams and lakes, according to the B.C. government website. The environmental impact of the dam breach extended to the salmon-rich Fraser River and will be felt for many years. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: enormous openpit mines with billions of tons of toxic acid waters held back by huge earthen dams poised at the headwaters of Alaska salmon streams. This is exactly the sort of disaster that the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign is hoping to avoid in Southeast Alaska. There are now 10 mines that are either active, planned or inactive and leaking pollutants in British Columbia. All of these mines directly threaten three major watersheds in Southeast: the drainages of the Unuk, Taku and Stikine Rivers. Although the threat to these rivers hasn’t received near-

The Mount Polley Mine breach in British Columbia provides proof of the threat to Southeast Alaska salmon runs, like those in the Taku River outside of Juneau, site of a joint state-Canadian-First Nations Chinook radio telemetry project. Salmon Beyond Borders is one of the groups raising awareness for protecting salmon habitat. (TESSA MINICUCCI) aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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ALASKA SPORTFISHING EXPEDITIONS

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Salmon Beyond Border volunteers gathered in Juneau last month to give an update on the campaign and share how the movement is gaining momentum to help protect Southeast Alaska salmon habitat from the threat of mining. (CHRIS MILLER)

ly the amount of public attention that the infamous proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay area has, the potential for disaster on the Panhandle is downright scary to local residents.

INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT Similarities exist between the Pebble and Southeast mining situations, but there are also some very distinct differences, not the least of which is the presence of the international boundary between the U.S. and Canada. This complicates the issue by orders of magnitude, turning a local issue into an international concern. Since its founding in 2014, the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign has been working tirelessly with the provincial government in British Columbia, the states of Alaska and Washington, and federal government entities in Washington D.C. and Ottawa. They’ve also been marshaling support from nongovernmental organizations, tribal councils and environmental groups, among others. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the potential threat to Alaska jobs, fisheries and livelihoods should another Mount Polley-like event occur and drain toxic sludge into local watersheds. This campaign differs from the Pebble mine effort in that, according to Heather Hardcastle, the campaign’s director. “We’re not anti-mining and we have no illusions that we can stop mining development in another country. However, we do think that we deserve a seat at the table when discussing how to maintain the integrity of our shared water bodies with Canada,” she says. According to the campaign’s website, its main concern is that, “Currently, there are no enforceable policies in place to safeguard Alaska’s fish and clean water, and the jobs they support, from upstream industrial development.”

NO EASY SOLUTION The negotiations on just how to deal with those issues are complicated, to say the least. On a recent trip to Washington D.C., Hardcastle met with representatives of the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the U.S. State Department and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, as well as members of the congressional delegations of Alaska and Washington. On the other side of the border, the campaign has had to deal with the B.C. Min-

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Dan Sullivan collectively wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, reminding that “our precious marine resources greatly contribute to the economy and culture of Southeast Alaska and must continue to be protected.” (U.S. GOVERNMENT)

istry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas, the Ministry of Environment, the office of Provincial Premier Christy Clark, and with Canadian federal ministries in Ottawa. And you think dealing with your cable TV provider and your cellphone company is tough.

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In the past, dealings with the governments in Canada have been less than encouraging. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was pro-development and his administration wasn’t very responsive to the transboundary issue. The provincial government in BC was similarly uninterested in the issue,


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Spreading the word and educating those about the benefits of wild salmon is a major commitment to attract more volunteers for their cause. (CHRIS MILLER)

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in spite of visits to Alaska from the BC Minister of Energy and Mines. Outside of promises to look into the permitting and pollution problems inherent in having open pit mines at the headwaters of rivers flowing into Southeast, nothing significant was addressed. In May of this year, the office of the auditor general of British Columbia issued a report on the state of mining regulations and enforcement in the province. While the audit was being undertaken, the Mount Polley disaster occurred, giving additional incentive to the need for government action. “We found almost every one of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program within the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment were not met,” the report states. “We found major gaps in resources, planning and tools. As a result, monitoring and inspections of mines were inadequate


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to ensure mine operators complied with requirements.”

ALASKANS WEIGH IN Coming from an agency of the provincial government, a damning conclusion like this was both surprising and welcomed by Southeast residents. The report sparked additional concerns in the province and in Alaska, especially among the state’s congressional delegation. A letter signed by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young was sent to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “Our precious marine resources greatly contribute to the economy and culture of Southeast Alaska and must continue to be protected,” the politicians, all Republicans, wrote. “We request that you and other officials from the Department of State raise this issue in appropriate bilateral meetings with your Canadian

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Salmon Beyond Borders will hold its first annual Southeast Feast, featuring plenty of salmon served up by local and national chefs, from noon to 4 p.m. on July 23 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. (CHRIS MILLER)

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counterparts and utilize all measures at your disposal to address this issue at the international level.” They further proposed that the State Department work with provincial and federal agencies across the border and with American federal, state, tribal and environmental entities to evaluate the effects of the mines on Alaska’s environment and to “determine whether an International Joint Commission reference is a suitable venue to determine whether Canadian mines are following ‘best practices’ in treatment of wastewaters and acid-producing mine tailings – especially in light of the scientific reviews of the causes of the Mt. Polley tailing disposal dam failure.” According to Elizabeth Purdy, the Southeast Alaska outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited, one of the problems with gathering Canadian opposition to these megaprojects in BC is the lack of locals. “Most of the population in the province is in southern BC, and there just aren’t many people in the remote areas,” she said. “Premier Clark is pushing for a large electrical transmission line in the area, and it’s very clearly infrastructure to attract investment to plug into the area’s mining developments.” However, with the change in government in Ottawa from Harper to that of Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who is considered by many to be much more environment-friendly, Alaskans can see reasons for optimism. The other political concern is the upcoming change in ad-

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BRITISH COLUMBIA MINES UPDATE The status of the mines threatening the three Alaska watersheds is as follows: * New Polaris (Taku watershed, underground gold), Big Bull (Taku, underground gold), Hat (Taku, open pit copper and gold) and North ROK (Stikine, underground and open pit copper and gold) are all in the advanced exploration phase; * Schaft Creek (Stikine, open pit copper, gold, silver and molybdenum) is in the environmental review phase; * Tulsequah Chief (Taku, u n d e r g ro u n d copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver), Galore Creek (Stikine, open pit copper, gold and (MAP COURTESY OF SALMON BEYOND BORDERS) silver), KSM (Unuk, open pit copper and gold) and Brucejack (Unuk, underground gold) are all in the development phase; * And the Red Chris mine (Stikine, open pit copper and gold) is operational. -TR


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ministrations in Washington. “We hope to get something done while Obama and Kerry are still in office to repair the damaged relationship between our countries that occurred during the Harper years,” said Hardcastle. “We feel that there’s real excitement in Ottawa and in D.C. for our opportunity to work together on this issue.” People concerned with the political landscape are encouraged by the one-year overlap in the Obama and Trudeau Administrations and the idea that President Obama wants to add this issue to his legacy, which remains to be seen as he enters the final lap of his two terms.

A CALL FOR ACTION Going forward, Salmon Beyond Borders hopes to keep the issue on people’s radar. “We’re trying to make the issue relevant to people through social media, news events and summer activities,” Purdy said. The organization is sponsoring Southeast Feast in Juneau on July 23, bringing nationally known chefs from the Lower 48 to celebrate and publicize the virtues of Alaska seafood. It’s produced an award-winning six-minute film, Xboundary, and entered it in film festivals all over North America. It’s distributing petitions for people to sign and send to government agencies requesting action on this issue, and attempting to put a face on the issue and the region for the general public. It’s an uphill and complicated effort, and living with so many mining sites perched above world-class salmon streams is troubling, to say the least. The campaign hopes to become a movement to raise awareness of the issue, to work meaningfully with government agencies on both sides of the border, and to minimize the threat to the local environment. ASJ Editor’s note: You can help by visiting the website at salmonbeyondborders.org, viewing the film, and signing the petition. Like Salmon Beyond Borders at facebook.com/ SalmonBeyondBorders and follow on Instagram (@SalmonBeyondBorders) 56

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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA ADFG ASKS FEDERAL BOARD TO RECONSIDER CARIBOU HUNT RESTRICTIONS

Restrictions that will limit caribou hunting in the mostly public land of Northwest Alaska’s Game Management Unit 23 to only federally approved subsistence hunters is being challenged by the state Department of Fish and Game. (KRISTINE SOWL/USFWS)

BY CHRIS COCOLES

N

orthwest Alaska’s Game Management Unit 23 is in a tug-of-war over caribou hunting opportunities on federally managed public land. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten penned a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Federal Subsistence Board on May 25 requesting that the panel’s decision to ban caribou hunting on federal lands in GMU 23 to everyone but subsistence hunters with government approval be reconsidered. The original decision – which is slated to go into effect on July 1 and continue through June 30, 2017 – was based on the lack of an updated count on the region’s Western Arctic caribou herd, which has seen a dramatic drop-off from 2003 to the present day (Alaska Sporting Journal, October 2015). But ADFG contends a proper count

on the herd in 2015 was ineffective and that a new estimate shows it is still above a management threshold that would trigger the hunting restriction. “The board based its decision on testimony that the Western Arctic caribou herd, which migrates through GMU 23, was declining and that subsistence uses required protection,” stated an ADFG press release. “The closure was described as a measure to be imposed until updated population estimates could be obtained. The department works to count the herd every two years, but the 2015 census was hampered by wildfire smoke, weather and unusual caribou movement patterns.” In his letter, Cotten requests that “the board reconsider the closure because it is not consistent with management strategies recommended in the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Cooperative Management Plan.” That plan allows harvest of between

14,000 and 18,000 caribou at the herd’s current population, and would only restrict it to subsistence hunters when it dips below 200,000. From a floor of 75,000 animals in 1976, the Western Arctic herd jumped to as many as 490,000 in 2003, then slumped to 235,000 by 2013. A more refined state estimate this spring pegs it at about 206,000, still enough under the plan for others to hunt caribou on GMU 23’s federal ground. “The updated information is based primarily on data that indicates that animals were in particularly robust health and calf recruitment and adult female survival rates had improved,” ADFG reported. “Modeling suggests the herd has stabilized or declined only slightly.” The state argues that deviating from the herd plan “undermines the group’s efforts to resolve complex management issues.” ASJ

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FIELD

This is the author’s favorite jig set-up and has accounted for numerous coho caught over the years throughout Alaska. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

50 SHADES OF SILVER WANT TO CATCH AND RELEASE HALF A HUNDRED COHO? FOLLOW THESE POINTERS

BY SCOTT HAUGEN

I

’ve been fortunate to travel much of Alaska over the past quarter-century, fishing the world’s best silver salmon streams. When I tell out-of-staters it’s common to hook and release over 50 coho a day on many rivers, they look at me funny or call me a liar. But residents, and those who’ve fished these wonderful destinations, know that 50 coho a day is an easy number to pull, with twice that number attainable in many places.

Of all the methods I’ve used to catch coho, the most diverse is with a bobber and jig. There’s no other approach I know that allows for so much water to be covered while standing in one spot. And because the jig rides a foot or so off the bottom, hang-ups are rare, which means you lose little gear and your time is spent fishing, not retying. There are multiple ways to rig a float fishing set-up for coho, but my favorite is an approach I’ve been using for nearly 15 years. I’ll slide a bobber stop (nylon nail-knot) onto my 30-pound Maxcua-

tro mainline, followed by a 3mm bead and then a P-Line Drift float or Thill float. The bobber stop is your depth regulator, which, when snugged tight to the mainline, won’t slip up and down the line. The bead keeps the bobber stop from passing through the float as the terminal gear sinks. Tie the mainline to a size 7 barrel swivel, then a 2-foot monofilament leader with your jig on the other end of the swivel and you’re set. Leader length can vary when jig fishing. In more than one small roadside

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FIELD A DIFFERENT VERSION OF FISH AND CHIPS

After the usual long winter, a summer salmon caught in Alaska just seems to taste better when it’s cooked outdoors. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

BY TIFFANY HAUGEN

S

ummer in Alaska means there’s no better time to cook outdoors – be it at home, in a park or in a fishing camp. And with coho season upon us, now is the time to enjoy some of that fresh fish before stockpiling for winter. Whether on the grill in the backyard, a fire pit or on a bed of hot coals, the beauty of this recipe is the ease with which it can be prepared and the many simple places it can be cooked. All you need for cooking the fish is some aluminum foil and wood smoke chips. Any fish with the skin on can be used, as well as any seasonings, so don’t be afraid to experiment, including trying new flavors of wood chips. The important part is making sure the skin of the fish is on the wood chips to serve as a barrier between the chips and the meat of the fish. Add an additional layer of sliced lemon, lime or orange between the chips and the fish if you have a skinless fillet or if you just want to add another layer of flavor.

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½ pound salmon fillet, with skin on 2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon sugar (optional) ¼ teaspoon granulated onion ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ white pepper Lemon, lime or orange slices if desired In a small bowl, mix sour cream or Greek yogurt, dill, zest, sugar, onion, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. On a large double layer of foil, place about 2 cups of smoker chips/ chunks. With a knife, poke a half-dozen holes under the chips or small wood chunks. Place salmon skin side down on chips/ chunks. Spread creamy mixture on salmon and top with citrus slices. Close foil around fish or leave open and place in a hot grill or on a rack over an open fire. Cook fish 10 to 15 minutes or until fish is no longer opaque and reaches an internal temperature of at least 135 degrees. 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.


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FIELD

Author Scott Haugen hoists a silver from the Egegik River. While standing in the same spot and casting jigs, Haugen hooked and released over 50 coho while filming a TV episode. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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stream between the towns of Homer and Soldotna, I’ve cut my leader to just 5 inches long, pegged the bobber tight to the swivel with a toothpick and hammered coho and steelhead in water less than 2 feet deep. The aforementioned set-up is preferred when fishing big rivers for the fact it offers quick depth-change options. Slide the bobber stop up or down the mainline to however deep you want to fish and you’re set. There’s no worry of casting a long leader with this set-up, which can pose problems when wading deep or fishing along brushlines, because the bobber stop is reeled through the guides onto the spool if fishing deep water. This is the presentation of choice when fishing a range of depths from one position. If fishing shallow streams with boulder patches or scattered deep holes and shorter, deeper runs, consider using a fixed-float setup. The idea is to get the jig down quickly into the strike zone.


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Go with the same mainline, but instead of using a bobber stop and bead, use a Maxi Float. This float is threaded on to the mainline through wire loops on the top and bottom. A ¼-inch section of rubber tubing holds the line tight to the float on both the top and bottom. In this set-up the float is the depth regulator, as there is no bobber stop. I prefer doing it this way when fishing waters from 2 to 7 feet deep. When fishing jigs, a rule of thumb is to match the weight of the jig with the weight of the float. If fishing an 1/8-ounce jig, use an 1/8-ounce float. Float packages indicate how much weight the bobbers are designed to support and not their weight. In some small Alaskan streams, I’ve done extremely well on 1/32 -ounce jigs fished beneath a 1/32 -ounce float. My favorite set-up is an 1/8-ounce jig and float, which works virtually anywhere in the Last Frontier. As for jig coloration, think pink when it comes to striking silvers. I prefer jigs

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with brightly painted heads to match or offset the color of the body. Have a range of pink colors and don’t be afraid to use them. When jig fishing with a sliding bobber set-up in big rivers, my rod of choice is a G.Loomis GL2, model STR 1265S. This 10-foot, 6-inch rod offers a moderate action, supports 10- to 20-poundtest line and weights of 3/8 to 1½ ounces. Paired with a Shimano Symetre 4000 reel spooled with 30-pound Maxcuatro, it’s a very efficient combination. The long rod is perfect for aggressive mends on big water, which is key to effective jig presentations. When targeting fish in small streams where my Maxi Float is set at a fixed depth, I prefer a smaller rod like a G.Loomis STR1163-25, which is a 9-foot, 8-inch medium-light featuring a fast action. It’s rated for 6- to 12-pound-test line and supports 3/8 to ¾ ounces. This is ideal for float fishing smaller streams when teamed with a Shimano Stradic CI4 3000F reel spooled with 30-pound

JULY 2016 | aksportingjournal.com

Maxcuatro (a 6-pound diameter). The key with float fishing jigs is having the jig, float and floating mainline all moving downstream at the same rate. If the bobber is riding straight up and down, that’s perfect and means the jig is running at a natural rate and at a uniform depth. The more you experiment with a bobber and jig, the more you’ll realize how diverse the approach truly is. You’ll also discover the wide range of water that can be covered, which equates to more fish being caught. ASJ Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, Bank Fishing For Steelhead & Salmon, send a check for $17 (includes S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This and other how-to books, including cookbooks, can be ordered online at scotthaugen.com. To inquire about booking an Alaskan fishing adventure through Scott Haugen, visit the adventure section of OutdoorsNow.com.


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MORE THAN REDS TO THE RUSSIAN

Paul Ferreira hooks up on the Russian River in Southcentral Alaska. While sockeye are the big draw here, don’t forget that between salmon runs a lot of rainbow trout (inset) and Dolly Varden can be caught. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES)

THOUGH MOST WELL KNOWN FOR ITS SOCKEYE COMBAT FISHERY, WILY ANGLERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF KENAI PENINSULA RIVER’S TROUT AND DOLLIES BY DENNIS MUSGRAVES

A

s I slid into my waders and strapped on a pair of studded boots, the nearly vacant campground parking lot was a good indicator that we would find few fellow anglers riverside. My friends and I have had banner days at the location we were preparing to fish, and this day looked as if we might have most of the water all to ourselves. Anxious at the prospect, we quickly assembled fly rods, shouldered daypacks and began our hike. After a short jaunt from the parking area, my angling cohorts Chris Cox and Paul Ferreira and I descended a steep stairway switchback to the river’s edge, standing briefly to survey the rushing water. It was obvious fish were present. More than three dozaksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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The sign at the Russian River parking area says it’s for salmon anglers, but trout fishermen know that when this lot’s empty, ’bows and Dollies can still be caught – and with far less competition. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES)

en fire engine-red salmon were finning just under the surface, holding at midriver. The once-silver-sided sockeye were in full spawning regalia and stacked like bricks. However, they were not exactly what we were looking for. Our interest was focused on the subtle motion of a dorsal fin or tail sweep by a hungry trout or Dolly Varden utilizing cover and concealment of the riverbed, while hovering close behind the colorful sockeye and waiting to pounce on wayward salmon eggs in the current. I was peering through my polarized lenses and not seeing any movement, so I asked, “You guys see anything besides those fire trucks?” “No, but they’re there,” Chris replied with confidence. Actually, seeing a trout is not required to catch one, though it

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does lend a degree of confidence. The correct placement of a cast and drift of an offering is more important than actually seeing a fish. After all, it’s pretty much a dead giveaway where

A TRIP ON THE RUSSIAN

T

he Russian River is a picturesque waterway surrounded by the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula, near the community of Cooper Landing. Originating from a lake, the water twists for 13 miles before eventually flowing into the Kenai River. The confluence is iconic – it’s famous for the combat fishing that occurs there as thousands of eager salmon anglers annually descend to catch returning sockeye. Although the trout don’t get the overwhelming amount of attention the salmon do, sportfishing for rainbows and Dolly Varden is certainly not ignored, so be prepared to share the water. Access to the Russian River can be accomplished with a short hike, using one of several footpaths from the Russian River Campground. The campground is well maintained and features assigned camping sites, hiking and bike trail, picnic areas and restrooms. Fees are required for overnight camping and day-use parking. Visitors should be conscious of wildlife in the area. A local bear population frequents the river, with encounters common.

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the locals hang out: the trout lay right behind the ripe salmon, taking advantage of any stray eggs. The three of us entered the hip-deep water in stages, leav-

Stay vigilant and be prudent in bear country while fishing. Bear spray, whistles and firearms are common items carried by anglers. However, the items can easily give fishermen a false sense of protection. Stay alert, stay alive and give the bruins their space.

TACKLE BOX Russian River fish are stuffing themselves with salmon eggs and decaying flesh. Replicating what’s on their menu is not difficult. Drifting beads or flesh patterns with a fly rod is preferred choices, and using a 6- to 7-weight rod with a matching reel will be an adequate tool for success. Polarized sunglasses are another great accessory I always make sure to bring. The lenses cut the glare on the water and enable me to spy fish under the surface that I could easily miss with my naked eyes. I always carry a spare pair. Wearing proper clothing will go a long way toward comfort and safety. A durable, breathable chest wader set will prevent overheating during summer’s warm sunny days, and studded wader boots will give you confident traction navigating the rocky riverbed. DM


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A sockeye carcass suggests you might be sharing the Russian River with ursine anglers. Be wary of bears fishing the same waters as you. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES)

ing plenty of room between each other to work particular sections of water with our fly rods without crossing over each other. Chris went in first, then Paul and finally me. Not unexpectedly, the action began immediately with my first drift behind the salmon. And it did not take much work before all of our fly rods began bending over almost simultaneously. Yelling out “Fish on!” to let my friends know I’d

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hooked up with a leaping rainbow trout was rather pointless – the high-flying fish was evidence enough. Nonetheless, each of us echoed the same words in verbal confirmation that our fishing adventure had begun.

ALONG WITH THE GLORIOUS salmon fishing Alaska provides every summer, I often take advantage of casting a line for resident trout species. Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden are abundant and can be found in nearly every flowing waterway where salmon are present. Although there are many streams and creeks to choose from in the Southcentral region of the state, the Sterling Highway just past Cooper Landing leads to one of my favorite places to go fishing for trout. The Russian River has great access, provides a scenic setting and is normally full of active fish. The stream is most notable for its iconic red salmon fishery; the clear-flowing water annually attracts thousands of anglers eager to harvest sockeye. A smaller run of silvers also makes a return to the river following the reds. Trout seem to garner second-class rating from most visitors when compared to salmon, but I suggest you not overlook the opportunity. The Russian’s usual moderate flow rate and narrowness make it a great river for wading anglers, even for the novice fisherman. The water twists through a thickly forested landscape of spruce trees, cascading over a bed of rocky boulders for about 13 miles. The rippled shallows, deep pockets

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and undercut banks provide ideal conditions for resident fish to thrive. You can be successful catching trout from the beginning of spring and throughout the open-water period since the fish make the river a year-round home. Dry fly and nymphing is popular in the spring before the salmon arrive. Subsurface streamers, flesh patterns and imitation bead attractants become the choices of most seasoned anglers later in the season when salmon are present. The presence of all the salmon (in various stages of decay or spawning) also make it prime time with regular bruin encounters. Bears are routinely present along the length of the Russian River and its confluence with the emerald Kenai River for good reason: They’re fishing also. Anxiety over bumping into a bear won’t stop us from our pursuit, but it certainly encourages us to stay alert in the wild. Black and brown bears can appear docile, but they are unpredictable and very large wild creatures. Keeping your distance and making noise is prudent. We always do our best to give them plenty of room and the right of way, since neither my friends nor I ever want to become the next bear mauling headline in Alaska. If you make a trip for trout just after the sockeye fishing closure, which we did for this particular outing, you will find that most fishermen have left in a mass exodus from the Russian River campground. It’s a perfect time to go, with big


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Chris Cox with a plump Russian rainbow. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES) Egg imitations and fish-fleshpatterned flies or beads will fool the river’s rainbows. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES)

stretches of the river often unoccupied but plenty of willing trout waiting for your cast.

I QUICKLY REELED THAT FIRST fish towards my open hand. As it lay in the cold water of the Russian, I took a moment to admire the pattern of small dark spots decorating its olive-green skin. The fish’s blushed-pink gill plate extended the length of its body in vibrant display, the unmistakable mark of a rainbow. I removed the hook from the corner of its mouth, opened my palm and the trout energetically swam back behind the suspended spawning salmon. Paul and Chris managed to land and release their catches also. Paul’s fish was an equally dynamic rainbow like mine. Chris managed to tail a very respectable silver-sided, pink polka-dotted Dolly Varden, a 20-incher. Our trout trifecta was just the beginning of another memorable adventure, catching fish with friends and enjoying good times wading a classic trout fishery in Alaska. As I often tell others inquiring about 84

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rainbow trout and Dolly Varden fishing, traveling great lengths is not required in order to take in the fantastic freshwater fishery in Alaska. Self-guided outings can be had along the road system at plenty of locations, and are easy day trips. Arguably, no better example can be found than that of the flowing waters of the Russian River. Catching a spirited rainbow trout or a colorful Dolly Varden should be part of any visiting or local angler’s agenda. The two species represent all that is beautiful and wild about the 49th state. ASJ Editor’s note: For more on Dennis Musgraves’ adventures in the Last Frontier, check out alaskansalmonslayers.com.

Don’t overlook that you can catch and release a lot of Dolly Varden in these waters. (DENNIS MUSGRAVES)

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ROADTRIPPIN’ TO ALASKA W

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TAKING BETTER CARE OF YOUR CATCH

THE RIGHT STEPS FOR GETTING THE FRESHEST, TASTIEST FILLETS POSSIBLE

You just landed a beautiful Alaskan sockeye and expect it to be the tastiest fish you’ve ever eaten, but to ensure the fillet is truly at its best on the dinner table, make sure to follow these steps between river and plate. (DAVE ATCHESON)

BY DAVE ATCHESON

T

hroughout winter and spring, I enjoy salmon cooked over the grill, serving it to friends who marvel at how fresh it tastes, even though the fish was caught and processed the season before. That fish, sometimes as much as nine months old, tastes so good and impresses my friends so much because of just a few tricks – a little extra effort taken when it is landed and subsequently filleted and frozen.

END THE FIGHT QUICKLY The secret to good quality all starts when the fish is first caught. It might not seem like it when an enraged sockeye is furiously ripping line off your reel, but fish is an extremely delicate food and needs to be handled very gently. That means not allowing it to flop around on shore, or at least keeping its struggle to a minimum. It’s best to dispatch the fish right away with a sharp whack to the skull. Back when I was a kid and first started fishing, we used to keep our catch alive streamside on a stringer. The thinking was that the fish would remain fresher the longer it lived. This, however, was a complete fallacy. Fish, like any

other animal, build up lactic acid with an increase in stress, making the flesh tougher. It’s one of the same reasons hunters want a quick, clean kill. Once the fish is immobilized you never want to pick it up by the tail, as this will break the vertebrae, which in turn will cause what is commonly referred to as the “bloodline” – the jelly-like substance that runs along the backbone – to leach into the meat. The bloodline serves as a kidney, and the enzymes in it will immediately begin to affect the fish’s delicate flesh. In turn, that affects its flavor. aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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Don’t assume that live fish on a stringer will be more fresh than quickly dispatched ones. Any salmon you plan to bring home and cook should be killed right away and immediately put on ice for the best possible table quality. (DAVE ATCHESON)

THERE WILL BE BLOOD The next step is to immediately bleed the fish. This is best accomplished by cutting a single gill arch. This should be done right away while the heart is still pumping so as to remove as much blood as soon as possible. Then it’s on to the ice, perhaps the most important and most often overlooked step in maintaining a quality product. Icing the fish as soon as possible will keep your catch firm and fresh. The colder, the better. On extended trips, I often use frozen 1-gallon milk jugs so I won’t end up with slush, which can cause fish to turn soft. Another option is to use or build a rack on the bottom of the cooler so that there is a place for the water to drain. If heading out on a charter, always check with your skipper and make sure they plan on bleeding and icing your catch for you. If I intend on keeping the fish whole, which I occasionally do with lake-caught trout or kokanee, I will remove the viscera – the guts – and the gills right away. Both of these areas contain enzymes that can have a negative impact on the quality of the meat. But in most cases I am filleting larger fish such as salmon. At this point I will mention that when I’m keeping salmon, I always start with the brightest, firmest fish possible. I’ve heard many anglers refer to blush salmon as “smokers,” but I’ve found that smoking a subpar fish does absolutely nothing to improve its quality. I am a firm believer in the adage: “junk in the smoker, junk out of the smoker.”

When filleting, the author wants a good, level and clean surface to work on. If you’re using a fish-cleaning station back at the marina, make sure your area is wiped down the best you can. (DAVE ATCHESON)

CLEAN IT OFF When filleting, I want a good, level and clean surface. That means really looking over the fish-cleaning station. Whether you’re at one of our local harbors or river cleaning tables, take a close look at the accumulation of slime, guts and the flies that accompany it. It does not take long, especially on 92

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a warm day, for the filth and bacteria to build up. That’s why if I am going to use a public cleaning station, I bring a spray bottle with bleach solution and scouring pad. If I only have one or two fish that I’m planning to freeze, I am able to be extremely careful with my fillets. That means once the fillets are cut from the body, I can keep the exposed meat completely dry. That’s right: I don’t rinse it, I just wipe it off with a rag. Less water means less chance of oxidation and less chance of freezer burn. Of course, with a large number of fish, or if I’ve been dipnetting, this is not possible. If blood or slime is on a fillet, it should be rinsed and then dried as much as possible before freezing.

PACK MENTALITY If you plan on keeping your fillets in the freezer for an extended period, nothing beats vacuum packing. Over the years I’ve learned that wrapping the fish in plastic wrap before placing it in the vacuum bag will create better suction and ensure a tighter seal. Once my fish is sealed and ready for the freezer, I spread the packages out on the freezer shelf and only freeze a few packages at a time. I leave the rest in the refrigerator until those in the freezer are frozen solid.

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This allows the fish to freeze faster, which is a key to avoiding or at least putting off freezer burn. Remember, the quicker a fish is frozen, the better. It is recommended that fish be frozen in two hours or less. Always label what is in each package and when it was frozen. Once the packages are frozen solid, I stack them in the freezer and place a section of newspaper between each package. This will prevent them from sticking together and possibly being punctured. This is just the beginning of assuring a quality catch – a few tips that will keep you and your guests eating the tastiest fish far into the winter and even into next spring. For more information on this topic, as well as for recipes and advice on canning and smoking, one of the best resources is the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Office (907-474-5211). Good luck fishing and enjoy some great Alaska eating! ASJ

Author Dave Atcheson warns that anglers shouldn’t expect miracles from colored-up salmon. “Junk in the smoker, junk out of the smoker,” he says. (DAVE ATCHESON)

Editor’s note: Dave Atcheson is the author of the guidebook Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, and National Geographic’s Hidden Alaska, Bristol Bay and Beyond. His latest book, Dead Reckon-

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July 1 is Southcentral Alaska’s season opener for lingcod, large saltwater fish that provide anglers with good tablefare and quite a fight. This one is about 60 pounds. (RANDY WELLS/ FISH SEWARD ALASKA)

SHOW OFF YOUR (B)LING IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND AND GULF OF ALASKA WATERS SWIM GIANT LINGCOD BY RANDY WELLS

J

uly 1 is the date that the crew at Fish Seward Alaska Inc. looks forward to every year, because on this day our fish boxes fill up with lingcod! My first experience catching lingcod was with my childhood friend, Rhys Fong. We would tow his 21-foot jet sled the roughly 100 miles from Medford, Ore., to Brookings on the Beaver State’s southern coast to chase and catch what we thought were “big” lingcod. In this section of Oregon, anglers can keep two lings over 22 inches, and a 30-pounder is a trophy fish, but such catches are few and far between. We had to work hard for our lingcod, but the education I received there would later pay off in a big way for my clients in Alaska. When I started my charter service out of Seward in 2007, most boats were targeting trophy halibut, but I wanted monster lingcod. Not only is the ling a great fighting fish, in my opinion they eat far better than halibut. The Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound produce amazing lingcod fishing, better in my opinion than not only any area in Alaska but other states.

AS A SKIPPER WHO loves catching and talking about lingcod, I am often asked

Pro-Cure gel, a Kalin’s Big N Grubs and a Lamiglas Insane salt rod are all the author’s essentials when fishing for big Alaskan lingcod. (RANDY WELLS/FISH SEWARD ALASKA)

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ALL ABOUT LINGCOD The harvest limits for the North Gulf Coast and Prince William Sound reflect how strong the lingcod fishery truly is. For example, anglers can keep one lingcod over 35 inches west of Cape Fairfield in the Gulf of Alaska and the north Gulf Coast waters. You can keep two over 35 inches in the waters of Prince William Sound; from Seward those waters start east of Cape Fairfield, including the waters surrounding Montague Island. The reason for the 35-inch rule is to allow lingcod at least one chance to spawn before the fish are able to be harvested. In 2005 Alaska Department of Fish and Game did a range of observation survey with ancillary population estimates of lingcod and demersal shelf rockfish. Because the survey is 53 pages and in great detail, I am sharing just a few highlights. I truly recommend that lingcod and rockfish enthusiasts who fish the Seward area take a close look at the document. This ROV survey was done around the Chiswell Islands/ Ridge and Granite Island and included these results: •

Bruce Ranke of Girdwood caught this big ling. If you have access to it, the hungry fish will gobble up live bait, but they also bite artificial offerings. (RANDY WELLS/FISH SEWARD ALASKA) 102

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The management of many marine groundfish species is complicated by the lack of quantitative assessment data. This is particularly true for the lingcod and rockfish in the Cook Inlet management area. Many traditional sampling methods used to estimate population size or trends are not practical for the species because of their affinity for rock habitats. Lingcod are more resistant to fishing pressure than rockfish because they mature earlier, are shorter-lived and grow faster. The Chiswell Islands/Chiswell Ridge area has historically accounted for a large portion of the recreational and commercial lingcod and shelf rockfish harvest in the Cook Inlet management area. Lingcod densities were generally higher in the south than north of the Chiswell Islands. The area around Granite Island showed low lingcod densities. Lingcod have small home ranges and migrations are generally driven by shifts from juvenile to adult habitats and seasonal shifts associated with shallow-water spawning activities and nest-guarding by males.

This report/survey was done by Mike Byerly, Margaret Spahn and Kenneth J. Goldman, Ph.D. I received it from Scott Meyer, the statewide bottomfish coordinator with ADFG. If you would like a copy of this survey, you can email me at fishsewardalaska@gmail.com and I would be happy to share it with you. RW


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Adding some scent to grubs, jigs and other lures could help you catch fish in the 55-pound range, like this Darrell Wells-landed lingcod. (RANDY WELLS/FISH SEWARD ALASKA)

“Is a lingcod a cod?” The answer is no; lingcod are in the greenling family. In my opinion, lingcod are a prize and cod are just a cod. Lingcod are a nonmigratory fish, but starting in October they move to nearshore spawning grounds. Males migrate first to establish a nest in strong current areas inside rock


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crevices and ledges. Spawning happens between December and March. Once the female’s spawn, they leave the nest almost immediately and the males stay to guard it until the eggs hatch between March and late April. I’ve had my best luck targeting lingcod on rock piles and flats between rock piles. Lingcod mature between 3 and 5 years old; males live up to 14 years and females can make it to 20 years old. They are predators that eat whatever they can get into their mouth. In areas where you can fish live, nongame fish such as a kelp greenling, do it! When live bait is not an option, I have great luck with the Kalin’s 10-inch Big-N-Grub baits, used on 16- to 24-ounce bullet jigs. Because of the heavy weight and big baits, I fish with the Lamiglas Insane Salt rod with a Tica 30R/WTS lever-drag reel with 80-pound braid. I use this rod-and-reel set-up because these lingcod are 30 to 70 pounds or more. Check out the Lunker Junkies TV (lunkerjunkies .com) YouTube page and watch the episode titled “Lingcod Opener.” I filmed this episode in 2014 during opening day, and it is truly a blast to watch. I cover all my grubs and jigs with Pro-Cure shrimp or squid gel; this gel will keep a scent on your lure for up to 45 minutes. Another killer set-up is a halibut bait rig with a whole black-label herring; a salmon carcass or octopus tentacles are also marvelous baits. I inject my baits with the Pro-Cure shrimp or squid water-soluble oil. It comes out of your baits like a fog

and remains in the water column you are fishing; once your baits hit the water you will see what I am talking about. Remember that lingcod are the king of the near-shore sea jungle, so fish big baits, use lots of action and fish near the bottom, and you will get a bent rod followed with a full fish box. If you are taking your own boat out of Seward, the Chiswell Islands, Lone Rock and Seal Rocks have some perfect structure for lingcod and rockfish and are still close to Seward. Look closely at your chart and look for extreme depth changes from 50 to 150 feet. If the current is between 1 and 2 knots try some long drifts, pay close attention to your sounder and you will find rock piles that are not on your charts. This is also a great way to pick up some big halibut too.

A FEW SUMMERS AGO I was chartering with another six-pack boat out by Montague Island, where we were going to target lingcod. When we pulled up on the rock pile the current was pushing over 3 knots. I told Beau, the other skipper, that the water was pushing too fast and we would have to come back closer to slack tide to fish the rock pile. Beau, who now runs one of my charter boats, said we should just give it a try. So we put six 24-ounce jigs down from my boat and Beau did the same from his boat before we hit bottom; the lines were flagging a couple hundred feet behind the boat. Both Beau and I had skilled anglers onboard who

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Strict limits and size regulations help keep Alaskan lingcod fisheries strong, allowing anglers like Kenai’s Jay Sjogoren to bring back a massive fish after a day on the water. (RANDY WELLS/FISH SEWARD)

could feel bottom and let out line as needed. At 3 knots we were basically trolling jigs, and the lingcod loved it. We drifted 2 to 3 miles across some halibut grounds between rock piles. Not only did we get lingcod but we scored a limit of halibut too. My point is lings are hunters; they’re not only on rock piles. If plan A doesn’t work, go with plan B.

WHILE OUT CHASING LING I don’t pass up the rockfish. With good limits and fish that are easy to catch, every angler can fill the fish box with this ocean treat. Shrimp flies, lead jigs even topwater baits can produce these spiny creatures. Try casting spinners when the water is flat and you see schools of rockfish boiling on the surface. In 2015, I caught countless rockfish in Seward by casting a 1-ounce Rooster Tail with a light rod. Limits change depending on the area you’re fishing, so be sure to check the regulations and get a rockfish identification card. There are over 25 subspecies, so be sure you can identify them and know which ones you can keep and take care when releasing the ones you cannot. While fishing for rockfish you will definitely have a time where you need to release one or two. Some anglers try 110

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to vent the rockfish, pop the swim bladder or even just toss the fish overboard. Not only are these techniques possibly against the law, depending on where you are fishing, they simply don’t work. Please be a responsible angler and use a deepwater release device. This system is simple and is proven to have over a 90-percent success rate. The system consists of a 24-ounce bullet jig with the line tied to the shank instead of the head of the jig. You hook your rockfish and descend the fish to at least 120 feet. At that time as you will feel the fish begin to shake; just jerk your rod and the fish swims off. This is a simple system and is proven to work. For more on this process email me (fishsewardalaska@gmail.com) or the ADFG. Thank you in advance for your efforts to maintain a strong fishery. Finally, I highly recommend never leaving the harbor without a current navigation chart, compass and a quality GPS. Best of luck! ASJ Editor’s note: Randy Wells is a full-time fishing guide, TV host and outdoor writer. Visit Randy’s website to book a fishing trip in Seward (fishsewardalaska.com) or call (907) 947-3349.


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If you don’t want to deal with getting dirty and feel like a sand monster, clamming is probably not for you. But for those who brave the beaches, the result can be a bucket (or three) of tasty razor clams. (BIXLER MCCLURE) 112

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BY KRYSTIN MCCLURE AND BIXLER MCCLURE

I

had never been so sandy in my entire life. Sand permeated my Grundens and Xtratufs, coating the interior of my waterproof clothing as I dug deep chasing a runaway razor clam. When I finally was able to grab it, it was a lunker. The razor clam was larger than my hand and twice as thick. I dropped it into the bucket filled with other shellfish and rainwater, then yelled to Bixler in the distance. Across the sand flat, he held up an equally large clam. Other diggers quietly searched for clams while our never-ending excitement over larger and larger clams broke the silence. This was clamming at its finest. Earlier in the year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had announced a continued closure of all eastern Cook Inlet beaches to clamming. We both sighed, as we had been waiting patiently for the population to recover. A nasty winter storm a few years prior had hit juvenile clams hard. Somehow, Bixler got the idea in his head of booking a clam charter, a boat that takes you across Cook Inlet to the western beaches, where clams are still abundant. A friend of ours thought it was hilarious, but sure enough, a few entrepreneurial Alaskans do offer such a charter, so we booked one to start our adventure.

COOK’S CLAMS

AS THE DATE OF our clam charter rolled around, a summer gale swept through Cook Inlet. Our hosts, Bottom Line Charters (907-567-7366; bottomlinecharters.us), moved the trip date back out of concern for safety. A few days later than expected, we found ourselves at the Deep Creek boat launch loading up buckets, shovels and the backbreaking yet highly effective clam gun. We climbed aboard the boat while still on the trailer and watched as a tractor pushed us into the water. The captain revved up the engines and we began to

RAZOR CLAMS PLENTIFUL IN THE INLET – BUT BE PREPARED TO GET DIRTY DIGGIN’ ’EM

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With eastern beaches along clam-heavy Cook Inlet closed, several Kenai Peninsula charter companies can take you across to the western side to seek razor clams there. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

cross a lumpy Cook Inlet on a typical summer’s day – overcast and rainy – with the entirety of the western side of the inlet shrouded in heavy clouds. We passed the time talking with the deckhand and captain, Ryan and Brian (we could never figure out who was who), while the other customers fended off seasickness. Soon, the captain instructed his deckhand to drop the anchor. We were sitting in less than a foot of water and had to patiently wait for the tide to recede. Other customers who were wearing hip boots climbed off the boat as soon as the anchor was dropped. Bixler and I were in our Xtratufs, so we kept chatting with the crew while waiting for the water to drop below boot-top level. As soon as we felt the boat settle onto the sand, we hopped off in full Grundens, with buckets and clam-digging devices in-hand. We headed up to higher ground to look for clam shows, small round depressions in the sand no bigger than a dime. We were both a bit rusty on our clamming skills and ended up digging up a bunch of sand looking for those delicious shellfish. I headed one direction with the shovel, while Bixler manned the clam gun, a large tubular device that pulls up both the clam and its entire sandy home. Like a miner striking gold, Bixler announced his first clam and dropped it into the bucket. I tried digging a few shows and found nothing. Capt. Brian (or was it Ryan?) gave me a quick tutorial on using the shovel. He pointed to a general area before returning to the boat to barbecue up some lunch. Soon, I was breaking the silence that I too had found clams. Bixler and I continued to comb the higher portions of the sandy beach in search of clam shows. We switched off using the gun, which is a back-wrenching experience after a while 114

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Clam gun in hand, Krystin McClure gets after a razor clam where she’d found a “show,” the dimple in the sand that denotes a shellfish below. (BIXLER MCCLURE)


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and started to completely ignore the fact that our Atlas gloves were entirely full of sand. Bixler filled his bucket first and ran to the boat for a dropoff. He returned with a new bucket and two sandy hot dogs that we chowed down before resuming our clamming. The captain pointed us to a new spot and soon we were digging up clams the size of dinner plates, like the old timers talk about being on the other side of Cook Inlet.

WE HAD FILLED UP BUCKETS with razor clams by the time the tide rushed back in. The other customers were the first to return to the boat, while Bixler was the last, racing against the Xtratuf-flooding tidewaters. Deckhand Ryan (I think) placed our clams in a purging cage to remove some of the sand, while we stripped out of our sandy Grundens and found warmth in the boat’s cabin. When the tidewaters returned, we pulled anchor and head-

CLAMMING IT UP IN COOK INLET Digging for clams can be a productive and lots of fun. Be sure to follow these guidelines before heading out on your next clam dig. Just remember, this is a personal-use fishery, so it is open to Alaska residents only. Check the regulations – Because the eastern side of Cook Inlet is closed, watch for emergency orders from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on all other areas open to clamming. Know the bag limit – Currently, the western side of Cook Inlet has no bag limit for razor or any other type of clam. Monitor the tides and book early – There are only a few tides a month suitable for clamming, so if you plan on taking a commercial charter, check the tides and book well in advance. Clamming on the western side of Cook Inlet is becoming increasingly popular. Dress for the occasion – Clamming is a wet, sandy experience, whether it is raining or not. Good sturdy rain boots and waterproof gloves will keep the cold and wet out as you dig for clams. Opt for waders or fishing bibs to keep you mostly clean and sand-free. Bring the right gear – Savvy with a shovel or do you prefer a clam gun? Make sure you bring the tool that is most comfortable for your digging. Shovels work in all terrains, while clam gun works best on fine sandy beaches. Bring both if you can’t decide. Be prepared to clean a lot of clams – Set aside a good chunk of time to clean those delicious shellfish! Watch for PSP – The state of Alaska monitors popular clamming beaches for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Watch for any announcements and avoid clamming altogether if PSP is found. -KM

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CHOW(DER) DOWN WITH COMFORT FOOD Rainy and 50 degrees outside this summer? Try this razor clam chowder to warm you up! This follows a more traditional recipe, but you can easily thicken it up should you want a more restaurant-style chowder. Serve with a side of homemade sourdough bread to complete the meal! 1 pound cleaned razor clams 4 ounces bacon 1½ pounds potatoes Four large carrots Four celery sticks 4 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or savory ½ large red onion 3 cups of water 1 pint of heavy cream Salt and pepper

Warm up after a day of digging up clams by whipping up a cup or bowl of delicious chowder. (BIXLER MCCLURE)

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add chopped bacon and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Add butter and thyme or savory and cook quickly for about 30 seconds. Add chopped onion, carrots and celery, and cook until onion is translucent but not crisp. Add the chopped potatoes and water. Add more water if necessary to cover the potatoes. Turn heat up to high and cover. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat and add in chopped clams and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pint of heavy cream and heat on low until desired temperature. BM

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ed home, complete with a scenic tour of an old cannery on a nearby island still encased in clouds. When we hit the beach at Deep Creek and started to load our clams in the cooler, we suddenly realized the immense task before us. The clams filled our largest white cooler. After our three-hour drive home, we cleaned, sealed and froze clams until 4 a.m. Our Grundens went through the washing machine twice and we tossed our gloves. As tiring as the escapade was, I still reminisce when I pull out clams from the freezer from that one trip. And yes, I still find sand in them a year later. ASJ

The McClures were happy to come back with a cooler full of razor clams. In a state where salmon reign supreme on the dinner table, don’t forget about the delicious morsels inside these muddy-shelled critters. (KRYSTIN MCCLURE)

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PARTNERS IN THE FIELD GREAT HUNTING PARTNERS MAKE FOR GREAT HUNTING ADVENTURES – HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PROSPECTIVE SPORTING COMPANION

PT. ONE OF TWO

It’s all about teamwork when on a hunt together. Someone who pulls their fair share of the weight and never complains about things like mosquitoes and bland food is truly a hunter you want to have around for a weeklong trip in the wilderness. (PAUL D. ATKINS) aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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Muskox hunting in below-zero weather isn’t for everybody. It takes a special hunting partner to go out in these conditions, especially when you try without success for seven weekends in the middle of an Arctic winter. But you’ll know you’ve found a good match when your buddy is willing to film your hunt in this harsh weather. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

BY PAUL D. ATKINS Note: This is a two-part series on what makes a great hunting partner or partners and the choices you make when it comes to putting together an adventure to remember or in some cases forget. The experiences we share with others and even more so the memories we create, whether it’s in a camp or a blind or maybe even a boat, help shape our perception of what a great time in the outdoors should be.

do find one you usually want to try and keep them around as long as possible. Here in the Arctic I have had several over the years who have brought out all kinds of emotions in me. Some I hated to lose, while others I couldn’t get away from fast enough. So, I have created what I consider to be a checklist to see if you and your partner are compatible when it comes to getting along in the wilds of Alaska or anywhere else, for that matter.

A

s I quietly glassed from a small hill, I could tell what my hunting partner Garrett Ham was thinking. Moose hunting had been slow the last three days and my bowhunting friend was eager to fill at least one of his tags before heading home. As usual I had a rifle with me just in case, and the two big caribou bulls bedded down 1,000 yards in front of us looked inviting. We knew without saying a word what the plan would be. The open tundra wouldn’t allow a bowshot, but the rifle would. If we crawled in as close as possible, he would take the first shot and then hand me the rifle as soon as the second bull stood. The long stalk began.

FINDING THE RIGHT HUNTING partner isn’t something new. Guys and gals have been doing it for years, and when you 126

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It may not be a dating or roommate level of required compatibility, but make sure your hunting partner is a good fit if you’re planning a long trip in a remote camp. Author Paul Atkins (right) and his friend Garrett Ham get along great in the field. (PAUL D. ATKINS)


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Reliability Combined with Innovation We are excited to introduce our new Patent Pending holster design for Semi-Automatic pistols: The Gen2MTU line of holsters is a step up in comfort, convenience and ergonomic innovation. The design stemmed from a desire to make a 1911 holster with added features specifically for that gun. Once we field tested this holster, we received immediate positive response, and requests for the new design started to pour in after our official release. We quickly realized that this line needed to expand to incorporate the key features that would carry over to the other semi-auto holsters. The Gen2-MTU line of holsters are still made out of the same high quality materials as the original “Ultimate Chest Holster,” with only a few changes made to hardware to achieve the tactical look and feel. Take a look and compare. We think you will appreciate what we have left the same, and admire those changes that we have made.

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Paul’s son Eli Atkins has grown considerably on his initial Arctic hunts and is preparing to hunt bigger game in the Last Frontier soon. Undoubtedly, he’ll make a fine hunting partner for his father and others. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

PASSION OR OBSESSION (whichever the case may be) First and foremost, you need to associate yourself with like-minded people. This will depend greatly on the task ahead and what you truly love to do. Whether it’s hunting hardcore for wild sheep or mountain goats or maybe chasing caribou for days, crossing miles and miles of tundra before taking a break, you will need somebody who cares enough to stay in shape and not bow out when things get really tough. Mountain hunters have to have rigor, and the want to succeed always outweighs the need to just be there. If you find one of these people, then you’ve found somebody special, especially if he or she wants to go along every year.

SHARING THE LOAD This comes in many forms and is probably one of the biggest when it comes to forming and ultimately ending a hunting partnership. Great hunting partners are just that, and it doesn’t always have to do with the hunting part. For the most part it begins long before the hunt begins. The planning and preparation of any hunt is a joint effort with equal involvement by all parties. It’s where you decide to hunt, the logistics of how you’re going to get there and, the biggest factor of all, costs.

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I’ve seen a lot of hunts go bad due to expenses and how they’re shared. But even worse, I’ve witnessed lifelong relationships ended due to who is paying for what. We’ve all heard these horror stories – how one hunter had to pay more than his share or in the end didn’t get his fair cut when it came to sharing the spoils. Great hunting partners don’t do this. We are all in it together and each person in camp looks forward to the time spent together and doing their part for the enjoyment and contribution to make the hunt more successful for all.

CAMP ETIQUETTE Speaking of camps, this part of the hunt may sound trivial but it isn’t – for me, it’s one of the biggest factors when it comes to choosing the right person to hunt with. Here in Alaska, most if not all hunting is done from a camp (though in best-case scenarios, maybe a lodge or cabin of some kind). It doesn’t matter whether you fly out and do a DIY camp, where you will be living on the tundra for seven days with nothing but a tent or two, or boat upriver to stay in a rundown shack buried in the spruce trees along the bank for the weekend, how you conduct yourself in camp will tell everyone there what kind of person you are. I’ve always lived by the motto “take care of camp first.” Whether that is keeping gear organized, gathering wood at every chance or volunteering to do dishes or cook, they all

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are just as important to the hunt as the hunt itself. I’ve hunted with guys who absolutely love this part. Some never leave camp in order to make sure that all of us are taken care of and are happy. They resemble more of a guide than a fellow hunter and those folks make great hunting partners and ensure those camps are special. In the end, you will go the extra mile for them, even if they don’t want to go in search of caribou or moose. On the other end of the scale, though, I’ve been in camp with those that won’t lift a finger except to grab the last piece of bacon, or worse, just sit around camp complaining about the weather or mosquitoes, constantly counting the days until they can get back to town. That’s the type that I don’t like to be around, and I would imagine most other hunters don’t either. As a rule of thumb, pick those who not only like to hunt, but enjoy camping just the same.

GEAR JUNKIES This type of hunting partner is special and it’s always good to have someone in camp who shares his or her passion when it comes to the latest and greatest. I’m not one of those but consider myself more of a “what has worked for me in the past will usually work this time” kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong: I have the best Cabela’s has to offer, but it’s usually an improvement on something that has already worked once or twice.


PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR CAMP WITH PORTABLE ELECTRIC BEAR FENCING You open the flap on your tent and gaze at the vista before you. The coastal estuary stretches before you bathed in greens and golden in the morning light. Beyond, the pine forest extends up the slopes of the coastal mountains, turning into the blues and whites of the high alpine slopes, their upper reaches permanently capped in snow. In the foreground, you notice a dark shape moving silently through the reeds – an Alaskan Brown Bear, foraging for food on the flats before this year’s salmon start to run up the river. The bear represents Alaska; majestic, wild, and free but it also reminds us of the dangers lurking in these wild lands. Bears are intelligent and curious animals, as well as opportunistic feeders with a strong sense of smell. They will often inspect human camps, and may even rummage inside looking for last night’s dinner leftovers. Unfortunately, a 1,500-pound Kodiak Grizzly Bear can do a lot of damage to a camp, or even threaten its human inhabitants. Luckily, by taking a few simple steps, we can protect our camp and sleep easily after a long day in the wilderness. Portable electric bear fences are highly effective at preventing bears from entering your camps, both at night and when you are off exploring during the day. Electric fencing works by delivering a painful, but harmless shock to inquisitive bears. The short burst of low-amperage, high voltage electricity sends bears fleeing from the area. The fence is safe for both animals and humans. Many lightweight electric fence systems on the market can be set-up in as little as 30 minutes. They are versatile and can be used to protect camps, cook areas, fish gutting stations, cabins, meat caches, and smoke houses. These affordable and effective products can be the difference between a successful fishing trip in the wilderness or a terrifying encounter with Alaska’s largest land predator. This article is part 1 of our 4-part bear educational editorial. In the next issue we will explore personal defenses and bear deterrents.

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I guess I’m more of a system guy. When I first came to Alaska I was a novice – green in color – and had to have the best of everything, thinking it would make me a better hunter. It did, but over the years I’ve come to rely on the same products each year, filling my dry bag with virtually the same gear before any hunt. Still, if you have a hunting partner who has brought something along to test out, it can be pure joy, plus you usually learn a lot too!

MR. PHOTOGENIC Photos are an important part of any hunt. I know they are to me and not just because I’m a writer. Being able to recapture the day or days in the ďŹ eld are big parts of any adventure. The idea of looking at a photo and remembering a particular camp or sight that many will never see is truly spe-

In the end, hunting adventures are about memories and the time you share in camp. If you happen to get lucky and ďŹ nd the game you’re after, that is a bonus, as Atkins (left) and his friend, fellow ASJ correspondent Scott Haugen, experienced. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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cial to most of us. Since memories are all we have in the end anyway, for a lot of hunters this is a big part of why they do what they do. Finding a like-minded hunting partner who likes to take pictures, or in some cases film, is a blessing in disguise. I’ve been very fortunate to have great hunting partners who like to shoot video or take pictures at every given moment. My good friend Lew Pagel is a prime example of this, and so is another close friend, Scott Haugen. These two are exceptional when it comes to capturing the moment – usually when you least expect it. It goes back to everything I’ve mentioned above. Great hunting partners make great hunting adventures. Some of the moments we’ve captured will forever be etched in my mind due to their ongoing passion and obsession.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE We all have friends who have the next great hunt or fishing adventure in mind. They come to you and ask, “What do you think?” It’s ongoing and usually happens as soon as the season is done; it’s always planning, always thinking about what we can do next. How much fun can we have next year? These are the kind of hunting partners I want to be around. I’m really looking forward to the future and what next few years bring for Eli, my 13 year-old son, and I. Our adventures in Alaska are going to be grand and hopefully I can help him capture some of that same passion and what it takes to be

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great hunting partner. Hopefully he will share many camps with people who share in the adventure long after I’m gone.

GARRETT AND I CRAWLED through the willow and alder toward the bedded caribou bulls. We’ve been friends for a long time and I thought about all of our adventures togther – Africa for plains game, Arizona for elk and lion, the Alaskan Arctic for moose and caribou. All were special hunts and in all those years we never crossed each other or disagreed on anything. Most times we went home successful, signs of a true hunting relationship and true friends bonding. As we approached the caribou and we were in range, I handed him the rifle without saying a word. Within seconds both bulls were on the ground and we were happy, to say the least. It wasn’t until we got to them that the true essence of our friendship was tested. A 67-inch bull moose – unbeknownst to us – was standing 100 yards away. Although we both had tags, I handed Garrett the rifle. Next month, join me for Part II of this series, where I will describe what it takes to create and plan a hunt of a lifetime in the great Alaskan outdoors. ASJ Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on hunting big game, fishing and surviving in the Alaskan Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to the Alaska Sporting Journal.


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THIS IS WHY WE DO IT

A FAMILY HUNTING TRADITION AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF A 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL

Editor’s note: Our correspondent Bjorn Dihle recently pitched a story to us, but in this case Dihle wasn’t going to pen it; his niece, 12-year-old Kiah Dihle, would be the author of this piece. “She’s a talented and thoughtful writer and her article about her dad teaching her to hunt will resonate strongly with your readers,” Bjorn wrote. We agreed with that sentiment, so enjoy Kiah’s point-of-view on her introduction to hunting with her family.

BY KIAH DIHLE

A

s a kid growing up in Alaska, I am fortunate enough to have a seemingly never-ending supply of wild game and salmon end up on my plate. I’ve never really paid attention to the steaming venison roast or halibut casserole on the table. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of what Alaska has to offer; it’s just that I have always taken for granted the food that has been at every family dinner. It always seems to be there – never asking for anything in return – and so far, I have never given it anything. I embarked on my first deer hunt at the age of 11 (I just recently turned 12). I found myself panting and wiping perspiration from my forehead as we trekked up one of the many mountains on Admiralty Island, near Juneau and well-known for its dense brown bear population. The funny thing is, our bear trouble that hunting season didn’t happen on the island that has so many of them; it happened on another island that is much less likely to have bruins.

I WAS WITH MY dad and grandfather as we squatted on the rocky cliffs looking at the alpine below for deer. The prickly plants dug into my backside and my eyes were nearly closed, as we had been waiting there for several hours. While my grandfather and dad looked and as the wind gently caressed my face, I dozed off for a short time. By the time my dad prodded me awake, I had 32 mosquito bites on one hand and multiple bites all over my face. “Hey,” my dad whispered, nodding to a minuscule brown spot in the distance, “you see that buck over there?” I squinted. “Yeah,” I mumbled groggily and

Kiah Dihle, then 11, got an up-close view of hunting when she joined her dad and grandfather on Southeast Alaska blacktail hunts. (LUKE DIHLE) aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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stretched. I had a feeling that he would want me to go after it, so I stood up readily. “Do you want to go get it?” he whispered excitedly. I frowned at him, failing to see his enthusiasm at hiking a half-mile and attempting to make a nearly impossible shot at a deer half concealed by brush. But I shrugged anyway, and said, “Sure, let’s go!” My dad and grandfather stared at me in disbelief. I felt a certain excitement about making an attempt to get the blacktail that made me forget the difficult climb down. I already had my pack on and was reaching for my gun, ready to go, when my grandfather said to my dad, “Luke, that looks to be a long shot and a steep climb. I think maybe you should do it before the buck runs away.” I looked at him and was disappointed, but, after some thought, I agreed and watched my dad race across the ground, stopping behind trees every now and then. I memorized how he did it – the way he stayed low to the ground and concealed himself at every chance he got.

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Kiah’s uncles, Bjorn and Reid Dihle, wanted to surprise her and her dad by leaving some sparkling water for them to drink at camp. Instead, the guys were surprised by this massive black bear. (BJORN DIHLE)

Soon I heard a shot and watched the buck tumble to the ground. My grandfather and I met my dad to gut the deer and put the meat in game bags. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I walked up to my dad, who was holding the deer by its antlers. The animal was indescribably beautiful; its brown coat shone in the sun, and its eyes, glazed over, still held intelligence that gave me yet another reason to respect this great beast and ask questions about it. I wondered why someone would kill an animal as beautiful as this one. Was it because they wanted a trophy, something


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Kiah and her grandfather sneak a peek over a ridgeline during their search for Panhandle blacktails. (LUKE DIHLE)

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to show off to others? Or was it because they wished to have the experience or because they needed the food? I don’t know what I would have felt if I had shot that deer, but I think it would have bettered my understanding of each piece of meat I eat at dinner. With every bite of any animal I have, I am taking a bit of that animal’s life. As I looked at the deer my dad held, I decided to


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Kiah wasn’t sure how she felt about her dad shooting this blacktail, but she understood more every time she sat down for dinner. (LUKE DIHLE)

fully appreciate every spoonful of deer stew I ate and every piece of grilled salmon on my fork. My uncles still tease my dad about this hunt, saying that he pushed me out of the way to get the nice-sized buck, and although I laugh along with them, I have a feeling I would have never been able to make that shot.

ABOUT A MONTH AFTERWARDS, my dad and I climbed through the woods of a mountain on Douglas Island, searching for another deer. We finished the hike through the treacherous, slippery vegetation and continued on to the alpine where the deer usually lay hidden. We scoured the trees and rocks that dotted the side of the mountain, but with no luck. As we sat concealed by a blueberry bush to watch for deer and enjoy a Clif Bar, I lightly punched my dad’s shoulder and said, “Are you going to push me out of the way this time?” Unfortunately, we were not successful that day, and as we got situated for the night, I became determined to get a shot at a blacktail the next day. As dull morning light seeped through our orange tent walls, my dad and I opened our eyes to an overcast sky and left camp to go hunt for half a day. We came back empty-handed after I spooked a doe, and though disappointment snaked through the air, the excitement of the hunt remained. We began to pack our sleeping bags and mats in our backpacks. As we began to take down the tent, my dad reached down to one of the corners. 144

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“Kiah,” he whispered. His fingers ran along a 5-inch-long tear in the orange fabric. “Look at this.” “How did that happen?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he replied. As we headed up to get our cooking gear, I stopped and bent down. “Dad,” I whispered, confused, “what’s this?” He came to my side to examine the object in my grime-covered hand. A lemon-lime sparkling water can sat staring back at us, drops of moisture running down its aluminum sides. Water leaked out of five punctured holes in the can: four at the top and one at the bottom. I gave my dad a confused look, and he pointed to another object half covered in a chunk of dirt 5 feet away from where we stood. A nearly identical can sat lopsided in the same condition as the first. Truly puzzled, I packed the cans in my bag, and my dad and I continued down the mountain, every now and then whispering about the sparkling water cans and keeping an eye out for any movement that would indicate a deer. We got back down the mountain and walked to the road. My dad went to get our truck while I waited quietly, enjoying the crisp fall air. When he returned, I got into the truck and unloaded my gear. Dad called my mom to tell her that we were back. Once he got off the phone, he smiled at me. “Guess who those sparkling water cans were from?” he asked. I shrugged and laughed. “Did Mom know where they


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“I wondered why someone would kill an animal as beautiful as this one,” writes Kiah, here with her dad, Luke. “I don’t know what I would have felt if I had shot that deer, but I think it would have bettered my understanding of each piece of meat I eat at dinner. (LUKE DIHLE) 146

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came from?” “Yes!” he replied. “Bjorn and Reid [my uncles] hiked up to our camp spot and left sparkling water cans for us to drink.” “As they turned around after setting the cans by our tent, they saw a massive black bear across the tent from them. They said it was one of the biggest black bears they had ever seen. Reid said he debated shooting it because it didn’t act scared of them and he didn’t want us stumbling onto it, but in the end, they managed to push it off.” “Wow,” I laughed. “That’s crazy! I guess the bear came back and tried to take our sparkling water cans. He must have been the one to rip our tent too!” We drove home and I turned on the radio, switching it often. As X Ambassadors’ song “Renegades” played on our speakers, I thought about the question that I had asked my dad and uncles multiple times before I’d gone hunting: “What is it you love about hunting?” What I really wanted to know is why they would take a two-weeklong hunting trip in locations ranging from the bitter-cold Brooks Range to the incredibly wet mountains of Southeast Alaska. They all replied somewhat differently, but they had a few things in common. All of them said, “I do it for the adventure.” They also agreed that they did it for their bellies. I’m sure that is why many of you reading this article hunt: the peace and the solitude, the adrenaline and the pain, the gunshot and the animal; they’re all reasons that we go hunting. So I encourage those reading these words who haven’t tried hunting to try it. Explore! Instead of coming home in your car listening to Justin Bieber and worrying about all of the problems going on in life, escape the chaos and get out into the wilderness. I certainly haven’t done much hunting, but from the five experiences I have had, I can say that it will change your life for the better. ASJ


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THAT’S THE ALASKAN WAY A COUPLE’S MOVE FROM OHIO TO KETCHIKAN PROVES TO BE AN EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCE

Ohio residents Tony and Shannon fell in love with each other, then Alaska after their wedding/duck hunt there. They now make Ketchikan their home. (SHANNON AND TONY SINES)

BY JEFF LUND

F

or Tony and Shannon Sines, duck No. 31 changed everything. It took them to a windswept Alaskan island for a duck hunt and to exchange marital vows. Over the wind on their wedding video posted on YouTube appear the words, “An institution, which is not to be entered into lightly or carelessly, but thoroughly, deliberately and irreverently.” That sounds about right for Tony and Shannon. Since moving to Ketchikan in 2014, they have thoroughly immersed themselves into all things Alaska in a deliberate attempt to do everything this land has to offer. Last week’s social media post was a pot full of Dungeness crab. The week before that it was a 7-foot brown bear. The month before? Steelhead. “Well, you live here, so you might as well,” Tony says. There are 32 huntable species of duck in North America. aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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Duck No. 31 for Tony was the king eider and one of the only places he could get one was Alaska’s Pribilof Islands. The plan was to get the duck, get married, ring in 2014, and then return home. But they returned to Ohio not convinced they were finished with Alaska. “We said, ‘Let’s just throw it out there,’ and it all just happened,” says Shannon about the possibility of moving to Alaska. “It’s almost like everything was meant to be.” They both ended up landing administrative positions in Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District, so they sold practically everything (except, of course, for Tony’s extensive collection of stuffed ducks), loaded up a 30-foot box trailer they bought just for the trip and moved. It’s not easy to leave a job, friends and, especially, family, though over a dozen chums and relatives visited last summer, turning their “summer off” into a season of playing host in the Last Frontier.

SOME OF THE CHANGE has been welcomed and has made the life change worth it. “I find myself always on an adventure; we went on adventures in Ohio, but nothing like this,” says Shannon. At work, Shannon no longer wears a suit and heels everyday and Tony has lost his tie. “I’ve probably changed a lot and let a lot of things go. I’ll say, ‘I don’t even have time to pluck my eyebrows,’” she says. But that doesn’t mean they’ve gone reality TV. Many television shows cater “We said, ‘Let’s just throw it out there,’ and it all just happened,” says Shannon, with a big king she caught at the Ketchikan CHARR Derby in May. “It’s almost like everything to stereotypes when it comes to Alaskan was meant to be.” (SHANNON AND TONY SINES) residents. Some maybe unfairly characterize us as uncouth when it comes to social Tony and Shannon saw in Ohio – and the benefits of geogragrace and tooled only with primitive technology in the workphy in the development of kids. One of which is not a total place. dismissal of a clothing-based social hierarchy, but students in Neither of the Sines found that in their new friends or the hallways are certainly not grouped by expense, pattern or jobs, and Tony is quick to explain that relaxed attire doesn’t brand of clothing. If it’s warm and keeps you dry, it works. It’s mean a lack of professionalism. Tony attributes the ability practical and there’s no need to change after school before to decompress so easily after work to a productive but less heading up a mountain or to the river. stressful work environment. “I’m amazed with the things that kids aren’t afraid to do “The job is still important and you still have your priorities, and what parents let their kids do. There’s no, ‘Don’t play on but it’s less stressful because it seems like you’re living a lot those rocks, it’s too dangerous.’ Kids learn to manage the outmore,” he says. “My doctor cut my blood pressure medicine doors here,” says Shannon. in half.” As educators, they have seen a drastic difference between the educational systems – cuts hurt, but Ketchikan students MOST OF ALASKA DOESN’T really do blocks and grids when it have more resources and programs at their disposal than what comes to residential layout. In the Southeast Panhandle, get 150

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away from the commercial centers and the forest is generally cut in stripes for roads and houses are placed in home-sized clearings. The Sines live partway down a gravel road out north from Ketchikan proper and have close neighbors, though it’s impossible to tell through the thick Southeast Alaska forest. If they didn’t point out the other houses – or you didn’t hear a neighbor cutting firewood with a chainsaw – you’d think there wasn’t anyone for miles. Their house is in the second row of homes off the ocean but close enough that they can hear the first boats making wakes on their way to the fishing grounds. The location up the forested hill above makes for stunning sunset views. The house itself is comfortable and homey. The small front lawn adjacent to the driveway pad has become more of a nuisance than anything. Yard work is maybe considered the outdoors in the Lower 48, but in Alaska mowing the lawn is cutting into fishing, hunting or beachcombing time. Shannon’s favorite hunting is just that: hunting for buoys on the beach. An old chicken coop in the backyard is covered with beach detritus, giving the lot a sense of duration to their time in Alaska, though it’s only been two years. In that time, Tony and Shannon found that attitude is not the only thing required to make the most of living in the 49th state; they’ve been welcomed by the community and invited on educational trips to learn the ways of seasoned locals. “The people from Ketchikan have been phenomenal about teaching us the way of life up here,” she says.

“You still have your priorities, but it’s less stressful because it seems like you’re living a lot more,” says Tony, who has successfully hunted brown bears in his new Alaska home. (SHANNON AND TONY SINES)

TONY HAS BAGGED TWO black bears in his time in Alaska, one a 7-footer with a 20-inch skull. His first brown bear was only slightly larger than his black, but the beautiful blondish coat was too much for him to pass up. But things haven’t been completely smooth. On their first bear adventure, Tony and Shannon anchored their boat and went to shore on an inflatable raft without a motor. Tony put a shot into the bear, which hobbled off. It’s not uncommon for bears to run after being hit. However, the blood trail can go from steady to almost nothing as fat, fur and flesh conspire to seal the wound. Tony led the recovery walk into the woods holding a .45 Ruger with Shannon behind him. Tony mimics his wife, moving 152

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the .300 Win. back and forth “like Elmer Fudd,” while slowly walking backward. “Let’s be real; we were both scared,” Shannon says. Tony agrees and continues. At the last point of blood, they started walking in slowly increasing circles and found the bear, which had only made it 15 feet. The two then loaded the bear into the crowded inflatable and began the slow paddle back to the boat. Later, there was the “fire” on the boat as they circumnavigated Revillagigedo Island (on which Ketchikan sits), caused by the blower not dispersing heat from the burners that double as a heater. It turned part of the wooden handle to charcoal and put the couple on edge for the rest of the journey – a journey beyond the reach of their VHF radio.


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They learned too late that a lingcod tastes infinitely better than it looks and, with the novelty of being Alaskan maybe wearing off a bit, struggled through some of the long, dark afternoons after work during their second winter. “You get home, it’s totally dark, you have dinner and it’s only five o’clock. If you go to the couch, you’re done,” Tony says. Maybe the biggest issue came with the king salmon run in May and June. “She’s up 5-0,” Tony reluctantly admits, as Shannon smiles. “He’s convinced he gave me the best flasher.” “We use the same hoochie or the same herring at the same depth – I don’t know.” Darkness, king salmon disparity and trial-by-error aside, the two are completely unfazed. “We want to experience everything,” Shannon says. “I find myself saying, ‘Wow, this is one of those things I’m not sure I’ll ever stop saying is pretty.’ At times it’s overwhelming.” Yes, yes it is. ASJ Editor’s note: Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about fishing and hunting in Alaska and California, two areas he’s lived in. For details, visit JeffLundBooks.com. After a quest to score a rare species of duck inspired them to head to the Last Frontier, the Sines now can’t get enough of what Alaska provides. (SHANNON AND TONY SINES)

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Q&A WITH LEGENDARY ARMS WORKS

Legendary Arms Works is proud of their line of hunting rifles, and the company will soon move into the tactical and long-range fields too. (LEGENDARY ARMS WORKS)

INTERVIEW BY ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL

R

ecently, we had a conversation with Legendary Arms Works’ sales and marketing executive Walter Hasser, who filled us in on the Reinholds, Pa.-based (717-3358555; legendaryarmsworks.com) company’s back story and its exciting future plans.

Alaska Sporting Journal How did cofounders Mark Bansner and David Dunn team up to get LAW started? Walter Hasser David and Mark go back a few years, as Mark worked on a few of David’s guns when he was operating Bansner’s Ultimate Rifles. After David had been operating a firearms retail store and indoor range in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, he began noticing the trend of American-manufactured firearms decreasing in quality and sending products offshore to be produced. He wanted very badly to do something about it and believed, as we all believe today, that a firearm is something greater than the sum of its parts and deserving of the attention of craftsmen. Furthermore, a larger portion of the American shooting population should have access to a higher level of quality versus just a handful who can afford a full custom rifle. David’s first step in realizing his dream was purchasing the M704 design and rights to manufacture from Ed Brown. His second

was to form a partnership with the best custom gun builder and share his vision with the country.

ASJ How much did Mark’s passion for hunting inspire him to have his own firearms company? WH Mark is an extremely passionate hunter and the type of guy you want in your camp. His ideals and character set him apart, both afield and in the shop. He likes getting his hands dirty, solving problems, working with people, growing and affecting those around him. And he holds a deep respect for the sport and the industry as a whole. Mark understands the emotional and spiritual experience of hunting big game. As an artisan he holds a heightened sense of how that experience is amplified when undertaken with a fine instrument. I believe he takes great pride in contributing to that experience for our customers. ASJ In terms of hunting rifles, can you describe some features of your guns and how they can be effective? WH Our M704 Action design is completely unique. A true controlled round-feed system that also has the luxury of single feeding without first depressing a round on the magazine follower is a great advantage in many scenarios. The fixed ejector blade is ruggedly simple and eliminates the common user error of “short stroking” during the cycle of operation, as the spent case will not eject until the bolt is fully cycled. The action is the perfect foundation for the perfect hunting rifle – aksportingjournal.com | JULY 2016

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not to mention the precision CNC machining quality and onepiece bolt.

ASJ What is your favorite LAW model and why? WH “The Professional” is our flagship rifle and best seller, and it’s easy to see why once you have it in your hands. The balance is perfect and craftsmanship is unlike any other product in its price bracket. You have the luxury of a fully custom mountain rifle in a package for one-third of the price.

ASJ Is there anything else you want to say about the LAW brand? WH We’re very grateful for our customers and the opportunity to manufacture and sell these products into this market and this industry that we all care so deeply for. ASJ Editor’s note: For more on Legendary Arms Works, check them out at legendaryarmsworks.com. You can also like them at facebook .com/LegendaryArmsWorks.

ASJ How has LAW evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the future? WH A very significant development you’ll see from us this year is stepping into the realm of tactical and long-range precision rifles. To date our product line has been Part and parcel to LAW rifles is the unique conbased around hunting rifles, but we are not just a trolled round-feed system. (LEGENDARY ARMS WORKS) hunting rifle company. We are a manufacturing company – a small, veteran-owned business with a large veteran workforce committed to bringing great rifles and great customer service to a bigger portion of the market than before. We have some very talented folks on our product development team, with backgrounds in law enforcement and the military, along with competitive shooting. This year we’ll be bringing a chassis system to market that I think you’ll love!

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