Alaska, Fishing

Alaska Giveth, Alaska Taketh Away

The big news of the week is that we have a new halibut record catch! After a couple weeks of pretty small halibut coming in, a guest landed a halibut that weighed an amazing 160 lbs! Not only was it a colossal fish, the story of how it was caught was a true “This could only happen in Alaska” kind of thing. So the halibut was brought in to the dock with much fanfare and pics taken. When it came time to process the fish, in its belly was found a half-digested salmon and a big silver-gray rockfish! The rockfish was still alive, it had been swallowed by the halibut and still had the fishing rig in its mouth! The lead had disappeared, but the rest was still in there.

So what happened was the guest was bottom fishing for halibut when the rockfish got on. The halibut, seeing the struggling silver-gray, swallowed the fish whole and that’s how it was caught! Somehow the fish was lodged in there good enough to bring the halibut to the surface. Seems like the halibut would have thrown it up, but for some reason it didn’t. The kicker was that the silver-gray still had the bait in its mouth! We had a fish-within-a-fish-within-a-fish kind of situation! I have fished all of my life and this was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. Halibut are some damn greedy fish! They’ll eat anything that will fit in their mouth.

The elderly gentleman who caught the enormous fish will have one hell of a fish story to tell back home, that’s for sure! The best part is that the fish was 74 inches, which is two inches above what is a illegal fish to take. Halibut from 50 to 72 inches aren’t legal to take unless you buy a GAF permit that’s like 450 dollars. He got 73 lbs of fillets off the thing, at market rate that’s around 2200 dollars worth of fish without having to pay extra. Job well done!

Alright, on to my experiences of the past week. I really would have liked to start this blog post with a picture of some beautiful creek-caught salmon. Unfortunately, the wily salmon got the best of me! Not only me, but my beloved Shimano Clarus rod as well. I’ll explain, but check out the massive Dungeness crab that was caught earlier this week by some guests in my featured picture. It’s the biggest one I’ve seen so far this season, probably one of the biggest I’ve ever seen actually. Naturally I had to pose with it. I hope the guest appreciated it!

The night before my day off, I had a huge evening doing fish-boxes. The whole lodge checked out all at once, so I was responsible for boxing up over 600 lbs of fish split up between 25 people. I treated it like a military operation and my crew nailed it. I was so proud of the work me and my boys had done. I went to grab my vape for some celebration puffs and I noticed it was gone. We tore apart the fish-cleaning shed, but it was nowhere to be found. I even popped open the last 4 boxes I sealed and repacked them thinking it might have fallen in to no avail. I hope it didn’t wind up in one of the ones I didn’t check. It would probably not go over well for me. I do have a backup vape so all good, but it was a downer to lose something so key to my well-being.

Now, as I mentioned last week, I had ordered a new backpacking rod for my trips upstream. I was really hoping it would arrive before my day off so I would have it to use. Unfortunately, after the first couple of plane loads of cargo arrived it was a no-show. I resigned myself to using my nice expensive Shimano rod for the day. I broke it down, put some rubber bands around it to keep the halves together and headed up the trail.

It was a really nice day, bright and full of sunshine. It was a 98% chance of rain in the forecast, so I felt really fortunate. Not that the fish would have cared, if anything the bite seems better when it rains. I had heard that the salmon were everywhere in the lake at the head of the creek so that was my destination for the day. After about a half hour of hiking I found a small trail to the side I hadn’t noticed the last time I had been down there. I could see disturbance in the undergrowth that others had been down that way so I went down to check it out. Lo and behold I hit the jackpot! I found a still stretch of water that was LOADED with salmon! I could see swarms of them all over the place. They were jumping everywhere as well!

I was only about halfway to my destination, but I figured that this was a good of a spot as any and proceeded to get my rod set up. I’m using these lures I got off of Amazon, I got 20 of these Kastmaster knock-offs for like 20 bucks. A pretty good deal, they are a quality product. A trick that Devin told me about is to paint one side with pink fingernail polish. Any color of pink, red or orange (but particularly pink) really gets the strikes. The reason being is that these colors look like salmon roe, which is like crack to these fish. The color might resemble baitfish they like to eat as well, not sure about that though.

I began casting, and didn’t have a lot of luck at first. I had a couple of trout on for a second but they jumped up and cast the hook immediately. I fished for another hour and started to think that they just weren’t going to bite at all. I could literally cast right in front of them and they would ignore it! Just when I was about to lose all hope, BAM! I had one on! It came off almost as fast due to my drag being set too heavy. Still, now I knew that they would bite and sent a stream of casts to the same spot. I finally got another one on and this time it stuck. I didn’t have a net so I played it for a while until it got tired out and brought it in. I got it up to my feet and tried to grab for it but it did one crazy flop and got away. I almost had it!

I tried again, undaunted. Probably another hour went by and several fish were hooked but came off immediately. Finally, another one managed to stay on and I played it carefully. After several runs and wild leaps I brought it to the shore and got my hands on it. I threw it up on the shore, and thought I finally landed my first shore salmon! Then, the salmon somehow got a last burst of energy and threw the hook at the same time it splashed back into the creek.

Well, it seems that a net would have been really helpful for me at this point. I was beyond exasperated, but having nothing better to do, I continued casting. It finally got time for me to head back, so I made one of my last casts of the evening. I had the last-cast luck, and got another fish on! This one I really took my time in fighting and tired him out until he seemed to have all the fight out of him. I propped my rod up on my right shoulder as I held the leader in one hand and tried to gill him with the other. Just as I slid my fingers into the fish’s gills, he jumped straight up. On the way down I heard a snap and the last six inches of my rod had broken clean off. Enraged, I lunged for the fish with everything I had and in one motion he wiggled right out of my hands, spat the hook, and swam away.

You could have probably heard me cussing a mile away back at the lodge. I was furious! Six hours of fishing and I had not only lost 3 nice silver or sockeye salmon right at the bank, I had broken my favorite rod in the process. Damn my rotten luck! I hiked back to the lodge defeated, covered in horsefly bites, and with nothing to show for almost a whole day fishing. When I got back and told my tale of woe to everyone, my new roommate informed me that I had received a package and he had laid it on my bed. Guess what was inside? My new rod! If only I had waited another hour or so, I would have had been able to take it with me and my Shimano would have been spared. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes. You break a rod, you get a rod I suppose.

One of the captains is pretty good at fixing rods, and he had a spare rod tip he glued onto the end of my rod. Now it is usable again, but it doesn’t quite have the same zip in the casts that the extra six inches provided. It’ll do for the rest of the time I am here. I’ll probably wind up buying another one when I get back to the world. So yeah, Team Salmon: 1, Dogfish: 0. I immediately placed an order for a collapsible net so this won’t happen again. Next week I will return to the salmon spot with my new rod and net and hopefully I can get my revenge. Tune in next week to see how it goes!

Alaska, Fishing, lodge life

Seekin’ Salmon in the Creek

So this week was pretty uneventful by lodge standards. No particulary big individual catches (although we’ve been pulling in massive amounts of pink and chum salmon, lots of small fish) no ghostly activity, and the guests haven’t been that rambunctious. Silver salmon are starting to turn up in small amounts, the fillets off them look amazing! They are ruby red and really stand out against the more lighter colored pink and chum fillets. I hear they are much better eating as well.

The weather has been really rainy, sometimes days go by without any sun. The winds have been blowing pretty hard, it almost feels like the season is starting to shift towards fall already. I have to wear three layers of clothes most of the time, especially since I spend so much of my time in a freezer that stays around 0 degrees.

My roommate finally arrived, he’s actually a pretty cool guy. He’s in his 60’s I think, been all over the world and just travels around America in his camper with his wife. He makes his living doing fishing jobs all over the place, which is the way I want to start living. It has been an adjustment having someone in my personal space for sure. It’s something I have been dreading since I got here. I now have no privacy whatsoever, and I’m the kind of person that really hates having people in my personal space. We both keep each other up at night with our snoring. I have resorted to sleeping with white noise in my earbuds and it helps block out the noise pretty effectively however. It is what it is though, I only have to put up with it for two months. I think it will work out ok. It’s just another thing I have to overcome on top of everything else.

The main thing I did this week is go up the creek with my co-workers Devan and Brianna. I’ve been wanting to go try and catch some of the pink salmon that have been making their way upstream. Devan has been catching them like crazy and I wanted to learn his technique and spots. I’ve been seeing the pinks constantly splash all around the dock and have been fishing for them without success. As I’ve said before, Devan is the Jedi Master of freshwater fishing and I’m trying to learn some of his wisdom.

We headed up the creek this past Tuesday to a spot called ‘the S-turn’. It’s a place in the creek where it runs into a v-shaped crevice around 15 feet deep right off the bank. Right ahead of the hole is a spot of turbulent water. According to Devan, fish tire out and will slip back into this hole to gather energy for their next attempts to get up this rough patch. We got to the spot and fished for a while without success. We couldn’t figure out where the fish had gone, maybe they had all gone upstream? Suddenly, Devan yells “Fish On!” and he’s got a wild crazy jumping salmon on the line! He fights it for a couple of minutes and finally brings it in. It’s a decent sized fish, probably 5 to 6 lbs. It was amazing that such a big fish could come out of a small creek!

He let it go before I could get a decent picture. I figured that he’d probably catch another and he did, not five minutes later! It was identical to the first, and it came up out of the same spot. He knew exactly where those fish hold up! The dude spends all of his free time up there on that creek so he knows how to pull out the fish. I was taking notes for sure!

After the second one came in, none of us caught any more. I thought I might have had one on, but I couldn’t be sure. After around 3 hours fishing, we headed back to the lodge. It was a nice little excursion for sure, we had a lot of fun. I learned so much from this little trip up the creek! I placed a bunch of orders for new fishing gear which I’ve started receiving in the mail. Hopefully I’ll have it all by my next day off so I can put what I’ve learned to use.

The main thing I’m waiting for is a new rod, my 8’6″ salmon/steelhead rod is too long to effectively transport up the rugged trail and to cast where there’s not much space creekside. Devan uses a 6’6″ Shakespeare GX2 that breaks down into 4 pieces that fits in a backpack. I ordered one just like his, it arrived in Ketchikan but hasn’t made it to the lodge as of yet. Portability is key for fishing equipment in this terrain. I also just got a brand new Daiwa BG 3000 reel I plan to put on it, along with some spoons that should catch me some salmon.

Well, looking forward to next week’s fishing! I’ll be sure to let ya’ll know how it all goes down for sure!

Alaska, Fishing, lodge life

The Return of Yes Bay Johnny

As the title of this post suggests, our resident ghost has made another appearance! It has the lodge buzzing. So what happened is that the cook was making a bowl of beer batter. As it was sitting there (on a dry surface with no one within the immediate area) it launched itself right off the counter in full view of him and one of the server girls! It was like an invisible hand just up and swiped it right off. It made a huge mess on the floor, and it was a real pain in the ass to clean up as it happened about ten minutes before lunchtime. The only thing we can imagine that happened is that Yes Bay Johnny didn’t approve of the Coors Light the cook was using to make the batter! Maybe that was his way of saying use a better beer next time!

I asked the boss some questions about Yes Bay Johnny after it happened. As an amateur ghost hunter I like to know about these things. He told me that about 5-6 times a year things like that happen with no rational explanation. It’s always some kind of poltergeist-type phenomena, no actual full-bodied apparitions have ever been sighted. He also says that these things usually happen in the months of January, February and March when the lodge is closed, but can happen any time of the year. If I stayed here in the off season I’d be trying to catch some EVPs or maybe would set some cameras up in the kitchen or hallways. I bet someone would catch something of interest if they were persistent!

The same day of the ghost incident, our dishwasher Devan caught the first dock salmon of the season! It was a huge pink, and I guess they have finally arrived in the bay. He’s been fishing for weeks to catch one and it finally happened for him. He’s not the only one who has been fishing for these fish, people have been casting lures off the dock for weeks trying for them. I happened to be standing right next to him on the dock when it went down. It must have been waiting right up under the dock because he caught it only about a yard away from where he was casting in the water.

It was a hard fight with a lot of runs, but he finally tired it out and brought it up on the dock. Ty the dog was there as he always is when someone is fishing and I had to hold him back so Devan could fight and land the fish without dog interference. Devan let the fish go, something he took a lot of flack for. I thought it was a good thing to do from a karma standpoint. It’s not like we are lacking for salmon around here!

On the same day as both the ghost incident and the dock salmon catching, I got tipped 100 bucks by some really awesome guests we had who came from Kansas! It was an older gentleman and his three sons. They were handing out bills to everyone and I got one kicked to me. This is the first time this has happened, usually guests tip out the house at the end of their stay and it gets divided up among us all. Getting it in person was really special though. I took it as a sign to buy some of the expensive lures that caught the dock salmon! They are called Blue Fox Pixees and run about 10 bucks apiece. I ordered 3 off of Amazon and they should be here in a week or two. I hope to get into some dock salmon action here soon!

In other fishing news, the guest who caught the monster 102 lb halibut last week caught an even bigger one the very next day! As it was on the day I publish this blog I didn’t include it in last week’s post but it’ll go in this one. The monster weighed in at 117 lbs! This guest had the super fish luck. He and his son went home with around 180 lbs of halibut, salmon and rock cod fillets! He got his money’s worth of fish on this trip, that’s for sure.

I went out this week fishing with Captain Jimmy and his wife Erin who works in the office. Last week I didn’t go out and I deeply regretted not doing so. This past week I was really starting to go stir-crazy from being cooped up here all the time. Getting away from the lodge even for a few hours really does good things for my head. I spend my days in about a 200 yard area and it is just unnatural. I was really starting to get cabin fever!

We had a pretty good day. I caught my first silver-grey (a type of rock cod that is supposedly good eating) and my first pink salmon. I also caught a couple of chicken halibut, both were around 7 lbs each. Erin caught a huge goldeneye rockfish that we had to throw back unfortunately, only Alaskan residents can keep them. It was a pretty decent day fishing, it was overcast and drizzly but the winds & sea stayed down for the most part.

We had a really weird catch come to the dock this week. Some guests brought in a wolf-eel! It was a big, ugly sucker around 4 feet in length. It looked like something you’d find in the deepest parts of the ocean with its smushed-up face. We processed it out and the meat looked quite good actually. One guy said it reminded him of perch, I thought it looked like flounder. I’d definitely try some if offered. I know in California people eat the monkey-faced eel, I hear it tastes like cod or haddock. Actually there are places that serve it as fish & chips and people can’t tell the difference. Eels are just long fish I suppose!

I just realized this week I’m at about 1/3 of the way through my stint here. While some days are better than others, time seems to be moving at a glacial pace. I really enjoy my job, but being stuck at the dock for 12 hours a day really is wearing on me. Being a landlubber ain’t my bag, man. I suppose I have to pay my dues as I’m sure all the skippers have at some point. It just makes it clear for me that I’ve got to get my Captain’s Licence to really be where I want in this racket. It’s not that hard really, the main thing I need is 1500 hours of boat driving time and around 1200 dollars in fees. Plus I have to take physicals and drug tests. Whenever I can get it it’ll open up a whole new world for me. At least I know what I need to focus on for the future. Until then, I’ll just have to continue grinding away at the dockmonkey life. Anyways, that’s it for this week’s installment. I’ll holla at ya’ll next week!

Alaska, Fishing, lodge life

‘Tis the Season for Salmon

So as of this week, I’ve been up here at the lodge for a month. What a month it has been. I’ve heard from people the first month you spend up there feels like six, and they sure weren’t lying. It’s definitely been the longest 4 weeks of my life. Getting used to life here definitely has tested me in every way. It finally has gotten to the point where I’m feeling that I’ve gotten into the swing of things however.

There’s a lot of stuff I miss like my podcasts, watching movies and my favorite shows, and just generally feeling like I have control over my life. I really miss my truck, and I find myself daydreaming about all the places I’ll go when I get back to the world. There is something so liberating about being able to go get in your vehicle and feeling the miles slip away under your wheels. The Beast and I are going to have some good times out in the desert when I get back, that’s for sure.

So like I stated in the title, salmon season is in full swing here. Pink and chum salmon are coming into the dock in great numbers. The halibut are still going strong as well. It’s now my sole responsibility to do all the numbers and packaging of the fish so I keep close tabs on our catch day by day. We’re averaging around 200 lbs of salmon and 100 lbs of halibut coming in every day. Those are just the fillets, those numbers are half of the gross weight of fish the boats are bringing in. The silver salmon are yet to run, I hear the weights will go way up when they do. They average 10-15 lbs apiece, while the pinks average 4-6 and the chums are like 6-10. We have a limit for guests to hold them to only 6 per person, which is good or else we’d be down at the dock processing fish all day and night!

It’s astonishing how rich the waters up here are with salmon. They are everywhere. I’ve actually learned about a species of salmon I’ve never heard of. They are called white king salmon. The boss got a couple boxes from his friend in town and we processed them out the other day. They look like regular salmon execept they are completely white-fleshed. These species of salmon exclusively eat shrimp, which accounts for the white color. It’s really weird to see white salmon! I hear it’s fantastic eating but I never got to try any. I guess we had some high-dollar guests staying with us that only wanted the finest food so the boss obliged them with that. He was like a kid on Christmas when he got those boxes though, so I bet that it is some tasty fish!

In salmon news, I heard a story from one of the captains I thought was intriguing. He once worked at a cannery up north somewhere processing king salmon. One day, this behemoth of a king came into the cannery he said was over 100 lbs! There were some native guys there that told him that it wasn’t just an outlier, but there is a sub-species of king salmon that grows to that size regularly. Or rather, used to grow to that size, as they said its range was small and they’ve pretty much been fished out. I can’t imagine a salmon being that big. Around here they top out at around 30-40 lbs, but since they are protected in this area they must be released if caught. The king salmon in the featured photo is in our dining room, and it is the biggest one I have ever seen. It must have been around 50 to 60 lbs or so. To think of a 100 lber just boggles my mind!

For my day off this past week I really wanted to go salmon fishing. The day before I went however, the lead captain had his arm pulled out of the socket by a huge halibut he was trying to land in the boat and was laid up. I didn’t get a chance to ask him if I could go, and I don’t think there was a boat available for me to go out on anyway. We’re now at maximum capacity with our guests and all boats are booked all the time. Pink salmon are starting to show up at the dock however, so I might not need to go out to the fish, they may come to me! A co-worker saw them hit a bait-ball at the dock yesterday. I placed an order for some salmon spoons a couple of days ago, they should come in next week. Hopefully they arrive so I can get to fishing! The mail service has been erratic as of late so I’m crossing my fingers they’ll show up.

In other news, we’ve been getting a lot of traffic into the bay from yachts and sailboats. I guess this is a popular anchorage for people traveling the Inside Passage. Occasionally they drop in for dinner and are really interesting folks to talk to. They are mostly flagged from the US and Canada, but every now and then we get someone from far away dropping by. The other day we saw this enormous ship coming our way. One of the captains said it was the Russians, as they are known to ply these waters in their great big yachts.

As they passed by the dock, we were shocked to see how big this ship was. It was the biggest yacht I had ever seen, there’s no telling how many millions of dollars the thing was worth. As it passed we saw that it was a Bikini Island flagged vessel. I didn’t think there was that much money there! Maybe it was just registered there and was from somewhere else, who knows? It definitely was the talk of the lodge that day! They spent the night in the back bay and left the next day. It was a great mystery all in all.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully I can get on a boat next week and have some salmon pictures to show ya’ll. Until next time!

Alaska, lodge life

Meet the Yes Bay Fleet (And Dogs)

I find myself this evening relaxing after a long day with a full belly. Tonight we had grilled cheeseburgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad and Dungeness crab. The crab was donated by one of the housekeeping staff. She’s been paddling out on a kayak everyday to a crab trap in the back bay. Today she caught 3 nice ones, I boiled them up for her and she shared them with the crew. It was one one the best dinners we’ve had so far, we’re one happy crew tonight!

It’s been hot, I mean ungodly hot! It’s been around 80 degrees the past couple of days and no relief in sight. It feels much hotter due to the humidity and the angle of the sun. According to the boss, it never gets this hot up here. Everyone’s breaking out the shorts and flip-flops, it’s crazy! Supposedly this is going to go on for days.

It hasn’t hurt the fishing at all however! People have been pulling in halibut left and right. Just today, a couple of elderly gentlemen caught the first salmon of the season, a pink and a chum. They also caught a couple of huge halibut, both around 45 lbs. I was happy for them, it was the last day of their 5 day package and they hadn’t done so hot until the last day. My co-workers and I just boxed up their catch, both of them are going home with around 46 lbs of halibut, rock cod, crabs and shrimp apiece. They’ve caught the most fish out of any of the guests so far.

As the summer heats up, we’re starting to get all kinds of critters coming in off the dock and the nearby creek. As I mentioned in my last post, my fishing has been curtailed by my lack of fishing tackle. My co-workers have been pulling in lots of small trout and an assortment of other small fish. One of the strangest things I’ve seen caught were these sea cucumbers. Today Devon, the dishwasher, was fishing off the dock and starting pulling them in off the bottom! He was fishing a spoon there and kept snagging them. They must be everywhere down there! He says he knows how to clean them, so he started stashing them in a crate under the dock. If I try them I’ll let ya’ll know how they taste. I hear that they are not bad!

So that brings me to the topics I mentioned in the title. First off, I wanted to show off the boats that make this whole lodge possible. Almost all our boats have Mercury outboards and Yamaha kickers. Our main workhorses of the fleet are our 18 foot Silver Streak aluminum boats, we’ve got 4 of them. These come with 150 hp outboards. I really wish I had one of these. They fly across the waves! We also use a couple of boats I don’t know the name of, but they are modified ski boats with 115 hp outboards. These two kinds of boats are used for parties of two or three, plus the captain.

Next we have the boats used for parties of three or four. We have a 26 foot Boston Whaler with twin 250 hp outboards. The newest addition to the fleet is this new 24 foot Hewes Craft Ocean Pro that I am in love with. The boss just bought it for 100,000 dollars. It has just one 250 hp Yamaha outboard on it. This is the dream boat me and my fishing buddies would love to have. It comes with so many bells and whistles you wouldn’t believe it. We could do so much with this boat back in the Monterey Bay! It’d be great for salmon and could even do some long-range tuna fishing as well.

Finally, we have our work boats that are used for moving cargo, towing things and making trips into town. First we have what’s called a Water-Horse. Its bow has a gate that can be lowered to facilitate loading/offloading cargo. The boat occasionally is used to take out/pick up guests as well. It is a speed demon, its twin 250 horsepower outboards really rocket this boat across the water! This boat is the boss’s baby, he loves to dash around in it. It can make the 50 mile run to Ketchikan in less than 2 hours. 

Then there is a boat called the AJ that looks like it was a small commercial fishing boat at one point. These days, the boss mainly uses it to pull trees from the bank and to tow them back here to be cut up as firewood. Lastly, we have 3 skiffs that are used to move small amounts of gear, people and garbage around. One of the 3 is a jet boat that can get up the creek next to the lodge, but I haven’t seen it used for that purpose yet.

Here at the lodge, we have four dogs in residence. They roam around everywhere, barking at everyone and everything. Their main purpose is to keep away the bears. Last week a bear was sighted over by the generator, I don’t know if it was a black or brown though. That’s the area I was clearing trail a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to not run across one. I think that they are pretty skittish, and probably the dogs help keep them that way.

So 3 out of the 4 dogs we have here are what is known as Karelians. They are bred to fight bears by the locals. These dogs look like some kind of husky mix. They are tough dogs, they don’t get sick or infections, and according to the boss they eat anything and can go psycho at any time. These dogs are really protective of their people, and are really well adapted to the environment here. The boss has his own really nice cabin in the woods behind the lodge, and at night that’s where the dogs go.

First we have the one who causes the most ruckus and interacts with us the most. His name is Ty and he is the alpha dog around here. His favorite thing around here is to attack the otters when they come around the dock. Unlike the otters who live in the Monterey Bay, these Alaskan otters are mean and nasty. The boss says they’ve even tried to attack him on the dock before! Ty loves to get in fights with them. He’ll get all cut up but I think he’s killed a few. The otters get up under the dock and Ty has chewed up planks trying to get at them.

Ty is a good dog, but has a really bad habit of barking insanely at you every time you try and fish. I guess he thinks you’ve got a fish on every time you retrieve your lure and gets excited. I suppose people in the past have given him the fish they catch judging from his behavior. A funny thing happened a few days ago. My fellow dock-monkey Jon was fishing off the end of the dock and Ty was barking his head off as usual. Jon got pissed off so he got on a kayak and paddled out a ways so he could fish in peace. Well, Ty barked at him from shore. Then, suddenly, Ty jumped into the water and swam over to him! He then proceeded to climb into Jon’s kayak and shake water all over him, completely soaking him. Mind you, the water here is ice cold and Ty is a very stinky dog! Jon was not happy about this turn of events, being soaked in cold, stinky dog-water was not his idea of a good time. It was funny as hell to witness though!

The boss has two other Karelians named Niko and Kobe. Niko is older, and was once alpha. He and Ty have to stay separated or else they will viciously attack one another. Corellian males do not get along with one another at all. Females are fine, but males always battle for dominance. Lastly we have the girl dogs Juneau and Kobe. Juneau is an Australian Heeler and is the boss’s wife’s dog, and Kobe is very shy and doesn’t really have much to do with anybody. It was hard for me to get close enough to even take a picture.

The dogs are mostly a headache for me. None of them are affectionate and they just bark all the freakin’ time. Ty is the only one who will let you pet him and he won’t let you do so for long. Every time the plane lands or a boat passes by, they’ve gotta bark. They are pretty used to the staff by now, but every time new guests arrive (which is almost daily) the howling and barking starts. They make it impossible to sleep past around 5:30 or so as that’s about when the boss gets up and around. Earplugs are no match for the shrill yelps and barks. Still, I guess it’s good to have them around for the bear deterrence. I long for the day when my life is dog-bark free though!

Well, that’s it for this week! I thought ya’ll would be interested in more aspects of lodge life. Dogs, boats and fish are pretty big parts of life here & I thought I’d showcase them.

Alaska, Fishing

Say What? HALIBUT!

So usually I work on a post all week and aim to publish on Fridays, but there’s gonna be a special edition of Tales of the Dogfish today. It was a great day, I finally got my Alaskan halibut! Actually, I caught my limit of two, which was the two biggest of the three in the featured image of this post. To catch seventy-five pounds worth of halibut is a pretty good thing to accomplish before noon!

As I’ve stated before, Tuesdays are my days off. Last week I wanted to go halibut fishing but instead we had to go salmon trolling per boss’s orders. Last night I put in my request to go out again and permission was granted by the lead captain who oversees that kind of thing. This morning, I got to sleep in until a glorious 6:30. Captain Nick, who was my captain for the day, told me to meet him down at the dock at 7:30, so at the stated time I went down there to meet him. We headed out to sea and went in a different direction than I went last week. This time, we were free to go halibut fishing and stay out as long as I wanted, so I was stoked! The day was perfect, t-shirt weather but slightly overcast, and the water was smooth as glass.

Our destination for the day was a place called The Meadow. It was a place that has been good for big halibut lately. We got situated and made our drops. After only about 15-20 minutes of bounce-balling, Nick got a bite, and he landed a nice 10 lb halibut. We chunked it in the box and kept on fishing. After a bit, I got a big takedown and I tried to set the hook a little too soon. Unfortunately, I farmed the fish. It had some weight to it, I bet it was a big one!

Undaunted, I set back down in the same spot. Soon afterwards, I felt another tug and reeled in what’s called a yelloweye. These fish are very similar to what we know as canary rockfish down in California. Goldeneye are huge rockfish, and this one was probably eighteen inches long and around ten pounds. They are illegal to keep however, and since I brought it up from 300 feet it had barotrauma.

Barotrauma occurs when you catch a fish at depth and when you bring it to the surface the swim bladder bulges out of its mouth. It can’t swim back down due to the air expansion in its swim bladder. What you have to do is hurredly attach a release clip to a downrigger ball and the other end to a special kind of hook in the fish’s mouth. Then you lower the fish back down to depth. When the hook on the release is pulled upward where you want the fish to be, the fish slides right on off and is good to go. I didn’t take a pic as we wanted to get the fish back down as quickly as possible. It didn’t come back up so mission successful!

After the rescue mission was completed, we shifted position about another three hundred yards over. The current started whipping up along with the winds, so it was hard to keep my line straight up and down. Captain Nick did an excellent job in holding station however. Not long after we switched to this new spot, I felt a lurch on my line and this time I set the hook properly. I could tell I had a real beast on my hands from the massive pull. There was a big fish on, it could only be a halibut! It was a hard fight, but eventually I brought a big ‘ol ‘but to the surface. It was a two hook rig so I had a small pollock on the top hook and the halibut took the bottom hook. It was a twofer! I was so stoked to catch my first Alaskan Pacfic halibut. It was 41 inches and 30 lbs. a nice fish for sure.

After this, we fished that spot a little longer in hopes of catching another big hali, but no dice. There was another spot about a quarter mile away called ‘The Trash Hole’ that has a reputation for holding good halibut. We motored on over there and I dropped my line. The bottom seemed pretty snaggy and I almost got hung up a couple of times. Then, I felt like I hit a snag. Suddenly, the snag pulled back! I mean, it really wrenched my arm, this was a big fish. I could tell right away that this one was bigger than my first. This fish was one hell of a fighter! It went on two really good runs, pulling drag like crazy. My arm was still wore out from the first fish, and it was super difficult to hoist up this second one. Nick thought that it was a 70 lber the way it was fighting!

My arm was starting to feel like it was about to give out when the leader came into view. It was another twofer! A big rockfish called a quillback (another illegal fish) was on the top hook. It made it really difficult for Nick to sink the gaff hook into the jaw of the halibut. He reached down and nearly fell out of the boat getting ahold of that beast. Finally he wrenched it over the side and it was a big slab of fish! We measured it and this one turned out to be 45 inches and 45 lbs. I’ve been watching guests catch ones this size since I’ve been here, and it was awesome to finally land one for myself!

As the limit for halibut is two a day up here, I was done halibut fishing. I had the option to go do some salmon trolling, but as the salmon haven’t really arrived in big numbers yet I was content to end the day. I still wanted to get back in time to do laundry and relax a little bit. My arm was completely shot anyway! I still have bruises from my hip all the way to my belly button from the rod butt digging in. Nick suggested we go check out this cool waterfall on the way back and that sounded like a good idea to me.

On the way there we saw some animal swimming along, we got close and it was a freakin’ deer! The channel was probably a mile wide at this point, who knows why in the hell a deer would attempt such a crossing. Probably the same kind of thinking that causes them to jump out in front of cars on a deserted stretch of road. Who knows what thoughts lie in deer’s heads?

After a short cruise, we came across the waterfall. It was actually two waterfalls in one! Nick had actually never seen it before either, so it was a neat experience for the both of us. It was definitely worth the detour to go check out.

After we checked out the waterfalls, it was time to head on in. When we got back, the crew congratulated me on finally catching my first Alaskan halibut, it was nice. I pitched in and helped process them out. So that’s my day! I couldn’t have asked for a better one all things considered. When you’ve got perfect conditions, great fishing, and picture-postcard scenery everywhere you look, it is a blessing. Hopefully there are more days of great fishing ahead!


Confessions of an Alaskan Dockmonkey

Alright, so when I arrived here at the lodge, I found myself in an utterly confounding situation. All of a sudden I not only had to learn a totally new job, but also had to break into an already existing social circle as well as to learn how to function within the boundaries of the lodge. Any one of these things would be difficult to do at once, but to do all these things at the same time was completely overwhelming.

The first day I was here I wasn’t expected to do anything but relax and unpack. I was told when meals were served and was pretty much left to my own devices. I walked around the lodge grounds and saw where everything was located, and introduced myself to everyone I ran across. There were around 15 people already up here, most of which were lodge veterans who all knew each other from seasons past. (Our full crew topped out around 22 people). I quickly found out who I’d be working with the closest and hung around with them mostly. Everyone was really friendly but kind of distant, as was to be expected. I was the greenhorn and I’d just have to get to know folks before they would open up to me.

Starting with the second day, I got put to work. There was no orientation or anything like that, I was just thrown into the mix. I found out that I’d be working on projects with the maintenance guys mostly until the guests arrived. These guys were all in their 20’s so it was a bit awkward hanging out with the youngsters while all the people my age were guides and captains. Everyone was like, “Welcome to Yes Bay jail, what’s your sentence?” (meaning, what were you hired for?)

Now, I don’t want to be negative about this place, but it did indeed have a lot in common with jail. In fact, a lot of things I did to cope with the experience I learned from the reality show called ‘Sixty Days In’, a show about people going undercover in jails around America. So the main thing this place has in common with jail is that you can’t leave. You’re stuck here for the duration. I mean, obviously I could leave anytime I wanted, but I’d have to quit and I spent all of my money to get here so that’s not an option. I couldn’t even afford a plane ticket to leave.

The next is that you’re forced to have roommates. Now, I lucked out in this regard in that I found out that I won’t be having a roomie for the first month and the last month. The two months in between there’s a guide coming in that I have to share a space with, so it is what it is. I hear he’s an old fat dude who’s kind of a  curmudgeon, whoopie. I’d be going insane right now if I had to deal with a roommate on top of everything else I have to deal with, so I’m enjoying the solitude while it lasts.

Another big thing that this place has in common with jail is that you have no control over your environment. This means constant noise all the time. In between chatter from my co-workers & guests, the lodge owner’s dogs, and engine noises of all types I’m damn glad I brought a couple hundred pairs of earplugs. I have to sleep wearing earplugs as I’m a light sleeper, they do wonders in keeping my sanity and helping me sleep soundly. I also have no choice in what I get to eat day to day, although our kitchen staff is very dedicated and talented. If I want to eat, I have to eat what is served to me…which admittedly is pretty good grub. Still, a lot of the food is pretty carb and meat heavy and I’d prefer to be eating a lot more fish, rice and veggies.

Ok, ok, I’ll admit I’m being a little harsh on the place. Obviously this place is a far cry from jail. Still there are parallels that I just had to mention. My first week here admittedly was pretty rough. It took a little while to get into the social scene around here as I mentioned before. This on top of learning a new job and learning how to live in this environment was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s still ongoing actually, some days I’m flowing with things well, and others I feel like I’m on the verge of cracking up completely. The owner of the lodge is a real salty hardass and he can be difficult at times also. Now, here at the end of my second week everything is going somewhat smoothly for me. I’ve learned how to do my job, I’m friends with everyone, living the lodge life has become tolerable, and even the boss will crack a joke with me from time to time. He’s still a ball-buster though!

I figured ya’ll might be wondering what exactly it is I do here. Well, I’ll tell you. A typical day begins at 4:45. I’m responsible for lighting the fires upstairs in the fireplaces so the guests can enjoy a nice crackling fire while they drink coffee (or booze) to start their day. After this I have breakfast at six, then I go down to the dock to assist the guides in launching their boats. Until lunch at 11:30, I just hang around the dock, doing busy work like coiling ropes, practicing my knots and helping the floatplane load and unload if it comes. After lunch I may help out the maintenance boys do their tasks around the lodge, split firewood, make kindling or anything else the boss dreams up. I start hanging close by the dock around 2 in case boats start coming in. They are supposed to come in around 5 but can come in at any time. I need to be there to land them, get them tied up to the dock, and offload the catch.

The fun begins when the boats come back to base. I’ll take a big bucket and get the fish, then haul the them up on the hanging stand so they can be weighed out and people can take pictures if they want. I’ll then take the fish to the fillet table and the guides get to work on processing the catch. I don’t have to actually fillet the fish, but I’ll take the cut up fish, bag them, put them in the vacuum sealer, weigh & document the catch and then put the bags of fish in the walk in freezer on the dock. I also am responsible for boiling any crabs that are brought back.

This may not sound too exciting, but I absolutely love it. It doesn’t even seem like work to me, I’m in my element. There’s nothing better as a fisherman to be involved in doing something like this. It is fish heaven! After this, my day is done around 5 but has gone later on occasion. Dinner is at 5:30, and after that I have free time to do whatever until I go to bed at around 9 or so. That’s pretty much my day in a nutshell.

So there are a lot of awesome things Yes Bay lodge has going for it. The main thing is obviously the location. We’re 50 miles away from civilization in the middle of the Tongass National Forest. There is so much life all around in the air, sea and land. I see bald eagles all the time, and occasionally orcas and black & brown bears make their appearance. (Although I’ve yet to see these animals, other crew members have). This is probably the wildest and most remote place I’ve ever experienced.

The second thing I love about this place is all the cool people I work with. They come from all over America, and most are at the same place in life as I am. A lot of the folks here are nomadic and adventurous by nature, and were at a point in their lives where they were fed up with what was going on where they were at so they decided to say “To hell with it, I’m going to Alaska!”

The third thing, of course is the fishing! We have been bringing in massive halibut! A gal that works in the kitchen caught a massive 100 lber last week. It’s by far the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Pacific halibut dwarf their California cousins. This week we had our first guests and they have brought in a few in the 40-50 lb range. I get just as excited as they do when they bring in these big fish! Later on in the summer salmon will start to run and we’ll be catching a lot of those as well. From what I hear, we’ll be catching silvers, chum and pink salmon. Kings are illegal to keep in this area, but that’s fine by me. I can catch those a’plenty down south.

When it comes to fishing, we have a few options. One is to fish off the dock whenever we have free time. I haven’t been doing this as I came up here with only a rod and no tackle. I’m learning what people are using and will be placing a big order after I get my first paycheck in a week or so. The next option is to go up Wolverine Creek right next to the lodge and fish for trout and steelhead. Several crew members have been catching these but as I need to get a shorter pole and tackle I haven’t done this yet. Very soon I’ll be getting into those fish however! The creek flows out of a lake a couple miles upstream that features world-class steelhead fishing. The trail to get up there is really challenging to get up and super treacherous, but once you get up there the fishing can be rewarding!

The kind of fishing I’m most excited about is the ocean fishing. On our one day a week off we can put in a request to go out on one of the boats if there is an open slot. I actually did this for the first time today (Tuesday the 22nd). I had high hopes for going out for halibut, but they were dashed when the boss told my captain he wanted him to go out trolling to see if the pink salmon were running yet. It kind of pissed me off as I go salmon trolling all the time back in Santa Cruz, and the pink salmon is the smallest of the salmon species. I’m in world-class halibut territory, and that’s what I want to target. It’s like having a ticket for the Super Bowl but when you get to the stadium you find that the ticket is only good for Pee-Wee football! It’s still football and it’s entertaining, but it’s not what you want to see when the big game is happening!

Nevertheless, I still had fun today. I caught my first Alaskan fish, a shaker King Salmon (actually caught 3 in total) and a whole lot of rock cod (boring). The highlight of the day is when I caught some cod and threw them back, they didn’t swim down right away. On three separate occasions a bald eagle swooped down no more than 15-20 yards behind the boat and snatched them up! It was so majestic to watch, I tried to take pictures but it happened too fast for me to do so. Down south all we see going after our by-catch are seagulls, and I promise you bald eagles swooping down is much more thrilling!

Lastly, the thing I like about the place is the lodge itself. It’s such a cool building with a rich history. It was built around a hundred years ago and used to be a bordello/gambling hall. I think it’s been an actual fishing lodge since the 50’s. Kirk Douglas used to come here a lot, and I think Kevin Costner has been here a few times. It’s just got a cool vibe. It even has its own ghost! They call him Yes Bay Johnny. One of the housekeeping girls had an encounter with him the other night.

She was housed inside the lodge at the time in one of the guest bedrooms. It was before we had guests when the boss cut the generator at 9:30 to save on diesel. (Now we have power 24/7). She said around 11 o’clock when everyone should have long been in bed and the lodge was dark and quiet she heard voices coming from the main lobby. Suddenly, footsteps started pounding up and down the hallway outside her door. When she looked out to see who it was there was no one there! Also she told me a couple of nights before that the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror swung open all by itself when she was alone in her room. When she started asking around she was filled in on the story of Yes Bay Johnny. Who is this spirit? Maybe someone was shot in a poker game gone wrong and now his spirit roams the hallways forever. Who knows? You totally get that creepy feeling here, especially when it’s late and no one is around. There’s something mysterious about this place for sure.

So I’m going to end this before I write a novel. I have plenty more to talk about but I’ve got plenty of time in the months ahead to elaborate further. I just wanted to give my audience a good sketch of where I am at and what I am doing here. Things go on every day I could write about. Trouble is I only have an hour or so of writing time so it’s a lot of work cramming it into one post a week! Never fear Dear Reader, there are plenty of Dogfish Tales coming at you in the weeks to come. Signing off!


On My Way Down to Ketchikan/Yes Bay

After I bid farewell to Bethan and Anchorage, I hopped on the plane and headed south. I flew Alaskan Airlines and they absolutely rock because they let me check my baggage for free! United Airlines charged me 80 bucks to do the same, so I was glad to save some money on that front. The flight stopped in Juneau, Petersburg and Wrangell, which was actually pretty cool as I got to see a lot of Alaska along the way. I had a window seat so I got to take in a lot of scenery during the course of the flight.

For the first couple of stops I had a couple of kids (brother and sister, probably twins) around 8 years old in the aisle and center seats. They were flying by themselves and I feared that they would be wild screaming brats the whole 6 hour flight. Amazingly, the kids were really well behaved and they only started to get crazy about a half hour out of their stop in Petersburg.

Unfortunately, when they got off a wild band of about 5 10-12 year old boys went completely berserk in the back of the plane where I was and kept hopping in and out of the vacant seats next to me. Their mom couldn’t control them and their dad was on some heavy pills or smack and was on the nod the whole time. At one point the dad spilled an entire cup of coffee on the floor and was staggering around trying to clean it up. It was so bad that even the stewardess was asking him if he was ok. It was absolute teeth-grinding chaos. I was so glad when the plane finally landed in Ketchikan.

I had heard horror stories about lost/damaged luggage on flights landing in Ketchikan, so upon my arrival I was very pleased to find that all my stuff made it there safely. As I was waiting at the baggage claim I heard people talking about making the ferry, and when I asked I discovered that the airport was on an island and the only way to get to town was by boat! I did a quick Google search and found that the ferry leaves on the hour and half hour, so as it was about ten till five I hustled out the door and followed the signs to the loading dock. Fortunately the ferry entrance was right outside the front of the airport so I didn’t have to lug my heavy duffel bag too far. I paid the 6 dollar toll and boarded the ferry right as they were about to pull away.

As I had an Airb&b booked for the night, when I got to the other side I pulled up Uber to look for a lift to get me there. I found out that both Uber and Lyft didn’t have any cars available. Ketchikan seems to be the only place I have been to in the country in the last 5 years or so where the old-fashioned taxi is still the king. I called up a local cab company and when they arrived I was informed that a 4 mile cab ride was going to set me back like 30 dollars. No wonder why ride-share companies aren’t present in Ketchikan, there is obviously a strong cab mafia in place there! As a former cabbie I’m kind of happy that the cab drivers there still have a strong presence and have kept out the rideshares, but my wallet wasn’t too happy about it!

My cab driver was a cool dude, he was actually from Houston and comes up to drive in Ketchikan during the summer season. He makes a whole lot of money doing this, it seems like I’m in the wrong business doing what I’m doing! My job pays peanuts compared to what he makes, but like all lucrative jobs you’ve got to be connected to score employment like that. It was nice to run into a fellow Southerner all the way up here in Alaska though!

I got dropped off at my Airb&b and met the lady who ran it. She was a real sweet lady who I judged to be Russian or Eastern European from her accent. The room and house were very comfortable and clean, it was a great place to stay. I really wanted to get down into town and start exploring, so after chatting with her for a while I walked down the hill to the bus stop and took the bus back into town. I was really wanting to get a cheeseburger so I found this place that served elk burgers, so of course I had to have one! After I ate I walked around and did a little bit of sight-seeing. I decided I really liked Ketchikan. It felt like a wild west frontier town, I felt right at home. It seemed like a place where anything could happen at anytime. Such a change from what I’m used to in the lower 48!

I was getting rather thirsty by this point so I decided to stop and grab some beers at the Arctic Bar. It was a pretty rowdy place for sure! They had a nice back patio overlooking the water in the back so I had some scenery to look at as I was enjoying my drinks. The familiar smell of good weed was everywhere, nice to know that they were herb-friendly. There was quite a mix of people milling about from bikers to fishermen to tourists, but everyone seemed mellow and the vibe was good. Then this one big Viking-looking dude started slamming around beer bottles and hollering, but no one seemed to pay him any mind. It was usual for a Monday night at this place I guess.

Later inside he was yelling across the bar at some hipster looking dudes and demanded that they speak to him in Italian for some reason. They were obviously American but he started to get unhinged when they wouldn’t go along with his request. I figured things were about to go sour so I paid my tab and headed out. I kind of wanted to see how the situation would play out but I was far too sober and tired to deal with such shenanigans. By this time it was getting close to 10 PM and I was scheduled to be picked up by my lodge at 8 the next morning, so I made my way back to my Airb&b.

After a good night’s sleep, I got a ride to the lodge office in town in one of the company vans. My new employer’s daughter picked me up and delivered me to the waiting floatplane after I made a last minute stop to grab my Alaskan fishing licence and an extra pair of boots. The office was right on the water, and the company floatplane was berthed right next to it. I met the pilot who happened to be the husband of the girl who picked me up. It’s a family-owned & operated business through and through. There was a grocery delivery going out with me, (2500 lbs worth) so my first official duty working for the lodge was to help load up the plane. After this was done, I loaded myself & my gear into the waiting plane and soon we were off!

It was so cool taking off on the water for the first time! The pilot, Trevor, was a really cool dude. He seemed to be my age or a little younger but was a very accomplished pilot. I think he told me he’s logged something like 14,000 flight hours in his career. That’s a lot of time in the air! I really enjoyed looking around at all the beautiful scenery as we made our way to the lodge. Trevor gave me a nice little rundown of what it was like to be a bush pilot in Alaska and what to expect at my destination. The lodge is about 50 miles to the north of Ketchikan and the flight took about 20-30 minutes. Finally, we reached the mouth of Yes Bay. Shortly thereafter, the lodge swung into view and we made a smooth landing. As we taxied to the dock the dock crew swung into action and got us parked. I leapt out of the plane, and there I was finally at long last. I had arrived at my home for the next 4 months.

So as of now I’ve been here a week and a half. I’ve got so much to write about, but I’ll have to leave that for next week’s post. My free time is very limited, and internet service is spotty so it’s been a challenge to upload my pictures and writings. Sometimes the internet lets me upload my blog and sometimes it doesn’t, it depends on the day. Suffice to say that life here is what I expected, but not what I expected at the same time. Living the lodge life out in the Alaskan bush is really extreme and is taking a lot to get used to. At times I love it and other times I wonder what in the hell was I thinking signing up for this? Anyways, I’ll leave it at that for now. Stay tuned for the lowdown next week on Tales of the Dogfish!


Antics in Anchorage

Well, I have finally made it up here to the Great White North & the Land of the Midnight Sun! I must say it is another one of those places where the pictures don’t do it justice. There is no way to convey the vast sweeping scale of the place from pictures or video alone. The mountains are higher and more rugged than any I’ve ever seen. The land itself is dotted with thousands of lakes and mud bogs are everywhere. Looks like some prime off road country for sure! I’m sure me and The Beast would have a good time up here.

Anyways, after a long arduous day of travel (made better by having a window seat next to an empty center seat on an almost full flight) I arrived in Anchorage. Bethan picked me up and we drove around town a bit running some errands. After making a few stops we went back to her place and met up with her mom who cooked up some salmon for dinner with some delicious blueberry crisp for dessert. (Later on in the week she made some rhubarb crisp & cake that was incredible! Props to ya Miss Carol!)

After we ate Bethan suggested we go for a hike. I was pretty tired from my trip but I really wanted to get started on checking out some scenery, so the 3 of us went out to this nearby trail for an evening stroll. It was about 8:30 when we set out and the sun was still way up in the sky. It’s crazy to see how the high latitudes impact the length of the day! The sun just hangs out in the sky forever in the evening. The winds were whipping pretty hard (which was out of character evidently) so it was a bit nippy. Still, it wasn’t a whole lot colder than Santa Cruz, and the low hanging sun had a suprising amount of warmth to it.

We hiked about an hour and a half up this trail where you could get great views of Flattop Mountain to the east and Anchorage far off to the west. All along the way Bethan showed me a lot of the native flora and told me what is edible and what you have to watch out for. There’s this stuff called ‘devil’s club’ that looks particulary gnarly. I guess it’s the closest thing Alaska has to a cactus, I don’t want to get into a thicket of that stuff!

On our hike we didn’t see any animal life until we were in the car on our way out. It was then when we rolled up on a moose. It was grazing contentedly on what looked to be moss or something similar. We got to within 15 feet or so and it didn’t pay us any mind. It was on the smaller size for a moose, I’d say it was the size of a big cow. Still, I bet that it is one thing coming up to one of these animals in a car and quite another to come across one on foot. I hear that they can be mean if they want to be!

On the second day, Bethan suggested that we go up to this place called Girdwood. It’s a little ski community about a half hour north of Anchorage. There was still plenty of snow on the mountains up there, I think Bethan told me that they ski pretty much year-round. We had lunch at this nice little restaurant and hiked some of the nearby trails after we ate. The woods were lush and primeval, I guess you could call it a sub-arctic rainforest.

For the third day, we decided to go north and check out the Matanuska Valley. There was a spot up there where there was an old coal mine that left behind a large amount of fossils in the tailings. You can go and just pick them up off of the ground. They are all plant fossils, although Bethan said that she once found one of a fish that got in there somehow.

The road was pretty good until the last half mile or so. We had to hike in the last little bit due to the road being washed out. When we got to the site we ran across some locals who drove all the way in with a big lifted off-road truck with big mud tires. It was a pretty bad-ass truck, I guess that’s what you need to get around in the valley! Wish I had thought to get a picture of it. 

After our fossil diggings, we headed up the valley a ways to go check out the Matanuska glacier. The scenery on the drive up was absolutely breathtaking. The weather was overcast and foggy so I couldn’t see all of the mountains, but it lent an air of mystery to the surroundings. After a long drive, the glacier came into sight. It was the first glacier I have ever seen and it was an incredible sight to behold.

Of course I wanted to climb up on the glacier, so we found the road down to it and drove on down. Now, I expected to be able to just go to it and explore without any complications. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The road was pretty rough and we had to cross this really sketchy bridge. The road ended at a gate and it became clear that you had to pay to see it! I think it was something like 80 bucks for the both of us, you have to pay for a guide. I had the money and really wanted to see the glacier up close but I was kinda upset with the whole scenario. I declined to pay on principle and we drove away. Later on Bethan showed me some pictures from a blog showing the glacier and I had some regrets about not shelling out the funds to go see it. Oh well, we’ll have to check it out on my next visit.

It was sunset by the time we got back into Anchorage (around 11:20 PM), so we drove up to this overlook right below Flattop Mountain to take it in. One thing about sunset here is how long the ‘golden hour’ lasts. It lasts at least twice as long up in the north, and it is such a rich glowing light. It was like having on yellow tinted sunglasses. It’s so good for photography!

For the fourth day’s activities we decided to go check out the zoo. They had pretty much all the main fauna found in Alaska. They had moose, reindeer, brown bears, musk ox, polar bear (which didn’t make an appearance) snow leopards, seals, bald & golden eagles, and probably our favorite, wolverines. The wolverines reminded me of a bunch of different animals, like a cross between weasels, skunks and bears! They put on a show for us. We had a good time checking out the animals, I haven’t been to a zoo in years so it was fun. This zoo specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating animals so that’s cool.

After we checked out the zoo, we decided to go down to the closest thing Anchorage has to a beach. Kincade Park has a trail about a mile long that goes down to a mostly rocky beach, but it does have some sand. We picked up Bethan’s mom and some Thai food to have a picnic down at the beach. One of Bethan’s friends met us down at the park and we walked on down to the beach. As we walked down the trail people warned us that there was a momma moose down there with a baby so we needed to watch out. Those moose are everywhere! You’ll never know when you’ll run into one.

We did eventually come across the moose, but it was off the trail a little ways up in a thicket so we were able to pass safely. After about a half hour walk we made it down to the beach and found a place to sit down. The cliff overlooking the beach seemed to be unstable for some reason, and small rocks constantly cascaded down the slope. There was a sizable earthquake in the Anchorage area a couple of days before I arrived so that was possibly the culprit. After a grapefruit-sized rock nearly hit our group we decided to move over to some nearby sand dunes where we were out of harm’s way.

We stayed at the beach until around 11, and on our way out we found that the park rangers had locked up the gate, trapping us inside! Fortunately someone showed up and let us out without having to wait for the police to come over and do it. On the way out we saw a moose mother and calf grazing on the side of the road. Maybe they were the ones we had been warned about before? Who knows, I was glad I was in a car and not on foot though!

On day five we headed off to the south to visit the town of Seward. This is the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I’ve heard that the drive down there is one of the most scenic in the nation, up there with Highway 1 going through Big Sur. I love a good scenic drive, so I was stoked to be taking the road trip down there. We headed out and it was the most perfect, beautiful day one can ask for in Alaska. The skies were almost free from clouds and the temps were in the mid-60’s. They don’t get many days like that down in the Kenai Peninsula!

There was a place on the way to Seward called Portage that Bethan recommended we stop and check out. Back when she was little there was a glacier feeding into the bay there and there were hundreds of calving icebergs always floating around. These days the glacier has retreated back quite a ways from where it used to be and the icebergs are almost a distant memory. When we stopped to check it out the rangers told us there was an iceberg there! To me it was a big deal as I’ve never seen an iceberg before. We walked over and checked it out, and sure enough, there it was all floating by its lonesome.

There were a bunch of kids skipping stones so Bethan and I had to get our skip on as well! After doing this for a while the kids started chunking rocks at the iceberg out in the water so I had to do that too. It was just within stone-throwing range, I nailed that sucker a few times. It was so satisfying to do this, I don’t know why but it was!

We continued on down the road and eventually rolled into the town of Seward. First we checked into our Airb&b. It was a really nice place except for one thing…there appeared to be no bathroom! In the utility room there was a toilet wedged in between the washer and dryer but that was it. Feeling a little ripped off, I called the owner and asked where we were supposed to take a shower. She burst out laughing and told us that the bathroom was behind the bedroom door! We looked, and sure enough, there it was! It was a nice bathroom at that! Man, did we feel like a couple of dumbasses. I bet she had a great story to tell her friends though!

After we rested a bit we headed into Seward. We were pretty hungry, but we rolled into town around 8:00 so places were starting to close up. I was all stoked on getting some fried halibut and chips so I placed a to-go order at a local spot while Bethan hit up the taqueria in town. She got her food relatively quickly where as mine took 40 freakin’ minutes to cook! When my order was finally ready we went and ate down by the water and enjoyed the evening bayside. When we were done there was still plenty of light left so we walked around the marina until midnight. The marina was a hive of activity as red salmon were running and people were snagging them all over the place. The fish cleaning stations were covered in beautiful red fillets, it was a sight to see.

The next day we headed back into Seward and checked out the SeaLife aquarium which was the main attraction I wanted to see. I so much wanted to go on a glacier tour but by this point my funds were pretty depleted and I just couldn’t fit it into my budget. Well, that’s another thing that’ll have to wait until next time! The aquarium was pretty cool, the main critters that I liked were the 2500 lb Stellar sea lion (biggest sea lion I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of them) and the puffins. They had this two-story tank you could watch the puffins dive from the surface all the way to the bottom. It’s neat to see how they swim around under water as if they were flying through the air. Of course there were a lot of cool fish there as well, most of which I was familiar with from Santa Cruz waters.

As I was flying out the next morning I was on somewhat of a tight time table so we had to leave earlier than I would have liked. There’s a lot to see down there in and around Seward. Bethan suggested we drive out to Exit Glacier on our way out, so we went to go see it. It’s pretty cool, there are signs going back to the early 1900’s on the road going up to it to show where the glacier had been in that year. It was shocking to see how far it had retreated during the past 100 years or so. It won’t be long until there’s no glacier there at all. When we got there there was a short hike to get to a place where you could actually see it and I took the opportunity to take some photos. At least we got to see one glacier while we were down there!

After this, we headed back to Anchorage. I was bummed to be saying goodbye to Bethan, but it was time for me to get ready to go to work. It was a nice little break after months of inaction & anticipation for this experience. I really enjoyed my Anchorage interlude. There’s nothing better than having a great time with great company! Alaska has just blown my mind so far. The land is just so vast, wild and epic, it exceeded my wildest expectations. Alaska in the summertime has to be the most magical, beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. It feels like a great fit for me so far. Now on to Ketchikan and my summer sojurn at the lodge. I’m really nervous about what the future holds, but hey, if you ain’t getting out of your comfort zone you ain’t really living I say!


The Dogfish Returns

After a winter hiatus, The Dogfish is back! Spring is in full swing over here on the Monterey Bay. It has been a long ugly winter full of wacko politics and plague insanity but everything seems to be trending positive and improving on all fronts lately. Just this past week I recieved my 2nd Moderna shot (which made me sick as a dog for 3 days) so at least I got that over and done with. I made up a lot of ground work wise in the last few months and I’m happy to report that my Alaska job is back on! I fly out on June 1st and willl spend some time with my friend in Anchorage until the 7th, then I’ll fly into Ketchikan and report to my lodge on the 8th.

I’ve funneled a couple grand into The Beast and got him road-worthy again as well. I still need to put another 5-600 dollars into a new ball joint but after that it’s gonna be good to go. My intention was to head off to the desert the last week before I headed off to Alaska but I’m in a financial pinch at the moment so I’m going to be working pretty much until I leave. My costs have been pretty extreme even though I had most of my gear already purchased. A lot of stuff from last year needed to be replaced and I thought of a lot of new items I needed. As of today I’ve got everything I need though. Now I just need funds for my time in Alaska before I head to the lodge and to pay next month’s bills.

I’m really stoked about getting to check out the Anchorage area before I head out to Ketchikan. My friend Bethan has all kinds of places she wants to show me. It’ll be good to have an Alaskan native to show me around and introduce me to the place. There’s all kinds of good hiking trails she wants to take me on, and I want to check out some musuems and cultural stuff. We’re going to take a little road trip down the Kenai Peninsula to the town of Seward which I hear is a must-see place to visit. The only aquarium in the state is there and the marine biologist in me has to check that out. Hopefully I have the funds to take us out on a cruise in Resurrection Bay and check out where the glaciers spill out from Kenai Fjords National Park into the sea. I’ve never seen a glacier so really looking forward to that.

All in all things are pretty hectic for me at the moment. I’m feeling a mix of excitement and a little bit of anxiety about the sudden life change. I’m heavily invested in this experience so it has to work out. I don’t see why it wouldn’t though. I’m mainly concerned about leaving my truck behind. The Beast is like my child as well as my home, and I’m nervous about leaving it. It’s going to be in good hands though, I’m leaving it with Jacob up at his property in Last Chance where I’m not going to have to worry about fire danger or too many mice getting into my ride since everything up there is burned up already!

Speaking of Last Chance, I went up there last weekend to spend some time with Jacob and to get out of town for a couple of days. I was really impressed with what he has done to the place, he’s got it feeling like a proper residence up there again. Things are starting to green up after the winter rains, but it’ll be years before it’ll be back to the way it was. Still, life is returning to the mountaintop and it is a good thing to see. Partying up there with him was like the old days pre-fire, it was good for the soul.

In fishing news, we’ve been going out for salmon since the season opener back in the beginning of April. Opening day was plagued by mechanical problems, but since then the Sea King has been landing fish. A couple of weekends ago I caught my first of the season, a nice 15 pounder. All of us have caught at least one this season which is nice. I was wanting to get in some salmon filleting practice before I head up north (where I’ll be doing a LOT of it for work) so I was happy. I hope the boys tear it up while I’m gone!

Well, that about wraps it up. The next time I write I’ll be up in the Great North! I can hardly wait. I don’t know how much fishing I’ll have time to do up there, but I’ll definitely be doing as much as I can. I only get one day off a week, I’m going to be working my ass off for sure. I’m really wanting to land one of those big barn door halibut they’ve got in abundance up at my lodge. Hopefully I can get into some salmon action as well. I look forward to providing ya’ll with a lot of good content and many epic pictures of my adventures. Till next we meet!