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 stipulation.....you 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?!!