Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jane: 2012 Retrospect

                          Jane digging razor clams near Clam Gulch in May.

If it weren't for my wife Jane, Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service would not exist.   She works her tail off handling guests, maintaining and cleaning the cabins, and perhaps biggest of all, taking care of me.   To put it bluntly, she lets me fish and takes care of everything else.

So, looking over the photos from the 2012 season, I was glad to find quite a few of Jane recreating on the Peninsula.   It's good to see that in between the demands of running a seasonal business she/we found time to enjoy the bounties that Alaska has to offer.

......halibut in June on Cook Inlet. salmon fishing in July on the Kenai River.

....catching red salmon  in July on the Kenai River.

.....silver salmon fishing in August.

I know in a million years Jane would have never imagined that she would be doing what she's doing today.   But you know, it's what John Lennon said:  life is what happens when you make other plans.   Keep in mind, he also said:  I am the walrus, googoogachoo!  Ha!

I'm lucky guy to have a partner in Jane.   By the way, Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas

'Tis the Season.

Merry Christmas from the both of us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sign the Petition

If you're reading this blog I know that you are a sportfisherman.   A link was sent to me about a petition to take a serious look at the incidental bycatch of halibut and chinook salmon in the Alaska trawl fishery.   If you care about the future of sportfishing in Alaska, click here and sign the petition.   

I am not against commercial fishing and believe it should not be shut down but this particular method needs to be modified so there is less bycatch kill of non-targeted species.   If the trawlers are not held accountable there will be no change.

Let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Circle Hooks for Sockeye

The whole point of this blog is to share, educate, and inform.  This past summer I learned a great tip for catching sockeye (red) salmon and I hope readers of this blog will try it.  It is nearly fool proof and is perhaps the best method of legally and efficiently hooking a sockeye salmon that I know of.

Using a circle hook for sockeye salmon first came to my attention last winter.   One of the most knowledgeable fisherman I know, Francis Estalilla, the Fishin' Physician, told me he first experimented with circle hooks during the 2011 season.   Between Francis and his fishing buddies they hooked legally in the mouth over 130 sockeye salmon using circle hooks.....not one illegally snagged.   I'm skeptical of many fisherman, but Francis' information has been sound and this concept intrigued me.

Fast forward to 2012.  When the king salmon fishery closed in July I had an opportunity to give circle hooks a try for sockeyes.  I gave Francis a call to see if I could join him on a gravel bar to watch and learn what he was doing.  After about 10 minutes of watching the clinic that Francis and his buddies were putting on, I asked if he had an extra circle hook for me to use because I wanted to try it for myself.   He gave me one and it didn't take long before I caught and landed my first sockeye. 

I fished circle hooks for the rest of the sockeye run and I'll have to say the results were impressive.   It wasn't completely foolproof, I managed to snag a couple of fish in the fin, but compared to a standard octupus hook it was a non factor.   There's no doubt in my mind if circle hooks were used by the anglers who do the "Kenai Rip" or "Kenai Jerk" very few of these fish would be snagged and would not have to be released either injured or dead.   Defintely a better way to legally target sockeye salmon.

What do they look like?  The hook on the left is a Gamakatsu Nautilus circle hook.  The hook on the right is a standard Octopus hook.   The size that seems to work best on the middle and lower Kenai is a 2/0.   To be properly rigged use a 25lb test line for a leader and tie a standard bumper loop knot, but only do this with 2-3 twists.  If you do more than this the angle of your hook will be too severe and will not find a proper purchase in the mouth of the fish.   To finish off the rig tie a small piece of yarn on the loop (take a look at the top photo for a reference).

Because a circle hook is different than the standard sockeye rig on the Kenai the technique is slightly different as well.   Your flipping will be the same but your hook set will be different.  Instead of an agressive "jerk" set when you feel the bite with a standard rig, with a circle hook you'll lift your rod tip up slow and steady until you feel weight.  Fish on!  If you "let her rip" when fishing a cirlce hook you will pull the hook through the mouth too quickly and that will result in a missed fish.


Seeing is believing when it comes to using a circle hook.  The mechanics of how a circle hook works can best be seen in the video above. 
A final thought.  One thing I found by using circle hooks is that I'll have less "action" than fisherman who aren't using them  This is because the majority of their fish were snagged in the back or belly and had to be released.  I'll definitely take less action when I know I injure less fish and reach a legal limit (usually) more quickly than a non-circle hook sockeye fisherman.   It's a win/win!
So, in 2013 don't be afraid to give the fish friendly circle hooks a try for sockeyes.  I think you'll like the results.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Kenai Profiles: Todd Laflamme

This post has been long overdue.   When I first came up with the idea of "Kenai Profiles" I had a handful of people that I knew immediately were blog worthy.  But for some reason, I've put off profiling my long time friend, Todd Laflamme.  I guess it's one of those things that's been too close to me and unfortunately I've probably taken it for granted.  Not anymore.   I don't know about you but the benchmark that I use in determining the depth of a friendship is whether or not I would call a person at 2:00am if my truck broke down.  Todd is one of those guys I could call in the morning, during dinner, at 1:00am, 2:00am, 3:00am, doesn't matter.  He'd answer the phone and say "what do you need?"  How great is that? 

I first met Todd in 1982 when we both enrolled at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.  Todd came from Connecticut and I came from Minnesota.   We lived in the same dorm and it didn't take too long to figure out we had a lot of similar interests.   I'll have to say some of my best adventures in college happened with Todd.   Hiking, fishing, and camping from Denali to Homer, whenever we had any extended time off  we would try find a way to get out and explore Alaska.   We still try to do this even today.

Since graduation Todd has lived in Anchorage.    He worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for many years but now works with his father-in-law and son at Northern Meats, a wholesale meat distributor located in Anchorage.   Keep that in mind whenever you're ordering a steak at restaurant in probably came from the crew at Northern Meats.
It wouldn't be a blog if I didn't share a few photos.  Here's the Laflamme family after a morning of silver fishing on the Kenai.  That's Kim, his wife, on the left, Todd in the middle, and Alec, his son, on the right.
Since Jane and I have owned Beaver Creek Cabins, Todd has made it a point to bring his mom and dad down to the Peninsula to recreate.   Bob, aka Dean-O, is one of a kind and Janet is a treasure.    Definitely one of our highlights each summer.

Here's Janet and Todd in the spring of 2012 walking the beaches near Ninilchik in pursuit of razor clams.

I do feel bad that I don't have any photos of Todd's in-laws, Jerry and Donna to post.  They too have been down to fish and dig clams but I fortunately did not have my digital camera with me when they were here.   I'll get 'em next time.

No other way to end this profile other than saying:  amigo, brother, bud, pal, compadre, cohort, comrade, dip net deck boss, walker of dogs, procurer of meat,  cleaner of clams, call Todd what you will, he's just a good guy and a good friend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Family, food, and football.

Hey everybody, have a great week.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fishin' With Dave

Here's a guy that has a real passion for life, Dave Anderson.  If you don't believe me, take a look at his blog, Fishin' with Dave.    His blog is my absolute favorite and I always enjoy reading his well written posts about his daily life.   Go ahead, click on the link,  I know if you like reading mine you'll be a fan of his as well.

Dave and I go back to 2000 when I met him on his first trip to the Kenai River.    At the time I was guiding for Jeff King and by luck I just happened to get Dave and his crew for the day.   It didn't take me long to figure out I liked this guy.   Maybe it's the Minnesota/Wisconsin connections (I grew up in Minnesota but my birthplace was Green Bay, Wisconsin) but I think it's more than that.    Dave is just one of those guys that you're instantly comfortable around.

Since our first meeting, Dave has made it back to Alaska every pink year except for 2010.   Even though our cabins are always full when he comes (it's during the Blinn group), Dave always finds time to call or to stop by to say hello.   Some times he brings freshly picked sweet corn from Minnesota, some times he's bringing me a new lure to try out.    It's all good.  If you haven't guessed, that's Dave in the photo above holding a pair of Kenai silvers caught this past August. 

Here's Dave's 2012 crew.  From left to right is Greg, Dave, Steve, Mark and Tom.  This is limit of silvers taken on a fly in trip to the Bachatna River.      

Ahhh, next time Dave try to catch a fish with the fillets still attached...... 

Our sport show season is just around the corner and this is another time of the year we get to see Dave.   Jane and I always look forward to visiting with him and can't wait to find out if his recent posts are all true.... just like mine!       

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day 11/6/2012


Tomorrow is election day. 

Do your civic duty.  Vote early and vote often!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mark Stopha

During the flood in September a couple of college buddies came down to fish for silvers.   The timing for catching fish was lousy but getting together and swapping stories was priceless.   Todd Laflamme took this photo of Mark Stopha.  Now, according to Mark, the reason he's sitting down and casting is he has a bad back.   Do you think Todd and I bought that?

It was great spending time with the Big Man.  Todd and I hope to reciprocate the trip and get down to Juneau next year to do a little fishing and hunting with him (hmmm, wonder if he hunts sitting down too?).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fishing Report Week Ending 10/14/12

The one that got away.....

And the one that didn't.....

The photos above from this past week kind of summarize the 2012 season.    Up and down, lucky and unlucky, hot and cold.  Pick your description. It was just a weird season and if you didn't roll with the punches most likely the only things that will get you through the winter are therapy or self medication.

2012 was a season of under abundance and over abundance;  not many king or silver salmon, a whole bunch of red and pink salmon.   It was an unprecendented year for the people that manage the fisheries.   A June/July closure for king salmon and a September/October closure due to high water.    My hats are off to them for trying to juggle what is best for the resource versus sport, commercial, and subsistence interests.    Not a job I would want because no matter what decisions you make at least one user group will be angry with you.

The good news is I'm looking forward to 2013.   One year does not make a trend and I'm optimistic that mother nature will take care of herself and the Kenai will continue to be an international destination for recreation.

My final thought about the 2012 fishing season.  I want to thank everyone that booked a trip with me.  I'm humbled by the people that keep coming back and for the people who, after having the choice of hundreds of guides on this river, decided to take a chance and chose me.  After all these years, my goal is simple and has not changed:  give you the best day on the river that I can.

See you next week.     

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fishing Report Week Ending 10/7/12

After closing to all boat traffic on September 24th due to flooding, the Kenai River reopened on October 3rd.  I had several groups affected by this closure, but now I can officially say my 2012 guiding season has come to an end.   This, however, doesn't mean I've stopped fishing.
I got a call from my friend Boo and he said he was having a lot of silver success in the middle Kenai.  There are a lot of guys I don't always trust to give an accurate fishing report, but Boo's word is as good as gold.  He asked if I wanted to go with him the next day.  Needless to say he didn't have to ask me twice.  Well, I'll never be the guy that says you should have been here yesterday, as we  had a good trip, but not like the day before ( when 14 silvers were caught).  In a couple of hours we caught 3 silvers and had that many follow ups.
Since fishing with Boo I've fished a couple of times on the lower river.  Believe it or not there are still a few pink salmon biting out there.   I did manage to catch one nice silver that will taste great on the grill.
Finally, in the world of photoshop, often it's hard to believe photos that are passed around on the internet.  The photos of this brown bear were taken with an iPhone and I will absolutely verify it's authenticity.  That's my friend Kyle posing with his trophy which measured just under 10 feet.  He shot this bear last week near Fallen In Hole on the Kenai River.  For Dan and Mary Meyer and all the guys in the Blinn group, there's no doubt you've probably seen this bear.  
Kyle has a great story about shooting this bear and learned that this bear was tagged near Tustumena Lake in 1999 as a 6 year old.  That makes this boar 19 years old.  It's amazing that it in all these years it hadn't become a casualty of DLP (defense of life or property) considering that it's been living in close proximity to two communities.  Kyle says he plans on having a full body mount done.

It's sad but this will be my last week of fishing before the boat and dock come out for the year.  Make sure to check for one last river report before Jane and I shut everything down.  See you then.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Emergency Landing on the Kenai River

Back in  the mid '90's I decided to get a private pilots license.  I remember during my training I had a bumpy landing and I told my instructor I wanted to practice it again.  He said the landing was fine and that we were done for the day.  He said, "any time you can land a plane it's a good landing.  Any time you can use a plane a second time it's a great landing."   What you see above is a great landing.

Friday afternoon Dan Meyer and I were heading out of Beaver Creek with the anticipation of catching a couple of silver salmon.  Just before we made it to the mouth Dan saw flashing lights and asked if there were cops on the river.  I knew that it couldn't be the cops and quickly determined it was a plane that had just landed near the gravel bar.  We motored down to see if everything was okay.  The pilot was fine but he said he could use a tow to Beaver Creek because the in coming tide would surely cause problems to the beached plane.

We rigged up a tow strap and gave the plane a tow.  

Since I had open space on the dock it only made sense to tow it there.  The pilot told me that he was flying the plane for a friend from Lake Clark to Soldotna.  Not long after take off, the throttle stuck and he thought about making an emergency landing on Big River Lake but the waves were too high and most likely the plane would crash.  He decided to fly over Cook Inlet to land the plane on Mackey Lake were a mechanic resided.   Well, he didn't quite make it to Mackey Lake.  He lost all power and luckily dead sticked it to the lower Kenai River right in front of Beaver Creek.  

The plane sat on our dock until the owner could make it down on Monday.  He had a mechanic take a look at the plane and they found nothing wrong....except for no fuel in the tanks.  After filling the plane with fuel he took off from the dock and was airborne in no time.

Here he is banking the plane at the mouth of the creek on his way to Mackey Lake.

Definitely a little more excitement in a crazy 2012 season.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fishing Report Week Ending 9/24/12

Careful for what you wish for.

On my last report I said the weather forecast for the week ahead called for rain.  Holy cow, were the meteorologist right.  So right that on Friday the governor of Alaska declared the Kenai Peninsula Borough a state disaster area.

Luckily, I didn't have a full week of guided fishing so every couple of hours I could run down to the dock and bilge the water out of the boats.  When I wasn't around Dan Meyer did it for me.
On Tuesday, I had a trip and I decided to take a twirl down the river to see if there was any damage from all the rain.   All up and down the bluff by the sonar counter, trees were washed down into the river.   Many of the homes that sit atop the bluff are perilously close to falling into the river.  It's a mess and my guess is that these trees will not be gone until the spring ice break up.
This is the clay bank just downstream from Beaver Creek (for all you Blinn guys this is where you stand to watch for bears).  For the last four days, this has looked like a waterfall and as I write it hasn't slowed down.
 Another photo of the bluff and the damage that has been done.
Here's the only photo this week of sunshine.  I was hoping to have many photos of Dan and Mary Meyer with their fish but I guess this will have to do.   With the challenges of high and muddy water,  I wasn't too eager to be guiding.  I tried hard to talk these two out of fishing but they were adamant and said this is why they are here.  They said they'd take their chances and enjoy their time on the water, fish or no fish.  Wow, I can't say enough about these two.
Well here it is, the only fish photo from this past week  This is Bruce Warden holding up one of the two silver salmon that we caught all week.   Bruce was up here spending time with his son Aaron.  All I can say is they both receive the "Atta Boy" award for patiently waiting for a bite. 

Crazy photo during a crazy week, right?  This story deserves more than just a sentence or two so I'm teasing you with this until my next post.                                                                                                

Until then, stay dry!                                                                                                                                  


Monday, September 17, 2012

Fishing Report Week Ending 9/17/12

The biologists at Fish and Game say that there are two runs of silvers in the Kenai River and that the second run peaks during the middle of September.  Boy, sure haven't seen it so far.  The fishing has been steady and we are catching silvers every day but not once this past week did I utter the phrase, "do you want to end your day early and keep your last fish or do you want to keep on fishing?"  Fish on is what we did.

Above is Bill and Linda Boettcher.  You may remember them from my report at the end of July when they came down to fish for kings but ended up fishing for reds.  It was great visiting with them on the boat and not on the bank this time.  Thought I'd share a couple of adventures we had on this day that both led to a lost fish.  The first happened near the Pasture.  There were only three boats in the entire lineup and a fourth boat came down and decided to fish less than 100 feet from us.   They seemed way too close and when Bill hooked a fish that got into their anchor rope it was obvious they WERE too close.  No apologies, no acknowledgement, no words of sympathy, no attempts to get out of the way when they saw we had a fish on.  Just three guys untangling our lure from their anchor line with nothing to say.   Very disappointing considering the river was virually empty and they chose to fish so close to us.  The second lost fish came about when Linda hooked a nice silver and it ran to the middle of the river.  A seal decided it was an easy meal and grabbed on to it and wouldn't let go.  Took the fish and one of the hot lures of the week.  Oh well, that's just the way it goes.
It's Dan and Mary Meyer time, version 2.0.  They're back again for a little bit of rest and relaxation.  It's all been good but the salmon are making us work way too hard.  I'm fishing them more in the week ahead so I hope to be posting more photos.
Here's Vern and Nancy Gullikson holding up the second double hook up for the season.  It was great to have these two in the boat again.
Team ABC Seamless made their annual silver run to the Kenai.  From left to right is Brian, Jeff, Nate, and Wally.   We've had better days on the Kenai but Brian reminded me we have also had worse.   Never a bad day when I'm in the boat with these guys.
The Gutter Boys from Team ABC Seamless.  James on the left, Karl on the right.
I had to include this photo of Wally releasing the largest rainbow trout ever caught in my boat on the lower river.  Nate thought it measured out close to 30" but I'm thinking it was closer to 27"-28".   Nonetheless, it was huge and no doubt it will be a topic of conversation for years to come.

The forecast this week looks like normal September weather.....lots of rain and when it doesn't rain  there will be frost in the morning.   This gives me hope that we'll have a normal silver salmon fishing week as well.  You know what, even if we don't we're going to have fun doing it anyway.

See you next week.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fishing Report Week Ending 9/10/12

And the beat goes on.

So far September has been just like August....except less pinks.   We're getting silvers every trip but trying to find a consistent bite has been difficult.   Here's Bruce Miller showing off his first Kenai silver.
This is Brenda Miller with her first silver as well.  Let me tell you I had a great time visiting with these two.  Bruce and Brenda seem to have life figured out.  They are able to spend half of the year in Minnesota (summer) and the other half on Little Cayman Island.   No doubt I sure enjoyed spending the day with people who like their life.

On Tuesday I had the great pleasure of fishing with these three guys, Jimmie, Eric, and Rohan.   All three are college seniors at Northwestern University.   If you're familiar with this college they're known as the Wildcats but after seeing what was on their heads I decided to call them the Northwestern Racoon Skin Caps.
We spent the morning trying to catch silvers and we had some success.  Before the day was over I asked them if they wanted to have some fun and catch a few pinks.  
And, catch we did.  It didn't take too long before Jimmie, Eric, and Rohan had a triple humpy!  
Here's Team Qdoba from Anchorage.  Back in 2009 Paul, Alex, and Amanda fished with me.  This time they brought Ashley and Meghan with.  As you can see they still have the touch.
Here are longtime friends, Jackie and Gary Roeder from Anchorage.   Jackie started the day with a nice silver and then...
Gary finished the day with these two beauties.  It was Gary's birthday on Sunday and I was glad to spend it on the water with him.  Oh, I almost forgot, thanks guys for the great birthday dinner.    I can now officially cross of my list that I've tried boar that came directly from Germany.  Seriously, what an excellent cut of meat.
Finally, here's Jane with her limit of silver salmon.   I had Friday afternoon open and we decided to see if we could catch dinner.   She did, I didn't, but I'm glad she shares.

I have a busy week ahead and I'm excited because it's with a lot of old friends.    Make sure to check back next Monday to see how we did. 

Thanks for readin'.