Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Marlin Perkins hour.

A little late but nonetheless I figured a descent topic. The Sockeye salmon run has come and gone, with a two month window now for catching silver salmon other wise known in the fish world as Coho. The Sockeye salmon run took place in a few week period back in July. Sockeye's are referred to as red's, due to the rich red color of their meat. They are a very abundant species, but the key is to catch them in their run up the rivers to spawn. And, that only takes place in that two or three week window.

After they hatch, Sockeye's will spend several years in their freshwater spawning grounds before they migrate to the sea. There they will spend up to four years in the salt water before returning to their original spawning grounds to lay their eggs. Yes, they return to their original place of birth. It is believed that they have some kind of smell for the stream in which they were hatched. Once they lay their eggs, they will die. Now, Imagine not just a few but thousands of these fish at a time making their run upstream. this is where it gets good!

These runs of reds in this window of opportunity will range from a mere few thousand, up to a range of 50,000 in a single day. And this will go on for the duration of the few week run period, daily! There is actually a little man that sits underwater, at the bottom of the river near the mouth of the river. He has a pencil and a pad of paper and he counts them! Actually, modern times have evolved from that little guy at the bottom to an actual sonar that counts each days total.

During the period of Sockeye run there are two sure fire ways to limit out on your daily catch of reds. Dip netting is a phenomenon that occurs every summer. This is accomplished by wading into the river and extending out a net attached to a 10 - 15 foot poll and waiting for the fish to literally swim into the net. Families will drop everything....literally....and flock to the banks of the rivers to catch their limit of 25 per head of household and 10 for each other member. This fishery is only for Alaskan residents, and many people will fill their freezers and stock their pantries by this method.

The other is the old fashioned way. A stick with a line and hook! This is often a phenomenon in itself as out of staters, locals, and about every other type of person you could think of line the banks...and this is no joke, elbow to elbow to catch their 3 per day limit. unlike most fishing that one would experience, reds fishing is not done with bait, spinners, or any other kind of sexy set-ups. In fact, these are all illegal methods. And no wonder when the only thing on this fishes mind is getting upstream to fornicate! So, how do you catch a red your asking?? Take a moment and do this exercise. Say out loud (so your spouse in the other room or the guy in the cubicle next to you can wonder what in hell you are doing) the word....DUH. Seriously, lets all say it..."DUH!" Now keep the position of your mouth in the "uh" position and hold it. "UUUUUHHHHH". This is what a sockeye looks like while swimming upstream. Now my daddy always told me to keep my mouth shut while running up anything, but apparently this is not so with the sockeye. The method used to catch these amazing species of fish is to just hope that while it is swimming with the "uhhhhh" going on, is that your hook will be in the right place at the right time to go right into it's mouth! or rather, it's mouth go right into the hook. But remember, as you are thinking that I am totally screwing with you, your odds are 5,000 to 50,000 that you will snag one. Imagine a school of wall to wall reds swimming just feet from the shore. It is almost like, pardon the pun, shooting a fish in a barrel.

We were blessed with using the lodges boat and our buddy Gilligan, to travel up river and find good areas along the banks that were inaccessible to most people "just out to fish", thus avoiding all of that hub bub of combat fishing and elbow to elbow gig. We often would go out in the late evenings. Remember, with it staying light out until 2:00AM that time of year..... And so we would, fish out in the Kenai until midnight or in some cases literally until 2:00AM! There really is no better feeling that I can think of off the top of my head, than to be butt high in the rush of glacier run off, casting and reeling in repeatedly patiently waiting for the "duh factor" to snag you a Sockeye. Keep in mind, on those days where the counts are 50,000 or better, we would cast in and within the first few casts would have a fish on the line. Seriously. The absolute rush of having one of these huge fish snag onto your line is something that you have not experienced until you have felt the sensation. It is a fight between you, the fish who is not real enthused about running into your hook, and the current. Often times the fish and/or the current will win, hands down. But with patience, a good jerk back on your pole when you feel the strike and a net preferably with a buddy to maneuver it, you will surely land your red. I thought a trout on the line was a rush! Nothing compares to this. Oh, that is the other have to hook it in the mouth. Any other place than the mouth is an illegal catch, and the fish will have to be released. And Fish & Game do hide in bushes, and cruise the river with binoculars and photographic memory to make sure that you are legally catching, and aren't limiting out in one place, and then moving down river to limit out in another in the same day.

Mind you, this is only one aspect of the many fisheries that the great state of Alaska has to offer. Maryann landed a King salmon last month on a boat on the Kenai river. Now this is a whole other program for another day. These species are gargantuan and like in her case took 20 minutes to reel in. Snap! She also had the opportunity to fly in to back country lakes last month. Places that are only accessible by float plane! She had the experience of catching and releasing Grayling and Arctic Char to name a couple. The trip in itself was a true experience for her. Not only in itself, but also because she was abe to experience it with only the pilot, and our new found friend of 'Quicksilver Messenger Service.' She even got a chance to fly in to Dick Proenneke's remote cabin located in the middle of nowhere...the bush. This man is an amazing part of the Alaskan dream and I included a link that I highly recommend you take some time and read about. It is an amazing story of true grit, skill, survival and determination. Alone in the Wilderness, the story of Dick Proenneke, by Bob Swerer Productions

It's true that this great state is truly the 'last frontier'. And the beauty and fun that it has to offer is such a great opportunity. Am I trying to sell you on visiting Alaska....well, the Alaska Division of Tourism would certainly appreciate it! But seriously, it is something to see. My parents, for example, made the time during their visit in June to take the train up to Fairbanks, and to this day still talk about it. What an experience! So save your pennies, save your dimes....come to Alaska! Experience life in the 'great land'! As you said Erin, and I quote, "why would anyone want to leave this place"! I guarentee you....we aren't anytime soon. Why would anyone want to?!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Love Fest 2009 at West Fest 2009

Wow. Can you believe the summer is about least in the Northland! Furthermore I cannot believe that it has officially been over 1 month since I last posted....OMG! And now, there is so much to catch up on that I don't even know where to begin, much less think I will even try. So, you will have to forever wonder about the August of 2009! Maybe easier to fast forward to present.

We officially are going back to Cali in October for a visit and to celebrate Love Fest 2009. This will be Maryann's first trip back since the loading over two years ago, and she is really looking forward to the affirmation of why we left in the first place! Me, I could go either way. My last visit was subtle and very enjoyable, but it was so, so good to get back to Alaskan soil. I am reluctant to mention the dates publicly as we are booked solid and not taking anymore personal visit reservations. However, have your people contact my people and we could always arrange to meet somewhere along the way if we aren't coming to your town! lol Ha! I do know we are looking forward to a long and fruitful visit to the coast, and there are rumors of a road trip to the happiest place on earth....Disneyland! One event we are looking forward to during Love Fest 2009, will be a day at 'West Fest', a free concert in Golden Gate Park labeled as the Woodstock 40 year anniversary concert. That ought to be a hoot! Speaking of which, thanks Uncle Bob for the forward of Joe Cockers Woodstock performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends". I can honestly say that what was once what I considered to be the 'anthem of a generation' has been morbidly transformed in my mind and I will never be able to watch that video of Woodstock and look at it that song the same.....ever, ever again! lol

This past weekend yielded the remainder of our firewood for the 2009/2010 winter season. We felled much beetle kill spruce which I have been eyeballing down in the lower property for a while now. Then skidded it up to the top with the bulldozer and now it awaits processing over the course of the next few weeks. Plus now we have a cush road that I can take the truck to access the lower end. This new haul coupled with the already roughly 8 cords of split and seasoned firewood ought to run us through the winter comfortably. In fact there is much to do at the compound in preparation of the coming season. Today we woke to 35 degrees, which is a first for the summer, so fall is definitely in the air. Coupled with projects inside that we have had in progress and have in mind for the coming months, it is going to be a busy fall, ending what has been a busy and exciting summer. The freezer is stocked with plenty of salmon, and a bit of halibut, and Maryann is investing in a pressure cooker to begin canning this fall. This will be a first for us, but we are looking forward to stocking the cold storage room with some good canned salmon and veggies.

Maryann has also taken to horseback riding! Interesting. She seems to enjoy it and is cute in her cowboy boots....giddyuppeah! Now all she needs is a cowboy hat and some butt less chaps to finalize the visual....or at least a pair of green tights, for the privledged few that know the story.....heehee!! It was a rather slow summer at the lodge for her compared to last summer, so she had a little more time to focus and of course with her experience from the first summer helping her, and the ever present deletion of 'Sweet Pea' from her life forever and ever, all in all it went well. Probably about another month and she will start to shift from the lodge to working out of home for the winter. And, johns old room will house a comfortable new space for her desk/office. In fact, Johns old room will be an asset to the comfort of our home soon as it will house the comforts of the workout room/music room/den/M's office. it is still in the progress of the little renovation/remodel we are doing to it, but with any luck and some perseverance, that should be complete within the next couple of weeks with move-in scheduled for the first part of September. Speaking of which, I am supposed to be in there as I write working diligently towards the completion. So, on that note I bid you farewell for now. I leave with this one comment.....I promise it wont be another month before the next post! If anybody is even with us at this point anymore!! lol Take care and our love to all. Be back later in the week.