Autumn of 2011 Kodiak
When I make Alaska fishing plans, I can't decide the destination and the time easily. I don't know the business schedule of the next fiscal year, and I might be transferred to a different office.
Considering these, it's safe to choose Kodiak in September. Usually, September is not so busy, and remembering the fighting and beautiful shape of the silver salmon, Kodiak is my best choice.
I haven't fished kingsalmons for a long time, so at first I was going to the Nushagak River. Although I had booked the flights and the fishing charters in March, I was informed I would be transferred in April. I had no idea about my new business schedule, so I gave up the fishing trip to Nushagak and decided to go to Kodiak in September.
Sep. 3 Saturday
Delta Airlines 296 flight arrived at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on time. I passed the passport control smoothly, but I had to wait for a while at the baggage claim. I heard it took a long time to check baggages by x-ray. I transferred to Alaska Airlines, and arrived at Anchorage International Airport at 1:30 pm.
The next flight to Kodiak was at 5:45 pm, so I had a lot of time. Using this time, I was going to see my friend, Ms.Takada, who lives in Anchorage. She was waiting for me at the baggage claim.
She was going to take me downtown. Before going, I wanted to check in my baggage. We headed for the Era Aviation counter.
When I told the clerk about my reservation number, she said I could make the 3:15 pm flight. Ms.Takada said she understood that I would rather reach Kodiak as early as possible, so I decided to change the flight. I was so sorry that she might have spent a lot of time to make a downtown trip. She helped me to check in and saw me off at the Era Aviation departure gate.
This flight hadn't been in the official flight schedule when I booked. She said such a thing often happens. The two-engine small plane carrying 18 people including two crews took off from the rainy airport.
After flying through rain clouds for one hour and 10 minutes, the plane arrived at Kodiak Airport. A small mountain is at the end of the runaway, and it disturbs the current of air. When dense fog is formed off in the sea, the airport is easily covered with it and planes can't land. I could reach the airport without incident. Yes, my fishing trip has just begun.
After checking in to Russian Heritage Inn, Mr.Shiraishi and I saw Mr.Ohki who is the only Japanese fishing guide in Kodiak at the Chinese restaurant at 8:00 pm. We talked about a fishing itinerary. He would guide us on Sep.8 and 9. I expected good fishing days.
Sep. 4 Sunday
I woke up at 5:00 am. After breakfast, Mr.Shiraishi and I departed at 6:15 am. We headed for the Buskin River at first. Mr.Ohki had said the Pasagshak River had been productive these days, but I decided to go fisihing there when he would guide us.
The Buskin River is near downtown, only a ten-minute drive from the inn. It is so easy to approach the river that a lot of fishermen visit everyday. At first we headed for "Broken Bridge Point", the most popular fishing hole, but there was no room at the parking lot. I gave up here and headed for "Wooden Deck Point". There is a wooden deck along the river and we can fish around there. A couple of cars were already parked there , but I found a space and stopped. We put waders on quickly and went down to the river.
No fisherman was there. I guessed many fishermen had already gone to "Cliff Point", that is a good fishing hole downstream. We began fishing soon. I put a lump of salmon eggs on the hook by egg-loop. I cast it up-cross the river and let it drift on the bottom of the river. A bite came soon. I sensed a salmon biting through my fishing rod. After waiting a bit, I lifted my pole up strongly and hooked tightly. The fish was violently trying to get away. However, my fishing line was a 20 lb test line, so it was strong enough to keep the fish. I reeled in carefully and led it to the shallow. The fish in the landing net was a fine female silver salmon.
When we had caught a bag limit each, we decided to go to the other rivers. At first we headed for the American River. It took 30 minutes to the river. I stopped at the road shoulder. We got out of the car and looked down the river from the bridge. I found a large school of pinksalmon in the river.
Fishing upstream of the bridge was prohibitted. We began fishing downstream. At first Mr.Shiraishi did spin fishing and I did fly fishing at the left side of the river. The lure was a Meps spinner. It often caused snagging in the past. But this time was different. A lot of fish seemed to be so active that we could hook them on their mouths.
I cast my fly in the middle of the current. After casting several times, I saw my indicator stopped. It was a bite. As soon as I pulled the fishing line tightly, I got a very strong reaction. Such fierce fighting was not by pink salmon but by silversalmon, I believed. I moved upstream and downstream with fish and led it to the shallow water. It was a very beautiful silver salmon. I found it had tightly bitten my tied fly. After taking a picture, I released it soon.
There were many local families at the river. They caught only pinksalmon because there were a lot of pinksalmon in the river.
We also visited the Olds River. I looked down the river from the bridge, and only found a few pinksalmon in the river. I wondered why this river was so productive. This day was the first day of fishing in Kodiak and we had 5 more days, so we had to keep our strength. We decided to return a bit earlier.
Sep. 5 Monday
I had booked a charterd boat for salt water fishing before coming to Kodiak. However, the weather forecast had said the sea might be too rough for fishing on Monday, so we changed the charter day to Wednesday. I guessed stream fishing would be almost no problem, so it was decided that we we would do river fishing. I woke up at 5:00 am and left the inn at 6:15 am. We headed for the Buskin River.
The weather was not great - it was rainy and windy outside. We stopped at the parking area and stayed for a while because it was a bit dark outside. There were already three cars but two of them moved to someplace before daybreak. We got nervous that there may be a bear near.
It was raining at the river, but of course it was no problem for fish. They are always in the water. They are rather active on the rainy and cloudy days. We started fishing at 7:00 am. After casting the bait a couple of times, I got a bite. I pulled on my fishing line strongly. Fish on! The fish tried to get away upstream and downstream, but I reeled it in carefully and led it to the shallow water. It was such a nice silver salmon.
Many salmon were going upstream 20 feet away from the bank. I didn't cast far from the bank, and before long, I got a bite. When I quickly lifted my rod, it pulled more strongly than before. It fiercely fought me and I couldn't quickly reel it in. I tightened my reel drag and carefully reeled it in. I managed to land it. As expected, it was a bigger silver salmon.
I became very cold after fishing for 3 hours in the water, so I decided to return downtown. I wanted a cup of coffee at the harbor coffee shop. A cup of Mocha coffee made me warm, especially after three hours of fishing.
I returned to the inn and would restart fishing after taking a nap. However, when I got up, it was still rainy and the wind was getting stronger. I had to give up fishing for this day. I still had other fishing days. I would take a shower and go to bed earlier.
Sep. 6 Tuesday
I usually eat a cinnamon roll and salty cucumber with a cup of vegetable soup for breakfast in Alaska. It's not easy to have enough vegees while travelling, I always keep in mind to have them. After breakfast, I left for the Buskin River at 6:30 am. It was still rainy outside, but the weather was a bit better than the day before.
When I reached the wooden deck, I saw the water had increased and had become more muddy. I couldn't go to the fishing hole where I had caught a bag limit of salmon like the last day. I was worried whether I could fish. Then, I found the slack around the deck, and I wondered if there were any salmon escaping from the rapid current. I decided to begin to fish anyway.
I'd never experienced such easy fishing ever. I could fish on a stable place, the wooden deck, and I cast up to 20 feet and could follow the fish running upstream and downstream. Mr.Shiraishi and I took turns fishing and caught a bag limit of salmon each until 9:00 am.
While we were fishing, a lot of fishermen appeared at the deck. However, as soon as they saw the rapid current, they gave up fishing and went somewhere else. I guessed they didn't think they could really fish at such a rapid river.
After catching a bag limit each, we headed downstream to see some fishing holes. "Cliff Point" was one of the nicest holes around there, and was where we caught many salmon last year and the year before last. It was just a 5 minute walk from the deck, but we couldn't approach the hole because the bank was flooded with increasing water. We decided to go to the American River.
It had been rainy. When we arrived at the river, we found the water was very high and muddy. We also saw a school of pink salmon going upstream in the shallow water along the river. We started fishing.
I did fly-fishing, and Mr.Shiraishi did spin-fishing, as usual. Although I cast many times and changed the flies, I didn't get any bites of silver salmon. I only caught a couple of pink salmon. Pink salmon were very active and still keeping beautiful bodies at this time of year. I guessed that the stability and abundance of water had been keeping the fish active so far.
Because I wanted to fish a dolly varden, I decided to go to Lake Buskin. After lunch, we headed for the lake. On the way to the lake, I saw several people looking for something at the roadside near the Russian River. I guessed they could be looking for a bear. I pulled my car along the roadside and looked around. Yes, a bear was there! It was chasing a salmon at the lagoon. There were a lot of lagoons and creeks at the river mouth and many salmon were waiting for high tide. Now, it was also lunch time for the bear.
Lake Buskin was also flooded with plenty of water. There was a weir to count salmon coming up at the outlet of the lake. It was almost flooded.
I started spin-fishing with a minnow plug. I had usually caught a lot of dolly varden here before, but I didn't get any bites this day. Although I used different minnow plugs and reeled in slowly and quickly, it was not working. Where had they gone ?
There was a large meander at Lake Buskin downstream. It seemed to be a good rest place for salmon. I started fishing again. While casting a spinner, I got a strong bite. At first I thought it could be a pink salmon because it didn't fight so much. But it began to fight while I was reeling it in. It was running to the right and left side. I led it to the shallow water. It was a beautiful silver salmon, and it was the first time that I caught a silver salmon there.
After releasing it, I took out a pack of cigarettes from my pocket. When I was smoking, Mr.Shiraishi shouted to me that a bald eagle was on the branch of a nearby tree. I found the eagle sitting in the tree near the small mountainside closeby. I used to often watch bald eagles in Kenai, but it was the first time in Kodiak.
Sep. 7 Wednesday
It was a salt water fishing day this day. We went to the harbor at 7:45 am. There were 2 Japanese and 6 American fishermen on the fishing boat. Including a captain and two deckhands, 11 people on board departed from the pier at 8:00 am.
Before leaving the harbor, we caught a lot of herring as bait. We easily caught them with a 5 hook-line, "Sabiki", near the pier. We could catch 2 or 3 herring from one cast. The container was filled up with herring soon.
Next, we moved to the pier of the seafood companies. The captain filled up a huge fish container with crushed ice. It was time to go fishing.
After leaving the harbor, the boat began to run at full speed. The captain changed the direction to the northeast. I remembered that we had fished at the southwesten part of the main island last year. The captain said he decided to fish at another place because of the bad weather today.
We passed the Narrow Straight and reached off of Spruce Island after one hour of sailing. I could see Afognak Island far beyond, where I caught a lot of silver salmon last year.
The captain chose the fishing place carefully, and decided to anchor. The deckhands had already prepared the bait. They had chopped herring and octopus. They put the bait on huge hooks. We were ready to fish ! They threw riggings into the water. The captain said the water was 200 feet deep.
6 guys including us were assigned bait-fishing to catch halibut, and the rest of the people were assigned jig-fishing to catch salmon and halibut. A jigging guy caught a big cod quickly. It was about 2 feet. The bait fishing guys also got bites soon, and they caught a rock fish, called "a flog fish".
The captain decided to change the place, and moved to where his friend was anchoring. I saw the fisherman who was fishing a nice halibut on his friend's boat. We started fishing again. After a while, I could catch a smaller halibut. When reeling it in, I thought "how big could it be ?". It was not a big one, but it was very tough job to reel in.
Mr. Shiraishi and I caught a bag limit of halibut each by noon. Then, I asked the captain to let me do jigging. I started jigging using a 6 inch jig. My target was salmon.
This jig was made of metal and looked like fish, and had a big stout hook attached on the top. I dropped it on the bottom, and began to jerk with one stroke reeling, "Shakuri". When I fished halibut, I needed to wait for a bite. But jigging was much more active and aggressive, so I loved this fishng style. I caught a lot of cod and flounder, and flog fish.
The captain decided to fish salmon when all the fishermen had caught a bag limit of halibut each. We moved to off of Spruce Island east. We would do trolling. While a lot of silversalmon were entering the rivers and going upstream to spawn, younger kingsalmon and silversalmon were growing in the sea. We had a chance to catch both of them in the rivers and the sea. The deckhand set two fishing rods rigged with a flasher and a spoon each. After a minute, an American guy caught a king salmon.
When we did trolling, we used a big spoon with a down-rigger. The down-rigger was a big lead ball with a long wire. The spoon was fixed to the wire by a small clip. The spoon came off from the clip when a bite came up. The big lead ball prevented the spoon from rising to the surface while the boat was sailing. The bite came to the rod clearly. People took turns fishing with both rods. It was my turn. I expected a king salmon, but the captain said it was a silversalmon. Before long the fish was landed by a net. It was a beautiful silversalmon.
Totally we caught two king salmon and one silver salmon. We quit fishing at 4:15 pm. I'd already asked the deckhand to make my catch headed and gutted, so he began processing on board and finished soon. My catch became delicious food. The boat returned to the harbor after 40 minutes.
It had been cloudy and rainy all day, but not so windy and choppy. We enjoyed fishing very much in spite of the September weather. The huge container was almost filled up with today's catch.
Sep. 8 Thursday
Mr.Ohki would guide us today and the next day. He picked us up at 6:00 am. At first, we started fishing at the Olds River. I cast a lump of salmon eggs upstream. A bite came up soon. After waiting shortly, I lifted my rod quickly. But I couldn't hook enough and it broke out. I cast again with a new bait. I let my bait bounce on the bottom. I felt biting soon. I had to wait until the fish swallowed the bait sufficiently, and lifted my rod quickly and strongly. Fish on !
The fish was rolling in the water to try to take off the hook. I managed to stop the fish from getting away, and I reeled in carefully. I gradually led it to the shallow. It was a nice silver salmon.
I had thought there were few silver salmon in the Olds River, so I didn't expect to catch one so easily. I hadn't caught so many silver salmon here, and usually I had caught many pink salmon. Yes, catching silver salmon here had been a kind of accident. This day was different. We caught two silver salmon each by 8:00 am.
I guess the Buskin River, the American River, the Olds River, and the Pasagshak River are very accessible rivers in the road system in Kodiak. In my opinion, if you want to catch much more silver salmon easily, you should go to the Buskin River. And if you want to get a big beautiful one, you should go to the Pasagshak. However, there is no guarantee about fishing. It is the best choice to enjoy fighting with big salmon at the Pasagshak River after catching a bag limit of salmon at the Buskin River and the Olds River.
We put our catches into the container and headed for the Pasagshak. Passing the watershed between the northeast island and the southwest island, we arrived at the Pasagshak rivermouth. I saw some guys fishing along the river.
I started fishing with a spinner. I repeatedly cast it into the deep water and the slack water. I didn't get any bites for a while, but I kept casting patiently. Then, I got a strong pull. A bite came up. It pulled strongly and tried to run away. Because I was using a 20lb test line, I didn't worry about the line breaking. I reeled in carefully and led it to the shallow. It was a bright beautiful silver salmon.
We had lunch at a new restaurant near the Olds River, and returned to the Pasagshak River again. In spite of the low tide, I saw a couple of silver salmon going upstream in front of us.
I did fly-fishing this time. I used my fly that I had made with a chenille and a marabou. But I caught only dolly vardens, and didn't get any salmon's bites. I changed the fly's color from red to orange. As soon as I cast, I got a strong bite. The hook could stick easily into the fish's mouth. Although the fish fiercely fought to try to get away, I was not worried about a tippet breaking because it was a 20lb test line. I fastened the reel drag and held the fish going away with my stout rod. I managed to land it. It was such a nice silversalmon. After taking a picture, I released it soon.
It had been raining since morning and it had become colder. I quit fishing at 4:30 pm and decided to go back downtown in the rain.
Sep. 9 Friday
It was the last fishing day in Kodiak. We needed to return to Anchorage that night. We left for the Olds River at 6:00 am. The Olds River was still in a good condition for fishing. As soon as I cast the bait, I got a bite. I caught a nice silver salmon within 10 minutes.
In spite of good fishing conditions, there weren't any fishermen around us. It wasn't windy and rainy, so the water surface looked like a mirror. I could only hear the sound that was made by my casting bait. Mr.Shiraishi and I reached a bag limit of salmon each at 8:00 am at the reserved river.
I changed my fishing style from bait-fishing to spin-fishing. I cast an orange Meps spinner with a golden braid. I had no idea why this spinner worked so well. It didn't look like salmon eggs and bait fish, so I wondered why a revolving shiny braid attracted the fish so easily. However, it could catch a lot of salmon.
The silver salmon we had caught still had beautiful bright silver bodies. They had just come up from the sea. The male salmon's noses, actually they were not noses but upper mouths, were bended a bit.
When we were using the same spinner for a long time, we didn't get any bites. We sometimes needed to use different colored spinners. It was the secret to catching much more salmon. I changed its color from orange to yellow and then to black while fishing.
It was 10:00 am. The tide was gradually getting higher and better at the Pasagshak River, so we decided to head for the Pasagshak River. I couldn't miss the Pasagshak Silvers fighting.
We stopped at the roadside and went down to the river. As soon as I cast a spinner I caught a nice silver salmon, so I decided to try fly-fisihing next. I cast a fly to the hole where I had caught a nice one the previous day, but didn't get any bites for a long time. I only caught a couple of dolly varden. My fly could be popular among dollies. My fly had a dumbbell lead head tied with red chenille. I put two 3B split shots on the line because the river was a bit rapid.
The fish became slow while high tide stopped coming up. We decided to go to the Olds River again. When we arrived at the river, we found the river still in good condition. I started casting with a spinner, but didn't get any silver bites for a while. I only caught a couple of pink salmon. I guessed this river was good for fishing just in the morning.
When I was thinking the fish had already gone upstream, all of a sudden a strong bite came up. Then I was using a fluorescent yellow spinner I had bought yesterday at the local shop. I carefully reeled in and led it to the shallow water slowly. It was my last catch of this tour. I quit fishing at 2:00 pm.
I returned to the inn and packed. I greeted the inn owner, Neal, and left for the airport. On the way to the airport, I filled up the gas tank. When I arrived at the airport, I was very surprised that there were many cars at the parking area and many people waiting outside of the airport building. I'd never experienced such a thing.
I was very surprised again when I entered into the waiting room. The room was filled up with the people who were waiting for their flights. I asked some guys what flights they were waiting for. They said their flight was at 3:40 pm. Because I would take the 7:15 pm flight, this meant two flights hadn't arrived yet before my flight. I heard that a heavy fog had stopped planes from landing. When I asked the airport staff what time the checkin would begin, she replied it may be 6:30 or 7:00 but they were not sure.
I joined in the long line at 6:30 pm. There were 3 or 4 lines in the room, so it was not so easy to find out my line. At last I finished the check-in and left my baggage at 7:30 pm. However, the 3:40 flight hadn't arrived yet. I remembered Mr.Ohki had said the flight was cancelled after boarding last day. I couldn't rest yet.
I had been waiting for four hours, and the airplane which I would take appeared at the airport at 11:00 pm. It had already taken off from Anchorage Airport a couple of hours before, and had been waiting for a recovery from bad weather at Homer Airport. The plane took off from Kodiak Airport at 11:15 pm with the full passengers.
Sep. 9 Friday
The plane with exhausted people arrived at Anchorage International Airport at 12:15 am. After checking in to the hotel at 1:00 am. and taking a shower, I took a nap. I checked out the hotel at 5:00 am and headed for the airport. Then I checked in to Alaska Airlines smoothly, and I thought I would finally return to Japan with no problem. However, a small storm was waiting for me.
The boarding began at the C terminal 7th gate at 6:50 am. The airplane would take off from the airport at 7:30 am. As soon as I sat down, I fell into a slumber because I hadn't slept enough last night. But some noise disturbed my sleeping. When looking around, I saw many people getting out of the plane. Of course, we hadn't arrived in Seattle yet! Some guys said this airplane had some trouble and needed to be fixed.
I needed to transfer to another airplane in Seattle, and I had only a 2 hour interval. If it took more than one hour to fix the airplane, I wouldn't be able to catch up with the next airplane that would take off 2:00 pm. I wondered if I had to negotiate with Alaska Airline about the flights arrangement. Then, the airlines staff announced that the flight would be delayed by 1 hour and 15 minutes. I didn't know whether I would be able to catch up, but I couldn't help but go anyway.
The airplane took off at 8:40 am. I'd been anxious about the time in the plane. If I couldn't take the next flight, I would have to stay in Seattle at least one night. We would arrive at C terminal at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The Delta flight I had booked would take off to Japan from the S terminal. When moving from C terminal to S terminal, I would take a shuttle train twice. I needed sufficient time, because it would take up to 20 minute journey between terminals.
We arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 1:20 pm. Because we were sitting in the back row, we couldn't get out of the airplane soon. We hurried to the shuttle station, and took the shuttles. When we were climbing up on the escalator from the shuttle station to the S terminal departure floor, we heard the final announcement to ask us to board immediately. We drove into the 8th departure gate.
I won't be able to catch two halibut a day in 2012. The federal government is now making a new bag limit rule for halibut. The government wants to reduce the bag limit of sports fishing halibut from two a day to one a day. The halibut population in Alaska has been declining year by year. The federal plan to protect the population has pitted commercial fishing intersts against sports fishing, charter operators, interests, etc.
Many charter operators are worried that there could be no angler who pays thousands of dollars to go fishing in Alaska in spite of such a bag limit.