Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dip nets aweigh, return light on fish — Kasilof personal-use fishery off to slow start

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Many fishermen lined the banks of the Kasilof River’s north side Sunday afternoon, but dip-netters on both sides of the river saw little action over the weekend opening of the personal-use fishery.

Redoubt Reporter

The Kasilof River dip-net fishery opened at midnight Friday, and while many came expecting a flood of fish over the weekend, they instead found a slow drip of salmon hitting their hooped nets.

“It’s been pretty bad,” said Matt Saccheus, of Anchorage. “It’s just been super slow.”

The personal-use dip-net fishery, open to Alaska residents, runs from June 25 through Aug. 7 at the Kasilof River, and began one hour after the personal-use set gillnet fishery ended. Unlike the gillnet fishery, which takes place within a mile in either direction of the mouth of the river, the dip-net fishery takes place from the river’s mouth to roughly one mile upstream, and allows fishing 24 hours a day.

Saccheus and his family drove to Kasilof on Friday hoping to fill their coolers, but the action was been barely worth the trip down, he said.

“We got one fish Friday, one on Saturday and one today,” he said Sunday. “It’s been about the same for everyone. I only saw one guy who had a whole string of salmon, but he fished from about 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday, before the commercial nets went in.” Continue reading

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Catch kings if you can — Fish and Game levies restrictions, changes reporting on early run info

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

To call up the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s informational recording giving the sonar count estimates of salmon returning to Cook Inlet rivers, or to look at the counts printed in the Peninsula Clarion newspaper, could give the impression that king salmon fishing has been hot and heavy in the Kenai River.

As of Friday, the early run king count in the Kenai was reported as a robust cumulative total of 9,172, which is thousands of fish ahead of the average estimate for this time of year.

Fish on, right?

Wrong — both the number and the impression it gives that fishing is good. Despite the rosy outlook such a high sonar estimate connotates, king fishing has been slow on the Kenai this spring.

“A friend on the river fished two days on the weekend. He fished hard and only saw one fish caught, and it was only about 10 pounds. It was just a desert out there. Nobody was catching anything, so it’s really poor,” said Dwight Kramer, a private angler and head of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition.

The run has been so poor, in fact, that Fish and Game imposed fishing restrictions Monday, which are in place today through July 14 covering the area from the Fish and Game regulatory marker 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake, and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway Bridge. Only kings less than 20 inches or more than 55 inches may be kept. Any kings between 20 and 55 inches must be released without removing them from the water. Bait is not allowed from today through July 14 in the restricted area noted above, but bait will be allowed starting Friday downstream of the Fish and Game regulatory marker near Slikok Creek.

Yet if the sonar estimate on the recording and in the paper is to be believed, the Kenai king run not only met, but also exceeded the escapement goal as of Friday. Continue reading

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Almanac: Prospects for a lively pioneer life — Secora’s security came crashing down

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story about Tustumena miner and trapper Joe Secora, who lived a mostly solitary life on the lake for several decades. Last week’s story discussed the type of man Secora was and the way he lived. Part two reveals his origins and his abrupt demise.

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of George Pollard. Joe Secora pans for gold in the lower reaches of Indian Creek in the late 1950s.

Redoubt Reporter

After Joe Secora was laid to rest beneath the mossy loam of Spruce Grove Memorial Park Cemetery in Kasilof, George Pollard mourned the loss of a man he had considered a friend. Then, after intruders invaded Secora’s home on the northern shore of Tustumena Lake, Pollard also re-evaluated the paranoia he had once perceived in the wiry gold miner.

Secora, he said, worried that other individuals were after his gold.

“I think he figured they thought, ‘That old prospector up there, he’s got a fortune under his floorboards,’” Pollard said.

In the days after Secora’s death in February 1972, Pollard said, snowmachine riders apparently seeking hidden treasure cruised the length of Tustumena Lake to Secora’s cabin and gave it a thorough going-over, scattering the old ore samples stored under his bunk, dumping out the cooler full of potatoes kept under the floor, and generally “working the place over pretty good.” Continue reading


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Fledgling views — Gull colony bustling with life

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter

The flats near the mouth of the Kenai River host one of the largest, if not the largest, colony of herring gulls in Alaska. At the end of the breeding season, it is not uncommon to find more than 30,000 adults and young occupying the site, with much smaller numbers of glaucous-winged gulls and Arctic terns.

Adult herring gulls arrive by the thousands on the flats each spring to build nests of mud and grass and lay clutches of one to three speckled olive or brown eggs. Both parents share the three- to four-week incubation duties, and then they take turns guarding the nest and hunting for food for their young brood.

Typically, the gulls will harvest hooligan or salmon smolt, but they scavenge fish-processing waste from area canneries and rob chicks from the nests of other bird species. The adults ingest the food and regurgitate it for the chicks to eat. Herring gull chicks grow rapidly on the rich diet available near the river mouth, and they are able to fledge in only a matter of weeks. By fall — despite the predation of bald eagles and other predators — the chicks swell the ranks of the herring gull population, which then leaves the central Kenai Peninsula and begins flying down the coast to continue feeding throughout the winter.

Most of the herring gull eggs have hatched by now, and those interested in watching the birds can observe

Olivia Fair snaps a photo of a curious chick on the Kenai flats.

them readily with binoculars or a spotting scope from the bluff near the Kenai Senior Center.

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Common Ground: Bananas on board? Better not

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

An inventory of international good-luck symbols is a list like none other: laminated clovers, pennies, alligator teeth, rabbit feet, plastic replicas of patron saints, red Chinese lanterns, horseshoes, wishbones, stray eyelashes, fuzzy dice, a naked woman at the helm of a ship — the list goes on and on.

There are as many signs of bad luck as there are of good luck, but the bad-luck signs are a little bit more situational: a mirror breaking, a black cat crossing your path, walking under a ladder, spilling salt, a bird flying into your window, a mushroom cloud on the horizon, etc.

The luck business can be very confusing to interpret, especially when there are conflicting messages. Deciphering the amount of luck I have on any given day is much like figuring out story problems in math — a girl is traveling at 100 miles per hour on a train, the train hits a leprechaun … .

For the fisherman, nothing is unluckier than a banana brought aboard the boat. The source of this superstition is unclear but attributed to everything from a lesson in transatlantic crossings where the banana brought with it exotic pests from tropical islands, to the haunting image of floating bananas surrounding sunken ships.

Like many signs of bad luck, context means nothing. The bottom line is a banana cannot be brought aboard a boat whether it is in the ocean, river or lake. It doesn’t matter if it’s an organic banana or a dehydrated banana. If you’re on a boat, banana cannot be an ingredient in anything you have with you. Continue reading

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The Green Beet: Garlic goof good for gourmets

By Jen Ransom, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Jen Ransom. This freshly mulched bed had to be ripped up in order to collect the improperly planted garlic underneath.

Each spring, I try to grow something I haven’t experimented with before. Sometimes it is successful, such as the kalrabi last season, and sometimes it is a complete failure, such as the tomatoes I attempted to grow inside two seasons ago. (As my dad would say, there was a “fungus among us.”)

This year, after reading several authors rave about how great it is to grow your own garlic and confirming at a few garden-friendly functions that it does grow well in Alaska, I decided this delicious, ever-present-in-most-of-my-cooking bulb would be my new crop for 2011. While you can plant in the fall for earlier garlic, spring planting supposedly works as well.

Excited that I could get it in the ground early I picked up some seed garlic at a local greenhouse and went to work. Because I was also planting gladiola bulbs at the same time, I decided to plant the garlic at the end of the same bed. It was suggested to me that if you were only planting a small amount, plant the garlic in groups of three so you would remember where you planted it come fall. Thinking how that worked well, as I had purchased two packages of three bulbs apiece, I dug some holes, added in some manure for feed, and plunked the bulbs in alongside the gladiolas. Easy and done in a few minutes. I then carefully mulched over with wet newsprint and last fall’s bark from woodcutting for ease on the eyes and the weeds. Continue reading

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Completely funny — ‘Abridged’ format isn’t short on laughs in ‘Hollywood’ show

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jamie Nelson, left, and Justin Smith demonstrate an axiom of Hollywood — show it, don’t say it —via a silent movie sketch in “Completely Hollywood (abridged).”

Redoubt Reporter

Summer ’tis the season for Hollywood blockbusters.

The shell-shocking spectacle! The deafeningly familiar score (because you’ve heard basically the same songs in previous years’ crop of summer movies)! The broad-brush script! The special effects (that may or may not have any relevancy to the plot)! The flat-and-transparent-as-Visqueen characters! The long lines! The expensive treats! All for a story that’s either a blatant remake of an older movie, a repurposing of another medium (a la the comic book genre) or a combination of the plots of two previous movies.

Does “Green Hornet” seem familiar? That’s because it’s “Batman” and “Step Brothers” rolled into one. Getting a sense of déjà vu from the trailers for “Burlesque?” You must have seen “Chicago” and “Coyote Ugly.” Having trouble keeping “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” straight? It’s no wonder, since it’s just a combination of “Pirates” I, II and III, plus “The Little Mermaid.”

Fear not, fickle film fans. This weekend and next, Triumvirate Theatre offers a solution — 186 of Hollywood’s greatest* films (*actual greatness may vary) for the price of one, with a production of “Completely Hollywood (abridged).” Continue reading

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Brewing US history

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, even as a kid.

The Founding Fathers, as in John Trumbull’s famous painting depicting the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress, knew how to celebrate with fine, locally brewed craft beer. Craft beer aficionados can do the same this Fourth of July.

Sure, you don’t get presents like Christmas, but the weather’s nicer. No turkey, a la Thanksgiving, but I like burgers off the grill better anyway. No costumes like Halloween, but there are fireworks, which are way more dangerous (and therefore much cooler).

Most of all, Independence Day is a quintessentially American holiday. The other holidays celebrate things that people all over the world also celebrate, even if they do it on a different day. But only Americans celebrate the Fourth of July (unless you count those snarky Brits who observe it as “British Thanksgiving Day”). Continue reading

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Art Seen: ‘Intersecting Journeys’ worth a trip

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

This is the first year that the summer visual arts show at the Kenai Visitors and

"Spawned” by Hugh McPeck

Cultural Center was juried rather than invitational, and also the first time informational displays have been incorporated so extensively right into the exhibit space.

We get to see two and three pieces from the same artist in some cases, and we get more of a taste of the curator’s vision, as everything showing has been literally handpicked.

Often in a large invitational show there are at least one or two pieces that are sort of shocking. Not in a Robert Mapplethorpe or Andres Serrano kind of way, but in a way that makes the viewers, and especially the curator, wonder what the heck the artist could have been thinking by entering it.

There are some really fantastic pieces in this exhibit, and none of them are actually disappointing, which is saying a lot. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Focus on priorities in choosing cameras

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

There’s always a lively debate about which new camera is best for you. It’s a bit like buying a car — nearly everyone has an opinion, usually strongly held and vigorously asserted.

Preferring a particular camera brand makes sense if you’ve already purchased several good (read: expensive) lenses for an existing body. Generally, once you’ve bought lenses, you’re locked into a particular brand.

That’s because nearly every manufacturer uses its own proprietary lens mount that may, or may not, be supported by quality third-party lens makers like Tamron, Tokina and Sigma. Only Olympus and Panasonic share common lens mounts, the Four-Thirds (4/3) and Micro-Four-Thirds (M43) standards, and can use any lens made for the 4/3 and M43 mounts. Choosing a particular camera system is thus a long-term decision that should be made carefully.

So, this week, let’s take an admittedly biased and idiosyncratic tour of the major camera systems. First, though, I’ll be candid — my preferred camera system brands are currently Nikon, Pentax and Olympus. I’ll explain why a bit later.

There are always a few hundred small-sensor camera models on the market at any one time. Most are point-and-shoot or long-zoom models that are adequate for casual photographs displayed on a computer monitor screen or made into letter-size or small prints, but that’s it. These me-too models are updated at least once a year, primarily for marketing reasons. Major year-to-year improvements are no longer common, although some recent Sony long-zoom models are a welcome exception.

Although sales of these me-too cameras remain relatively steady in the U.S., they’re dropping by the wayside elsewhere in Europe and Asia. As cell phone and iPod cameras improve over the next few years, sales of lower-end point-and-shoot cameras will probably decline further. Continue reading

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Anglers waiting with baited breath, not hooks, for better Kenai king fishing

Editor’s note: For more information on king salmon sonar estimates, see next week’s paper.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Kenai River sportfishermen hoping to use bait to lure better results in the slow-going early run king salmon fishery will have to keep on waiting.

“The question, kind of the carrot that’s been hanging out there for this run, is, ‘Are we going to go to bait? Or, when are we going to go to bait?’ And the answer to that is we don’t anticipate doing that at this time,” said Robert Begich, upper Kenai Peninsula area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sportfish Division.

It’s going to remain business as usual with anglers restricted to using just a single hook with no bait on the lower Kenai River until king salmon fish passage estimates pick up.

Or, rather, more like business as unusual, since this run is shaping up to be off the average.

“It’s looking like it’s going to come in OK, but it’s not a strong run,” Begich said. Continue reading

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Netting success — Kasilof fishery hauls in results

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A feisty sockeye struggles in a personal-use set gillnet at the mouth of the Kasilof River last week. Several fishermen have been pulling in sockeye, king salmon and a few other odd species.

Redoubt Reporter

Alan Dyekman, of Kenai, was excited to pull in his set gillnet. Camped just south of the Kasilof River to take part in the personal-use fishery last week, he had eagerly been watching the floating cork line of his net sag, a sure sign that, below the water’s surface, numerous marine creatures were being caught.

He had hoped for sockeye salmon, but as he began to pull in his first catch of the year last Wednesday, he was disappointed to see that the long, wiggling bodies bound up in the mesh were not his targeted species.

“I pulled in a net full of sharks,” he said. “It was pretty disappointing. I’ve

Alan Dyekman, of Kenai, holds up a less-than-prized catch — a spiny dogfish.

been doing this for seven years now and never caught a single one ’til now.”

And it was more than one of the toothy, net-tangling creatures that he hauled to shore. Dyekman had 15 of the sharks, technically known as spiny dogfish.

“No one else on either side of me got one, so it must have been a school of them,” he said. Continue reading


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