Autumn of 2009 Kodiak
Fortunately I had an opportunity to visit Alaska this year again. Due to a new national holiday enacted in September, I could take a long holiday. I decided to go to Kodiak. Definately, Silver Salmon fishing!
It was the forth time to visit Kodiak. It is about a one hour flight from Anchorage, and is located in the base of the Aleutian Islands. The population is about 13000 people and its main industry is commercial fishing. A lot of seafood is exported from here to Japan.
It took 9 hours from Japan to Seattle by Northwest Airlines, and 3 and half hours from Seattle to Anchorage by Alaska Airlines. I transferred to Era Aviation the only provider of scheduled flights between Anchorage and Kodiak. My friend, Mr.Shiraishi, and I arrived in Kodiak at 7:30 pm.
On the way to Kodiak, we had to wait for the flight for four hours in Anchorage. After smoking, we went downtown to purchase a prepaid cell phone. Alaska Communication Systems(ACS) is the only cell phone company whose phones work statewide. I bought it as a kind of insurance.
The waiting room of Era was crowded with many passengers. Many small airlines like Era are very important for transportation in Alaska where there is no public transportation except Alaskan Railroad and where almost all cities and towns are isolated.
The rainy season began in September in Alaska, so sunny days didn't last long. I saw the Kenai Glaciers far away in the clouds. After crossing Cook Inlet, Kodiak was just around the corner.
Kodiak Airport was under the renovation at this time. Passengers had to pick up their baggage outside of the lobby.
After checking in of the Russian Heritage Inn, we met Mr. Ohki at a Chinese restaurant. He is the only Japanese fishing guide in Kodiak. Due to his help, we always enjoy fishing very much. We arranged our fishing plan while having dinner. He said the Silver Salmon fishing season could be a bit past the peak.
I woke up at 5 am and had breakfast quickly. Mr. Ohki picked us up at 6:30 am. Daybreak was 7:00 am, so it was still dark outside. We headed to the Buskin River that is very close to downtown and is flowing on the south side of the airport. We stopped at the parking lot and went to look at the river. The water level was high because of the heavy rain the day before yesterday. The previous yearfs good hole looked difficult to fish from, so we went downstream to find other holes.
Although the river was so dark that we couldnft see our hands clearly, there were already a couple of fishermen on the bank holding flash lights. We began fishing downstream of them. I used a spinning rod and a spinning reel with a 25 lb test line. Mr. Ohki tied a lump of Salmon eggs to a 1/0 sized hook by the egg-loop. He also attached a small Spin-N-Glo 2 feet above the hook to keep bait on the bottom. We cast the bait and tried to keep it on the bottom during drifting.
Mr. Shiraishi got his first bite before day break. He carefully reeled it in. It was about 12 lb male Silver. As it was gradually getting light, we could see the river. I thought the hole was not the river center, but the far side of it. When I cast there, I got my first bite soon. I carefully reeled it in and Mr. Ohki landed it. It was about 10 lb female Silver. If hooking had not been hard enough, the hook would have broken. I actually felt relieved when my first catch landed in the net.
Kodiak Silver is famous for its big size even in Alaska. A lot of fishermen come from all over the world. They try bait fishing and fly fishing, and lure fishing. However, quite a few anglers do flipping. I think they canft give up this way easily because they can catch Salmon even by this way.
Mr. Shiraishi got his second bite at 8:30 am. Mr. Ohki told me that Salmon usually stay in the center of the river but they move to slack places when water level increases. Mr. Shiraishi already caught his bag limit of 2 a day, so I moved to his position. At that time, three fishermen suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the river bank. They began fishing by standing in the river, where there was a productive hole.
I decided to wait for a while because usually American anglers are not patient. They move to other places unless they get a bite soon. After 20 minutes there were no anglers. It was time to catch the big one. I got my bite soon. It didn't hook quickly, so I had to wait for the time. I figured out the fish was putting a lump of eggs in its mouth. Now was the time! As soon as I hooked hard, a very strong reaction pulled back. I carefully reeled it in. About a 12 lb female Silver landed in the net.
Mr.Shiraishi and I reached the bag limit of Silver each. We were lucky that the river was still at its best. We had a couple of hours until lunch, so we decided to visit other rivers. There are two types fishing in Kodiak. One is the remote fishing that fishermen fly to the opposite side of the island. The areas are owned by the natives, so fishermen have to pay to fish. Considering the flight fee and the admission fee, this way is for the rich people. Another is the road system. There are many rivers, the Buskin River, the Pasagishak River, the Olds River, and other rivers, crossing the road. People can fish along these rivers without any admission. This way is easy but the rivers are crowded. There are always many fishermen along these rivers.
Among these rivers, the Buskin River is the best to fish Silver, and the Pasagishak River is also a nice river. It takes about one hour from the Buskin River to the Pasagishak River by car.
The river was just at high tide. I saw a lot of Salmon running upstream with the tide. I tried fly-fishing but got no bites. We had lunch at a restaurant near the Olds River. I ate a buffalo meat hamburger. It was my first time to eat buffalo meat and it was very delicious.
After lunch we began fishing along the Olds River again. Mr. Shiraish caught Silver soon under the bridge. Of course, he did catch and release. There are usually a lot of Pink Salmon and Chum Salmon in the river. I had enjoyed fly-fishing many times here, but this day was different. I changed my flies many times, but they didnft work any more. We finished fishing at 3:00 pm.
We returned to the harbor. Mr. Ohki cleaned and gutted the fish on the public cleaning table. I saw a lot of eggs in their bellies. Mr. Shiraishi would ship his catch, but I would take my catch to Japan with the ice container that I brought from Japan.
I woke up at 6 am. After breakfast, Mr. Shiraishi and I headed to the Buskin River. The temperature before daybreak was about 40 degrees, so winter clothes were necessary. I put on two pairs of socks this day, but they were not warm enough. When we arrived at the river, I noticed the water level had already decreased. We began fishing where we had fished last year. We had no fishing guide this day, so we decided to try spin-fishing. It was an easy way.
The right side of the river looked like a good hole, so I cast my spinner and drifted by the down-crossing way. I got my first bite soon. As soon as I hooked reflexively, a very strong reaction pulled back. I carefully reeled it in, but it didnft come close soon. Mr. Shiraishi was holding a landing net. The fish came close once, but ran away soon. At that time, the spinner was broken. My hooking wasnft good enough, maybe.
After that bite I didnft get any more bites. We decided to return to the town at 10 am. We visited a fishing shop to buy new spinners. After that, we had a cup of cappuccino at a cafe near the harbor.
On the way to the Pasagishak River, we visited the American River. I saw a lot of Pink salmon running up the river. A few fishermen were fishing, but seemed not to get any bites.
The road to the Pasagishak was winding and rolling like a downhill skiing course. We arrived at the mouth of the river at noon. While eating a cinnamon roll, I was watching the river and the sea on the bank.
After preparing my fishing gear, I walked down to the river. There were already many fishermen fishing along the river. We crossed the thigh-deep river and looked for a good hole. I tried spin fishing this time and used a Meps #4 spinner. I cast many times but didnft get any bites. Some anglers caught only Pink Salmon. With high tide coming up, the water level increased gradually . We returned to the former bank. The difference of the water level between high tide and low tide sometimes reaches over 3 feet .
We continued casting for a while, but didnft get any bites. The high tide time was 2:59 pm. While the coming of the time, the current became slower and started running back with massive salt water. When I licked it, of course, it was salty. The sea became really upstream of the river.
At this time a seal appeared in the river. I wondered if it was chasing Salmon. It sometimes lifted its head and looked around the river. When the tide stopped and began to return, it disappeared imperceptibly. I patiently continued casting until 5:00 pm, but only caught two Dolly Varden.
I woke up at 5:30 am. Mr. Ohki picked us up at 6:30 am. It was rainy and windy in the morning. In addition to the rain, the strong wind made me colder. In spite of these bad conditions, we headed to the Buskin River again.
We began fishing where we had fished the day before yesterday. Even though it was still dark and cold, we saw a couple of flash lights moving along the river. A fisherman doesnft care about anything when he decides to fish. As soon as Mr. Shiraishi cast a lump of the Salmon eggs, he got his first bite. He could reel it in calmly this time. It was a female Silver.
The water level was average this day, so fish were staying in the center of the river. I tried to let the bait drift on the bottom. I got my first bite soon. The middle sized female Silver landed in the net. Mr. Shiraishi also caught his second Silver soon. My second bite was stronger than the previous one. It strongly pulled the line and tried to go upstream. However, the hook was stuck hard enough. I carefully reeled it in. It was about 12 lb female Silver. Fishing conditions are always variable. We couldnft catch any fish on the previous day, but we each caught a bag limit of Silver within one hour this day. It was still rainy and windy.
The bag limit for Silver is 2 per a day. However, we can catch 10 more Silver if they are less than 20 inches sized, that they are called "Jack". We decided to go to the Pasagishak River to catch them.
The way of catching Jacks is not different from the usual way. When we arrived at the river, it was still rainy and windy. The Buskin River was in the forest, but there was nothing like a windshield along the Pasagishak River. We were suffering from heavy rain and a strong head wind.
Mr. Shiraishi got his first bite soon by bait fishing. I also got my first bite by lure fishing. We tenderly released them. However, after that we didnft get any more bites but only caught two Dolly Varden. We decided to have lunch at the restaurant at 12:30 pm.
We started fishing again near Lake Buskin in the afternoon. Lake Buskin is upstream of the Buskin River and a lot of Salmon spawn here, because many Dolly Varden come up to eat Salmon eggs.
The weir was set up at the outlet of the lake to count the number of Salmon. It was my first time to see it. People canft fish within 100 yards upstream and downstream of the weir. When the fish count is not high enough, fishing will close but when it is very high, one or two Salmon will be added to the bag limit. The latest counting result was put on the bulletin board.
The weir had many gates and a couple of them were opened. However, they weren't enough, so a lot of Salmon were jumping before the weir. We began fishing downstream away from the weir. The place looked like a pool and we saw several Salmon jumping around. At that time, local high school students appeared on the bank. They were wearing a dry type scuba-diving suite each, and jumped into the river. Their suites looked buoyant. They drifted with the current like they were riding on canoes. They looked very happy in spite of the heavy rain.
We quit fishing at 4 pm, and headed to the cleaning table at the harbor. Mr. Ohki cleaned and gutted again. There were no fishermen except us.
We had dinner together at gOld Power Househ near the harbor. There was a lot of Japanese cuisine: sushi, fried noodle, tempura and etc on the menu. Mr. Shiraishi ordered a cod set and Mr. Ohki a sushi bowl, and I a fried pork bowl. I enjoyed it very much and thought about the cheffs consideration for meals. The cod especially was very different from the Japanese one. I canft get such a big one in Japan. The fillet of fatty cod was boiled with a special sauce. We also ordered teriyaki blue mussels and fried halibuts as a side-order. Surprisingly fried halibuts were very plain and the crispy coating fitted very well. The rain stopped suddenly. I expected it would be sunny the next day.
This day was our last day to fish in Kodiak. We had to move to Anchorage at night. I woke up at 5:30 am and departed at 7:00 am. We began fishing at the usual place in the Buskin River. There were already two guys fishing. We moved downstream of the river.
I used a #4 Meps spinner that had a red body and a golden blade. As soon as Mr. Shiraishi began fishing, he got his first bite at this side from the center of the river. I also caught a nice one soon. I saw a big Silver bite at the spinner about 4 feet in front of me. My second bite occurred in the center of the swift current. I tried to keep my spinner in the current. At that time, it was pulled strongly. Due to the fact that my line was a 20 lb test line, it would never break. I carefully reeled it in. It was a big male Silver.
When we were fishing, a young guy appeared. He was a member of Alaska Fish and Games Department (AFGD). He asked us to let him investigate our fish. He gathered up a small part of the tail fin and a couple of scales from our fish. He said he could figure out the fish age by checking them. I was very impressed that the government tries to control natural resources with scientific data. We donft have the same systems in Japan.
We didnft get any bites after that. This hole was good for fishing in the morning. It was time to move. We returned to the car with three Silver. We went to the public cleaning table at the harbor. I cleaned and gutted and filleted my catch and put them into zip-lock bags. Mr. Shiraishi said hefd like to go to the American River. On the way to the river, I stopped at the inn and put my catch into the freezer.
The water level of the American River was average. There were few people along the river, so we would be able to enjoy fishing calmly. After preparing fishing gear, we began fishing. I tried fly-fishing and Mr. Shiraishi tried spin-fishing. I moved downstream using different flies.
I caught a female Pink salmon with my three eggs fly. A two eggs fly is common, but a three eggs fly is special. I was very happy that I saw my fly stuck hard in the mouth.
I saw 4 or 5 Salmon in groups gathering in the river. I guessed they were not spawning, but I didnft know why they were gathering.
There were a lot of sea gulls on the bank. When I approached, they flew away together. The Salmon running upstream one after another to spawn would be happy presents for not only fishermen but also sea gulls. And of course for bears !
We moved to Lake Buskin at 2:00 pm. Fishing was prohibited within 100 yards from the weir. Some fishermen were fishing on their canoes. I changed my fly rod from #9 to #6 to enjoy Dolly Varden fishing. I tried an egg-fly and an egg-sacking-leech, and other flies. However, I didnft get any bites. We quit fishing at 5:00 pm. My Salmon fishing in 2009 was finished.
My flight to Japan was the next day, but there were no early flights from Kodiak to Anchorage the next day. We had to go to Anchorage this night. After returning to the inn, I packed my baggage. I removed my catch from the freezer to my ice container. It was filled up with Salmon quickly. It was so heavy that I would have to pay extra fees to the airlines. Just as my expected, I was asked to pay $75 extra when checking in Era Aviation. We took off at 7:30 pm.
The flights between Anchorage and Kodiak donft take off in bad weather conditions because they are visual flight, so Ifm always worried about the weather. It had been rainy the last three times, but fortunately we had never missed the flights. However, I hadn't had any chances to see a beautiful landscape from the window instead. This time I saw the Buskin River and downtown from the plane. There were two fishermen fishing in the river.
The plane was full with passengers, arrived at Anchorage International Airport on time. I called the hotel and asked them to pick up us by shuttle bus. After checking in to the hotel, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant. We ordered a New York steak each and enjoyed it very much. I wondered what would happen in my fishing next year.