Kodiak : In the Autumn of 2016
When I make a fishing trip plan in Kodiak, I often chose September to catch silversalmon. But, this year, I decided to visit in July to catch kingsalmon. I used to catch it in June and July in Kenai and other places, but after getting to know a big fighter, silversalmon of Kodiak, I have gone fishing in September in Kodiak.
You can catch kingsalmon by bank-fishing from June in Kodiak. The fish is a little bit smaller than Kenai kings, but to catch a trophy from the bank is very attractive for me. Because work came to the end of the first stage in the end of June, I left for Kodiak on July 1.
July 1 Friday : Cloudy and rainy
I changed planes at Seattle and Anchorage with no problem, and arrived in Kodaik at 4:30 pm. When I went to a Budget checkin desk to pick up a rental car, the clerk said there was no reservation record. Of course, I had already booked it a long time before through Travelocity, an on-line booking agency. It was not a reliable company (I will never use it again !). She managed to assign another car, that was bigger than I booked and was same rental fee.
I checked in to Shelikof Lodge, where I stayed at first in 2004 in Kodiak. As soon as I put my baggage in the room, I went to Safeway to buy food and beverages. I met up with Mr. Oki, a fishing guide, at 7:00 pm at the usual Chinese restaurant. The interior decorations of the restaurant were different from last year, and second floor was closed.
I guessed we would go fishing next early morning, but he said we would leave at 11:00 pm that night. You can usually catch kingsalmon in the American River and the Olds River, and the Pasagshak River in Kodiak. However, the Pasagshak River was closed that day due to small run. We would fish in the Olds River.
It takes one hour by car from the city center to the river. Kingsalmon are very sensitve to the tide, so we always have to consider the tide table. Next day, before and after 4:00 am could be the best time to fish, he said. He also said, it could be better to go on ahead and to take a nap at the bank of the river than to leave home after short sleep. We decided to leave at 11:00 pm that night.
When we arrived at the river at 0:00 am, we could see the river clearly. Yes, it was Alaskan summer. Surprisingly there were six cars at the river bank many people were partying around the fire. It was Saturday and the Fourth of July was just around the corner. There was no reason to stop drinking. However, where they were drinking was the best place to fish along this river. We reluctantly went downstream and stopped.
The river was not dark yet, so I tried to fish for a while. I rigged a float (a bobber) with the line and cast. The bait was a lump of salmon eggs. This site didn't look so bad, but no bites happened. I quit fishing soon, and decided to take a nap.
July 2 Saturday : Cloudy
I woke up at 3:00 am. and began fishing at 4 am. Mr.Oki said that bait fishing was the best way to catch kingsalmon and they actively bite the bait for a little while after coming from the sea, but soon stop biting not only bait but also any lures. I was fishing in the best condition, in the middle of low tide and in the twilight. There were a lot of lupins along the river.
I did bobber-fishing this time because the river current was not strong. While I saw the bobber flowing on the surface, I didn't get any bites. I changed fishing places as moving downstream, but caught just one Dolly Varden trout. I saw a couple of fishermen along the river and asked them about their fishing. They said the fish were very slow. Mr.Oki decided to move to the river mouth. It took about five minutes to the beach. I saw several people casting lures.
I began bait-fishing soon. The river opposite from me was deep and looked very good hole. Although I let my bait drift down there many times, I caught just one flounder. There were many people casting lures around me, but nobody got a bite.
We had lunch at Olds River Inn. When I visited it last year, it was closed due to a fire. But it had already been repaired and reopened. Hamburger was more expensive than last year, Mr.Oki said. It might be due to the repairment expense. The hamburgers filled us up.
After lunch, we returned to the river mouth. A bite hadn't occured yet. A woman appeared downstream and began casting. Her casting was terrible, but she got a bite soon. I saw her fishing rod bend. She managed to keep on reeling in, and a big salmon appeared on the beach. It could be beginner's luck, but I was envious. After a while, the guy next to her also got a bite, and he landed on the beach. Nobody got a bite except the people around trhere. I quit fishing at 4:30 pm..
July 3 Sunday : Sunny
I would go saltwater fishing on this day. After early breakfast, I went to the pier at 7:30 am. My charter boat was "U-Rascal", that I had taken many times. There were eight anglers on board including me, an Ohaio guy a Coloradan couple, Barrow couple and a Kodiak couple. The fishing boat departed at 8:00 am.
After a 20 minute cruising, we arrived at the first fishing hole. We would catch rockfish by "jigging". I sank a eight ounce jig onto bottom and gradually reeled it in with twitching. The depth was between 100 and 160 feet. Because we were fishing at a very productive hole, many black rock fish, as well as lingcod and yelloweye, were soon caught. Shortly, all the fishermen reached the bag limit of 5 fish each.
Our next target was halibut. The boat ran to the island north at full speed, and we arrived at the halibut hole in an hour. I saw the remote mountain tops covered with snow. Although I had visited Kodiak many times, it was first time to see snow.
A bait was a couple of cut herring. The deckhand stuck them with a huge fishing hook and cast it with a heavy lead. We patiently had to wait for a bite . After a short while fishing, I saw whales swimming near the boat. They could have been humpback whales, but I was not sure because they were too far away. Because almost all of the fishermen looked at them and took pictures, the skipper said they should focus on the rod tips. We got bites soon, and good halibut were landed around the deck.
A daily bag limit of halibut was just two. After almost all of the people caught bag limits, the skipper decided to move and begin trolling for king salmon. The deckhand sank a spoon with a heavy downrigger and let it stay at 50 feet deep. When the boat was running slowly, I saw a fishing rod suddenly bend. Fish on ! When a bite occures, we take it in turns to catch. It was my turn. I managed to reel it in. It was a nice female king salmon.
There were two deckhands on board, and one of them was Revecca. She and I fished together two years earlier. She worked very hard and looked after customers very well. An elder woman caught a second one. Three king salmon were caught that day in the end.
This place could be very productive for king salmon, so I saw many fishing boats around us. Seals also knew it. They appeared at the surface. It was amazing that seals can catch a quick king salmon in the sea. The skipper decided to move and begin fishing halibut.
On the way back to the pier, the skipper decided to do trolling again. It was the last trolling. After a while, I saw the rod bend strongly. Fish on ! It was Barrow guy's turn. But, he couldn't reel it in quickly. He said that it was not king salmon but some big fish. He managed to reel it in, and pulled it up in the sea. It was a big halibut. He caught it by trolling. You know halibut is a flounder, always staying on the bottom. Nobody figured out how it was caught through trolling.
The boat returned to the harbor at 5:00 pm.. On the way back to the pier, we dropped in at the seafood company and asked the company to process our catch. Mr.Oki would pick up my fish later. It was sunny with few waves in the sea. I enjoyed fishing very much. Mr.Oki said in June and July a lot of people, not only Americans but foreigners, come to fish in the sea, so many chartered boats would be filld up soon. And, chartered boat fees had been going up each year, he said. That was a big problem for me.
July 4 & 5 Monday & Tuesday Cloudy partly rainy
Generally speaking, early morning and evening are good for fishing. However, Kingsalmon are very sensitive to the tide, so you don't have to go fishing so early. That day's hight tide was at 3 pm, and it would start from about 8:00 am. I guessed it would be the best time between 10:00 am and 3 pm, so I woke up at 8:00 am. After breakfast, I headed for the Olds River. I arrived at the river mouth at 9:30 am, and began fishing at 10:30 am. Before arriving there, I had guessed the river would be crowded as it was the Fourth of July. But, I didn't see anyone along the river, just one guy fishing on a pontoon (a small inflatable rubber boat) at the river mouth.
Few anglers meant the fish were slow, so I couldn't expect good fishing any more, but began fishing any way. I used a spinning rod and a spinnig reel with #2 PE line and #5 leader. I chose a pixy (a lure) at first. Although high tide was just coming up, I could walk around the beach near the river mouth. While casting to the sea, I didn't get any bites. I kept on casting from the sea to the river mouth along the beach, but still didn't get any bites.
You can see a trench dug on the beach in the center of the lower right picture. This is a mark that means there is a fishing rod laying on the bottom of the river before the trench. To say honestly, while casting, I had accidentally thrown the first and second fishing rod, my rod was separated into four pieces, into the river. The connection between the second and the third might not be enough. In such a case, a fishing line or a spinner usually catches them. However,, throwing might have been strong enough to untie the knot between the PE line and the leader. There was no catcher, so the two pieces ran away with the spinner and the leader. I had already known the knot was a little loose, but hadn't fixed it. It was my negligence.
I tried to find it in the river, but couldn't because of high tide coming. I decided to make a mark in the beach to look for it again during low tide. Because I couldn't do spin-fishing without the spinning rod, I would do fly-fishing instead upstream. I honestly wanted to do spin-fishing much more time in the vacant river, but reluctantly had to leave the river.
I began fishing where I did the day before yesterday. I chose the beads that have an impressive record for silversalmon fishing. When the target is silversalmon, I use an 8mm bead. The target this time was kingsalmon, so I had prepared 10mm beads and 12mm beads for king salmon. I fixed the bead in the tippet with a small peg, and tied #5 fishing hook at the end of the tippet.
I started casting with expectation. However, in spite of many times casting, no bite happened. I added lead and let the bead drift in the different depth, but they didn't work any more. I went upstream of the river bridge, but didn't get any bites. I quit fishig at 3:30 pm.
On the way back to the inn, I stopped by Lake Buskin. There is a weir at the outlet of the lake that counts the upcoming fish. When the number isn't enough for the fish to reproduce themselves, sportfishing is closed. The daily bag limit is dependent on the number. I saw many sockeye salmon downstream the weir, which had escaped from Philippine flipping.
I bought a pack of delcatessen and two sanwiches at Safeway for dinner and breakfast. Mr.Oki and I would catch sockeyesalmon in the Saltery Creek early next morning. It would take about three hours to the creek. If we departed next morning, we wouldn't have enough time to fish. So, we had decided to depart that night.
Mr.Oki picked me up at 6:00 pm. At first we headed for the American River, and it took one hour from the inn, and turned to the right at the intersection. It would take at least two hours to the Saltery Creek. We drove on ATV(all-terrain vehicle) Trail along the river. ATV Trail was just 15 or 16 miles, but very narrow and unpaved gravel and muddy road. It had many big muddy ponds and crossed many creeks. We sometimes drove in the creeks. When I visited in 2012, we drove an ATV. But, we were driving a big 4WD car this time.
There were many big ponds in the road and many trees both sides of the road streching their branches. The car hurtled along, splashing and thrusting the branches along the river.
Because it was Independence Day, many fishermen had already been to the Saltery Creek. We passed many ATV cars on the road. When we met them, we asked them how the road was and about their catch. They unanimously replied " The fishing is excellent, but the road is very tough.". They seemed to be a little surprised when they saw our car.
After driving for about two hours in the terrible road, we came across a very big muddy pond, the toughest pond ever. It would take just ten minutes to the creek. The pond was big and muddy, so we didn't figure out how deep it was. We had to avoid getting stuck there, so Mr.Oki got off the car and waded in the pond to find a way carefully. After that, he walked around the pond and looked for a detour.
He found the tracks in the left side bush, and decided to go there. Howevr, the meadow was too deep and muddy beyond his expectation. As soon as the car entered the trackes, it got stuck. Half tires were in mud and didn't move any more.
It was 10:00 pm then, but not dark yet. This summer season, it wouldn't be dark until 0:00 am in Alaska. We dug around the tires and put a lot of stones under the tires, and tried to get out. However, it was almost impossible to escape because the car's bottom already touched the muddy ground. The mud with thick plant roots was deperately tough, so we couldn't dig any more. We realized we wouldn't be able to move the car without help and had to wait for somebody who would be able to help us. It would be a long night.
I had no time to take pictures for a while. The real story was continuing without any pictures. I have inserted six sample pictures, not real ones, on the pages to help you imagine the story.
Considering the road conditions, we guessed it could be around 5:00 am that the earliest fisherman would appear. We, sweaty and tired, decided to take a nap for a short while. I couldn't quickly fall asleep thinking about what would happen to us. Mr. Oki woke up quickly hearing the noise, that woke me up from my dozing. It was at 3:00 am.
Looking at the pond, I saw two ATVs appearing in the darkness. There were two fishemen in the car each. Mr.Oki shot out of the car and approached them while waving. They stopped before the pond. Mr.Oki told them the course and asked to help us. They soon figurred out why we were here and tried to tow our car away. They tied a towing lope between our car and one of two ATVs that were tied by the towing lope. The two ATVs began towing with full power, and Mr.Oki also started the engine. However, the two ATVs couldn't move the two ton car stuck in the mud at all.
We knew they had come to fish in the very early morning, so we couldn't keep them back for long. We thanked them for their cooperation, and saw them off in the darkenss. Their ATVs were not so heavy, so didn't sink deeply and could go along. I thought a powerful 4WD with a strong winch would be able to pull our car out of the mud.
It was getting light around here at 5:00 am. We chose a weekday to avoid combat fishing, but it backfired. There were a few fishermen coming. We talked about what we should do. Waiting for someone here was not a good idea, so one of us would go to the lodge that was upstream the Saltery Creek and ask to help us. Cell phones don't work around here, but the lodge has a satellite cell phone. We had no choice but to go there. It would take one hour on foot.
While we were talking about it, a ATV came up. We told the fisherman the course and asked him to take one of us to the creek. He took me on the rear sheet and headed for the creek. We arrived at the creek side after a ten minute drive. I got off the ATV and thanked him for his kindness. I began walking toward the lodge along the river. When I visited there in 2012, I came across a bear. I was so nervous walking alone in such and early morning but had to . I had heard the lodge was just upstream the creek and not so far, but the way was very long.
I arrived at the lodge at 5:30 am. I was so nervous to visit a complete stranger so early in the mornig, but I had no choice. I wouldn't overcome difficulties unless I went forward. Shortly after hesitating, I knocked on the door but nobody appeared. I knocked again. I heard some noise inside and saw the light go on. A drowsy guy opened the door.
I appologised to him for visiting early in the morning, and asked to help us. He said he had to make breakfast soon and didn't have hands and appropriate machinery and materials. He also said "I saw a recreational vehicle at the weir hut on the way to the lodge, so please go and ask. ". Realizing I couldn't get any help from him, following his advice, I decided to go to the hut. I turned back to the previous road and walked along with dragging feet.
There is a weir in the Saltery Creek where Alaska Fish & Games staff counts running up sockeye salmon. I arrived at the hut at 6:00 am. There was no RV but only a small ATV around there. This car wouldn't be able to tow our car. I returned to the lodge again. I wondered if the peopel would help us after breakfast, so I decided to wait while sitting down before the lodge. Another guy appeared soon. He was an owner of the lodge. He said he and his staff were very busy at that time, and would go fishing with customers after breakfast. When everything finished, they might be able to help me but not at that time, he said. He added "Please get out soon. This is private property. ".
Although the owner ordered me to get out, I had no place in mind to stay. I had to give up on their help and soon left. My next problem was how to return to the scene. Of course, there was no taxi or bus. I thought there could be someone in the hut. If someone was there, I would ask them to take to the scene. I walked to the hut, again with dragging feet. On arriving at the hut, I hesitated to knock the door, but I had no choice.
When I called, someone inside the hut, a young man soon appeared. I told him the course and asked to take me to the muddy pond. He willingly accepted my request and got himself ready to go out. He took me on the rear sheet, and we headed for the scene.
I had believed that therer was just one road between the Saltery Creek and the pond, but actually were many forks. We did not notice we were driving on the wrong road. I said to him that the road could be wrong, and he replied he wasn't familiar with roads around here. He had come to work at the weir by seaplane and hadn't driven so many times.. He suggested that the fuel was decreasing and he should go back within a couple minutes. If we returned, I would go back to the starting point. Then, I noticed the sight that I had seen that early morning. I asked him to drive just five minutes more. He agreed. After a few minutes, I saw the pond before us. The car was still stuck and Mr.Oki was there. I got off the ATV and thanked him for his time.
While talking to Mr.Oki about the lodge story and about what we should do next, a jeep with three people came up. It was not a big car but had a winch. As soon as Mr.Oki told them about the course, they kindly began to pull the stuck car by the winch. However, they might not have used it for a long time, as it didn't start. They tried to pull with a towing lope next, but their car was a little too small to pull the heavy RV. Mr. Oki decided to ask them to take us to the lodge. He would call recue at the lodge. They agreed. I sat on the passenger seat and he was on the carrier. It could have been about at 9:00 am. Six hours had already passed since our waking.
We got off the car in front of the lodge gate. We thanked them for their kindness and saw them off. We began to walk to the lodge and soon arrived. When Mr.Oki called " Hello ! " to the lodge, the owner appeared. Mr.Oki asked him to call an airlines No cell phone except his satellite cell phone worked here. He called soon. The airlines said a seaplane would pick us up at 10:00 am. Our return was just in sight. (following pictures are real.)
The lodge is at the lakeside, and a seaplane can take off and land on the lake. The lodge's courtesy seaplane carries the visitors to and from the lake near downtown Kodiak. The fishing package of the lodge including six nights with full meals and guided fishing is 4100 dollars. It includes a courstesy seaplane. One extra night is 650 dollars.
A lot of sockeye salmon come up to spawn at the lake, and a lot of Dolley also inhabit here. Dolley love salmon eggs very much. I had a little time to wait, so I decided to to fish. Soon after setting up spin-fishing, I cast a spinner. There could be a tremendous number of Dolley in the lake. I caught between 14 and 20 inch one every cast. Their spirited fight allowed me heavy stress to gradually dwindle, and it was kind of refreshment.
The seaplane arrived at 10:10 am at the lake. It was Andrew Airways that we used to take when we went fishing in Afognak Island. As soon as the two guys were loaded, it took off. It took just 15 minutes to the seaplane landing. Mr.Oki's daughter picked us up at the seaplane landing and drove me to the inn. It was at 11:15 am. I could return to the inn any way. I guessed Mr.Oki would be now very busy arranging the rescue of his car.
I had lunch with the leftovers of the last dinner. I wanted to rest a little, but I didn't want to waste a precious time because it was last fishing day in Kodiak. There was no harm in fishing, so I decided to go to the Buskin River. I wondered if there would be many Filipinos along the river, but there were few people. I chose a handmade fly for sockeye and tied it with a tippet. I was excited to see the fish in the river. However, the fish were not interested in my fly any more. I only caught Dolley. I realized why there were few people in the river.
I moved downstream of the river, and cast again. In spite of casting many times, I couldn't get any bites. I didn't know whether I had used wrong flies, had cast badly, or the fish were slow. I quit fishing at 4:30 pm, returned to the inn and took a bath. Although, I didn't get any salmon in the river, I'd had a lot of experiences. It had been one of the toghest days in my life. The sentence, "Keep on moving", echoed in my head for a long time after.