Tuesday, May 29, 2007

post Memorial ramblings

Fishing this past week has been slow, slow, slow. As far as I can tell it's a combination of muddy water and low numbers of fish in the river. The sonar count from the middle of May to now is just under 300 fish.

The last several years my Memorial weekend fishing has been fantastic. My group this year experienced just the opposite. However, they were FANTASTIC and truly enjoyed being on the water. We didn't see any fish caught but the wildlife viewing was unbelievable. We saw a lot of moose and eagles but perhaps the biggest event of the day was a 10 minute view of a grizzly bear walking down the gravel bar from the Pillars to Eagle Rock. The bear even decided to swim across the river which meant we could get a close up view. I told the guys that this was the third time in 22 years that I've seen bears in the lower Kenai River. One of the guys said, "this is the first time in 53 years that I've seen a bear." I wish the fishing would have been better but I know memories of a lifetime were made that day.

Pretty neat.

This week I do not have very many fishing outings (which the timing isn't bad considering the condition of the river) so will help my friends Andy & Jeremy remodel the Coho cabin. We've got most of the work done but need to apply paint and carpet. As soon as the work is done we'll have to go out and see if the river has cleared up.

Update on the saltwater fishing. Halibut fishing has been great and the salmon are starting to cooperate. Jane, Andy, Maggie, Jeremy, Joanna and I have scheduled a halibut trip with Capt. Peter on June 2nd. I'm taking my dramamine well in advance....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

first day fishing on the Kenai

Today was my first official trip on the Kenai River. The event was the "Take A Kid Fishing" day sponsored by Kenai River Professional Guides Association. I've guided in this the past 4 years and have really enjoyed it. Our clients are area elementary school students that have achieved some sort of milestone the past school year and are rewarded by their teachers/principals with a day on the Kenai. One year I had a boat full of kids that had perfect attendance, everyone in this year's group won a school essay contest.

As guides we know that the fishing will be great but the catching is another matter. We take about 120 kids each year and anywhere from 3-10 kings will be caught. This year we managed to land 3 and unfortunately my streak of landing a king 2 years in a row was broken. Anyway, because we know the catch rate is low we tend to make this a day that involves things other than being in a boat. We meet at 8:00am and McDonalds donates breakfast for everyone. We load up the boats, fish, and then get off of the river by noon. We all meet again for a lunchtime barbecue and then we give each kid a new fishing pole and tackle box. All in all a fun 1/2 day for everyone.

One last thought. What amazes me about this event is how very few of these kids have been on the Kenai. This river is in their backyard and for a number of reasons they have not been in a boat on the river. I feel happy to show it to them for the first time and hope it's not their last.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Les Anderson Day

May 19th, 1985, local fisherman Les Anderson caught a new world record king salmon on the Kenai River. The leviathan weighed 97.4lbs and the record still stands today. Les passed away four years ago and in his memory the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce started Les Anderson Day. Not a lot of fanfare other than a salmon bake/barbecue at the Soldotna Creek Park but it is well attended. Rumor has it that Hobo Jim will be playing so Jane and I will try to make it this year.

The Kenai River has produced 8 out of the top 10 king salmon caught on rod and reel but it's not the world record that makes May 19th, 1985 a special day for me. I was a college student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks at that time and at the end of the school year my dad and brother decided to see Alaska and to fish. While they were here the headline in the Anchorage paper said "New World Record King Salmon Caught on the Kenai." My dad asked where is this "Ken-ay" River. I told him it was about a 12 hour drive from Fairbanks. Needless to say we jumped in the car and the next day we were fishing the mighty Kenai. My dad caught a 30-35lb king that day right out in front of Beaver Creek (karma?). My brother and I didn't get a bite but I was truly impressed with the river and the size of my dad's first Kenai king salmon. 22 years later I'm still impressed with this river and can't imagine being anywhere else in the summer.

Updates on the spring cleaning/maintenance. The Chinook, Sockeye, Coho cabins and the office have been stained, 2 new hot water heaters have been installed, 2 natural gas lines have been run, the dock is in, and new steps have been installed. The only major item left is to add a loft to the Coho cabin and that work will begin next week.

Tomorrow is the first guided trip of the season. I will give an update later.

Happy Les Anderson Day, and happy birthday big brother Tim.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

First fish of the year

Yesterday I decided to break in my new motor . The manual says it takes 10 hours so I prepared for a long day. Now if you ever "broke in" a new motor you know that it's a tedious process. For the first hour you cruise at 1/4 throttle, the second hour at 1/2 throttle and the next 8 hours at variable speed. It was during the variable speed (i.e. trolling) that I decided to wet a line. After about an half hour I had my first bite and first fish. It was a small northern pike. A little bit later I had my second bite and it was an arctic char. It was gorgeous, probably 6 pounds. After I let the fish go I thought of my dad. He has never caught an arctic char. How do I know this? If he did it would be mounted and on the wall. Except for rough fish my dad has mounted nearly every species of fish he has caught. There are no arctic char on his walls. The last count of mounted fish (which my mother can tell you exactly how many there are) is over 90 fish. 90 fish! His accumulation of fish began with a northern pike he caught in 1969 in Pierre, South Dakota. I was there with him when he caught it. The addiction continued shortly thereafter with a bass from Lake Carlos. I was with him when he caught that one too. I think he needs to come and catch an arctic char....I digress.

Every thing worked great with the motor, caught a couple of fish, and had a great day on the water in Alaska. My only company on the lake were the moose, loons, and bald eagles.

One last thing, I mentioned that the sun is coming up at 5:30 and setting by 10:30. Everyday it's gaining over 5 minutes of daylight. On my drive to the lake I heard on the radio that we have over 19 hours of usable light right now. Incredible.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

And the fun begins.....

The annual rites of spring have begun for Jane an I. After filling up two vehicles in Anchorage with box store goodies we made the three hour drive to Beaver Creek. I forget how beautiful the drive is through the mountains and around the ocean. Every time I make the drive it's not until we reach Kenai Lake (the headwaters of the mighty Kenai) that I feel like I've truly arrived. For those of you who have made the drive I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. The glacial, tourquoise tint of the water is like none other in the world. Jane and I feel fortunate to call this home for six months out of the year.

We arrived at Beaver Creek to find everything in good shape. Jane has already finished painting the inside of one cabin and I've replaced an old set of steps. We plan to stain the exterior of two cabins, replace two water heaters, put out the dock, and remodel the Coho cabin. We hope to have all this done by the end of the month. Shouldn't be a problem because we are not that busy yet and the sun is coming up at 5:30am and setting at 10:30pm....lots of daylight makes for long, productive days.

Some new news on my office (boat). Because Jane had to bail me out on several occasions last season, due to motor difficulties, she insisted that I put on a new motor for this season.

Poor me.

Tomorrow I will try to find a lake that is ice free and slowly break the motor in. It'll take about ten hours and I'll need to have it done before my first trip on May 20th. I could take it out on the river but the water is extremely low and I don't want to damage my lower unit on my first outing. Most of you see the Kenai in the summer and would be amazed how low it is in the spring. Unlike most rivers in the lower 48, the Kenai, which is glacier fed, is at it's maximum water volume in the heat of the summer. This is always a strange thing for a kid who grew up next to the Mississippi River/Minnesota River.

We will soon start adding pictures to the blog. I'm not quite sure how to do it, but I know Jane will figure it out.

To steal my brother's sign off.........Later.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Beginning of Self Indulgence

Apparently my sister believes that my wife and I lead an interesting life and that the cyber world would like us to share our stories. I'm not so sure but after a lengthy discussion we decided that a blog about our life in Alaska would be a good way for our families to keep tabs on what we are doing and also for our clients to read about their adventures on the Kenai River.So, we begin......On Tuesday, April 24th we loaded up the car and left Brainerd, Minnesota for Alaska. This year we decided to take a slightly different route so we could visit our friends and clients, Rattlesnake Bob Swan and Eddie Stamper in Montana. We had lunch with Rattlesnake Bob and Eddie along with three other friends of theirs that will be joining them in Alaska this July. It was a great way to change up our trip and enjoy the company of friends.We left Montana on Wednesday and made it to Alaska on Saturday. It was a fairly uneventful trip. We encountered the usual sights, good roads/bad roads, good weather/snowy weather and a fair share of wildlife (caribou, sheep, moose, buffalo).The highlight of the drive, and it's been this way since I first drove the AlCan highway in 1983, is the soak in the hotsprings at Liard River. As one of my friends said years ago, "The good Lord knew what he was doing when he placed them there." It's unbelievable. You soak in the springs for an hour and you completely forget about the 2000 miles you just traveled. Jane and I are now at our cabin in Trapper Creek, Alaska. We'll spend a little bit of time here recovering (and fixing things that are broken)and then we're off to Kenai to open the cabins and get the boat ready for the upcoming season.We'll keep you updated when we get to Kenai.