Grab a fresh coffee and settle in folks, we’ve got some catching up to do. Since Arriving here in Alaska I’ve kept myself incredibly busy, almost too much if I’m honest. The work I landed for the season, bar tending at 49th State Brewing, is going to keep it that way all summer. It’s a monstrously busy place, and quite fun to work at. If you’re ever in Anchorage go there and have a meal and a few beers, it’s rather awesome! In addition, I’ve gone positively bonkers exploring around and getting a good feel for the greater area I’m in, mostly in preparation for the upcoming salmon runs. I’ve fished a lot in my life, but the style of fishing up here is relatively new to me, so in addition to learning the geography and waterways up here I’ve had to educate myself on an entirely new (to me) set of techniques, and I’m loving every bit of it. Where to begin…
Right there actually. In an effort to fish as much as possible I’ve done some exploring around Anchorage, which has led to discovering Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage as well as a few other areas near by. There are three main salmon runs in Alaska, Kings in June, Sockeye in July, and Coho in August (basically). King salmon are the most protected and regulated, so the fishing options for them is very limited at the moment. This led me to a pair of trips south of Anchorage to the famous Kenai River. Both trips were very “early” as far as the king salmon run is considered, and were mostly scouting missions with some fishing time mixed in. This was all part of the plan though, and now that I’ve been on that body of water a few times I’ll feel much more confident when the fish start to show up, which could be any day now! Watson has been able to tag along too, tromping through the woods with his jingly bell on his caller scaring away all the moose and bears.
We didn’t catch anything, but that’s fine. I did get to witness a uniquely Alaskan activity though, dip netting for a fish called “Hooligan”, more commonly known as smelt in the rest of the country. Dip netting is basically just pulling a net through the water, scooping out the hooligan, and dumping them in a bucket. It’s really quite amazing to see, and at times the salmon runs will get so thick with fish that you can dip net them as well. I would have bought a net and joined in, but it’s only open to Alaska residents, so alas I could only spectate.
I can also say I’ve never spent as much time reading regulations, in my entire life, as I have up here. Alaska is an incredibly huge state, with incredible resources for the outdoorsman to enjoy, and as such there is an incredibly huge collection of regulations as well. The state is essentially divided up into four zones, and each zone has an individual set of regulations, the books for each are easily twice the size of the single books that cover an entire state in most areas. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also issues “emergency orders” which you can subscribe to via email. These orders tell you when the state has closed a body of water, opened one, or updated the regulations in some way. It’s all very intimidating to absorb, but now that I’ve spent some time with them I can say it’s really not that hard, it’s just a lot of info. The State of Alaska does an incredibly good job in the way all the information is organized and presented, so hats off to them! I also stopped into the ADF&G office in Anchorage when buying my license to get a crash course, and they were awesome to talk with. Oh, this only pertains to fishing regulations. The hunting regulations book is also quite enormous, and the hunting zones across the state don’t relate at all to the fishing zones, so I’ll be revisiting this exercise in a couple months.
We did find some fish to catch though. One of my personal missions this summer is to become a better fly fisherman. You could catch all the salmon you want in Alaska on standard spinning tackle, but it’s an incredible place to catch fish on the fly as well, and it’s a technique I strive to be better at. In our travels I found a nice little backwater pond that was fed by river run-off from one of the large local rivers, and it had loads of small rainbow trout in it that were fantastically dumb. I spent two mornings there on separate trips, re-learning my fly cast and smoothing out my form. I caught about a dozen fish each morning, and even had a moose wander into the camping area to see what all the hubbub was about.
I’ve only got one day off this week, and I’m going to spend another full day down on the Kenai. During our last time down there I got to watch one of the guide boats pull in a fish as well as saw a few swirl on the surface. With warmer weather this week I’m optimistic the numbers will be a little up and we’ll stand better odds of hooking into one. I could have gone out yesterday, but I used my Sunday off to complete the cargo area re-do on the van. I’ll have a post up about that in a few days (spoiler alert, I’m super happy with it). For now though, I’ll leave you with knowing that Alaska is huge, awesome, incredible, and we’ve barely dipped our toes in it. This summer is going to be a good one.