Monthly Archives: July 2011

Working through the fish process — Huge sockeye catch floods processors with sea of salmon

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Zach Oakley, left, and Coy Kirby fillet sockeye salmon at Custom Seafood Processors in Soldotna on Friday. Fish processors report record-setting amounts of sockeye flooding into their plants.

Redoubt Reporter

After a couple 16-hour days in a row trying to keep up with the sea of sockeye salmon pouring into Custom Seafood Processors, in Soldotna, brought by dip-netters and sportfishermen hauling them from the massive runs surging into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, Coy Kirby said he could fillet fish with his eyes closed.

In a way, he has been.

“You work 16-hour days, then you go to sleep and you dream about filleting fish. You wake up and you’re filleting your girlfriend’s pillow,” said Kirby, 23, of Soldotna.

Next to him on the line Friday, deftly slicking his knife along each side of a salmon spine, peeling red flesh from white bone and silver carcass, was Zach Oakley, 20, of Soldotna. He’s also been feeling the effects of the recent swell of salmon.

“You have some weird dreams,” he said. “I had a dream last night that I was putting all my stuff in bags — my wallet and socks and all my random things — and vacuum sealing it,” Oakley said.

The sea has bestowed an unexpected bounty upon Cook Inlet — a bumper sockeye run to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers — surprising in both the amount of fish and their early arrival. Usually, the Kenai sockeye run hits its peak the last week of July. This year, however, the sockeye counter in the Kenai River clocked a record-breaking 230,643 on July 17, followed by another whopping 177,000-plus on July 18.

That wave of sockeyes has drawn a rising tide of fishing effort, especially as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has liberalized opportunities — extra openings for commercial drift- and set-netters, 24-hour personal-use dip-netting, and increased bag limits for sport anglers. Continue reading

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Anglers protest losing bait — Kenai sportfishermen bristle at restrictions while commercial fishery is liberalized

By Jenny Neyman

Submitted photo. Sportfishermen and guides clog the parking lot of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Monday to protest restrictions on the Kenai River king fishing, while commercial fishermen are seeing liberalized openings for sockeyes.

Redoubt Reporter

Mondays being drift-boat-only days on the Kenai River, with no power boats allowed, they are typically the only day a week off fishing guides with power boats get all week. This Monday guides still hitched their boats to their trucks and went angling. But instead of heading to the river to help their clients catch king salmon, as they would any other day of the week, it was to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office on Kalifornsky Beach Road to angle for king-friendly support from fishery managers.

About 100 guides, as well as fishing clients and private sportfishermen, plugged the Fish and Game parking lot with trucks, boats and trailers and staged a protest outside the office at about 7 a.m. Monday.

The purpose was to demonstrate their displeasure with measures to restrict king fishing in the Kenai while at the same time liberalizing commercial fishing in Cook Inlet.

“We were there just to show, ‘Hey, we take this seriously and we hope that they do too,’” said Dave Goggia, president of the Kenai River Professional Guides Association. Continue reading

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Filed under commercial fishing, Cook Inlet, fishing, Kenai River, salmon

Going Dutch — Cooking competition joins old technology with new cuisine

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Hungry onlookers feast their eyes on the desserts made by participants in the youth division of the Last Frontier Dutch Oven Society’s cooking contest, held during Progress Days in Soldotna on Saturday.

Redoubt Reporter

Johnathon Kreider and Kaleb Henderson knew they had a strong recipe to prepare for their main dish in the youth division of the second annual Last Frontier Dutch Oven Society’s cooking contest, held during Progress Days in Soldotna on Saturday — a pork loin cooked with apples and cranberries. But in an effort to give it a little extra oomph, they employed a culinary tactic well known to chefs twice to three times their age:

“We wrapped it in bacon,” Kreider said. “And we added some seasoning. We looked up online what would go good with it. We tried it and it was awesome, so we decided to keep it.” Continue reading

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Kenai Joe’s clears the air — Old Town bar holds smoke-free nights to draw new crowd

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Robb Justice, right, and members of 907 perform at Kenai Joe’s, with a glowing cigarette machine in the background. The bar is holding smoke-free music nights to appeal to a new crowd.

Redoubt Reporter

After 9 p.m. Saturday night, Smokin’ Joe Camel was the only one in Kenai Joe’s bar with a cigarette in his mouth.

It’s not because the bar was empty; quite the contrary. Even with it being a fair-weathered, still-light-outside Memorial Day weekend evening, the traditional Alaska kickoff to camping, fishing, barbecuing and all-things-outdoors season, there still was a respectable crowd in the dimly lit bar. Patrons came to shoot pool, have a few drinks and listen to 907, Kenai’s “rootsy Alaskan” band.

On any other night, the glow from the neon beer signs and the plastic display window on the cigarette machine in the corner would be augmented by occasional quick flares of a lighter, followed by the glowing cherry signaling a drag of oxygen through a cigarette.

But not this particular Saturday. For the duration of the band’s performance, Kenai Joe’s was a smoke-free establishment. Continue reading

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Piece of history — Gun show brings out rare, historic firearms

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Clinton Coligan, of Soldotna, sits behind some of the Winchester rifles he has collected for more than 60 years. He was one of 27 vendors selling a few dozen of his firearms during the Sterling Senior Center’s gun show July 16.

Redoubt Reporter

Silver-haired, breathing through a tube that runs from his nose to an oxygen tank nearby, and a face showing the wrinkles of experience, Clinton Coligan, of Soldotna, is not the man he once was. Gone are the days of breathlessly scaling mountains to hunt sheep, but his memories of pursuing the fleet-hoofed animals and other big game species around the state and the world are as crisp and clean as the rifle he used to bring them down —a pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in caliber 30.06.

“It was one I favored to shoot for a lot of years. I’ve hunted with it in Africa, New Zealand, all across Montana and Wyoming, and of course here in Alaska. It was a very special gun,” he said.

Yet, on Saturday, Coligan parted ways with the firearm he held in such high regard. It was a bittersweet moment. He was happy to see the rifle go to a new owner who paid a decent price and knew exactly what he was a getting — a rifle that, for many years, was called “the world’s most perfect repeating gun.” Continue reading

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Old Duck Hunter: Catching the bug of fly-fishing

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

Brad Pitt taught me to fly-fish.

Photos courtesy of Steve Meyer. The results of a morning of lake fly-fishing.

Well, not really, but I did see “A River Runs Through It.” The truth is, I have seen fly-fishing in magazines and books, mostly from the past when I was a kid and had some thoughts of someday being a part of that honorable outdoor tradition. But then we moved to Alaska and I quickly was swallowed up in the hardware and bait fishing that most everyone else does. Never being as much of a fisherman as a hunter, I just never seemed to have time to pursue this grand outdoor tradition.

July 1, 2010, changed that. My fishing partner and I, in an annual tradition, headed up to our favorite mountain lake for the opening of grayling season. We have a spot that we fish and have had no difficulty catching all the grayling we wanted using hardware — Mepps and Vibrex spinners, Rooster Tails, small Syclops and Pixies were all we ever needed. But last year the fish were being stubborn and wanted nothing to do with what we were offering. Continue reading


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Green Beet: Rhubarb: Bitter stalks make sweet treats

By Jen Ransom, for the Redoubt Reporter

Rhubarb is a favorite of mine. I have one permanent bed that gets so much rain

Photos courtesy of Jen Ransom

runoff that it drowns most plants I’ve tried to plant there. But rhubarb favors wet soil, albeit well-draining soil is best, and has found a home in the first bed we ever created at our first home. Before we realized the drainage problem, of course.

Used in cooking, rhubarb also doubles as a decorative plant. The key to using it as both is to cut the flower stalks before they really take off. If the plant is allowed to flower, much of the nutrients go into creating seed, leaving little for stalk production. Only the stalk of the plant is eaten, as the leaves are toxic, though the “Alaska Gardening Guide” by Ann Roberts says it is safe to throw the leaves in the compost pile. I haven’t died yet eating yields dressed with my compost, so I guess Roberts is correct. Continue reading

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Almanac: Harry situation — Nontraditional student demands ability to graduate from Kenai High

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part story concerning the recent 50-year reunion of the class of 1961 from Kenai High School. Part one, last week, involves the reunion itself and an overview of the class. Part two concerns the story of the oldest graduate in the class. Part three, which will appear next week, will discuss the history of the Kenai school system before Kenai Central High School, and the emergence of Kenai varsity sports. Other stories can be found online at

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of Debbie Sonberg. Harry House at a class of 1961 reunion dinner July 8.

Redoubt Reporter

When he was 17 years old, Harry House unveiled an unusual education plan.

It was December 1956, and although Harry needed to complete only the final semester of his American history class at the Kenai Territorial School, he decided to drop out before springtime and enter military service. At the end of a three-year hitch, he planned to return to Kenai and finish high school — a strategy that would make him easily the oldest graduate in the class of 1961.

Harry and his mother, Alvirah, made all the arrangements with the school superintendent, George J. Fabricius.

“I told him, ‘Doggone it, I’ve got a D average. I’m not going to be happy.’ I was more interested in cars and working on them — hot rods and that kind of stuff. I’d even designed some equipment,” House said.

Originally from Oroville, Calif., Harry’s father, Fred, and mother had brought the family to Kenai in 1948, when Harry was 9 years old. According to an Alaska Sportsman article in September 1951, the couple established a sawmill in the village on what is now known as Walker Lane and used a team of horses to help haul logs in to make lumber to meet a rapidly growing need for housing materials.

About the time Harry began his senior year of high school, Fred and Alvirah moved their family and sawmill operation north to the Miller Loop area in Nikiski, and Harry, a big young man at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, grew increasingly disenchanted with what he believed his schooling was preparing him for. He said that he knew he needed some maturation and life experience if he wanted to succeed.

Fabricius apparently agreed, as House explained in his typical rough-around-the-edges manner.

“He said, ‘Harry, there ain’t a damn thing wrong with your intelligence.’ And I said, ‘I know that, but I want to quit school and go in the Navy and come back and finish.’ He said, ‘I can’t think of a better way for you to learn what you need and how you need it.’ I said, ‘I know I’m going to need an education, but I’m just not settled enough (now) to do it.’ And he said, ‘Well, when you get back, get a hold of me, and I’ll put you back in school.’” Continue reading


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Plugged In: Biding time for (new) digital SLR cameras

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Large-sensor cameras usually produce noticeably better images and are notably more versatile than the small-sensor cameras we discussed last week.

Is this a good time for you to buy? Most likely, yes. Prices are relatively low and image quality is high, even for affordable, upper-entry-level consumer digital SLR cameras. Most vendors have already announced their 2011 models. It’s unlikely that we’ll see many more models introduced before Christmas, with the probable exception of Pentax, which usually announces new models in September.

Over the past few years, retail prices of entry-level, large-sensor cameras have plummeted, with decent models often selling in the $500 to $800 range, not much higher than small-sensor cameras with significantly lower image quality. That’s good news for consumers.

The other good news is that these models often show better image quality than semipro cameras that cost twice as much only a few years ago. Most of the consumer dSLR cameras that I’ll discuss this week have comparably low noise and high resolution, at least up to ISO 800. In days past, 35-mm film photographers would be surprised and pleased to get any sort of usable color image at those sensitivities, let alone the high-quality images we now expect. Continue reading

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Skiff sinks in inlet — All 4 fishermen aboard rescued in rough seas

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Following a close call in which a skiff sank and four commercial fishermen went into the cold water of Cook Inlet on Monday evening, those same fishermen worked into the darkness to finish picking the nets of salmon that did make it to shore.

Redoubt Reporter

When commercial fishermen string out their nets, they are set with hopes of hauling in a big return of salmon. On Monday night, four seasonal fishermen found out there can be too much of a good thing when they nearly lost their lives while fishing off Humpy Point in Cook Inlet.

“When I came up to do this I knew it would be dangerous, and I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I know I definitely did not expect that,” said first-year set-net fisherman Jared Turbyfill, 25, of Oklahoma, after the 23-foot skiff he was on swamped and sank a mile and a half from shore.

Also on the boat were Anna Berington, 27, of Kasilof; Austin Borcherding, 23, from California; and Matt Scibold, 24, of North Carolina. Continue reading


Filed under commercial fishing, Cook Inlet, public safety

Rich in experience — Sterling rock hound strikes gold in vacation pastime

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Tom Cooper. Tom Cooper, of Sterling, grins as he holds up a monster gold nugget he plucked from a tailings field July 1 at Ganes Creek, near McGrath. Cooper goes gold hunting once a year at the old mine site, which opened to recreational gold-seekers in 2002.

Redoubt Reporter


As gold fever goes, Tom Cooper’s case was fairly low grade.

For the first few decades of his life in Alaska he was interested in going looking for it, but other things took priority — family, work and hunting for other treasures that are more easily and reliably found, like agates, crystals and the antlers and sheep horns he carves and sells.

When he finally did start prospecting in 2005, making an annual summer trip to Clark-Wiltz’s recreational mining operation at Ganes Creek 25 miles west of McGrath, using a metal detector to comb through the thousands of acres of tailings piles left by bucket-line dredges and bulldozer operations of the past, he contented himself with modest results.

“I told myself I’d rather get a little nugget a day than one big one all week,” said Cooper, who runs his Alaska Horn and Antler shop in Sterling. Continue reading


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MAPP to find good health — Community process on path to address gaps

A meeting to discuss the results of the Community Health Status Assessment conducted through the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships process will be held at 9 a.m. Monday at the Kenai Public Health Center on Barnacle Way. It is open to the public.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Regina Theisen isn’t fond of the idea of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

As a public health nurse, there’s the cringe-inducing literal imagery to bristle at — babies being ignored in water, much less being thrown under any circumstances.

As the organizer of a communitywide process to identify health concerns and work collaboratively on initiatives to address these concerns, she also dislikes the idea of discarding what already exists.

Theisen, a public health nurse at the Kenai Public Health Center, and others have been working with a Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships process for over a year now. It’s a nationally known, community-driven process with the goal of assessing what health problems, obstacles or gaps in services exist in a community and facilitating planning to address those concerns.

Theisen is familiar with the MAPP process through her work in public health, as it is often employed in that field. She said she particularly likes that MAPP doesn’t start from scratch. Part of the assessment is determining the good — what services and resources do exist in the community — along with the bad, and finding ways to utilize what’s already been done.

“What I liked about it is it built on what’s already here instead of starting from square one, so we utilized assessments that have already been done here,” Theisen said. “That is a big thing because we are a proactive community. A lot of the resources that we have around health are because people came to the table and started working on things at a grassroots level.” Continue reading

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