In Autumn of 2007 Kodiak
The best target of autumn fishing is a Silversalmon. It is well known that the finest Silvers are caught in Kodiak, so I decided to go fishing in Kodiak which is the base of the Aleutian Islands. My fishing expedition was for 7 nights and 9 days. It took 9 hours from Narita to Seattle, and took 3 and half hours from Seattle to Anchorage. In addition to that, it took another one hour and 10 minutes to reach Kodiak Island. I had to stay on the planes for 18 hours.
On Sep. 1
If we want to get connecting flights, we have to book the tickets 6 months before the trip. Recently, North West Airline is getting very popular for Japanese who want to go to Seattle to see the major leagues baseball games, espacially Mariners' Ichiro.
Because there is few dicount tickets on the market and flight numbers are limited, I have to buy an expensive ticket quite a long time in advance.
Usually, you will go through the passport control and then through customs within one hour, and transfer from South Terminal to C terminal where Alaska Airlines departs. We reached Anchorage on time, and went to Era Aviation checking counter. Then, it was announced that the schedule was being delayed due to thick fog. The staff couldn't tell us when the plane would take off to Kodiak.
After a while, it was announced that the plane would depart one and half hours late. I called Avis car rental to tell them we were delayed, and we got on the plane, and we saw outside, that half of luggage was not loaded onto the plane which included Mr.Shiraishi's baggage. Such an event sometimes happens in local airports. We expected the next plane would bring it.
We finally arrived in Kodiak. As expected, Mr.Shiraishi's baggage didn't appear on the carousel. I asked the staff to call me when his baggage arrived. We checked into the Russian Heritage Inn any way. Mr.Ohki, a Japanese fishing guide, visited us soon. He had guided us in 2004. We went to a Chinese restaurant to talk about our fishing plan.
He said the Buskin River is now in the peak of Silversalmon. They are coming up with high tide, so we should fish between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.. "Early bird catches a worm", so we have to get up early next morning. After dinner, we went to the airport, and found the lonely baggage on the carousel.
On Sep. 2
Mr.Ohki picked up us at 6 a.m., and headed for the Buskin RIver. After just 15 minutes of driving, we arrived at the dark river side. It was cloudy and partly rainy that morning. I carefully stepped down to the river with a small flashlight. I could see the weir crossing the river. It was set up by ADFG(Alaska Department of fish and Games) to count the number of fish. The staff comes everyday to count the fish and open the weir.
400 yards upstream of the weir is good fishing hole, Mr.Ohki told us. We can see several salmons jumping anywhere in the river. On the other hand, a lot of dead Pinksalmons and Sockeyes are found along the river bank. They seems to have already spawned.
We did bait fishing at first. Mr.Ohki set a Spin-N-Glo on the line ,and hooked a lump of salmon eggs by egg-loop. These eggs were flourescent red. The first fish came to Mr.Shiraishi. It seemed to be so big that it was running upstream and downstream, and didn't come near us. He managed to land with a landing-net. It was about a 15 pounds Silversalmon. He caught another one soon.
I was fishing slightly upstream and couldn't see any Silver. I moved downstream. When throwing bait into the water, I could see a Silver biting. However, it was not enough to hook, so I had to wait for a while. As soon as a lump of eggs disappeared, I hooked strongly. The fish was fighting, but the line and the hook were strong enough to hold it. After 10 minutes, a big female Silversalmon was caught by a landing net.
The bag limit is 2 Silvers a day, but I had caught only one so far that day. As the high tide was coming in, I have to hurry. I fish at the same hole. I can see a couple of salmons picking bait in the water. And as the salmons are picking, egg's milk is spreading in the water. It spurs the fish on, and then one of them bites it strongly. Fish on ! I hooked strongly. Its fighting power is coming to me directly and consistentl. I can't let it get away. I'm working the fishing rod as the fish is moving, and reeling up carefully. At last, the fish is entering the landing net.
After catching our bag limit, we left the Busking River. Mr.Ohki put the fish into a container. We headed for another river. There are two ways to do fresh water fishing in Kodaik. One is "road system" fishing, and another is "remote area" fishing. There is few roads on the island, and almost all roads are in the southeast area. If someone wants to fish in remote area, you must charter a plane.
People can fish from river mouthes to road bridges downstream until Sep.15 in the "road system" fishing, except the Buskin River. This year, we can fish the whole Buskin River.
We went fishing in the Olds River.
We did "catch and release" fishing. I did fly-fishing, and Mr.Shiraishi did spin-fishing. There were a lot of fish in the river, we could catch pinksalmons and chumsalmons easily. My fly-fishing system was #9 rod and #9 reel, using a 0X leader and a 1X tippet. I used lead depending on the depth because of the speed of the river.
While we were fishing, Mr.Ohki prepared for lunch. We stopped fishing and had lunch on the bank. A hot cod soup and a rice ball, it made us very happy. I felt I was filled up with strong energy. Thank you Mr.Ohki.
After lunch, we headed for the Pasagishak River because the tide was improving for good fishing. We passed the time sitting on the bank. Soon, we could see green shadows passing in the water. Silver are coming up now. However, before we started fishing, a local angler started fishing quickly. Unfortunately, he did flipping. Flipping is kind of snagging, using a heavy lead and a big hook with tiny yarn. Flip and flip, and flip and flip.
It is very popular fishing in Alaska, but it is not good way for the fish that is running up just now. Flipping sound makes the fish nervous and they go back to the sea. He is moving as fish are moving. He is like a gateman. As long as he keeps fishing, salmons do not come back again. We gave up fishing and went back to the hotel.
On Sep. 3
We went fishing in the Buskin River again. It had been raining since last night. It was so dark outside that I couldn't see the fishing line clearly; I had to concentrate on the tip of the rod. Then, it began to shake a little, but gradually it got stronger. My first catch of the day ! I jerked the rod suddenly which caused the hook to dig deeply into her mouth. This caused the fish to try to escape. First she swiftly swam upstream, then downstream. I couldn't reel her in. It could be a trophy fish. I tried to reel her in slowly; it took over 10 minutes. I got 'em ! It was a very big female Silversalmon. Mr.Shiraishi got a big one later.
I didn't get any bites after 8 a.m.. Mr.Ohki proposed changing from bait fishing to spin fishing. While reeling in, I could see fish chasing my lure (a vibrax). I stopped reeling in a moment. Then, the fish bit. She was furiously struggling to remove the hook. Then, she spit out the lure and it jumped at me. The fish had run away.
I caught a lot of Pinksalmon but no Silver. The rain was becoming heavier, so we decided to go to Buskin Lake which is upsream from the river. Mr.Ohki said early Silver might have reached there. When we arrived at the lake, we could see a couple of Silvers jumping. We lost no time in getting to fish.
I spin fished there, and Mr.Shiraishi bait fished at the outlet of the lake. A lot of fish were jumping around there, but we had no bites. We fished for a hour, but caught no fish. We headed for the mouth of the river. There were a gazebo and a restroom there. Mr.Ohki made a fire with charcoal and cooked a hot chicken soup. For my frozen body, the hot soup with chicken pieces was best.
It was Labor Day today, and many people appeared in twos and threes in spite of the bad weather. We were not strong enough to continue fishing today. We would do salt water fishing tomorrow. How about the weather ?
On Sep. 4
The charter boat would leave at 8 a.m., so we went to the harbor at 7:30 a.m.. Mr.Ohki was already there. The boat was named U-Rascal we had chartered it in 2004. The anglers were three Wisconsinites and Greg, who was skipper's father, and us. There are two or three harbors in Kodiak.The marine products industry is a major industry in Kodiak because a lot of fishing boats are moored at the harbor.
Before going out to the open sea, we caught many herrings near the harbor. Herring was the best bait for halibut. We could easily catch two or three herrings each casting. We headed offshore with fresh bait.
It has been rainy since yesterday, and the sea is heaving. Usually, you can catch Kingsalmon, Silversalmon and halibut at this time of year, but today's weather only permits us fishing halibut. The skipper cuts the herring into two pieces, and hooks them. Ready to fish! When a halibut bites, the rod begins shaking. Keep quite cool. You have keep quit cooland wait until the rod will be bent like a full moon. Then, you should hook strongly and reel it in. It is a very tough job to land a big halibut, but the fresh and delicious meat is worth it.
The captain said I would be using a huge rubber jig. I was jigging 25 or 30 yards below. My first 2 catches were small cod. They soon became bait. While I was jigging, I felt my line go taut. I tried to lift my rod and reel up, then something began to move slightly. I hoped it was a halibut. The fish didn't fight hard, but was heavy. I managed to land it onto the boat. It was a 15 pound halibut. It was to small to keep it,so the skipper released. After that, I caught another undersized halibut.
A big bite came up suddenly. I couldn't reel in, and my reel drag couldn't stop the line. At first, I thought it was snagging, but something different. Could be a trophy ! I was reeling with all my might. After a while, a big fish appeared in the water. The skipper gaffed. It was over 50 pound halibut.
I did bait-fishing next. It was for some time that I got a heavy bite. I was numb with cold, because I couldn't reel in well. Any way, I managed to keep reeling in. The skipper gaffed. It was about 40 pound halibut.
After each angler caught their bag limit, we moved to a Kingsalmon hole. The skipper set up down-riggers for trolling. If the weather was better, we could do jigging. The captain concluded from the sea conditions that trolling would be better than jigging as moving.
Two down-riggers are set up. When a bite comes, an angler reels in by turns. One Kingsalmon and two Silvers, and four rockfishes were my today's catch. We returned to the harbor at 5 p.m.. Mr.Shiraishi got heavy sea sickness as soon as the boat hit the open sea, so he had to stay in the cabin all day.
On Sep. 5
We did unguided fishing today. We got up at 7 a.m., and have breakfast quickly. There are a lot of rivers we want to fish in. We chose the Olds River first of all. It was a bit cold, but no rain, no wind today.
I did fly-fishing, and Mr.Shiraishi did spin-fishing. As soon as he casted a lure, he got a bite. He caught two Silvers in no time. I caught only Pinks and Chums, but no Silver. However, a male Chumsalmon is a good fighter, so I enjoyed fishing very much.
I guessed there could be a lot of Pinks and Chums in the river. When I did twitching, I often snagged a fish. It is a very hard job to land a snagged big fish like a salmon. Especially, a dorsal fin snagged. Of course, I did "catch and release", but it wasted time and my energy.
As low tide was coming, we took a rest until next high tide. Local anglers were fishing on the opposite bank, and they were fly-fishing and bait-fishing. But, they caught no Silver. I took a walk around. I found a small hollow place on the bottom of the river. It could be an egg-laying site. There remained a lot of whitened eggs.
We fish again. After several casting, I got a bite. As soon as hooking, the fish furiously jumped up out of the river. I couldn't keep up with its action. My fly hook was off, and the fish swam away. I was very sorry it looked like a trophy. I moved downstream, and did spin-fishing. I used a pixy lure. I was intently casting. Before long, I caught a small Sockeye. Its peak was already over, but a few sockeyes were still running up here.
Then, I got a strong bite. It was pulling the fishing line very hard. At first, I thought it was a snagged Pink or Chum. I believed firmly it must be a Silver. Because I'd seen my lure was hooked firmly on its mouth, I knew I would be successful. I carefully landed it on the bank. It was a beautiful trophy.
We finished fishing at 3 p.m.. We enjoyed it very much. Mr.Ohki called me at night. He said "My friend said he caught 5 Silvers within one and half hours in Afognak Island today. If you wish I'll book a plane. ". The flight fee was $570, but we couldn't give up this offering. I asked him to book the plane, and I arranged to meet him at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
On Sep 6
I paid for the flight at the Andrew Airways office at 7:30 a.m., and paid for the admission as the Afognak Island is owned by the native corporation. We headed for the seaplane airport. The plane was a small 4 seater plane. We loaded our things into the plane, and entered the very small cabin. The plane had four guys in it, it was sliding on the water runway, and took off quickly.
The plane touched down on the water smoothly. There was a mouth of nameless river, next to the Ritonik River. Mr.Ohki asked a pilot to pick us up at 4:00 p.m.. After unloading, we started walking and the plane took off.
Ten minutes of walking took us to a fishing hole. We can see a couple of fish jumping around there. I did spin-fishing and Mr.Shiraishi did bait-fishing. I got a bite quickly, and at the same time Mr.Shiraishi got a bite, too. A Silver group could be coming here. We both caught a nice Silver each.
I caught three Silvers by spin-fishing, but couldn't catch two more. I changed lures, but they didn't work any more. Mr.Ohki suggested to me that I would put a lump of salmon eggs on the hook. It was a kind of bait-fishing, and this system worked very well. Although they hadn't indicated reaction to any lures, when I threw it into the river, I could see a couple of Silvers gathering around the bait. One of them bit aggressively. Fish on ! I hooked strongly. The line of spin-fishing was thicker than fly fishing, so it never breaks.
The tide didn't move by 11:00 a.m.. We both caught out a bag limit of 5 Silvers by lunch time. After lunch, I did fly-fishing. I had to do "catch and release" after catching my bag limit. I tried drift fishing and twitching, but fish were slow. I managed to catch only one Pink and one Chum anyway.
I fished to the mouth of the river, but caught only a Sculpin. We finished fishing at 3:30 p.m.. The pick up plane appeared on time. It took off carring a big cooler filled up with many Silvers. On the way back to the main island, we could see a couple of humpback whales.
On Sep. 7
Today was a last day we could fish in Kodiak. I went to the hotel office to confirm that we could extend our check out time to 5 or 6 p.m.. My request was okay. I was glad that I would be able to use the room after fishing.
Although it has been rainy since early in the morning, we still left at 8:15 a.m.. We were going to fish in the Olds River in the morning and in the American River in the afternoon. We started fishing at the hole in the Olds RIver. I was not sure which fly would be better today, but I chose a pinkish fly at first.
I could only catch Pinks and Chums, no Silver. It's easy to catch and land Pinks, but is not so easy to land male Chums. They are good fighters. I can't stop their running easily in spite of a strong reel drag. However, my fly fishing system is so perfect that I never break the line.
Although it was rainy and windy that day, many anglers appear along the river and go away soon with no fish. A couple are fishing next to us. He is teaching her cast, but she is a complete novice. I take my hat off to him for his patience. Then, a Silver bites my fly and it rushes to me. It's a sudden occurrence, so I can't hook and reel in. It spit off the fly, and swam away.
We moved to the American River that afternoon. We had lunch in the car quickly. We had visited here in 2004. This river is very convenient for anglers because they can reach the hole from their cars within one minute. The bridge downstream is a good hole, where many anglers are fishing.
Almost every casting, I can catch a Pink. Their body color are still green and silver, so they look like a Silversalmon. I guess it is not long after they have entered fresh water. They are good fighters. We were fishing until 4 p.m., but caught no Silvers. As the weather was getting worse, we finished fishing and returned to the hotel.
I wiped the rod and the reel, and other wet things. After that, I packed cloths and fishing equipment. Mr. Ohki visited us to see off. I thanked him for his contribution to our fishing trip. I asked him whether the plane would take off on time. He said it could be okay now, but he doesn't know if it will get windier. If we can't reach Anchorage today, we won't catch up the Northwest flight tomorrow. I started getting nervous.
After checking out, we headed for the airport. We left our baggages at Era-aviation checking counter and went to the Avis counter. The clerk said I could reserve the car key. In case, the plane didn't take off, I would need a car in that case, she said. Her kind advice made me very anxious. There were a lot of passengers at the waiting room. I found a Japanese group among the passengers and asked their trip. They told us they were on the way back to Japan after seeing a lot of bears. They had come to Kodiak to see bears. They had pitched a tent in the remote area and had been watching wild bears, they said.
They were anxious about the flight, too. The plane comes from Anchorage by visual flying. Unless the pilot can confirm the airport by his own eyes, he doesn't make a landing. I went out of the room to smoke. Then, I heard a roaring in the dark sky. I got excited! The plane appeared on the drenched runaway. And, it took off with full passengers including us. We were able to reach Anchorage during today, and return to Japan tomorrow.