Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kenai Peninsula

Days 31-33 
I was hoping to see the Museum of History in Anchorage, but since I do not keep track with what day of the week it is, I found out at the door that it was Sunday.  Anyway, my drive from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula was gorgisimo.  Imagine snow covered (and in some spots, glacial coated) mountains on either side of the Chickaloon Bay along the infamous Cook Inlet.  In a small town called Portage, I could see glaciers to the Northeast, East and South of me with the arm of the bay to the West.  At Beluga Point, I did not see any whales, but in the mountains behind me was a herd of Dall Sheep about 300+ yards away.  Incredible.
Driving on Kenai Peninsula
I drove through Cooper Landing and got fishing FAQs on the area.  I camped at Kelly and Peterson Lakes, which is in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  At sunset I was lucky enough to hear wolves howl; I could hear that they were communicating from miles apart like a call and response.  It was amazing especially since the lake echoed their calls.  I set up the one-man and fished Kelly Lake.  Although it took a while to figure out what was happening in the subsurface, I began to pound the Rainbows, sizes averaging 18" or larger.  I kept one for dinner, which I broiled with onions and tomato soup.
Muddy Cook Inlet 

Something important about life: Individuals are fully consumed by living a life that is pleasing and necessary to them.  For example, you get an education to improve your potential, you work to be self sufficient, and you plan vacations to enjoy yourself your entire life.  So I began thinking about myself and the trip and that it is possible to live a remarkably legendary life on your own, but if you do not share it with other people then good for you.  That is why its imperative for your personal growth to get to know, listen, learn from, and love other people, because if you are lucky to see the world its worth sharing with others.  Hope that makes sense, it just came to me as I ate dinner.

The next morning I fished the lake again, but with an intense cloud coverage above, the fishing had changed.  I had only one strike in three hours.  I packed my gear and tied flies all afternoon near the lake.  Then I headed to Watson Lake, which was about ten miles west of me off of the Sterling Highway on the Peninsula. It was the last day of moose hunting season, which I am thankful for because in Alaska, you are allowed to hunt with semi-automated rifles (the first time your hear 8-10 shots fired in a row at dark is a bit scary).  I fished Watson Lake, and only took one 17" rainbow in deep water, but it was another beautiful spot so I cannot complain.  That night, I had ravioli and a couple beers for dinner and planned to wake up early for a real day of fishing.

Thank you Bill and Nick for the pontoon it has been a perfect vessel.
I had initially planned to take a ferry to Kodiak Island to see the bears and find some Silver Salmon, but apparently its very costly to get there and the Silvers had begun to arrive yet.  Since I "saved" money by not going to Kodiak, I decided to splurge on a guided Kenai River float trip for a day.  The Kenai River is about seventy-five miles long and is separated into three sections: the lower, which comes in from the Cook Inlet and the middle and upper sections divided by Skilak and Kenai Lakes.  This means that the Rainbow trout of the lakes feed on salmon eggs and flesh after they spawn and die, which means that the Rainbow are very well fed and get HUGE.

Kelly Lake
Skilak Lake
I floated with Mike, the guide, and three other more experienced salmon fishermen, who seemed to fish in Alaska quite a bit.  We motored from Skilak Lake into the mouth of the middle section of the river and within five casts, I matched my largest rainbow record at 24" and six pounds.  Due to the glacial run-offs, the lakes and rivers of the Kenai peninsula are teel blue and have wonderfully large gravel spawing beds for the salmon, which is an egg eating frenzy for the trout.  The guys told me, "Welcome to Alaska kid, a 24" first Kenai river fish is not bad."  The day turned into one of the best fishing days I have ever had.  I took nearly thirty fish, including Rainbows, Dolly Varden, Pink Salmon and Whitefish over eight hours.  The biggest fish of the day was a new personal best, which the guide considered an Alaskan trophy.  At 26" long, 15" around, and pushing ten lbs, I fought and landed a beautiful female rainbow.  I returned her of course, but what an experience!  She ran upstream about 150 yards, which took me well into my backing, and then ran at the boat another 100 yards within half a minute.  I was in awe for at least half an hour, missing fish from the same hole because I was so satisfied.
26" Beauty
"Welcome to Alaska"
That night I headed for the mouth of the Kenai river, which is on the coast, in hope of finding some silvers. After stopping at three other boat launch spots, which were covered in NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING signs, I came to Cunningham Park about 1/2 a mile from the mouth.  I met a couple who were fishing and talked them up.  Within minutes of meeting me and hearing that I was from Texas, they offered me home-smoked King Salmon, Black Bear jerky sticks, and a beer.  The King salmon was especially good seeing that it was cured in a Native manner.  And Bear! It was tasty.  We fished for a while together and after getting to know each other a little bit, they offered me a place to stay that night.  At first I was skeptical, as sure as they were of me, but Dennis and Emilia kept saying, "We'll take you in as long as you return the favor to someone else in the future."  God works in mysterious ways and it was like a reaffirming point to my previous lesson learned about life.

Dennis and Emilia own a commercial fishing business in Bristol Bay and for one month out of the year they work hard netting thousands of pounds of fish.  Maybe I will join them next season.  We had some beers and dinner, I enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.  They made a large breakfast and I continued on.  The most I could do to thank them was print the head of a Silver Salmon that Emilia caught last night, which turned out beautifully (I could only stamp the head since the fish was about 30" long and much longer than my print paper).  I am always amazed by the kindness that people are capable of, what if more of us took a chance like that?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Ansel I just looked at some pictures of Homer, Baluga Lake and Nanilchik. Did you see the Russian church at Nanilchik? Forgot to ask how long it took to get the steelhead in. Will e-mail Craig tonight. You are the envy of us all. Bug