Autumn of 2010 Kodiak

Kodiak Silver

I went fishing in Kodiak Alaska from Sep.4 to 12 in 2010. It was my fifth time fishing in Kodiak. For a fisherman who wants to catch the finest silversalmon , there is no choice but going to Kodiak. Considering its large size and fierce fighting, it's no doubt that I always choose Kodiak.

(You can also enjoy watching movies by clicking the pictures surrounded by colored line. Please click the pictures.)

Sep. 4 Saturday

The Delta airplane took off from Narita International Airport after a two and half hour delay. I had to change the flights twice for Kodiak, and would have about 4 hours waiting time in Anchorage. Using this time, I was going to see my friend who lives in Anchorage. However, the delay made it almost impossible, so I called her and told her I wouldn't be able to see her. But, she said she was going to wait for me at the baggage claim of Anchorage Airport.

When arriving at the airport, I saw her waiting near the baggage claim carousel. We talked about recent affairs happening in Anchorage at the airport coffee shop. I wished her to have a happy time while waiting for the next flight. She saw me off at the Era Aviation departure gate.
My fishing trip has just begun.

sign board flying to Kodiak

It was rainy at Kodiak Airport. There were a lot of passengers at the small waiting room. I picked up a rental car and loaded my baggage. I would drive a four-wheel pick-up truck this time. After checking in to the Russian Heritage Inn, Mr.Shiraishi and I saw Mr.Ohki who is the only Japanese fishing guide in Kodiak at the Chinese restaurant. He would pick us up at 5:45 am tomorrow morning.

Sep.5 Sunday

I got up at 4:45 am and had breakfast. Mr.Ohki appeared on time. The day break was at 6:30 am, so it was still dark outside. We would start fishing at the Busking River that is near downtown and is flowing next to the north side of the airport. Mr.Ohki stopped one mile upstream from the river mouth. He held a torch light and we headed to the river. Although it was still dark, several fishermen were waiting for the day break at the river.

still dark outside many anglers waiting for daybreak

We began fishing at the dark river-side. I put a lump of salmon egg on the hook. Because it hadn't been rainy for a long time, the water level was very low this time. We were casting for one hour, but didn't get any bites. Mr. Ohki decided to move to the upstream hole where we had caught a lot of salmon last year. We changed bait-fishing to spin-fishing. As soon as I casted, I got a bite. Unfortunately, my hooking couldn't be enough, so the hook broke away while Mr.Ohki was bringing the net. It was the first and last bite for us this day.
When we were fishing, I heard someone downstream shouting. Looking downstream, I found a bear walking in the river. It was a Kodiak brown bear famous for a large body and fierceness. Surprisingly, a couple of fishermen were fishing near by.

fishing hole BearI

He was coming upstream while chasing salmons where we were fishing. He appeared at the other side of the river soon. We had seen bears a couple of times so far in Alaska, but never at such a very close range.

appearing before us a big bear !

The swift river was flowing between the bear and us, but the distance might have been about 10 yards. He would be able to come here by one stroke swimming. If we carelessly moved away, it would make him aggressive. Staying still could be the best way to avoid a fatal accident, but I was scared very much.

nothing can stop him go upstream

Luckily, he was interested in salmon only. After sticking around for a while, He moved upstream and disappeared in the bush. I felt very relieved anyway.

never come back a bear spray

We hadn't gotten any bites for a while, so we decided to move a bit further up the river where we caught many salmons two years ago. There was a wooden deck along the river. When I looked down the river on the deck, I found a couple of silversalmons. We began fishing again. Though I casted a spinner many times, I didn't get any bites. In this season, the best time to catch, "the golden hours", was from 6:00 am to 8:00 am. It had already passed. Mr.Ohki decided to go down to the river mouth. If we were lucky, we would be able to catch the freshest silversalmon, he said.

I had been expecting to fish at the river mouth since last year, so I had prepared a lot of lures including a rubber octopus. I attached it to a rolling swivel and began casting soon.

the mouth of the Buskin River casting in the river

I casted not only a rubber octopus but other lures many times, but didn't get any bites. While we were fishing, Mr.Ohki prepared lunch. We ate chicken soup with rice at the gazebo. It was so delicious.

We progressed to upstream of the weir after lunch. There are two weirs along the river to count silversalmons. The upstream area of the first weir used to be a good fishing hole. When we arrived there, we found a few silversalmons.

the weir crossing the river a good fishing hole

We casted spinners soon. In spite of casting many times, none of the silversalmons were biting, but I caught some pinksalmons.

cast a spinner got a pinksalmon

While wading in the river, we headed to upstream to find a good fishing hole. We sometimes found silversalmons in the river, but they were not interested in our lures. We decided to go to Lake Buskin that is upstream of the Buskin River.

a lot of salmons swimming in the clear river the water is very low, but here is a good fishing hole for Sockeye

My target was a dolly varden, a kind of trout. Dollies are coming from the sea to eat salmon eggs. Many dollies could be in the lake, and they will bite a minnow lure. As soon as I began casting it, I got bites easily.

Got a dolly by a minnow plug a nice dolly

We enjoyed dolly fishing very much. We did catch and release all our catches. But, they were egg eaters, so it would be better not to release. We quit fishing at 4:00 pm. We would fly-in to Afognak Island next day.

caught every cast a minnow plug, smaller was better

Sep.6 Monday

Mr. Ohki picked us up at 7:15 am. The float plane takes off at the other side of the small island connected with the main island by the bridge. There is a harbor and a water strip. We paid an air fee and an permission fee at the Andrew Air office. Because this island is owned by natives, visitors have to get allowance and pay money before entering. We paid $50 each. We got on the 4 seat float plane with great hopes.

the airport for float planes our float plane

The small airplane smoothly took off soon. It would take just 15 minutes to the island.

a small cockpit you can see islands

We could see many beautiful houses and roads through the window in the sky. After flying over the main island, the small island appeared before us soon. There are two productive rivers in the island. We were heading to Marka Bay where the nameless river is flowing to the sea.

you can also see beautiful houses along the street Marka Bay

Our pilot was looking for a good landing place as circling over the bay. Because the tide was low, it was not so easy to find it. The airplane gets buoyancy by the floats. When they pile up on the shallows, it loses balance easily and can't move any more. After landing on the water, the airplane was advancing carefully.

looking for a landing place touched down and unloaded

It couldn't advance further because of the low water. We had to walk to the river mouth for a long time while holding fishing gear and a big container. It was easy to walk on the sand beach, but was hard on the gravel bar. We managed to reach the good fishing hole where we caught many silversalmons two years ago.

return to the airport river mouth is far away

When I was ready to fish, I noticed a brown bear was walking down from upstream. We had no shelter here. Mr.Ohki picked up his handgun and I held a can of bear spray. We were lucky. The bear went down the river and disappeared in the bush soon. I felt very relieved anyway. After that, we always had to pay attention to our backs while fishing.

A bear again! right side is a good fishing hole

The left side of the river was a bit deep, so a lot of silversalmons could be resting there. As soon as I casted a lump of salmon eggs, I got a bite. However, it didn't pull so hard, so at first I guessed it could be a dolly. However, it was not a dolly, but a jack. A jack is of course a silversalmon. It returns to the river one year earlier, so that its length is generally less than 20 inches. I caught jacks one after another. Usually, there are a few jacks in the school. It was my first time to catch so many jacks.

Before long, I got a strong bite. At first, I guessed it was not a jack, but something different from a silversalmon. It looked a bit smaller in the water. As reeling in, I led it to the shallow. It looked like a silversalmon, but Mr. Ohki told me it was a steelhead. I was excited to hear that, because it was my first steelhead in my life. I gazed at the fish for a while. After that, Mr. Shiraishi caught a male silver soon. I also caught a female silversalmon.

Fish on ! A steelhead

a steelhead a nice female silversalmon

The water was increasing with high tide. The river became so wide that we had to move back and to cast further. Jack fishing wasted our bait. Though we used it carefully, we lost it at last and had to use spinners. However, I guessed the high tide agitated fish very much. They were actively chasing spinners. We could catch a bag limit of salmons each until noon.

wading and casting in the river today's catch

We got 5 silversalmons and one steelhead, and 10 jacks each. I ate two rice balls and a cup of noodles at lunch. The water in front of us was increasing gradually, and we were seeing salt water coming up.

today's catch steelheads

The river was filled up with high tide. I guessed the high tide had brought a lot of salt water fish. When I was fishing, a 24 inch flounder bit my fly. This fish is living in the sea near the river mouth, and returns between fresh water and salt water. It was large enough to retain, but I knew it was not delicious. I released it immediately.

a full river a big flounder

a river mouth one more flounder

There are a lot of indigenous people living in Alaska, who mainly belong to 5 tribes, Inupaiq and Yupik and Athabascan, Unangax and Alutiiq. Federal law had approved the return of their previous properties to them. Their properties are dotted around the state, so we need to get permission and have to pay admission before fishing in their lands. Afognak Island is one of their properties.

a big log warning

The float plane apperared at 4:30 pm on time. Because the inlet was so shallow this time also, it was advancing carefully. We loaded a heavy container filled up with salmons, and got onto the plane.

a pick-up airplane Oregon watermelon

Sep.7 Tuesday

We had no guide this day. We left for the Buskin River at 6:00 am. We started fishing at the cliff point. It was still dark at the river, but I began casting a spinner. I kept on casting until day break, but didn't get any bites. I remembered I had caught a bag limit of salmon in just one hour the previous year. When we thought we would move to another river, a Kodiak brown bear appeared upstream of the river. He was walking down toward us. This day, Mr.Ohki wasn't here. We had no choice but to move to a safety. We hastly climbed up the cliff. However, I was not sure whether it was safe enough.

A bear coming from upstream He can't catch salmons easily

A good fishing hole also means a good restaurant for bears. He was trying to catch salmon before us. Of course, it may be quite a rare chance to see a wild bear within 10 yards. But, he not only scared us very much but disturbed our fishing as well.

He is trying to catch, but can't giving up catching ?

In the left picture the water isn't clear. The right picture has been adjusted with color tone. You can see many silversalmons in the river, but we couldn't fish any more while he was there.

before arrenging after arrenging  you can see salmons in the river

Because the fish was scared by the bear and got very nervous, we had to give up this hole and decided to move upstream. There was a wooden deck along the river at the next fishing place. We looked down the river from the deck. Though we looked for a silversalmon carefully, we couldn't find any more.

looking down the river on the deck a rental pick-up truck

We gave up fishing at the Buskin River and decided to go to some other rivers. At first we headed to the American River. I pulled my car along the roadside after passing the bridge. I got out of the car and looked down the river from the bridge. We found a lot of pinksalmons and a few chumsalmons in the river, but no silversalmon.

the American River a lot of salmons in the river

I heard something roaring in the sky. When I looked around, I saw the coast guard helicopter repeatedly trying take-off and landing. I had no idea for what they were practicing, but could see a lot of people.

a coast guard helicopter there are a lot of people in the bank

We visited the Olds River next. We had sometimes caught sliversalmons here, so I expected to catch them. However, we couldn't find any good fishing holes due to the low water level. After changing from front wheel drive to 4 wheel drive, I drove on a muddy path along the river. I stopped at the river side, and found a couple of bear's footprints. God! A bear was also here. We looked around carefully.

the Olds River new footprints

As expected, I found a bear in the grassland nearby. He was a little bit far from us, but there was no obstacles to stop him between him and us . We returned to the car quickly, and I turned my car to the road. While we were looking at him, he passed by my car and crossed the river, and went down where we had fished the previous year.
We could climb down the bank and could drive on the muddy path this year because we had a 4 wheel drive pick-up truck. But, as usual, we walk to the river side. If we had walked here, what would have happened ? We gave up fishing here.

the Olds River bear if we were there ---

We returned to the American River. We knew there were only pinksalmons in the river, but we wanted to enjoy fighting some salmon because we hadn't gotten any bites this day. I tried many flies I had tied in Japan and caught several pinksalmons.

the American River my catch, a pinksalmon

We decided to stop fishing for a while, and to visit the northern part of the island. We had always spent the whole time fishing on Kodiak, so we had visited only rivers but had never gone sightseeing else where on the island.

The Larsen Bay is on the north side of the island, and 70 people are living there. When we passed the east side of Lake Buskin, the road became dirt and steep. We crossed a pass. Here is the watershed between the northside and southside of the island. We reached a small inlet after 15 minutes driving from the pass. There was a small boat launch and many cars were parked. I wondered if a lot of fishermen had already gone fishing. I tried casting a rubber octopus at the inlet side, but only caught seaweed.

Larsen Bay the river mouth

On the way back, we visited Lake Buskin downstream where the Buskin River is very meandering like a crescent. Running salmon are usually staying here for a while to take a rest. I began casting a spinner, but didn't get any bites. Fishing was very slow this day also, so I had to quit fishing.

the Buskin River the Buskin River

Sep.8 Wednesday

We had decided to go saltwater-fishing this day. The chartered boat departed from the nearby harbor at 8:00 am. We chartered the fishing boat "U-rascal" two years ago. This time, we took "Moon Shadow" which belongs to the same company. We arrived at the harbor at 7:30 am.

my breakfast a lot of fishing boats

U-Rascal and Moon Shadow departed the harbor at 8:00 am with 6 fishermen loaded on each. The charter rates are being raised year by year. I paid $200 four years ago, but I paid $300 this year. The fishing boats in Japan can earn all year around, but in Alaska they can only earn from June to September, at most for 4 months.

many fishermen waiting departure the cabin of Moon Shadow

The boats passed by the mouths of the Buskin, American and Olds rivers at full speed and reached the mouth of the Pasagishak River which is on the north side of the island. It took 2 hours from the harbor.

boat at full speed Off pasagishak River

Our boat was anchored. I guessed the water could have been 100 feet deep. 2 of the 6 fishermen were assigned bait-fishing using herring baite to catch halibut. The rest of us were assigned jig-fishing using rubber octopus with sliced herring to catch salmon. I did bait-fishing.

waiting a bite the only woman in the group

I got a bite very soon. Once the fish had bitten I had to wait until the rod's tip pulled into the sea. I waited patiently, but the fish stopped biting soon. A couple of hours passed with no catch. After the guys who were jigging caught silver salmons and halibuts, they began bait-fishing.
There were 4 fishing rods fixed in rod holders all on one side of the stern. When a bite came to one of 4 the rods, the fishermen took turns reeling in. This is "American style" fishing. You can say it is rational. A strong bite came soon. It was my turn. However, the captain said it was the woman's turn because she also had no fish. I gave up my turn for her.
She tried to reel in, but couldn't any more. Her husband immediately took her place and tried again. But he also couldn't reel in easily. At first, he snagged the hook on something at the bottom. After a while, it began to move slightly. Everyone supposed it could be a huge halibut. He managed to slowly reel in while taking a rest.
After 20 minutes, a giant halibut appeared in the water. Huge, too huge! He couldn't land it alone, so three big guys helped him.

bait  herring 3 guys managed to land the giant

They managed to land it. It was about a 250 lb halibut. The captain said it was the largest halibut ever caught in this season in Kodiak. Such a huge halibut is called "a barn door halibut", and I had only seen one on in a fishing magazine. This was a real one. Everyone seemed to be very excited.

monster appeared a huge halibut

Fishing was totally slow this day, and that fish was the last catch. The captain moved to another place, but nobody got any bites. We quit fishing at 4:30 pm.

a giant halibut the rods waiting for bites

On the way back, I was staying at on the deck because I wanted to see the sea. Unfortunately, the head-wind was so strong that I got soaked by waves splashing against the boat, but I enjoyed a happy time to watch long shore-lines and beautiful small islands.

U-Rascal Alaska Sea

Alaska Sea Alaska Sea

Today's catch would be taken over to a seafood processing company at the harbor. The company would ship the fish to each fisherman after processing. There was a small crane at the pier that lifted up a big fish container. While the crane was holding up the huge halibut, I took pictures. A 250lb halibut means about 130lbs of fish meat. 130lbs of fish meat! That guy must buy a new freezer. Though I hadn't caught any fish this day, I really enjoyed it very much.

Her husbans The big fish with me

Sep.9 Thursday

We had no fishing guide this day. When we arrived at the parking space near the cliff point, we didn't see any cars. Because I was very anxious about bears, I decided to go to another place near the river mouth. When arriving there, I felt relieved bacause a couple of fishermen were already there. However, while we were fishing, they had gone somewhere. I became really nervous.
As expected, I found a bear downstream. There was no safe place around us, so we had to get away quickly. We headed for the river mouth, where it was very flat, so that we would be able to spot a bear easily. The sun was just starting to rise.

the day-break the river mouth at dawn

There weren't any nears nor fish. The river mouth was so shallow that I could wade far into the sea. I had been casting for a couple of hours, but didn't get any bites. Then, I noticed 4 seals were looking at me in the offing. Generally speaking, seals are cute and very curious, so people usually love them. However, where there are seals, salmon never appear. We had to move again. We headed for Lake Buskin downstream where we visited the previous day and I thought it could be a good fishing place. We were carefully walking to the river side, and we felt relieved when we saw a couple of guys fishing.

I expected that there were a lot of fish in the river. I casted a spinner many times and walked upstream and downstream along the river side to find a good fishing hole, but I didn't get any bites.

the Buskin River the Buskin River

Because I didn't want to quit without catching any fish, I decided to go to Lake Buskin to catch a dolly varden. There is a weir crossing the lake outlet, and fishing is prohibited within 100 yards upstream and downstream of the weir. We started fishing soon. This time, I used a minnow plug. I thought a 7cm plug worked better than a 9cm. I repeatedly did catch-and-release.

 the weir this is a dolly varden

We went to the wooden deck after lunch. I saw a couple of silver salmons in the river, but they seemed not to be interested in my spinner any more. They turned away when my spinner came close. I thought I should stop fishing for a while. We returned to the inn and took a nap.

a fish acount board warning! bears are here.

We had dinner with Mr.Ohki at Old Power House. This restaurant is run by Japanese people and serves sushi and tempura, and other Japanese food. Mr. Shiraishi ordered a black cod set and I ordered a fried pork bowl. We enjoyed them very much. I was very surprised that the American people I saw eating Japanese food were using chopsticks very well, perhaps better than young Japanese guys.

a fried poke bowl a black cod set

Sep.10 Friday

This day was my last day of fishing on Kodiak. I determined to catch at least one silversalmon even if a bear appeared. We began fishing at 6:45 am at the cliff. As expected, as soon as we started casting, a bear appeared downstream and was coming toward us. We had to climb up the cliff. He was trying to catch a salmon for 20 minutes in front of us, but he couldn't catch anymore and moved farther upstream.

a bear appeared He is eating a salmon.

This was my chance. We began fishing again. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes, another bear also appeared downstream. He started fishing in front of us, so we had to wait on the cliff.

I don't care a cold water any more. not easy to catch

He hung around the river, but couldn't catch any fresh salmon. He left after 30 minutes. I thought that this river was not large enough to feed two bears but in fact they were here. They must have been hungry.

a bear swims very well Can you see in the water?

Do you leave here ? after breakfast

I recharged my batteries and began fishing again. I saw 5 or 6 silversalmons in the river, but they completely ignored my spinner. I was sure that it was almost impossible to catch them after two bears appearing. I had wasted precious time this morning. I saw some fishermen coming. It was the time to move on.

We returned to the inn and had a cup of coffee. This day's high tide was at 3:54 pm. After taking a small nap, we went to the river mouth to catch fresh silversalmon.

the river mouth of the Buskin River Just high tide

As high tide began coming, the water started getting deeper. I could cross the river mouth easily 5 minutes earlier, but couldn't after that. I casted my spinner many times in the sea, but didn't get any bites. I only caught a piece of seaweed. We had to return to Anchorage that night, so we decided to quit fishing a bit early.

I can't cross the river mouth now. seaweed in the water

Fishing is always dependant on the weather and the water temperature, and other environmetal factors. In addition to these facts, recent serious conflict between commercial fishing and sports fishing makes our fishing more difficult. Seafood resources are not unlimited. I'm not sure whether those factors are making my fishing so miserable. Can I look forward to good fishing in 2011 ?

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