Kodiak : In the Autumn of ２０１３
I went fishing in Kodiak, Alaska this year. It was the seventh time and my fifth year in a row. You are right to say I might be stupid to visit the same place and to fish the same species of salmon every year. There are five species of salmon in the Pacific Ocean and a lot of trout in Alaskan rivers and lakes. I can fish everywhere in Alaska.
However, there are not so many places even in Alaska if you want to enjoy bank-fishing easily. Since I have mastered local roads and fishing holes in Kodiak, it is a troublesome job to find a good new river elsewhere. Therefore, I visited Kodiak again this year.
Aug.31 Saturday : cloudy
Delta flight 156 took off on time from Narita International Airport with all the passengers, and arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 8:20 am after about a nine hour flight. We changed to Alaska Airlines. After arriving in Anchorage, we got on the Era-Aviation airplane and arived in Kodiak at 4:10 pm.
We rented a car, a Toyota RAV 4, at the airport and checked in to the Russian Heritage Inn at 5:30 pm. It had already been over 22 hours since leaving home. We saw Mr.Oki, who is a Japanese fishing guide, at the Chinese restaurant at 7:00 pm. While having dinner, we talked about our fishing itinerary. He told us that the condition of the rivers were not so bad because it rained the previous day. We expected to catch more fish.
Sept. 1 Sunday : cloudy and partly sunny
We were on the fishing-platform of the Buskin River at 6:30 am. I had been thinking that it was a sightseeing facility, but I realized after reading the bulletin board it was for disabled people who wanted to fish at the Buskin River . They can go there with their wheelchairs and can cast easily from the deck. Yes, I'm talking about America !
The river was still dark, but we prepared for fishing and went down to the river. I fixed a sack of salmon eggs to my fishing hook with an egg-loop and cast it. The water was a bit low, but better than last year. I cast many times and let the eggs drift along the bottom, but I didn't get any bites.
I moved slightly downstream. The water was a bit better and I found a deeper place on the opposite side. After casting a couple of times, I got a bite. Then, I might have been too excited because I hadn't had any bites so far, and my hooking (:my attempts to hook the fish) was not strong enough; so the fish broke away. I tried again. As soon as I cast another loop of salmon eggs, I got a bite. Although I was waiting for a strong pull, it never happened. After all, in spite of three bites, each attempt was perhaps not strong enough, so I couldn't catch any fish.
The Buskin River is very close to downtown, taking just 10 minutes by car. The road from the main street to the riverside is unpaved, but solid. There are a couple of parking lots along the river. Therefore, many people come to fish everyday. When looking downstream, I saw two local women fishing. Catching salmon is very interesting indeed, but I guessed that fishing could be one of very few precious diversions on the island. The fish were still slow (:the fish weren't biting), so I decided to go to another river.
The American River was about 20 minutes by car from the Buskin River. I stopped on the roadside, and went to the bridge crossing the river. When I looked down onto the river from the bridge, the water was unexpectedly low and there was only pink salmon. I headed for the west and visited the Olds River. I drove down to the river and stopped at the bank. There was already a group of senior citizens and some of them were fishing. One older man was sitting on a chair and casting a spinner. I was impressed that even disabled people could fish at least with a helper. Every time one of them hooked a fish, the rest of them were shouting with joy. Although their catch was pink salmon only, they looked very happy.
While walking along the river, I found a filleted silver salmon carcass in the river. It meant silver salmon had already come up this river, but I guessed that it wasn't such a large number .
I had visited the Olds River many times and had already caught a lot of silver salmon, especially two years ago. However, the fishing conditions that day were terrible. The water was too low and cold. I couldn't get any bites despite casting many times. Then, I saw a parent and a child fishing at the river downstream and I also found one silver salmon lying at their feet. I decided to fish again. But, unfortunately I caught pink salmon only. It was time to quit fishing. Because I still had four fishing days left, I had to save my strength.
Sept. 2 Monday : rain
This day was salt water fishing day. I had to get to the harbor before 8:00 am. After lazily having breakfast, we headed for the harbor. I always keep in mind to eat vegetables and to maintain a healthy nutritional balance during any journey. I bought three cucumbers and two eggplants the day before, and I made a special salad with them. The dessert that morning was some pieces of a watermelon.
There were many fishing boats in the harbor including commercial fishing boats. One of them was "U-RASCAL", and we took it every time. I saw two deckhands on board, but no skipper. Shortly after, other fishermen appeared. I remembered two of them. I fished with them last year ! They also noticed me. How small the world is ! Everybody was worried about the weather, and one guy said six chartered boats had already been cancelled. The weather could get worse that afternoon. Then, Mr.Oki came up and told us that the skipper's wife gave him a call and said the fishing was cancelled. Nobody could beat the weather.
We decided to go fishing at the Pasagshuk River. As soon as we returned to the inn, we prepared for stream fishing and headed for the Pasagshuk River. We remembered Mr.Oki had said the Buskin River and the Pasagshuk River were very good but extremely crowded. I had no choice. We headed for the river in heavy rain and strong wind.
We arrived at the river mouth. Unexpectedly, there weren't many people along the river, because the weather was too bad. As soon as I set a spinner on the line, I began fishing near the parking lot. However, I didn't get any silver bites but only pink bites. When I looked upstream, I saw that a guy fishing with bait caught two silvers quickly in a row. It was time for bait-fishing - not spin fishing. I changed to bait-fihsing and got a bite soon after. However, my hooking was not strong enough. I saw the fish running away in the water.
The high tide was just around the corner, so the water level was gradually rising and the current would stop soon. The fish never bite when there is no current in the river. When I tried to be patient and cast a couple of times, I got a strong bite and it made the rod tip waggle. Finally a silver salmon! After waiting a few seconds , I quickly lifted the fishing rod up. Then, a very strong pulling returned. My hooking was tight enough. It was my first real bite in 2 days. The fish tried to run away in the river, so I carefully reeled it in and successfully landed it. It was a nice female silver salmon!
The tide was getting higher and the river current almost stopped. I guessed that the salt water was already in the river. Then, I got a small bite, and I caught a big bullhead. It was time to have lunch.
We visited the Buskin River in the afternoon. In spite of having no catches the day before, we began fishing at the same place. As soon as I cast a lump of salmon eggs, I got a bite. It was silver salmon again ! I was reeling in carefully, because I thought that it was my second silver and that I had now reached the bag limit. But, I suddenly felt slack in the line. Was the line broken ? Why ? I had tied an egg-loop that was tough enough to catch even a trophy. I guessed there could be some small damage on the line. I lost a precious one ! I had no bites afterwards. We were drenched because it had been raining since that morning and it became very cold. It was time to quit fishing. We left the river at 3:30 pm.
I called Mr.Oki and asked him to book the flight to Afognak Island on Sept. 4. And he said the salt water fishing was rebooked for Sept. 5.
Sept. 3 Tuesday : Sunny
I had asked Mr. Oki to guide us for two days. He picked us up at 6:15 am and headed for the Buskin River. We started fishing at the weir upstream. There are two weirs along the river between the river mouth and Lake Buskin. The ADFG ( Alaska Department of Fish and Game) staff counts the number of silver salmon that come up to the weirs. If their population is too low to reproduce, fishing won't be permitted. I fixed a sack of salmon eggs on the hook with an egg-loop and began fishing.
I got a bite soon. I could feel the salmon biting through the rod. It was time to hook. I lifted the rod quickly and hooked strongly. Fish on ! The fish tried to run away in the river, and I carefully controlled it, so it wouldn't dash away. While I was reeling in, it gradually came close. It was a nice female silver salmon.
I moved upstream a little. When I looked down at the river, I saw several silver salmon staying in the slow water. I let the bait drift in the water upstream from them. As soon as I saw one of them biting, I strongly hooked without waiting. It was also a female. I reached my bag limit within just one hour !
There are a couple of secrets for catching a nice green bright silver salmon. One is how to quickly catch the bag limit of salmon early in the morning when there are few people in the river and the fish feel no stress. As more time passes, the slower the fish will become and the more people will gather in the river.
Another is how to lure the fish. If a fisherman has a poor technique, he won't be able to catch many fish even with fresh bait. We have to imagine how the bait is drifting in the water. We always have to keep the bait drifting like a bubble. Yes, give the bait suitable action. The fish never bite the eggs laying on the bottom. You have to let the bait drift naturally.
I changed from bait-fishing to spin-fishing. I cast the spinner down cross the river and reeled it in. As soon as I saw the fish bite, I hooked quickly. Because I had already reached my bag limit this day, I didn't care if the line broke any more. I quickly reeled it in. Mr. Oki landed it. It was also a nice silver salmon. I guessed this year's salmon were bigger than last year's. Every fish I caught was very fat and a great fighter.
I moved upstream a little. I found a good hole on the opposite side of the current. I cast the spinner down cross the river. After casting a couple of times, I got a bite. But my hooking was not strong enough, so the fish ran away.
I decided to use a special jig that I had made by using a small pinkish rubber octopus. If I let it drift in the water with no action, it would look like a single stick. So, I reeled it in while twitching. Bingo ! I soon got a strong bite. After hooking it quickly, I felt a very strong pulling. It could have been very difficult to reel it in when the fish went into the current. I firmly held the rod and managed to control the fish. Mr.Oki successfully landed it. It was the biggest silver salmon so far.
After catching and releasing a lot of fish, I took a rest. When I looked around us, I saw many mushrooms on the river bank. Of course they were there, but I had not noticed any of them yet. So, I was very impressed. I could distinguish wild plants a little, but didn't have any knowledge of mushrooms. I just looked at them for a while.
The breakfast time for fish had passed, so we quit fishing and returned to the car. On the way back, we crossed the river at the weir downstream. There were countless pink salmon near-death after spawning on the weir. Their babies would go back to the sea, and would return after a couple of years.
After having lunch, we visited the most popular fishing hole ever, "Broken Bridge", which was very close to the river mouth. When the fish came up from the sea, they would stay here first. They would conserve enough energy with bright colors on their bodies. I decided to do fly-fishing. I cast my hand-made fly to a deeper place in the river. As soon as I twitched the fly, I got a bite.
While changing fly colors from flourescent yellow-green, to orange, to pink, and then red, I caught two silver salmon. They were very nice fish, and I released them soon. A bead and an egg-sucking leech fly didn't work anymore this time.
Mr.Shiraish finally reached his bag limit, two silver salmon. So, I guessed he perhaps expected to catch more the next day at the Buskin River. He said he wanted to cancel the next day's flight to Afognak. I reluctantly asked Mr.Oki to cancel the flight.
Sep. 4 Wednseday : Sunny
We began fishing at 6:30 am at the Buskin River, where was a bit upstream from "Broken Bridge". The river was largely crooked, and the most crooked place looked like a good fishing hole. Although it was also a very popular hole ( a hole is very productive place in the river), there were not many people at the river. We were lucky.
I started bait-fishing at first, but it was not so easy to let the bait drift with such slow flowing water. I changed to spin-fishing soon after. As soon as I cast a yellow spiner, I got a bite. I knew it wouldn't be able to stop the fish from dashing out, so I had to carefully reel it in. It was a nice female silver salmon.
I caught one more by spin-fishing, and had reached my bag limit already by 10:00 am. Although Mr. Shiraishi caught one small silver, he decided to release it because it was too small, he said. However, he would regret his decision later.
The guy who was fishing at the opposite bank continuously got bites. He was bobber-fishing. Bobber-fishing uses a big bobber with a sack of salmon eggs. It seemed to be a very effective way to fish in such lazy flowing water. However, I guessed hooking must be difficult. To hook too early on the first bite was a mistake. He broke up many times. He must wait a little longer for the fish to swallow the bait and the fishing hook. However, when you see the bobber is suddenly being pulled into the water, you can't help lifting the rod quickly, when you should wait a little longer. To be patient is the secret to catching the fish easily. You can wait, can't you ?
I had been fishing until 11:30 am while often changing spinners. I had no idea which color was better, but I believed that the more I cast, the more fish would be caught. I caught and released two silver salmon so far.
After having lunch, we went upstream from the bridge crossing the Buskin River near the airport. There were two very productive places between the bridge and Lake Buskin along the road. They would be good fishing holes at the latter part of the season, Mr.Oki said. The first place was a bridge upstream. At the river bank, I saw a school of silver salmon laying at the side of the current.
The second place was a little bit upstream, and it looked like a big pool. I saw a guy fishing upstream. I guessed that both plalces were good for bobber-fishing.
We revisited "Broken Bridge". There were already 14 cars in the parking lot, so I had to expect "Combat Fishing". As expected, there were many people fishing both upstream and downstream. They seemed to enjoy bait-fishing and spin-fishing in their own ways. I managed to find a space and began fishing.
I did some spin-fishing and Mr. Shiraishi did some bait-fishing. The guy fishing with a spinner next to me got many bites, but I didn't get any. When I patiently kept on casting, I saw silver salmon biting my spinner in front of me. Fish on ! It was a very big silver salmon. Because the fishing line was just for 15 lbs ( a 15 lb test line was not so strong), I reeled it in very patiently. After landing it, I carefully took it off the hook and released it.
We fished until 4:30 pm and quit. We would do salt water fishing the next day.
Sep. 5 Thurseday : rainy and cloudy
It was the rebooked salt water fishing day. We headed for the harbor before 8:00 am, and got on the fishing boat "U-RASCAL". The other people were three Americans, two men together and a single guy. The boat departed on time. The deckhands that day were two women, Rebecca and Victoria. I remembered Rebecca , because we were on board together two years ago. She also remembered me.
The boat's fuel tank was filled up at the fuel station in the harbor. Rebecca and Victoria efficiently refueled it. I have never seen a female deckhand in Japan, but I know many female skippers in Alaska. I think almost no businesses distinguish between men and women in America.
On the way to the fishing hole, the skipper suddenly stopped the boat and pointed far off the starboard. We looked in the direction, and saw a lot of whales breathing in the sea. There were many whales ! Not just one or two were there. There were two groups of maybe five or six whales each.
The American guy told me they were humpback whales. Their specific characteristics were big and long fins and humps on their back. They were calmly swimming in the vast sea now. Everyone seemed to be very happy to see them and I appreciated the treat. The skipper started again after the whales went away. I fished on the east side of the island last year, but the boat was going offshore to the south this time. I guessed the skipper wanted to avoid the strong north wind.
As soon as we arrived at the hole, we began fishing. At first, our targets were halibut. The bait was herring. The deckhands chopped herring and put them on a huge hook. They threw riggings into the water. The water could be about 200 feet deep. I got a bite after a while. I had to be patient like when flatfish fishing in Japan. After the fish swallowed enough of the bait, I lifted the rod quickly. The lead was a #200, about 800g, which was heavy enough. I had to reel in a huge halibut with a heavy lead. I managed to reel it in and the deckhand landed it. It was a 30 lb, a medium sized, halibut.
The other people caught bottom fish like halibut and flatfish, and a cod here and there. It was a very tough job to reel an over two-foot cod in. Of course I was happy to catch a lot of fish, but reeling was a really difficult job for me. I wondered if my arms were filled up with lactic acid.
Since everyone had reached the bag limit of halibut, the skipper decided to move to a different hole. I began jigging to catch rock fish there. Jigging is a kind of lure-fishing using a fish shaped lead with a strong hook. I dropped a six oz jig to the bottom, and reeled it in with one or two turn strokes. In short, I let the jig swim like a bait fish in the water. It is my favorite fishing style. Bites were very clear, so I caught a couple of black rock fish in no time.
We moved to another hole and tried to catch ring cod by jigging. At first, I dropped a jig on to the bottom, and repeatedly lifted the rod slowly. I guessed it was not real jigging but digging. Moving the jig in the water kindled the bottom fish, especially the ring cod. Ring cod perhaps love yellowish things, because the people caught a huge ring cod with a yellow rubber jig and a yellowish jig. The biggest one was about four feet long. I changed to a yellowish jig and caught a huge one soon after. This time, I was using my reel that I had brought from home, and it had #5 PE line and a 50-lb 30-foot tippet. It worked very well.
At last, the skipper decided to troll for salmon. The deckhands set up two rods at the stern. However, we didn't get any bites. Because everyone had already caught many fish, the skipper decided to return. It didn't take a long time to get back to the harbor because we were fishing off the south of the island.
Although I had told the skipper that Mr.Oki would pick up our catch later, he left our catch to the sea food company. Mr.Oki had to pick them up at the company. It wasn't very bad weather this day, but it would get worse at night.
The weather forecast said the rain and clouds would become stronger at midnight and there would also be heavy fog. The flights between Anchorage and Kodiak are run by Era-Aviation, and almost all flights are visual flights. The bad weather often leaves flights cancelled. With that in mind, I was very worried that my flight might be cancenlled. However, I had to be in Anchorage the next day because there was no early flight in Kodiak to connect with Delta flight 155 that would depart from Seattle to Narita the day after the next. Mr.Shiraishi and I talked about our itineary and decided to leave for Anchorage before the bad weather approached.
We had already booked the flight at 11:00 am the next day, but asked the Era staff member at the airport to change to flights that night, but she informed us that there were no available flights that night. I remembered that the weather forecast said the weather would be at its worst in the morning the next day and it would gradually get better in the evening. We decided to change the flight from 11:00 am the next day to 11:00 pm that night. Fortunately, the flight at 11:00 pm was available.
After changing the flights, I had to extend the checking-out time of the inn and the rental car. I also had to give a call to the hotel in Anchorage. Despite enjoying a good day of fishing, I was left exhausted from all the things I had to deal with.
Sep. 6 Friday : rain
The rain and wind had become heavier at midnight. It was still rainy and windy in the morning. I lazily had breakfast because we would leave at night. The fishing in Kodiak was not too bad, but a lot of incidents happened during the trip. My VISA credit card suddenly didn't work anymore, so I had to make an international call to Japan to recover it. While I was fishing at the Buskin River, my reel broke and I had to buy a new one. I had to change the itinerary twice because of the bad weather. Although I had thoroughly prepared for the fishing trip, it wasn't enough. I keenly realized that I was not yet a seasoned traveler.
The rain and clouds were getting a little bit lighter from 10:00 am on. Mr. Shiraishi suggested going to the airport to confirm the present flights. We visited the check-in counter and asked about the flights that day. I was very surprised to hear that the first flight that day had been cancelled but the second flight had flown to Anchorage a little bit behind schedule.
We wanted to reach Anchorage as early as possible. I asked the staff member to rebook the flights in the afternoon, but he said the people whose flights were cancelled that morning had already rebooked the flights available and therefore there were no seats available.
Pehaps, realizing I was disappointed, he told me that a non-scheduled flight would depart at 4:30 pm. I had no choice and rebooked immediately. Fortunately, the tickets were standby deals. We would be able to arrive in Anchorage in the daytime.
We had a couple of hours until the departure, so we decided to go sightseeing on the island. We had spent the whole time fishing, and rarely visited tourist attractions. We hadn't visited even the most famous attraction on the island, the Russian Orthodox Church. First, we headed for the Kodiak Military History Museum at Miller Point.
The first American naval station in Kodiak was built in the 19th century, and it was a very important base because it was an ice-free port. Two anti-aircraft guns were installed in the 1940s at Miller Point to fight the Japanese army. The museum was established including the wartime debris of the surrounding area, and has been run by volunteers ever since.
We also visited the Monashuka River. It is a small river and flows at the southside of the White Sand Beach. Because the salmon farm business has been successful, a lot of salmon come back every year. When I looked down onto the river from the bridge crossing the river, I found a couple of siver salmon among the tremendous number of pink salmon. I also found about ten silver salmon in a school at the bridge upstream. Fishing was prohibited at the bridge.
The airplane took off from Kodiak airport 30 minutes after schedule. It flew to Anchorage in rain and clouds. We arrived at Anchorage airport at 6:10 pm. As long as we were in Anchorage, we would be able to connect with the flight the next day. After checking-in to the hotel, the last matter we had to deal with was how to find the finest restaurant near the hotel.