Monday, August 11, 2014

White Water and Big Fish

One thing we did when staying in Copper Center was a white water rafting/king salmon fishing charter. We did this through Klutina Salmon Charters and they did a great job.  The trip was worth it for the scenery alone, but you do get occasional reminders that life in Alaska lacks a few of the built in safety features that we assume in day to day matters.

You bounce up and down on class II and III rapids.  Here our able guide Glenn mans the oars.  I was put in the back seat.  This could be because folks were being nice and this is the "splash free zone".  Or maybe they figured that if I were bounced off it would be a while before my absence was noticed....

And the rest of our intrepid crew.

From time to time you get off and fish.  As we are after King salmon this involves heavy tackle and a long day of casting.  But even the ladies showed excellent persistence and good technique all day.

The Klutina river runs through a deep valley, with steep crumbly hills on either side.  A decade or so back one of these hills just collapsed into the river, damming it off for about half an hour. Fortunately the flow was gradually able to sneak through otherwise Copper Center would have had a significant flood.  Oh, and the process of erosion is naturally ongoing.  This section of hillside fell in three days prior to this photo being taken.

Lets just take a closer look, shall we?

Notice those fresh looking fissues? I saw a few chunks still crumbling off this rock face as we floated by at short range.  When I showed these photos to one of my sons who had done the same trip the day before he observed that the collapsed area looked a lot bigger to him.  Fortunately we drifted uneventfully to our destination.  Had the river suddenly gone dry I was prepared to sprint to high ground....carrying the largest salmon I could quickly scoop up as it flopped in some shallow pool.

Ah yes, the fishing.  King salmon of course are fighting the swift current on their way upstream to spawn.  You fish for them with this:

It is a nylon bag filled with salmon eggs.  Nobody is really sure why the salmon bite at these.  The prevailing theory is that their urge to have their offspring live long and prosper makes them want to destroy any competition.  When it comes to bloodthirsty dynastic slaughter salmon are the Borgias of the fish world.

We had a tough day.  One bite the whole 8 hours.  But it came to my line and I did not miss.  This was a very determined fish.  It ran upstream pulling out line for as long as it could.  Tiring a bit it did what we did not want it to do at all, it ran downstream.  Now the fish had the power of the current helping it.  Line was running off the reel like mad.  I tried every trick Glen suggested to me and nothing seemed to be working.  Then he informed me that the fish had taken off all the heavy test line and that I was down to the flimsy monofilament line backing.  The next serious tug would break that stuff easily. So I figured, what the heck. And started slogging downstream as fast as I could in clunky waders, reeling back an inch or two each step.

It was an epic fight.  This is certainly the biggest fish I have ever caught and it is unlikely I will try to top it.  I was too tired to do the usual fisherman's cheat, holding the catch at arms length closer to the camera.

In the end our group of eight caught four Kings.  I wanted more of our Alaska first timers to have the experience but that was not to be.  Maybe four is about right though.  As a species King salmon are hitting a tough patch.  The Kenai river, long the world's premier King salmon fishery, had their season closed in 2014 due to low numbers of returning salmon.  There is some speculation that the closure will be for several years.  As to the four we took, well, our trip to Alaska helped support the economy in direct and indirect ways.  Alaska Fish and Game is a very hard working organization who take conservation seriously.  I hope the money we and other visitors send their way furthers the stocking and research efforts that will make this an experience future generations can continue to enjoy.

1 comment:

wynne said...

What a memorable trip for your family to have together. That salmon catching experience sounds so exciting. Hope you get to eat it too, or will that be at home? I'd gladly bring a dish to pass. :)