Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Love It to Death

Wolverine Creek, Alaska

We took a small float plane over Cook's Inlet to an isolated lake. You can only access the area by float plane. The lake is turbid with glacial silt, except for a tiny corner where Wolverine Creek turns the water blue and clear.

The salmon bunch up in the small patch of clear water, waiting for the urge to make the run in mass up the rocky creek to another lake further up the mountain pass.

Eagles, black bears, brown bears and grizzlies come to the mouth of the creek to feed on the Sockeyes, Silvers and Pinks.

If you go down to the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today,
You'd better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic

The ride in the small plane was exciting and the bears put on a continuous show for six hours. One tried to get in a boat and several dragged off their own salmon.

This State is like Florida, quickly being ruined by its own beauty. We went fishing today with Larry. Larry has been fishing here for thirty years and has the record for two of the ten biggest King Salmon ever caught (both nearly 90 pounds). He remembers when there were 20 boats in the river instead of 500. Back then you didn’t keep anything under 50 pounds. Now the boats zip back and forth all day, disturbing the fish. He feels it’s a good day when one of his clients catches a 30 pound king. We haven’t caught anything on our last four trips with him, despite his skill.

The bear flight was similar. They get $300 a head for flying tourists to the lake. The accountant in me can’t help estimating a daily harvest of $60,000 and wondering why the bears are so thin. We waited six hours for a chance to catch a salmon, but our boat never made it to the head of the line of tourists in boats to fish in the small patch of lake where the fish churn the water.

The salmon runs in the rivers are very late this year. The rivers are low because of limited snowfall. When the run starts at some ancient signal, they come into the rivers in swarms on the rising tide. I’m hoping tomorrow will be the beginning of the Sockeye run.

Sockeyes (reds) are the best tasting of the five types of wild Alaska salmon. They have adapted to eat only plankton, unlike their carnivorous relatives. Their flesh is bright red.

Tourists hook a sockeye by casting a fly with a single hook (no larger than 3/8 inch diameter) out into the river. They swim upstream with their mouths opening and closing. The trick is to drag the line though their mouth and snag them in the mouth. Sockeyes snagged anywhere else must be released. Residents can use large dip nets and even fish scoopers on rafts to catch the Sockeye.


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