22 July 2011

Sockeye Fever

Sockeye fever is simple.  People want to fill the freezer, and with a limit of 3 fish per day it can happen quickly.  It means 3 am mornings, standing thigh deep in glacial melt swinging ounces of led and a snagging hook with an 8wt  for hours on end.

Regulations say you can't use a bare hook but it wouldn't matter for catching them

A good wide gap and short shank make for great hooking and holding power
Pound for pound sockeye (red) salmon are the hardest fighting fish out there.  The first run salmon average about 8 lbs and we use 25 lb mono to construct a 9' leader.  With the drag cranked these guys still peel line.

I put this one through my finger

The pliers come in handy for removing hooks (from fingers)
and the scissors I use to bleed the salmon before knocking them
The second run of reds started in just the last 2 or 3 days.  By now there are over 700,000 salmon in the Kenai River and working their way to its headwaters.  The Kenai River automated fish count reports can be heard at (907) 262-9097.  The fish in this run average 14 pounds or so and put everything into the fight.

This is sockeye fishing at it's worst.  Combat, shoulder to shoulder,
what ever you call it I prefer trout

These salmon run the gauntlet as they battle upstream to their spawning grounds
There are places where the crowds dissipate and fish still hold.  They way to access these little places is by hiking a little or using a drift boat to get to gravel bars along the Kenai.  There are a dozen ways to prepare salmon, from the grill, smoker, canner, hung dried, cold smoked, etc.  They are all delicious.

The pay-off is a smoker full of fresh salmon.
The second run of King Salmon is in hard as well. About 1,000 to 1,500 kings enter the Kenai every day  now.

08 July 2011

Tutka Bay Overnight

Conrad and I managed to find two days and a night to get out and do some kayaking.  There are an infinite number of places to kayak around the Kenai Peninsula.  We drove down to Homer on a sunday, spent the night in the trailer, and packed some bags for a one-night paddle.
The Homer Spit extends south - Tutka Bay is just out of sight to the west

Monday morning we met a water taxi at one of the Homer docks.  He gave us two kayaks and a lift across Kachemak Bay to the mouth of Tutka Bay.  We designated a time and location for pick up and were left to ourselves and our desires.

Just before we depart Kayak beach

From our drop point at Kayak beach at the mouth of the bay we paddled south with the incoming tide.  The wind was at our back and the sun was out as we stayed close to the northeast shore.  It's possible to see harbor seals, otters, and even whales in the bay.  Sea birds and eagles are everywhere and break the silence.  As we paddled south we passed a lot of private properties on the shore.  Most of them were simple cabins or fish camps.  The water around Homer is full of Halibut, which supports much of the economy.

An otter got curious and quite close

Tutka Bay Lagoon has shallow waters and is only accessible at high tide

About half way down the bay we crossed and entered the Tutka Bay Lagoon.  Only accessible at high tide, the lagoon has been used as a fish hatchery.  The brackish water makes a perfect environment for raising salmon.  We paddled up to the hatchery and two guys came out.  One was a fatherly figure, mid 50's, and the other was a college age kid who's not in college.  They were living together and managing the hatchery and seemed eager to have someone else to talk to.  They were raising 280,000 Sockeye Salmon for release in early June.  In a few years when the salmon return fully grown they will be netted off-shore and find their way to dinner plates around the country as Alaska wild salmon.

We watched this Bald Eagle for hours - it's nest was just out of site to the right

Looking south towards our campsite and the head of the bay

Looking south towards the head of the bay from our campsite

From the lagoon we continued south to about mile 8.  There is a little isthmus on the southwest side of the bay with a beautiful campsite.  We made camp, cooked pasta for dinner, lay a few cloths out to dry and settled down to read.  As the sun doesn't set now until 23:30 or so, we just messed around camp, not sure we'd be able to sleep if we got in the tent.  Of course we slept without a problem and woke to rain and howling winds.  It took us the better part of the morning to eat breakfast and find the motivation to get back into our boats.  We did, and heading into the wind and the chop, we hugged the shore for the last two miles until we got to the head of the bay.

Our campsite on a bed of moss

With the hard part of the day over we turned back to the north and let the chop and wind take us to our pick-up.  We were there hours early but happy to build a fire and wait for our ride.  A nice excursion, to be sure.

02 July 2011

Around Camp

Just to fill in a few holes.  Here are some shots from around camp and on the water.

Meet Canyon

He's not so happy here - went for an inadvertent swim

It might seem like over kill but strong pliers and good scissors are a must

A shell makes first wake on Kenai Lake