Tag Archives: salmon

Kenai Burning

The view from the Parks Highway: McKinley Fire

The road to Seward had an unexpected gauntlet north of the town of Willow, Alaska. Severe winds had knocked over a power pole, and the resulting sparks set off a wildfire along the Parks Highway.

The winds were still howling when we went through. Firefighters were on the scene, but things didn’t look good. By the time we made it to Anchorage, we learned that the fire had made the jump, and both sides of the road had flames. The Parks had been closed to traffic behind us.

A smokey Seward Harbor

The high winds continued on the Kenai Peninsula, as we drove south on the Seward Highway. The Swan Lake Fire had been all but contained, but the winds gave it a breath of new life, which closed the Sterling Highway, and left the taste of burning spruce in all of our throats.

Out on Resurrection Bay: Looking back at Seward Harbor

Once on the water, the smoke diminished some, but we didn’t really escape it until we were out in the Gulf of Alaska.

To date, Seward had seen 2.25″ of rain, which is unheard of. They normally see 64″ in a year. The town of Homer had been hit even harder still, with only 1.15″ of rain this season. Needless to say, the Kenai Peninsula is seeing drought conditions.

The fishing was good, and at times great. There was no rain in the foreseeable forecast, so no one had rain jackets. The temps were in the 70’s F, and we all ended up fishing in short sleeves. Out of all my trips to Alaska’s coast to fish, this one may have been the most surreal.


Sunrise over Resurrection Bay



Alaska Wild Salmon Day

We have circled around once again to the day we officially celebrate the wild salmon here in Alaska. It can not be stressed enough how this aquatic migrator is vital to both Alaska’s economy and psyche.

Festivities can be found throughout Alaska today. Events include everything from catching & cleaning, to preparing our favorite fish. I’m sure you can even find some salmon poetry if you look for it.

So, grab that rod and get out on a river bank or climb over the gunwales and wet your line. The salmon are running.


Warm waters thought to be culprit with salmon deaths

Dead chum salmon found on the Koyukuk River; Photo credit: ADF&G

Salmon carcasses have been found in large numbers from Norton Sound, all the way up the Yukon River drainage.

Reports of children being able to catch chums with their hands in the Yukon are also coming in. The salmon appear to be completely disorientated.

On one bank of the Koyukuk, over 100 dead chum salmon were counted.

Fish & Game officials, as well as residents along the rivers report that when cut open, the salmon still have eggs or sperm inside. That means that they have not spawned yet.

Dead pink salmon along the Shaktoolik River; Photo credit: Sophia Katchatag, Community coordinator for Shaktoolik

The best guess right now is that the high water temperatures have stressed the salmon out before they can reach their spawning grounds. The waters of Norton Sound, the Koyukuk River and the Shaktoolik River are all well above average. The water temperatures for the Yukon River have been at the highest level ever recorded this summer.


Wild Salmon Day

It’s Alaska’s third annual Wild Salmon Day. Events and salmon barbecues are being held throughout the state today. Get out and enjoy some wild Alaska salmon.


The Gateway to Kenai Fjords

Back from our fishing trip to Seward, Alaska. Here are just a few of the Seward Sights:

Upon arrival, we hit the beach in late afternoon to wet our lines. This seagull watched patiently, hoping we would eventually catch it a salmon dinner.

Apparently, Seward is the Mural Capital of Alaska, a tidbit that had eluded me up until this past week. This one graces the wall of The Fish House, which is a great place to pick up any gear that one leaves in Fairbanks. It is also a pretty kick-ass hardware store.

Seward is the southern terminus for the Alaska Railroad. Across the street from the little depot, is one of the best breakfast places in town, called The Smoke Shack. This small diner is located in a complex known as The Train Rec. Made up of several retired Alaska Railroad cars, The Train Rec has a great view of the harbor.


The Train Rec complex


Gone Fishing

Catch you all later.

Photo credit: Charles M. Schulz


Kenai River Kings


Salmon fishing the Kenai River

The salmon reports continue to be bad. Alaska Fish & Game shut down king salmon fishing on the famed Kenai River. It had been down to catch & release on the Kenai, but now even that is closed. The latest closure has the entire river shut down for the remainder of June, at that time the lower portion of the Kenai would open, but the upper river would remain closed.

An extremely poor return of adult kings to the river prompted the closing. As of 17 June, only 2182 kings had swam past the Fish & Game’s sonar counter.

This is the second major closing of salmon fisheries in as many weeks.


The Kenai River


Copper River Salmon


Salmon fishing the Copper River near Chitina, Alaska

Alaska’s famed Copper River is seeing a brutal return number of salmon so far this summer. The return is so low, that an emergency order closing the Chitina area to dipnetting was issued last week. Since statehood, Alaska has never closed the river to dipnetters.

This is a blow to Alaskans and their freezers.

During an average summer, 7000 Alaskans head to Chitina to dipnet the Copper River. 170,000 salmon are caught this way every year.

Until 2018.

Dipnetting is an Alaskan tradition, since only residents can get a license to dipnet. It’s how many fill their freezers with salmon for the year, and Interior Alaskans in particular, love making the drive to Chitina for this special personal use fishery.

This really is historic, and it has a lot of people on edge. Biologists have pointed blame at “The Blob”, which was a large mass of unusually warm water that took up residence in the Gulf of Alaska from 2014 to 2016.

Commercial fisheries are also feeling the heat, as they saw the second lowest take in 50 years. The commercial fishery was shut down in May by the Alaska Fish & Game.

There is nothing easy about dipnetting The Copper. The river roars past the steep banks, forcing dipnetters to tie themselves off to rocks or trees to keep from being dragged into the deadly cold water. It’s a helluva workout, holding that huge net out into the flowing water, and if a king hits that net, hold on! It’s quite the experience, and you will sleep well at the end of a long day in the river.


The Chitina River, near Chitina, Alaska. Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak T-Max 120

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Not to be outdone, the Ship Creek King Salmon Derby in Anchorage saw their worst year yet. The contest on Ship Creek has been held since 1993, and they had the smallest king ever win the derby at less than 29 pounds. Only 98 kings were entered into the derby total, when in past years they saw that number entered in a day. The winning angler still walked away with $4000 worth of gold & silver.

Needless to say, the price of salmon will be going up.