Seems summer was getting ready to start and suddenly it is fall...
In June we brought a small boat from Juneau to Whittier (about 800 miles) for friends and made a trip of it. High Westerly winds made us hole up in Yakutat for a 13 days and delayed our trip until we did not have time to do the things we had planned. I wanted to spend a week in Icy Bay, but we spent just a single night.
I wanted to go ashore at Katalla where the first Alaska oilfield is and check out the old wooden casing wellheads and see what things were look. Instead I got to see it from the water, briefly.
My wife fell off the boat washing windows while we were pulling anchor in Kayak Entrance... It is spooky to imagine what could have happened as no one saw her go and only the fact I had to go back to the cabin to give the rookie boat driver instructions while I pulled the anchor allowed deaf me to hear her over the engine.
I have spent a lot of time on the Copper River over the past 46 years and thought I knew a little bit about it. Home of the famous "Copper River Red Salmon" it is one of the truly incredible salmon producers in AK. But only this summer I learned why it is called the Copper River as we drove by. It is the strangest deep copper color imagineable and the mouth stretches for a very long way... about 3 hours of running in a Nordic Tug doing 8 knots.
We had to work to find the entrance to Strawberry Inlet to run into Cordova from the South and save an 8-hour run around Hinchinbrook Island. The channel is extremely narrow and often involved nearly doubling back on the route to stay between the markers.
After running hundreds of miles across open ocean without seeing another boat it suddenly got anticlimactic to run across Prince William Sound with all the traffic.
The very bad news from the whole trip is how seriously degraded fish stocks are in SouthEast Alaska. The average size of commercially caught halibut in Yakutat Bay is pathetic and declining rapidly. While commercial longliners scream and point fingers at a sportfishing charter fleet an armada of trawlers scours the bottom and kills and wastes more halibut each year than the ENTIRE State sport harvest per boat!
Yup, individual boats probably kill and waste more halibut each year than the entire sports fishery. But the IPHC response is to limit charter boat fishermen to a single halibut per day. And of course if they had to bring the halibut to port instead of dumping them at sea the real cost to the fishery would be obvious.
In Yakutat Bay they have started a new fishery for lingcod called "Dingle Barring" and it is having an incredibly negative effect. In short a steel bar about 1 1/2" in diameter and about 6' long is dragged along the bottom. Attached to the bar is a single line with a series of one-pound leadhead jigs attached. Each jig is counterweighted with a cork above it and the line of jigs stretches out behind the dingle bar.
The bar gets their attention and the jigs do the rest. In 2006 they started the fishery to give marginal boats a chance to make some money so they can buy halibut quota shares. It is a deep pool once one tries to explain quota shares (IFQs) and I believe I will pass for now. Anyway in '06 the quota for the fishery was about 140,000 pounds IIRC and the fish averaged almost 30 pounds and it took less than a week. The '10 quota was 66,000 pounds and it took them 8 days to catch the fish and they averaged 13 pounds.
And sports fishermen at the dock could not understand why they could not catch a lingcod when just a few years before they caught limits everyday. In the rest of Alaska the lingcod season opens July first because the females are sitting on nests until then and the minute the protector of the nest goes away the greenlings and cods and crabs and everything else eats them. The Yakutat Bay lingcod fishery is in May, the time they have traditionally been found on nests.
Anyway, I just got back from Kodiak where I spent a couple weeks doing all sorts of different things... but I caught a couple of these:
And here is a friend straining with a lingcod well past the 13 pound average in Yakutat Bay this year:
And this halibut is quite a bit bigger than the average anywhere:
This is a fish I caught some years ago and it weighed 235# or so.