Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Oncorhynchus Tshawytscha*


Okay. I promise. No more dead fish pictures this year. I just figured if I posted about dead pinks and reds, I needed to give king salmon a little bit of love too.
It's not often I see this, and why I took the photos, but a whole 45-50lb king salmon carcass floating near the dock is unusual.
The only explanation I have for this is the tide change must have pushed it up from the river...Or, I could start rumors that kings are spawning in Beaver Creek. Maybe I'll save that story for April Fool's Day.




*scientific name for king salmon


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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Oncorhynchus Nerka*



Dead Red.

It's the beginning of November, all the salmon have died except for a few late silvers, and there's still a Halloween mood (read: candy) in the Holtan household. If you don't like decomposing fish photos, you should stop reading and looking at this post right now. If you're all right with that, I hope you enjoy what was captured this past season.
As many of you know, all user groups on the Kenai River faced fishing restrictions in order for the 2018 spawning escapment goals to be met. ADFG's final sonar count for the late run of red salmon came in at 1,308,498 fish.
The optimum escapement goal (OEG) for the Kenai River late run red salmon is between 700,000 and 1,400,000, so the goal was clearly met (although many in the community dispute the 2018 counts and feel they are overly inflated). Many factors will determine how many of the of the 2018 offspring will return as adults in 2022, 2023, and 2024. Since I plan on guiding during those years, I hope the management plan was successful.
I'm always amazed at what salmon do for an ecosystem. Researchers have found that dead salmon feed 137 species of microbes, stream invertebrates, mammals, and birds. Not to mention, what it does for keeping vegetation green. I'm not sure what ate half of the salmon above, but my money would be on a bald eagle.
For those of you who don't know how to identify the sex of a salmon, the female red is on the left, and the male is on the right. In their spawning phase, female red salmon will be more bullet shaped, while males will have a hump on their back.
I'm not sure I could ever do this on purpose. Here is a dead red salmon perfectly balanced on my anchor line.

"If it weren't for all this dead stuff, there wouldn't be any alive stuff in this river" said an old grizzled Alaska sourdough. I have to agree with him. The whole salmon cycle of life is fascinating.





*scientific name for sockeye (red) salmon



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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Oncorhynchus Gorbuscha*


Pink-A-Poolza.

While chasing silver salmon in the middle Kenai River last September, I came across this scene. In a backwater slough there were literally hundreds of dead, spawned out pink salmon entangled in a weed bed. With the teal green glacier silt water mixing with clear water, the encounter was surreal.
Here's a clear water pink spawning ground in the same stretch of river. I think Ketchikan artist Ray Troll said it best...."Spawn Till You Die".

I look forward to seeing all of their offspring in 2020...



*scientific name for pink salmon.





Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Jeff King: End of an Era



I first met Jeff King on May 19th, 1985. I'll never forget the date for two reasons: 1) it was when my father and I first fished the Kenai with Jeff, and 2) it was the beginning of a long fishing, working, big brother type of a relationship with one heck of a guy. I'm not overstating this, but Jeff's influence on where I am today can only be rivaled by my father. That's high praise.

It was five years ago Jeff said that 2018 would be his last year guiding on the Kenai. I told him I would like to hire him one more time, preferably his last day as a guide. I didn't want Jeff to forget this so I would remind him about this every year after he told me his retirement year. On September 15th I got a text that said, "last hurrah, Tuesday (9/18) 7am?" I told him that would work. I was both happy to be fishing with him, and sad to know that he would no longer be running up and down the the river in boat #003.

Well, how did it go? The photo above happened within 15 minutes of being on the water. Attitude makes a difference and it's a saying Jeff believes in and I do as well. I've fished with Jeff many, many times and I always felt like we were going to catch a fish. Sure, it didn't always happen, but I knew he was giving me his best effort. I mean, that's really all you can ask for from a professional guide, isn't it?
I've met a lot of people who have fished with Jeff and one of the comments I often hear is, well, ummm, the cleanliness of his pants.  A couple of years ago we had a group in the cabins and one of the guys last fished with Jeff over twenty years ago. When he saw Jeff after the long absence he noticed his fishing attire and asked if those were the same pants he had on when they first met. Jeff's answer....yup.
One thing that really stands out to me about his thirty six year career of guiding is the thousands of people he's introduced to the Kenai. His longevity and his approach to his profession has rightfully earned him a place at the table with Spence DeVito, Harry Gaines, and Bix Bonney. All are legends of the Kenai.
There are many things I enjoy about Jeff but one thing I've always admired has been his generosity in sharing his fishing knowledge with anglers. Whether you were a guide, a private angler, a bank angler at his boat launch, he always talked shop and would share "guide secrets". Here he is explaining to me the finer points of backtrolling. "You know, Grasshopper, you can be just inches away from putting a client on a fish of a lifetime."
Never truer words spoken...
It's been a heck of a ride Jeff and your daily presence on the water will be missed. But, I know you and your running partner, MP, still have a lot more gas in the tank and I wish the both of you happy trails. Alaska, Montana, Mexico, ?????...to quote the great Canadian philosopher, Neil Young, "Long May You Run"!







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Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Year of the Dock



Now, it's really over. When the dock comes out, our season is done.
There are a lot of things that I will remember about the 2018 season. Perhaps what I'll remember the most is the trouble I had putting the dock in the spring, and the trouble I had taking it out in the fall. I could see one day Jane and I reminiscing about seasons past and one of us would say, "remember the year we almost didn't get the dock in or out? That sucked. " 

The photo above is the "before" shot to show where the dock is stored for the winter. Tide comes up, the floating section is detached from the gang plank, and the dock is pushed onto the the flat, grassy area where it will rest until spring. In the past, I was always able to get the dock in and out with a minimum high tide of 22.7 feet. Not this year. I needed more water.
This is the "after" photo where the dock ended up when the tide started to drop. Even though it was stuck, I didn't hit the panic button just yet because the following day's tide was higher. Knowing that, did not keep me from wondering (for 24 hours) if that tide wasn't high enough, what then? My alternatives were not pretty.
Yes! Luckily, the 23.69 foot tide was high enough. As you can see, I had plenty of water to maneuver the dock to it's winter resting place.
I had a few small things to do to my boat after the dock was pulled and then the padlock went on the gate. The book is now closed on the 2018 season.

Sigh. I guess it's only seven short months until it's time to put the dock back in.......




Saturday, October 6, 2018

Kachemak Bay Bonanza


I got a call this past week from my friend Boo Kandas of Tall Tale Charters and was asked if Jane and I wanted to help him take his saltwater boat out for the season. For those of you not immersed in fishing slang, "taking out the boat" is code for one last fishing trip. Considering neither one of us has had the time to visit Homer, and that our freezer was devoid of halibut fillets, we couldn't say no to an offer like this.
We left the Homer dock at 8:00 am. A little bit of maritime fog greeted us, but it would soon give way to a sunny day.
As you can see, the seas were calm...a perfect day for a guy like me who isn't fond of waves. And the fishing, well, it was incredible.
I've always been told if you fish for halibut in the fall all you're going to catch are small ones. Last year was my first time fishing in the fall and Boo put us on a nice mess of fish. I thought maybe we just got lucky because, you know, you only get small halibut in the fall. This year the quality of fish was even better with the largest topping 100lbs. That's proof enough for me to know it's not about luck. It's about having the right captain who knows where to fish in the fall. 
Thanks again Boo, for a wonderful day, and for cleaning all the fish. I hope you call us again next year to help you take your boat out...






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