Fish


So I was just walking up to work and was told “that boat you were fishing on is missing, you should go get online.”  So I walked down to the library and read the horrifying news. I’m a little freaked out, and don’t know what to say, and have no information beyond what I’ve found online.  My thoughts are with the families of those involved, and I’m really really really hoping Mark and Jaime are ok.

UPDATE: Here is the original story from KMXT in Kodiak with some audio, and a locally based reader has updates in the comments of the previous post. Extremely sad, more news here, and here

UPDATE II: I’m being told that the auto pilot failed and capsized the boat.

UPDATE III: Rescue Video now posted bellow.  I’m a little spooked and very sad, may keep updating this as I get more, don’t know what else to do

UPDATE IV: More from APRN

swinging from a purse seine boatSo a few weeks ago while I was sitting in the Cordova Library playing around on the internet and looking for a job a somewhat familiar looking guy  (I must have spoken to him in the bar) asked if I was looking for a job, then told me to call a random number about a deckhand job.  After a short phone call, I was given directions to the boat and told to meet in a half hour.  After some sailing talk on the dock I was offered a job, moved out of my van and onto the boat, and rode out of Cordova on the F/V Advantage that evening around 6 pm, without much of an idea – other then some preposterous Cordova bar rants I’d listened to- as to what I should expect.

Now that I’m back in Cordova and living in a tent, since my boat and crew members left for Kodiak to fish for pot cod , I still haven’t really gotten my head around the last couple of weeks action on the boat, so this post may read like a bunch of unrelated thoughts.

Despite not having any previous experience to use as a baseline the fishing seemed extremely slow.  We struggled to catch in three weeks what my captain was claiming we’d catch every day on that first evening leaving town.  Talk of 70,000 pound sets and catching 100,000 pounds by noon and taking the day off began to seem like a farfetched fantasy on days we made 16 plus sets for a total of 10,000 pounds and caught nothing but water, weeds and jelly fish on a regular basis.

salmon purse seine fishingThat first night on the boat I was told repeatedly that I’d be working harder then I’d ever worked before and have sore muscles that I didn’t now existed, but other then having to skip around semi frantically as I tried to keep from slowing the operation down and some tiredness in my admittedly puny forearms things were generally pretty easy.  After learning to look away from the exploding jelly fish in order to avoid 20 minutes or so of eye pain things became remarkably easier. The realization that every 30 minutes of actual work is followed by a 20 to 200 minutes of standing around as we either re-set our net, or as we waited in line behind other boats really took the fear out of the 18 hour work day.  And after the initial 3 day opening, we were never allowed to fish  more then day on day off, so every actual day of work was followed by a day of lounging around on deck trying to kill time.  The amount of reading I got done in three weeks actually frightened me.

Seine fishing in PWS Alaska

Rather then the complete solitude and days that go by without spotting another boat while sailing with Gary and Norm out of Seward, I don’t think there was any point in the last 3 weeks when another boat wasn’t within eye site.  Despite our Captain’s reluctance to wait in line and penchant for avoiding other boats  all but one day was spent fishing the same spot as 3 or more other boats. I was expecting cold wet and rainy weather, but on average it was sunny and in the 70s with glassy water the entire time I was out.  At no time was it ever too rough to read and overcast and rain days were a pleasant change as they’d keep me from getting overheated or squnity eyed while working.

I’ve always been amazed by the frivolous complaints I hear from skiers and sailors about some combination of anything and everything, so I got a continual laugh about the level and type of complaints dished out by my crew, captain and various other boats overheard on the radio.  Victimization was the main norm as the tide was seemingly always against everyone, the wind was never co-operative and the poor fishing was always the result of a nefarious plot by either ADFG, marine mammals, sharks or the Japanese.  The site of some whales within a half mile would inevitably result in screaming and a sea lion swimming up and biting the head off a single fish in our net was treated like a mugging.

Despite not catching many fish, hence not making much money, I’ll look back on the last 3 weeks with a huge smile. I easily surpassed the longest I’d gone without walking on land, I picked up some new boat skills and a couple of knots, saw some fantastic scenery, read a couple books I had been putting off and laughed a lot.  I guess I’d even go again if given the chance.

[Editors Note: The following is a special report from Hunter, who is currently exiled in Utah, but has been having great success killing fish, unlike myself.]

Monday the 16th after O’Connor and I both got off work we headed to the store to get some last minute things for our trip, mainly food. Tuseday morning we got on the road fairly early and made it to the Christmas Meadows trailhead in the Uintas just off the Mirror Lake Byway. Very few cars in the parking lot was relieving. The first couple of miles was very smooth a fairly well maintained, then the rest was very rocky and muddy due to all the natural springs flowing through the trails. The amount of horses that use these trails didn’t the trail’s condition either. It was a 9 mile hike up to Ryder and Mcpheters lakes with an elevation gain of 2,200 ft making our camp at 10,600 ft. 1,800 ft of the elevation gain was in the last mile or so. once arriving at Ryder lake we found the closest campsite to setup and drop our packs.  Walter still had huge amounts of energy even after carrying his own weight up there in his saddlebags. The area to the south of Ryder lake was filled with small lakes  with high meadows filled with wildflowers separating them. Mcpheters lake was about a half mile hike away from Ryder and we waited until Wednesday to explore the area. We settled in for the night felling tired and beat, but  relaxed with the help of some of Utah’s High West whiskey.

I awoke to what sounded like thunder but turned out to be random rock slides coming down the surrounding peaks. The three peaks that surrounded us were all above 12,000 feet, one of which was called Hayden Peak. After a short breakfast we rigged our fly rods and ventured up and over to Mcpheters lake which was right at timber line and much larger than Ryder. Both lakes seemed to be spring fed, clear, clean and full of fish. There weren’t too many bugs at the moment so none of the fish were rising. I tied on a wooly-bugger, one of my more trusty flies for trout. I spotted one trout starting to inspect the fly then turn, but on the next cast he took the fly. The fish put up a pretty good fight which is always fun on a fly-rod, after playing around I landed the guy and it was a Tiger Trout. I had never caught one before and was very excited at the time. The tiger trout is a cross between the brook and a brown trout with some very cool markings. O’Connor was determined to get a fish now, so I tried coaching him a bit, since it was his first day fly-fishing. He didn’t have any luck up at Mcpheters, so while he was casting I enjoyed a nice mountain swim. On the way back to camp for lunch we found a ten foot cliff at Ryder Lake to play on for a bit. After a hearty lunch of shells and cheese the we took an afternoon nap since it looked like a storm was rolling in. While in the tent the storm did roll through, but thankfully didn’t shed a drop of rain and just produced a loud thunderstorm.

We headed over to the smaller lakes to the south of us to fish them. O’Connor left his rod and insisted on just watching me. He found some brookies so I cast in and caught one. O’Connor took my rod and seemed determined to try again for a fish. About ten casts later he turns to me and says ” I fucking hate fly-fishing” right then a fish took his fly and he landed his first fish. Walter would sit patiently on the shore watching for a fish to strike and would only listen to who ever held the rod. He ended up trying to help land some of the fish causing them to get loose.

we took turns controlling the beast. We proceeded to alternate turns with my rod while catching a bunch of brook trout until about 9. We retired to camp to cook and have our whiskey in celebration of a good day of fishing. Thursday morning we broke camp early and headed back to the trailhead. We made it out in 3.5 hours when it took us 5 to get in. We passed three different boy scout troops heading into the area which made us glad we had chosen the mid week trip. The last two miles seemed like forever, but we were eager to drive back to Samak (Kamas backwards) a small community outside of Kamas. There was a new bar there called The Notch which we were wanting to investigate. We were expecting a dive bar similar to the Oak Grove Tavern in Irons, Michigan, however the inside seemed more like a log cabin in Harbor Springs, MI. Drinks were reasonably priced and the food was outstanding, we found out the local smoke house runs the bar and provides the food. A good end to the trip and hard to come back to the heat of the city.

So, despite having caught all of our fish tuesday afternoon, Kim and I opted to head back down to Kasilof this weekend for some partying and windsurfing.  We figured at the very least we could have fun taunting or friends about their lack of fish from the beach.

Traffic on friday evening was outrageous, and Kim and I only arrived because we avoided the highway closure by taking the Skilak Lake cutoff.  Our friends that left a few hours later weren’t so lucky, and ended up camping on the highway.  Friday evening was gorgeous, but by the time they all arrived early Saturday morning it began to rain, and didn’t quit until sometime Monday.  Early that morning a game of Rye Bocce commenced, and moments after it finished Kim managed to roll Mikey’s four wheeler, impaling his calf, and requiring 19 stitches at the Soldotna Emergency Room.

The fishing was really slow, so very little fishing was done at all, and the rain forced us to spend most of our time beneath a tarp we strung between the trucks.  Nonetheless a good time was had, Max and I even got a little Windsurfing done in the mouth of the river, despite less then co-operative winds.  I managed to have all sorts of issues, and was forced to swim the board back to shore, whereupon I began throwing up.  Great times for sure, and it certainly beats having to get rescued by the Coast Guard or floating out to sea.  Anyway, video bellow, no footage of fish actually being caught, but plenty of the usual beach antics plus some Windsurfing.

With word from Riley that the were  fish hitting hard Kim and I bailed out of town Monday night and headed down to Kasilof to see if we could take advantage of the commercial fishing closure on Tuesday.  I haven’t  had the opportunity to dip net on the Kenai Peninsula on a non weekend or holiday, and the more relaxed atmosphere with the smaller weekday crowd was a definite positive.   The fishing started slow, by 2 pm we had 6 fish and had spent more time grilling, playing petanque or drinking whiskey then we had fishing.   The late afternoon tide was very favorable to us though, during a 45 minute window we were catching a fish every two to three minutes and spent more time untangling and killing the fish then we did in the water.   Once we had reached our limit the fish were packed and we raced back to Anchorage.  I’m pumped to have some fresh fish (the fillets we ate last night were amazing), but I’m equally excited to be relieved of the duty to fish this weekend, allowing me to chill on the beach focusing on windsurfing and petanque.  Till next time…

Last weekend I headed down to Kenai with Don to collect me annual salmon stock with the dip net.  Unfortunately the fish, wild crowds (pictured above) and waves were less then cooperative and I only came home with five fish.   Luckily my disappointment with the lack of fish was cushioned by the most luxurious dip netting accommodations I’ve yet to experience out at Don’s friend Rodger’s compound in North Kenai.  So instead of  brooding on the beach in the rain we lounged in leather recliners eating moose jerky and watching Cops, which kind of evened things out.  Anyway, I’ll be going back for more fish, next time too Kasilof, and I’m  hoping it will be more successful.

Jeff (author of the octopus ink article) is currently living down in Ketchikan and spent Memorial Day halibut fishing.  Apparently he forgot a gaff and decided to land this thing with the help of a 15mm wrench.  I can imagine Brad yelling “quit horsing it Jeffe” throughout the entire clip.  Enjoy the video

UPDATE: Anyone looking for some skiing content should check out Seb Montaz’s trailer video of 4 routes on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi. (Hat tip to Chamonix Insider)  And Joe Stock has posted lots of local goodies.


After 5 years of no use the old kayak finally was resurrected on a evening float down the little willow. This was the first trip of the year for all of us.  As with any float trip in Alaska beer and guns were involved to help numb the senses and pass time on the slow parts of the water.   Anthony was not to be messed with on the river as you can see below.
Hopefully the next time we float the river we will be catching the mighty King Salmon! Stay tuned for more willow updates.You can see the rest of the pictures here.

Well, its finally getting a bit colder around here, with the return of rainy weather and a little bit of darkness at night.  Winter still feels a long ways off, and without the distraction of any soccer or football weeks can pass painfully slow, especially with a French vacation  just over the horizon.  Luckily though, Jeffé, Kim, Brad and I found some excellent fishing last  weekend.  After some initial boat problems and a frightening alcohol shortage, we found a small cove thick with fish and got to work making sure our families will have plenty of food in the  freezer.  Catching 15 fish in 2 hours, without seeing another person, is always fun, and after reading tales of lower 48 fishing, you begin to appreciate  that in Alaska even an awful fisherman like myself ends up catching something.  Even with dodgy home made hooks.  Anyway,  the combination of a cabin on a small island and excellent fishing has convinced us to return again this weekend.  Until I’m bored enough to post again you’ll have to make due with a picture of Brad’s cain….

Summer, despite being a lot of fun, doesn’t really inspire me to post much around here.  In fact, the only reason I’m posting at all is I’ve received a fair number of complaints the last couple days, specifically from Jeff, who was sick of seeing his face at the top of the page.  Anyway, the combination of employment (however easy it may be) and the long days this time of year, don’t exactly encourage me to sit around and update this place.  It’s been hot too. The warmest summer since I’ve been up here, with the type of brutal, apathy inducing, scorching days where the sun has the force of a knife and your left wanting to do nothing more then lay around, read a book, and wait to get out of town on the weekend.

Jeff and I have been slowly improving our weekend camping routine over the last 4 summers, which has made each escape from Anchorage much more enjoyable.  Gone are the days when I’d sleep uncomfortably through the rain wrapped in a tarp or in the back of a fish slimed van with 4 dogs, when weekends were mostly a challenge of enduring consecutive days of little sleep and bad eating.  Jeff and I are doing things more properly now.  We’ve begun traveling around with a small charcoal grill (named Little Red) thats seems extremely durable.  It survived a full weekend sitting in the back of Mikey’s truck while he forded rivers, attempted hill climbs in a gravel pit, and rallied the road to McCarthy at over 80.  And despite constantly forgetting lighter fluid (we”ve had to get it started with lake Louise alder fires) Little Red has allowed us to cook elaborate meals (a typical menu would be bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, with potatoes and onions caramelized in pineapple juice with a quessedilla or hot dog for desert); I’ve generally eaten better on our weekend road trips then I do in Anchorage.

So far we’ve spent our time hanging out in Anchor Point, Chitina (twice), Kasilof, Portage, and Brad’s cabin on Skilak Lake., but I’ll try to keep this brief, and focus on the fishing.  On our first, ponderous trip to Chitina, Jeff and I were greeted by a quickly rising river, and very few fish.  We didn’t even keep our nets in the water for an hour before deciding to spend the trip grilling, playing bocce, and passing out in the sun on a blue tarp.  We returned two weeks with Mikey who’d dip netted in Chitina for years and knew some productive holes.  On the way into town, Mikey got pulled over going 97 in a 55, but the Cop didn’t write him a ticket, told him to “have fun fishing,” and gave him a much needed can of bug dope.

Finding a spot to fish from can be a problem in Chitina, the Copper River is huge, and flows hard enough that it’s almost impossible to hold your net in place without bracing it against a rock or finding a back eddy to hold it in.  Access to the river can be a problem as well, most of the accessible spots are on privately owned land, and the decent public spots require either a 4 wheeler or a boat to reach them.  The state has even narrowed the bridge at O’Brien Creek to keep trucks from traveling the 4 wheeler trail, which is the old Copper River railway bed. When checking the area out on our earlier trip Jeff and I were pretty sure our lack of a 4 wheeler would be prohibitive, but when we arrived, Mikey  drove his truck through O’Brien creek without hesitation, Jeff  followed, and we drove down the trail, receiving strange looks from everyone we passed.  Eventually we hit a narrow stretch, which dropped a few hundred feet directly to the river from the trail and decided to park the cars.  Jeff and I began walking while Mikey used the dirt bike to shuttle gear for the remaining distance.  At one point Mikey flew off the trail over the cliffs in the direction of the river, but luckily he hit a tree and only fell about 20 feet.  A Mormon in the military had to use his 4 wheeler to winch his bike out of the trees and took time to lecture Jeff and I on the “dangers you might not perceive.”  We arrived at Mikey’s favorite spot, a big back eddy at the bottom of a cliff, and found two people already there.  They were friendly though, and allowed us to climb down and fish with them.  The charter operator, Mark Hem, who’d dropped them off, objected to our invading of his clients space, but after a short verbal tussle with Mikey he left, and we spent the day peacefully fishing while listening to stories from Butch, one of the people who’d arrived just before us.  The fishing was frustrating, dipnetters are no longer allowed to keep Kings in Chitina, so we had to throw back all 13 we caught. I’m quite sure it was the first time I’ve ever cursed catching a King.  We caught about 12 reds in about 12 hours, but Butch kept us smiling with stories about his 12 boats, and saying things like “most people quit fishing when they don’t catch anything, I buy a new boat.”  Butch even offered to smuggle our fish aboard his charter, to save us the hassle of dragging them up the cliff and down the trail to our car.  The highlight of the trip may have been seeing Mark Hem’s face after we drove back across O’Brien Creek and collected our fish (that he’d just cleaned, thinking they were his clients) from Butch before driving off.

Hunter, Jeffe, Kim and I went down to the south beach of Kasilof for the extended fourth of July weekend.  We caught 22 fish, but my main impression of the weekend was eating really well, thanks to Kim’s domestic skills and the hard work of little red.  Where on my previous visit Jeff and I resorted to eating steak cooked on a burning soccer ball and  folding chair, this year the food (sitka deer, halibut, fresh salmon) was excellent. We played some long multi set games of bocce (between team Loud Mouth and team Michigan) and even went swimming to deal with the heat.  It was a pleasant change from the normal dip netting madness.  On Sunday, Hunter chose not to use waiters, and with the whole beach staring in surprise caught a fish the moment his net hit the water.  After charging out, tossing his fish on the beach he repeated the trick with another immediate fish to cheers up and down the beach.  People even began calling him Spartacus.

So eventually we’ll have some more stories and pictures posted, but until then keep yourselves entertained with the following.  As I’m excited b

Jeff and Max caught a King while working at the port the other day.  They claim it weighed in around 30 pounds.  I didn’t get to eat any of this beast, but I’ve heard it was quite tasty.  Hopefully more fresh fish soon, as I think Jeff and I may be going to Chitna next weekend.  In the meantime, enjoy these Chamonix shots I’ve been drooling over all month.

By Max:

This my first post of hopefully more to come so bear with me. Going back in time before the the big Palin for VP news was labor day weekend which is one of my 3 summer holidays where I have more than a day off. Anxious to get out of town, I was planning on going up to Chelatna Lake to relax with my folks, fish for some rainbows, and do some exploring! Friday afternoon at about 3pm while I was getting ready to leave our good buddy Dr. Joe called and put forth a awesome plan. He wanted to fly up to Judd Lake where there was a birthday party for Jeremy Nobis. For those of you who dont know Nobis is a guide and part owner of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge. This lodge and skiing made up just about all the big mountain skiing in “Lost and Found” TGR’s last film. Joe’s plan was immediately accepted so i went to the liquor store to prepare for our departure. I met Joe at the plane and we filled up all the remaining space with alcohol and headed out to the lodge for a quick 35 minute flight. Arriving at lodge, we were greeted by women dressed cheetah print dresses and knee high boots. First reaction: TIME TO PARTY! Usually in the bush you would never expect to see women – especially dressed like this. Apparently Joe had not got the message that this was a dress up party so we were presented with the left over party clothes. Skin tight red vinyl pants and beige checkerd pants with the same fit and a really gay pink hat! I squeezed into the red vinyl ones and proceeded to get my drink on! After being provided with a superb home cooked meal and eating outside with 10,000ft peaks less than 5 miles away we were half blitzed. This is when Nobis gave us a tour of the lodge! With out going into detail, the lodge is beautiful well worth the experience. The highlight of the tour was the WOODMIZER.
This is definetly Nobis’ favorite piece of equipment around the lodge! The woodmizer is a protable sawmill that makes dimensional lumber from trees on your property. For the cabin builder in bush this can save thousands of dollars on materials that normally have to be flown up. I easily convinced Nobis to show me how the woodmizer worked from start to finish. Thank god safety was none of our concerns because Nobis was wearing black leather pants and fur lined leather vest, after all it was his birthday and i was barefoot in my ridiculous costume. He made a 10 ft long 3″ x 3″ post that took about 5 minutes and could probably be used in a boat because of the curve in it. What ever i was just happy to have all my fingers and toes at this point. From that we decided to go on the lake and do some paddle boarding since it was perfectly calm and the sun was setting!. Only one person went for a swim in the 45 degree water that,s when we decided that a sauna was in order to really finish off the night by taking a good drunk and turning it into an intoxicating stupor. Somehow i woke up in nice bed with a nice headache and some nice sun to wake up too. Everything was so nice because i was on vacation! Joe and i decided to leave about noon so we could go up to Chelatna Lake and catch some rainbows in Lake Creek. I asked Nobis if he wanted to go with us since today was officially his birthday, the girls had left, and he was starting to get cabin fever from being at the lodge for so long. He jumped at the opportunity to get out of there! Once at the cabin I was the new guide and Nobis was the client, quite a relaxing change from his usual operations. We took the boat down Lake Creek and Dr. Joe immeadiately diagnosed what the rainbows were hitting on. He also ran into another Doctor buddy of his fishing as well. They exchanged jokes about how neither one of them works more than they fish. haha.. i should have been a doctor! Needless to say i like fishing but there was beer in the boat and this was nothing new to me so I watched and cheered as the two guys caught the most speckled rainbows in the state. All the beer drinking was making me hungry so we headed back to the cabin for our nightly feeding frenzy with moms cooking. After a bottle or two of the finest Austrian Schnapps we stumbled to bed. At 5:30 i was painfully awoken to Dr.Joe leaving to go fishing. Ive never seen someone who likes to fish so much as Dr.Joe. After a brief breakfast i departed the lake to return Nobis and Dr.Joe to the real world and then headed back to the cabin to enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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