Day 36 July 16 Monday
We spent the morning planning for the fishing trip on Tuesday and looking over the travel guides and deciding what we want to do when we get to Seward, where we might park the 5th and then also looked at the same thing for Soldotna and Homer. We plan on going fishing tomorrow and if we have success can them here at the 5th wheel on Wednesday and then heading south with the Jayco to a USFS campground north of Seward and driving and checking out some of the things we want to do such as the Sea Life Center, boat tour of the Fjords and Ocean Fishing trip and seeing the Exit Glacier. By Sunday we need to be at Clam Gulch to dig salmons so that gives us Thursday, Friday and Saturday to get down to Homer and do all this and get moved over to Soldotna to dig clams on Sunday. An alternative is to wait and do ocean fishing out of Homer and if we don't like that we can always drive down to Seward on the way back out for an ocean fishing trip or try a second one.
We then went to down town Anchorage as Edith wanted to do some gift shopping for the grandkids and wanted to see the Alaskan Adventure a IMAX type of movie. Mission accomplished and I would recommend it. We then went to Walmart and Sam's for things we needed for the 5th and for the fishing trip and got some more jars for canning fish. We stopped at KL7HF and got a picture for the web page and asked some fishing questions and where suburban propane is so we can fill on the way back north for $1.33 rather then $2.50 at the fuel stations. We met Mike WG0F and Linda who are up here from Redfield which was neat as we visited them at Redfield on Day 1 of this journey! We discussed the salmon fishing trip for tomorrow with Mike AL7OB. We also finsihed up the Anchorage and Whittier section for the next web upload. The next section will be the Kenai Peninsula
Day 37 July 17 Tuesday
We rode down to Soldotna to the Kenai River King Salmon charter with Mike Turner KL7X. We arrived a little early and stopped at Fred Meyer and then had a quick dinner out of the car that we brought along and then followed directions to a spot Northwest of town where a lot of charters go out and met Mike there. It was a sunny, clear day and I had a couple of hits but missed. King Salmon fishing is really different as they really don't hit the salmon eggs very hard at all so you have to feed the fish line and then when you get another tug try and set the hook. That way really hard for me to do with all the years of setting the hook. Mike got a 35 lb. King Salmon about 45 minutes in and we thought we were really cooking but that was it as it really cooled off after that as other boats were not catching anything either. We used a big gob of salmon eggs and a large spinner with about a 1 lb. Weight and tried to "baby bounce it along the bottom where they run., When salmon enter from the ocean they already quit eating.
We got a chance to visit Mikes guide shack and trailer and also touring a fishing cabin his ham friend Bob had. We got to eat some salmon tid bits and they cleaned Mikes King. We then had supper in Kenai and Edith had King Salmon and I had Halibut which was excellent and we shared so we got a chance to try both. We then headed back to Anchorage and got in about 11:30 and got the clam tubes from Mike.
Day 38 July 18 Wednesday
We got up about 8 a.m as we were tired from the day before and late nights. We got everything packed up in about 1 hours as we had been there for several days and had the dish up, etc. We then went to Walmart and got a few things and left 3 rolls of film to be developed and we got water from Mike and Lana to drink which really worked out well. We then decided to head for the Kenai since the Red Salmon had started running good the day before and Mike showed me where we could fish and helped me with the tackle. We arrived at Sodoltna about 2 pm and talked to some of the local hams on two meters and found out where we could dump and get fresh water af Fred Meyers and where Funny River Road was where I had read about a boon docking place. Sure enough we found it and we could park there free. The only rules were no generators after 9 pm until 7 am, stay off the run way and clean up before leaving. We then checked out Red Salmon fishing places and decided the one Mike showed us was the best one so we got our gear . It took us quite awhile to get rigged up as I had ran short of time getting ready to leave and did not get any tackle put together. We apparently left my rod and reel home but had plenty of others but the trouble was I could not figure out the drag on one and the other had way to light of line. Anyway it was crowed but it did manage to catch one and lost one and had a couple of others on for a monment.
It is tough fishing as the current is really moving and you don't have a lot of room and they run close to shore. I stood about hip deep with chest waders and you throw your line up stream with about 3/4 ot ½ oz of weight and a fly type hook about 18" to 36" below the weight. It works best to pull slack in with one hand so you have about 5 foot of line and throw it up stream while letting the slack loop go tight, move it down stream so the weight just ticks the bottom once in awhile but try and keep it moving smoothly so the hook is out stretched from the weight so as the salmon come upstream to spawn they move along the bottom fairly close to shore and their mouth goes open and closed. The idea is to get the hook placed so they run into it with their mouth as it is not legal to snag them. Sometimes you can get the line in their mouth close to the hook and jerk it and the hook will set in the mouth.
I learned from others that a 10-15 degree offset to the hook really helps. Having the right amount of weight to be on the bottom but not catch is the big secret and also the flies I had were small hooks and that makes it hard ot hook the salmon so I am going to change to 3 0 hooks. I think the first one I caught weighed about 8 pounds. Boy when you hook into them they have lots and lots of fight. The jump out of the water and just go flying many times. It is a wild run. They will make several runs a lot of times. When you get on on you yell fish on and everybody is good about pulling in their lines and letting you get it in. We got back to the tailer about midnight and got the fish cleaned and in bed about 1 am.
Day 39, July 19 Thursday
Today went better and by night fall I had learned a lot. Actually most of the things I mentioned yesterday I learned today as I am writing about 3 days travelogue at this sitting. Today I caught two Reds one of which was about 10 lbs. WOW what a fight, it come out of the water and went about 20 feet I swear before it went under. There were four big runs. It took me about 5 minutes to land it. I had about 6 other that I know were fish and I lost one right by shore.
Hopefully with my gained knowledge I can do a little better tomorrow. Anyway it is tougher than I expected and it is close to "COMBAT FISHING". Edith had a couple on but busted her line so we put 40 lb. Test on so hopefully she can catch one tomorrow. It rained like mad today and so we came back to the t railer about 4 pm as Edith was soaked as her hip boots got flooded by passing boat wakes. I tried in the river here by the camp ground but that is full blown combat fishing. We have the big negative tides coming up this week end so we are going razor clam hunting. After that I thing we will move to Homer and do an ocean charter and hopefully see Joe WL7M and see about salmon fishing in the spit. We are going to give the King Salmon one more try on Saturday, July 28th. After that we are going to leave for Seward and do a scenic boat tour and also see the sea life center and possibly an ocean fishing charter. The money seems to be holding out very well as our only expense seems to be a little diesel fuel and some fishing tackle so it looks like we can easily do some more tours budget wise.which is great. Around August 3rd we should be headed for Anchorage and then head north to Fairbanks.
Day 40 July 20 Friday
Today was the big fishing day. We have spent about 1 and ½ day learning what I wrote about the past two days. We did our tackle over last night with 3 0 hooks and reduced the weight to ½ oz. We were tired as we have been up a lot and got to bed about 11:30pm so we got up about 8 am and headed for our fishing spot. There were only a couple there so we started fishing. Edith caught her first Red Salmon and had a second one on which was a big one that broke her 40# test line. She got wet as the water went over her hip boots from the wake of the passing boats which are many. I caught 4 fairly quickly and lost on close to shore and one took off and ran about 40 feet on top of the water and got off. I caught one that was the largest I seen come out the past 3 days. It weighed about 10# and took me a long time to land. It took of and ran 4 times. They are a powerful fish. I have never caught anything like it. They have the power to go upstream for miles in very fast current and even up rapids and small falls so you know they have great power. I first thought I was maybe wrong about running 40 feet on top of the water as it could seem like it when you are trying to keep one on your line but I seen a couple of others that different people than me had on that definitely ran 40 feet on top of the water. They often come out of the water a couple of feet. You better have your brake set right or it is all over. The current is about 6 mph so that is added in to the force as they nearly always run downstream.
Edith decided to take the fish and go back to the 5th and get dry clothes on and clean the fish. I stayed but things really slowed down. I caught one more and want to catch a sixth one to get my limit but at about 9 pm after over 11 hours of fishing I gave up as Edith wanted to get back and start canning the salmon. We are canning salmon as I am writing this and it is 11:40 pm and we have to keep these 7 quarts at 10# pressure until nearly 1:00 am. We have another 7 quarts ready in the refrigerator which we will try and do in the morning. We also have 4 gallon size freezer bags full and in the freezing compartment and one fish and some tidbits for having some fresh salmon in a day or two. I would say we have ended up with about 35 lbs. Of salmon that are fillets with very, very little bone if any! I see Red Salmon is about $10.00 a lb. So that would be $350 worth of Salmon. We each have a $100.00 license and have gotten about $75 worth of fishing tackle for the Red Salmon. So actually that being $275.00 we are a little ahead. However we are totally behind on the King Salmon having $225 in charter and $20 worth of King Tags but than who said this was about being even. Almost always hunting and fishing never is! Hopefully we can each catch a King Salmon on our second charter on July 28th Saturday. With the week end coming up tomorrow and the high negative tide being this week end we are going clam hunting the next couple of days. Also the fishing place will likely really be busy since it is the week end. The Red Salmon are supposed to run pretty good for another week so hopefully we can get one or two more days trying for them. Next week we will go down to Homer after we get the clams processed and likely try an ocean fishing charter for Halibut and visit WL7M. I will have to say catching the Red Salmon is a lot tougher than I expected.. A lot of people don't catch any. I will have to get some good pictures of the people lining the shore. WOW! What a sight and one needs to really be good with the technique so some one does not get hooked.
Day 41, July 21 Saturday
We got up about 7:15 am and headed for Clam Gulch which is about 20 miles south of Soldona on the way to Homer. We took buckets, our Clam Guns we have borrowed from Mike-AL7OB, waders to knee in the mud and long rubber gloves and some water and food and our trash. We finally figured out that fairly often there are solid waste disposal sites where you can dump your trash. There are no trash barrels anywhere in Alaska but they have signs up all over to not "TRASH ALASKA". Apparently they don't have trash barrels because of barrels although NWT had bear proof trash barrels. Anyway on the way down we found a solid waste site and dumped our trash. We will dump our clam cleaning tomorrow on the way down. It was interesting as you pull into the site it says to honk your horn to scare away any bears and then to check carefully before getting out of your vehicle.
We got to Clam Gulch about 8:45 with low tide at 11:07 am at a -4.8 feet. We had good directions from Mike and also our neighbor here where we are parked and got it right the first time. As you come in there is Clam Gulch CG and it is just full of trailers and there are cars parked and trailers with quads that they ride down to get clams. You don't want to go on the beach unless you have 4 wheel drive. We pulled on in two wheel drive and barely made it so I got out and put it in 4 wheel drive which was a good thing as there are some bad spots. Most of it is OK but there are bad spots. We seen a guy walking so we picked him up and he said he was a commercial fisherman and needed to get his boats out on low tide to check his far out nets and set them. He gave us some ideas on where to look for clams and that we could buy fresh salmon when they came in at a very reasonable price. It is just like farming, when you sell wholesale you take a beating. The prices he gets vs. what they sell for in the store is about like wheat in bread!
It is quite a sight seeing all the people parked and walking out following the tide out to dig clams. I expected the air holes to be much bigger so for quite awhile there was nothing and I thought this is going to be tough but as we got out a little farther we really found them. Their air holes is about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch at the biggest. We had clam guns which are 4 inch pvc tubes with handles on it that you shove down and life up with a handle on the top cap. There is an air hole you leave open when shoving down and put your thumb on when lifting for suction. It is a lot of work and you hit some clams and break them put we were doing a lot better than people with shovels! On has to twist them to work them down and also up. The clams go down when disturbed so ideally you need to go down into the sand which is sometimes also dirt and it just does not go down well. Anyway I broke the handle on mine so we were down to the one Edith had but it did the trick. We took turns running the tube and the other would quickly stick your hand down the hole as quite often the clam would not come out with the core but would drop out the bottom but you could grab it before it got clear down the hold.
I noticed the fellow we talked to was having trouble getting his boat in as the tide was going out to fast so I ran over to help along with a couple of others but we could not move it. I then ran the truck down which was about ½ mile run when it was all said and done. They have the boat on a trailer a lot like they carry propane tanks with and they swing the 4 wheel drive which is an old army truck out into the water and get it straight and back it in some and drop it in the water and quickly push it back so the tide does not leave it high and drive. After they get out a ways they use the motor and go check there nets and put them out again. They were netting Red Salmon.
We got our clams in good shape as the clam guns seemed to be way, way faster than what people could do with clam shovels. Most people just found a few but we got our 90 in good shape and got them washed and headed back for the pickup only about 15 minutes after low tide so we had lots of time to spare. When there is a big low tide there is also a big high tide.
While we were getting clams the fellow with the boats came by and set a net and he thanked me for running the truck down for him and getting him out and he said he would give us a special deal on the fish when his two sons got back in. After we got back to the F-350 and got cleaned up as it was raining hard but fortunately we have good rain gear but we got some sand and mud on the rain gear so we cleaned that off and headed to where the fellow said we could get some fish. We seen him headed to a little coffee stand on the beach and he waved. We parked and pretty quick he came up to the pickup. Now you find out the benefits of being kind and talking to the locals. He visited with us about 20 minutes. He is a MD from California named Teddy and has a clinic but during the summer fishing season we comes up here and him and his boys do the commercial fishing. They have some long term plans of doing a resort on the cliff above clam gulch and having a tram running down to the beach. He told us how to clean the clams and about fishing and where to find some butter clams and we are going to get some smoked pink salmon from him tonight where he stays by a cannery. We then headed north and found the plant so we know where to find him tonight and then along Cook Inlet to Kenai and where the river runs into the ocean and again talked to a bunch of locals at a park over looking the mouth of the Kenai and seen a mob of people dip netting Reds. They had a QUAD stuck in the mud and the tide was coming in fast. I watch thru my glasses were they in a panic. They managed to get another QUAD down there and get a rope on it and tow it out. The water was pretty high on it. One of the locals told us a place to go on the beach on Monday and you can watch them put in nets and buy fish also. I think we pretty well have that figured out after talking to Teddy the MD but it was nice. He told us about the sonar station where they count the salmon going upstrat and control the netting, etc. We then went north of Kenai and see the oil platforms, refinery, fertilizer plant and tankers they apparently drill from. It was rainy so if we get a sunny day we may go back. Tonight we are canning salmon, cleaning salmon and getting the clams ready to clean and probably get more clams tomorrow. I managed to fix Mikes busted handle on his clam gun. Quite a feat when you have to rely on what you have along pretty much. I did buy a wood dowl at Fred Meyers and we also bought 12 more quarts to can. I don't know what we are going to do if we get some big Halibuts. We had our first salmon tonight cooking up some tid bits. WOW! It is fantastic. They say Reds are the best and I believe them.
Day 42 Sunday July 22
We changed our plans as it rained all night so we decide to not go claming later today. We put the last quarts of salmon in the canner and started clean the clams. It turned out to not be nearly as bad as everybody had made out. I am sure all my cleaning of game and skinning skills from t rapping helped and all of Edith's experience of working with meat over the years helped a bunch. I did nearly all the cleaning and based on what the neighbors showed me yesterday it feel right into place right away. After about one hour I really had it down pat with very little waste and an excellent job. I was pleased with how well it went. We ended up with 10 pints so based on our experience we plan on moving the 5th wheel down by clam gulch and part and go claming tomorrow and move on down to Homer and check into a halibut fishing charter. We had some Red Salmon on the grill and it is just awesome!!! While the 10 pints of clam are canning we are getting ready to move. We have to go to Fred Meyers and dump and also get fresh water and we should be set. We also need to see if they have any canning jars in as they were out yesterday and we need some for clams and hopefully Halibut in a few days. We plan to be back here and parked in the same place on Friday night and possible Saturday night and then head for Seward. We want to see a little more of Kenai hopefully with sunshine and on Saturday July 28th we are going to give it one more shot to catch a King Salmon. VE6HN Ed a local is supposed to call me shortly and send an E-mail for me to N0ABE for the list as I have been out of touch for several days as we are really packed in here with other campers and we have been more than busy with fishing, canning the fish, claming and canning the clams plus we did some touring yesterday as I mentioned. With the canned Red Salmon and the frozen Red Salmon we should have about 150 pounds of Red Salmon to bring home. I picked up some smoked salmon from my MD friend Teddy last night and had a great visit with him. Quite a character! We can park at his place in Palm Springs CA for a few days anytime we want. It is time to get the newly canned Red Salmon packed away and get things ready to go. The people in this fishing camp have been very friendly. We have met Fred and Walt from Phoenix. It is their 5th year up here fishing. The neighbors to the west showed us how to clean the clams. They are smoking their salmon using an electric smoker and generator. They are from TN. The neighbors to the south told us how to get to Clam Gulch and we visited about his batteries and solar panels. They are from Washington and toured SD last year. It is not a good place for radio as all the bat wings are up and there is lots of radio interference from the generators, converters, etc but it quiets down great at night and the price is right, FREE and we sure have learned a lot. Walt really was the main one getting me squared away on the fishing for Red Salmon so I finally started catching a decent amount.
Got headed south and had a great visit with Bob KL7UR and his wife Dolly! Just delightful people! They are at Kasilof. We headed south and was going to turn in to a solid waste site that we used on Saturday when we went claming and just as we were turning in we noticed the gate was locked so I was concerned as to getting back out and the traffic was on my rear end and with all the distractions I did not swing as wide as I should. What happened was the wheels were just a little on the side and would of been fine but it turns out it was a whole bunch of fill gravel and the trailer wheels sank way in and tilted to the passenger side and I only have about 8 inches clearance between the 5th and the pickup box so it was touching by the time I got stopped. Another fellow stopped as I was trying to back and I could see that was not going to work so he and Edith watched while I put it in 4 x 4 low range and low gear and eased it ahead knowing it might push against the box harder but there really was nothing else to do! The truck has enormous power so it effortlessly moved ahead and fortunately the trailer wheels climbed up out of the deep ruts rather than continuing to skid along the edge of the loose gravel and up it came. About that time it slipped out of low range 4x4 which really gave me a start as apparently I did not get it meshed in good being stopped but nothing hurt as I had good clearance when it happened. I will have to check it again while things are still under warranty but am quite sure it just did not get meshed in good. We then had to do some fancy backing to get turned around but that went OK. Put a mark in the plastic that protects the top of the box and looks like it bent the steel in just a little bit. Makes me sick but then it could of been a lot worse. We could of tipped the trailer over or certainly twisted it or caved in the overhang on the 5th and really crunched the pickup box and also not be able to get out and have to be pulled out and really messed thing up! Anyway when ever turning one has to be aware that things are working and if one is not going to make it to stop and Edith will have to get out and direct traffic while I back up! I can tell you that there are a lot of things to think about and it is so easy to get distracted like I did and not catch it in time! I will just have to get over it!
We are at a nice pull of and got a good E-mail connection and got 13 messages. I feel guilty being out of touch so long but had a couple of days when the only time we were able to try were the mornings and I could not connect to anybody. Then we had about 5 days of straight fishing and claming and canning and missed the skeds and just did not want to transmit from the camp ground with 100 RV most with their bat wings up. I don't have a good option of sending E-mail from the truck and it has rained almost constantly for the last 5 days so can't set up on the tail gate, etc. I will have to look into setting up on the passengers seat along with the laptop.
BTW the Laptop has been working out great and thanks Joe-W0DB for getting my USB mouse to work. It would of been impossible to do FD without it. The regular keyboard worked great. I am going to have to get an USB Read/Write CD ROM! I am going to have to get a self built so I can leave the equipment up all the time and wired up all the time. Also in the battery box I need some small quick tach plugs that handle 30 amps that I can get at by just opening the battery box door and not have to pull out the battery tray and move the leads for one stud to another. I also find if I stay parked for awhile and travel around with the pickup then the two 5th batteries can get down below 50%. I can either abuse them occasionally and replace more often, get set up with a battery charger or fun the generator to charge them but hate to do that because of the noise in a lot of situations or could use and inverter off the battery bank to run a battery charger to charge them or get a couple of solar panels. The latter might really work while so that when we are going down the road we are charging from the truck and also the solar panels so the battery would be fully charged when we unhooked and the solar would charge when we left the 5th set as long as there was some sun. The other thing I need to do is get an inverter that does not give me radio noise so I can charge my laptop while doing E-mail. The laptop is working great so will need to get a second one for backup and then leave the desktop home. The printer has really come in handy and has not been bad to carry and store and set up and seems to run fine on the inverter so I need to take a printer along. If it dies I can survive or in most places just buy another as they are not that expensive.
I did get an E-mail off to Chris, Arliss on the trip to Ghana and to Joe-WL7M at Fritz Creek! The big battery bank is just WORKING OUT GREAT! IT WAS THE WAY TO GO! For higher power an amplifier on the 5th is a problem as I have to run the generator which makes noise and it also throws out some ignition noise and it takes up room so I am either going to have to use the amplifier in the pickup and patch it to what ever antenna I want or put a second ampliifer in the trailer but then there is the voltage drop to contend with. It seems like the most feasible is the 400 watts from the truck which makes a big difference from the 100 watts and for back up just get another SGC 500 so the wiring is the same and if I have amp trouble I can just put the backup one in its place in the pickup. It would not take up a lot of room.
Day 43 July 23 Monday
We dug clams for the second time at Clam Gulch, it took us a little longer this time but we finally found a bed of them and finished getting our 90 in a hurry. We then met Teddy again and had a great visit with him by a spring coming out of the bluff they he had converted into a fish cleaning stat ion. He gave us a great lesson on processing a salmon and how he does the bellies and cheeks fot smoking. He again said when we get to Palm Springs we have to park our trailer their a couple of days! We watched the tide come in and then headed to Homer. We stopped at Ninilchik and seen the Russian Orthodox church and some beautiful mountain scenery across cook inliet from some of the turn offs and RV parks. We got into Homer and called Joe WL7M and he was most helptul on RV parking spots. We ended up on the Homer Spit right on the ocean and then took the F-350 down the spit and got a Halibut charter with Silver Fox Charters for Wednesday for all day leaving at 5:30 am. They said we should see some whales and that the success rate with the Halibut had been real good. We had a nice evening, what a scenic spot, got and sent E-mail and had a great visit with a couple who teaches school. They are from Chicago and came up the inside passage with their car and are tenting it. They left their pop up camper in Prince Rupert! She loaned me a book called "INSIDE PASSAGE". Edith and I are going to do that same thing summer after next but leave from Bellingham, WA and not take the vehicle but just be passengers. We might take bicycles to go into some of the towns. We checked out the laundry mats for tomorrow and took long showers and had a great nights sleep.
Day 44 July 24 Tueday
We headed out for Joe WL7M and his wife on east road in Fritz Creek. It is truly at the end of the road. They have a fantastic view of the mountains and bay and the Homer Spit in the background. He has a great ham station and they have a nice house. Joe is an Air Force retired Coronel. GOSH I can't spell Coronel for sure, embarrassing! It was one of those once in a life time experience and we will always remember it. The time just flew by. We then headed back to Homer and Edith did laundry, I shopped for a belt as my buckle had broken and my pants kept falling down! I found a place up on the bluff on what is called Skyline Rd with a great camera view point and then down the road to the east I found a great spot for my evening skeds at 6 pm and 9 pm SD time. We then went to the trailer and started processing the 90 clams. I did have another great visit with the couple from Chicago and made the schedule at 6 with strong signals and got some great pictures of the Homer Spit and the town of Homer. I then came back and did more clams. After about 160 of them over the past few days it is starting to get to be work! At 9 pm Edith went along for the second schedule and again signals were great and I showed Edith the view and she took some pictures. We came back and I gave the couple from Chicago a Homer map so they could go up the view point and we finished the clams, ate a great supper and got our gear ready for the 5:30 am departure time for the Halibut Charter.
Joe-WL7M was telling us about Tom Barnett and his book "END OF THE ROAD" and how it was about actual people in Homer and how he was a great guy. Tom does the "WE WILL LEAVE THE LIGHT ON FOR YOU FOR MOTEL 6. Joe also showed and told us about a forest fire that could easily burned their house down and all the networks were there. WOW! What an experience. Some guy just up the hill was doing some slash cutting and decided to burn the trimming and it caught the forest on fire and in just minutes it was a blazing inferno! He called the fire in and they were there in minutes and told them to leave immediately so they jumped in their car with the fire shooting over them as they raced down the road leaving everything behind. The networks had their house as an example of clearing an area around your house for fire protection. Like most people in AK they have a metal roof so the snow will slide off and for fire protection.. They had a number of burned spots in their deck. Several houses did burn.
Joe said it usually snow in October and stays until May or early June. He said they are enough higher than Homer that they have snow about 6 weeks longer than Homer!
Day 45 July 25 Wednesday
We were up at 4:30 am to be at the Silver Fox Charter boat the Ultimate by 5:30 am for check in for our Halibut charter. Wed were underway by 6 am. We had rain gear, plenty of warm clothing, field glasses, cameras and food and water. It was about a 50 foot boat however it could travel at about 25 mph. There were 16 people that were fishing and two deck hands Ken and Adam and Captain Dave. It turns out we were the only new ones as all the rest had also been out yesterday. Edith was the only gal. It is about a two hour ride out to where they fish so we were out about 50 miles and could look out at the open ocean. I was surprised by the number of boats out there; and how small some of them were! We seen Soldavia, Port Graham and English Bay. These communities are progressively isolated and in fact English Bay prides itself on being an isolated place where the pace of life slows to a crawl! It was a beautiful ride out and as you looked out toward the Aleutian Islands it was misty, cloudy stormy looking with the tops of the mountains in the clouds. Just like I pictured the Aleutian Islands.
As we were going out I think more than anytime since I retired I thought about my friends still working and really felt bad for you! I felt kind of guilty as this was absolutely so grand to be relaxed, seeing wonderful scenery, having great visits with others on the boat and the excitement of catching some Halibut! I can see how sailing/boating can be addicting. We pulled up and the captain was using GPS , had a display of the ocean floor and a fish finder. We fished in about 100 foot of water. We tried it about and hour, moved a little and caught one but that was it so in about 30 more minutes we left for where they had fished yesterday. There were all kinds of boats there so the Captain chose a spot about ½ mile away and we started catching them right away. A couple of the fellows caught big ones which were weighed on the official derby scale when we got back and weighted 141 pounds! Edith did great and caught her two Halibut before I caught any and she also caught an Orange Rock Bass. Others in the group caught an octopus and a Link Cod as well. They were really only catching them off the back of the boat as there was a ledge there where they were really feeding. We all rotated the same way to cut down on getting tangled but with the current it unfortunately still happens a lot. It seemed like I always got tangled before getting to the back and then had to start up front again. Finally toward the end when most had caught there two I got to the back and caught my two right in a row. I think my biggest one weighted about 30 pounds based on the weight of the dressed out filets. The rest were around 20 pounds. The average Halibut caught is 30-40 pounds and that is about what they did the day before. Today the group as a whole did much better. It is really a matter of luck as once you set the hook it seemed that no one lost one. It is hard work reeling them up! My arm really ached after cranking up two in a row. Jigging with a 2 lb. Weight and sometimes catching on rocks also gives you sore muscles after awhile. We got some pictures and headed back about 1:30pm.
We seen 3 whales, sea otters and Sea Lions so it was a good wild life trip as well. They did the fileting on the boat which was fun to watch and the Sea Gulls just went nuts following right over us and diving for the cleanings which is all thrown over-board. We got in a little before 4 pm. Dressed out we ended up with over 40 pounds of Halibut, not as much as I had hoped but it was great the Edith got her two and that I also did. Side note(Janet Edith is really getting hooked on this fishing!) The things you find out in retirement you never knew is amazing! On he way back we stopped at Anchor Point, AK which is as far west as you can get by road in North America. We ended up back in Sodotna about 4 pm and will can Halibut tomorrow, go to the hospital here to see the pictures of their worst hooks in the face and do some touring. On Friday we are eating dinner with the local ham radio operators and doing more touring and Saturday we give it one last shot the catch a King Salmon with our guide Mike. I expected this fishing camp to be about empty but the Reds are still running well and Walt and Alice are still here. This is good as it vastly improves our chance to catch a KING SALMON on Saturday as they run about the same time as the REDS! We put our awning down for the first time of the trip as it is never hot and it rains so much but Edith wants to dry a few clothes. I was very pleased today with my high tech, unfortunately expensive Gortex rain gear and hiking shoes. That Gortex really works! I tried the E-mail before leaving Homer and got part of it and lost my connection. I don't know if I can get it from here or not? The park is really noisy f rom battery chargers, invertors, generators, etc. I will drive to a quiet location for the schedules on Thursday and Friday. Since we will be pretty kicked back the next two days I may try E-Mail from the F-350 to see how that works! The only thing I don't have is another inverter for the laptop and I don't want to tear the one out that is mounted in the 5th so I will just charge up the battery on the laptop and assume it will stay up long enough. If this works out well I can get another inverter for the truck or better yet get a sine wave inverter for the 5th and take the one in the 5th and put it in the F-350
Day 46 July 26 Thursday
We slept in after being up early and going to bed late for several days. Since the sun was shining brightly which does not happen very often in July and August as it is the rainy season on the Kenai we decided to change our plans and go touring. We went to Soldotan and fueled up as it was good to see some reasonably priced diesel since it was quite a bit higher at Homer. We stopped at Joanna's Fabrics in Soldotna which had a llot of fabric and crafts at reasonable prices. We then headed for Kenai about 12 miles away and went north. We checked on the fishing spot on the Cook Inlet and found they had already sold their morning catch and would have more toward evening. They can fish from 7 am to 7 pm. on Monday and Thursdays only. They told us about a minature display of the oil platform and setup that is in the Kenai Airport so we will take a look at it tomorrow. We than went to Nikiski Beach road and seen the oil platforms out in Cook Inlet and the oil tankers. I tried the telephoto but it was still hazy toward the oil platforms and a long way out so really could not get any good shots. I am going to have to spend some time reading the Coolpix 990 Nikkon Manual. We then returned to Ikenai and seen the Russian Orthodox church and got a tour inside. We also called Mariah Tours in Seward from the visitors center and made reservations for Monday for a wildlife and glacier tour. We then to the bridge road and got on the westerly side of the Kenai River and the took Kalonoski Road which turns into Funny River Road right west of Soldotna which is the road we are camped on so that is much quicker and we will take it tomorrow when we go to the ham dinner at the airport in Kenai.and also look at the oil platform display. Kenai is a very busy airport as this is a popular tourist destination for fishing and also the major jumping off point for flying to the Aleutian Islands. When we got back to the trailer we started processing the Halibut. It sure was easy already being fileted. We just took the skin of and cut it up and put it in the quart canning jars. We finished 14 quarts and got the rest ready to be canned Friday. We just kept the jars in the refrigerator over night. We will end up with 16 quarts and one pint of Halibut and 1 quart of Orange Rock Bass and 18 pints of Razor Clams. We also have two big meals of frozen Halibut and one meal of fresh Halibut. I then took the radio equipment from the 5th and the laptop and took the 600 watt inverter out of the 5th since we never use it and headed out to find a place to make the schedule and try doing E-Mail from the F-350 for the first time. There are some many trailers and so much electronic noise it it tough to operate from the park here. I found a good site on a pull of on Funny River road that was up out of the valley and set up. I set the equipment on the passenger's side seat as well as the laptop. I had the inverter in case the laptop battery would need charging but it did not. I plugged the TNC into the accessory 12 VDC plug in the F-350 and hooked the 12 VDC cord(which I had prepared in advance for just such an occurance) from the radio to the battery bank cable that normally goes to the 5th. Since I did not have another 12 vdc connector to match this I lashed it together with a vise grips. I need to get the correct connect and that will work good except if it was pouring down rain. It would also work great for hooking up the equipment on a picnic table or in the screen porch we have so one could operate outside if it was hot but wanted to keep the bugs away. I need a second plug inside to hook to if it is raining hard. I made the 9 pm sked with AC0M and N0ABE and after that sent and got my E-mail. Signals were quite good so the 9 pm central and 6 pm Alaska time seems to be a good time. Once I got back to the trailer park I visited with Walt and Alice from Phoenix quite awhile and then we had chicken for supper. We were tired and went to bed about 10 pm. It is very, very light yet at 10 pm but it really don't bother us any sleeping.
Day 47, July 27 Friday
We finished canning the Halibut, Orange Rock Bass and one pint of Razor Clams this morning, took our showers and it worked on the computer and got out the Nikkon Digital Camera manual and we be studying the when I get a chance the next few days. We headed off for the ham radio luncheon about 11:00 am. Fortunately the canning time finished about 10:40 am so it worked out! We had a great dinner with the hams and met two fellows KL7J Les and Jim who knew who we were right away having been their South Dakota in the Amateur Radio Sweepstakes contest many times. After dinner KL7J invited us to his place to try an inverter out and we had a great visit, got pictures, operated his station for the 6 pm schedule. It and AL7R Brent have the two best stations in all of Kenai. The had 20 meter monobanders, 10-15 trap antennas and 12-17 meter antennas so very impressive. Les gave us some good ideas on traveling and things to do and see while in AK that are going to be very helpful. He also used Winlink 2000 so that was neat and he had the same trouble we did with being able to send messages as the software is not very clear about that! He also showed us how to get to AL7R and where some Carbou hang out. Les also let Edith pick some strawberries and rhubarb so we had rubarb tonight along with some ice cream. Very, very good! We then headed to the Soldotna hospital in they let us in the emergency room where they have a padded, flannel man and women with hooks in them everyplace they have taken them out of people this year. Last year they had a total of 76 and so far this year 56 with on in the waiting room that just got one in her hand today. They even let us take pictures and wondered how in the world we knew about it! It was of course through our amateur radio friends. BTW we seen the scale oil platform and lots of pictures of the platforms at the airport and checked on airfare to Kodiak but it was outrageous! After we got back I headed for my same spot down Funny River road but no one was one the 9 pm schedule but I did get and send some E-mail with good, strong signals from KA6IQA. I spent the rest of the evening thinking how I could put a switch in the 5th batery box to make switching more convenient and quick and figured the best would be to just unlock the door to it and have a knife switch to go from the battery bank to the 5th batteries! I also figured on how to get 12 VDC to the radio I borrow from the 5th wheel to do E-mail from the F-350. Tomorrow I sure hope we get our King Salmon.
Day 48, July 28 Saturday
I spent a restless night in anticipation for my second try at catching a King Salmon. Mike Turner KL7X from Anchorage was our guide. This is his sixth year on the Kenai River I kept rehearsing in my mind what I had to do as you see catching a King Salmon is quite a different type of fishing. First of all King Salmon do not bit that hard but if the have red salmon eggs in front of them as they come upstream the will "NIP" at them. We mainly back bottom bounce which means you bounce a onel pound weight of the bottom. You will feel a tug a tug a tug and you feed it slack by standing up and poking(shoving ahead) your rod toward the fish. Then to set the hook you snap the rod upward. By this I mean you snap the bottom of the rod handler down while snapping the grip ahead of the reel backwards. This is really tough for me as all the fishing I have ever did you get a tug, tug and you jerk the rod back to set the hook. All night I am rehearsing this as I had a couple of tug a tugs on July 17th our first time out and came up empty handed, ie never got the hook set in a King Salmon. We are out on the water by 6 am and it is about 50 degrees, a little wind and foggy. Basically it was real chilly! We were fishing with a couple of friends of Mike Turner our guide and it was not long and Steve had one which weighed about 30 # and he had Mike release it as he was trying for a bigger one! Based on what I had seen I sure would of kept it and in fact that was it he never got another bite. Edith hooked a King and it was off to the races! WOW! I thought here we go. After about 10 minutes she was shot and I took over. It was tough and it took about 20 more minutes and we got it up by the boat and seen it was :FOUL HOOKED" which meant it was not hooked in the mouth which rarely happen with King Salmon. Unfortunately that is an illegal hook and we had to get the hook out while it was still in the water and let it go. Mike said when they are hooked that way the resistance from the 5 mph current with the fish going every which way is like landing an 80 pound King. My arms were aching so bad I did not thing I was going to be able to do it. By the way we ended up 2 miles down the river before it was over with. Next Mike wife hooked on and did a nice job with it other than she did a terrible job setting the hook but Mike our guide grabbed the rod and got it set for her and after that she did a super job. She was very, very thrilled and it likely weighed 30 lbs. Or so. She kept it which was smart on her part and there also was not a lot of time left until 12 noon when they had to quit! I had one bite and did not get the hook set. I did OK feeding it line but jerked it up and back to set the hook rather than the snap action with the wrists and arms, standing up. Let me tell you after you have literally bottom bounced a couple of thousand times and all of a sudden there is a tug a tug you have all you can do to feed it line by moving the rod toward it while standing up. When you try and set the hook the guide always guns the motor to help set the hoork. Well there was a boat right in front of us som he really could not do that and apparently me upward jerk did not get the hook set as I basically landed on my butt back on the seat! Pretty disgusting when the gal does a terrible job of setting the hook and gets her fish and I get thin air. OH WELL I am a big boy no use crying over spilled milk just get back at it and work, work, work, work! I am rehearsing this in my mind, tug a tug feed it line, tug a tug, I am feeding line at I get up, tug a tug i snap the rod with a quick jerk of the wrists and arms. Edith has one on for about 20 seconds and it gets off. The hook just did not get set. It was noon hour and Steve decided to pack it in and of course his wife has caught hers for the day so she is done. I could tell Steve was kicking himself for not keeping the 30 lb. One he caught. Early one Edith caught about a 10 pound Red Salmon which was a very nice fish and since she caught it before catching a King she could keep it.
I forgot to mention about mid morning we went down river in the fog to Beaver Crossing were there is really fast water in a small area and it is just full of boats. WOW you take about close quarters and lines close together if some one catches one everybody has to reel up quick and let that boat out of the pack to try and land the fish. The gals got snagged together and when we came they were catching a couple but it soon cooled off so that was enough we left for BIG EDDY and back to bottom bouncing.
Mike cleaned Steve's wife's King and we had a little lunch and Mike's daughter and Edith and I were going to go out. We had it set up so both Edith and I would go in the morning and if only one of us got a King Salmon in the morning the other would go in the afternoon. At noon we found out the other two that were schedules wanted to get back to Anchorage and so Edith could go if she wanted so it was going to be Mike;s daughter Emily and Edith and I. This King Salmon fishing is not inexpensive but the money has been holding out really well so we both decided to go. Edith was getting discouraged. I was not discouraged but I was trying so hard and just could not seem to get the hook set and these others were getting Kings with basically Mike gunning the motor! Man no justice!!! After dinner is get another tug a tug a tug and I do a great job of feeding it line and I rip the rod back and up and miss him. Mike says you have to snap it in one quick movement ast the big jerk up and back is to slow. We do a different type of fishing called back planing where and airplane looking device takes the hook down and you don't have to set the hook. Would you know it Edith gets a heck of a hit and Mike guns it and it is one for a little bit and then gone. Mike could not believe it. Edith reels in and all the salmon eggs are there and what had happened is the King hit the airplane like device and when she started to reel it in the King just spit it out since it does not have any hooks on it. The pressure is starting to mount. BTW it was just Edith and I as Emily decided to go as it was really getting cold and windy and looked like rain.
Things really cool of and we try some more back planeing but no luck, nothing so we decide to try bottom bouncing at Big Eddy again and they were catching one or two. By now it is down to less than an hour and I get my third tug a tug of the day and I feed it line by standing up and moving the rod toward the fish and I try and snap the rod to set the hook and Mike guns the motor and I fall on my butt on the seat and NOTHING! I am beside myself! 17 hours of hard, hard fishing constantly staying on the bottom! Mike never got on me about being on the bottom but always was getting on everybody else and the same for my "BABY BOUNCES and said I did a good job of feeding it line and standing up but just was not snapping the rod like I should to set the hook. We are now down to 30 minutes to fish and Mike is talking about me flying up sometime and the future and block out a couple of days. I am saying to myself to keep the faith I am not going to give up. With 25 minutes to go I make a decision. If I can be blessed with my 4th tug a tug for the day I am calmly going to stand up and feed the King line and I am going to wait a long time before I try and set the hook. I decide I have missed them three times by trying to jerk it back hard and probably to quick. It is 20 minutes to go and it is looked desperate!!! I need a miracle and I GOT IT! Tug a tug and I calmly stand up and feed the fish line, tag a tug, tug a tug tug a tug and it seems like I have been waiting and for a long time and then I snap the rod as hard and fast as I can and Mike guns it and WOW! DOUBLE WOW! TRIPLE WOW! You talk about having to hook set. I felt like a had a 100 pounds on the line and off the KING goes. I mean there is nothing, I mean nothing I can do as the brake is screaming and he heads right under the boat toward the prop! My heart is pound but Mike does wonders, he spins the boat around and keeps the King away. I YELL at Mike NICE JOB! and the King is off. I am not bragging here but at least I do have some experience to draw on here! Keep the rod tip up, keep the line tight with a bow in the rod and crank like mad. Mike gets us ou of the pack and we head down stream After about 10 minutes I get the edge off the King and can do a little with it! Mike says when he is not pulling real hard to crank down and lift the rod tip, crank down and lift the rod tip. I am thinking to myself Mike good idea but you try it . This guy is pulling like crazy but finally it tires some and I can crank down. It makes some more runs and I am thiniking concentrate, concentrate, concentrate it is not in the bag until it is in the net. I remember Mike telling Steves wife in the morning not to get over confident as she was celebrating and it was not in the net!
Finally I get it up be the boat and we get a look at it!!! GUYS AND GALS IT LOOKED LIKE A WHALE! HONEST TO GOD A WHALE! I had been beating on myself since July 17th when I missed to tug a tugs and now today I miss three but I don't panic. I caught a 9 # 4 oz. Walleye and did not panic so I am not going to panic now but this fish is bigger than any I had seen in the two days I had fished watching other boats land them. Of course when it seen us and the boat it was off to the races again but by now we have the drag set up some and Mike got my sun glasses off and we work it up by the boat and Mike tries to net it and it slips away. I see the hook and I does not look like it is hooked that well and Mike says CAREFULLY work it over toward the net and I am thinking this is an opportunity to panic but I CAREFULLY work it over toward the net and Mike has it in the net. I have to help Mike lift it in the boat. Mike says it is 50 to 55 pounds and it was huge!!! It in fact weighed 54.25 lbs. on the official scale at one of the dock places!
We get tons of pictures and then Mike fillets it for us. It looks like we can freeze a couple of big steaks and get at least 14 quarts of King Salmon. King Salmon costs about $11.00 a pound up here dressed or $7 a pound live so my 54 pound fish is worth about $378.00. The Halibut is also expensive but this was about pride not money!!! If you want a challenge try and catch a King Salmon on the Kenai! As I go to bed with the pressure cooker just being shut off after jiggling away at 10 pounds for about 2.5 hours I count myself blessed and definitely got a miracle to get one more chance with 20 minutes to go to get my KING SALMON!
People come from all over the world to the Kenai River to fish for the elusive King Salmon. You can only catch two a year as an AK resident or out of state license.
BTW the 54.25 lb. fish was easy in comparison to the one Edith had a :FOUL HOOK on!
I looked at the digital pictures and printed some out of the the King Salmon and also backed them up to a zip disk as I sure don't want to lose them!!!
Day 49 July 29 Sunday
I got up about 6:30 am as I am still on cloud nine from the KING SALMON catch. I had printed out some pictures as I wanted to show Walt and Alice the couple from Phoenix as they are obviously dedicated fishereman. We decided to pack up the trailer, dump, take on fresh water, get a few groceries if we needed them for the boat tour out of Seward, find a ham friend to E mail my KING SALMON picture and go to church. We ended up in Kenai at Bill KL7IHJ to send the picture and then went to church at Kenai. We had a great time, I think the nicest church we have been to on our travels. They invited us to their pot luck dinner and they wanted to see my King Salmon picture which was printed out and the same one I had just sent on the Internet. We had some smoked Salmon and some Blue berries and lots of dessert which we have had very little of traveling so we could not resist eating some of them! We then headed for Seward and go in around 4 pm and got parked right along the ocean above the beach in the city Water Front Park and then found where our tour leaves from in the morning. We watched them clean fish on the dock, mostly "REDS" and then went out to Exit Glacier and walked out and stood on the Glacier and got lots of good pictures. Back at the trailer we set up and I got and sent some E-mail in great shape and also talked to Curt K7BI in Glendale, AZ and had a great supper and visited with the people from Alberta next to us and watched the Holland America Tour boat pull out! Edith is canning the last 7 quarts of KING SALMON and I am working on the travelogue.
Day 50 July 30, Monday
Today we took the wildlife boat tour by Mariah to Kenai Fjords. It was a 44 foot boat, rode real nice and we could get inside out of the rain and we got dinner and snacks and the sea was not very rought However it was a cloudy, foggy, rainy day so it was fortunate that we dressed warmly and had good rain gear as it was wet and cold!. We could not see the the scenery very well because of this but we did see the Aialik Glacier which was calving a lot. I think it is the prettiest glacier we have seen. It would of been even nicer in sunlight I think. For wild life we seen sea otters, harbor seals, dall's porpoise, grey whale, sea lions, Puffins, bald eagle's and a number of other birds. We got some decent pictures given the weather. I think the high point were the dall's porpoise running along side the bow of the boat. Fortunately I got some decent pictures. The rain really made it tough to keep the water of the lens and it was horrible to use the telephoto with the rain and swell moving the boat around. We left at 8:30 am and got back at 5:30 pm. I got and sent E-mail and checked out the Alaska Sea Life Center and found the hours to be 8 am to 8 pm so it is to late for today so we will do it in the morning and then head for Anchorage and do the WEB Page, hopefully see Dan KL7Y station and then head toward Denali! We are ready for some sunshine.
I did get it straight today positively that Red Salmon are Sockeye, Silver are Coho, King are Chinook and Pink are Hump. I also found out that Red and Silver look almost identical. The Reds have slightly redder meat and the silver have some black spots on the top of their tail and look a little more silvery in the tail.
Day 51 July 31, Tuesday
We toured the Alaska Sea Life Center and seen Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Puffins, and a lot of other sea life. We definitely thought it was worthwhile. We then headed for Anchorage and checked out a float plane to try and see the Harding Ice field but the pilot thought it would be to cloudy and the first price was $129 and then they said they made a mistake and it would be $189 so we decided not to go. We bought diesel south of Anchorage for $1.49 which is the cheapest since we left home. We are parked at Mike and Lana's. We got our pictures from Walmart, some groceries from Sam's and we talked to Chris and Floyd tonight and was able to send and get the e-mail with great signals tonight. Hopefully I can get the second edition uploaded to the web page and see Dan KL7Y station and get headed for Denali National Park. Mike AL6M got home late as he had visitors but there was still time to upload the web page on his connection which was greatly appreciated. Mike sent my KING SALMON picture to AL7FS who will upload it on Mike Turner KL7X Web page.
Day 52, August 1, Wednesday We worked around the trailer cleaning and Edith cleaned the pickup. I did some computer work, we did some grocery shopping and KL7CY called Clyde KL7IBY and were able to talk to him and he invited us over which was very nice. We filled our two tanks of propane for $1.89 a gallon and headed for Clyde's place. We had a great visit, made the 6 pm sked and used his WEB TV to get the info on bus tickets for going into Denali Park as they don't allow cars to go in very far. Clyde also showed us a parking spot at China Springs up by Fairbanks. We then stopped at the Alaska Wild Berry shop and got some gifts and see the largest chocolate waterfall in the world. When we got back I talked to Dan KL7Y and found out it would work to see his station tomorrow night so I told him we would head out for Denali and come by as he was getting home. Frank KL7FH came over and we had a nice visit with him and Mike and Lana as it would be our last night in Anchorage which we have come to know well. We said our good byes and were going to bed and Mike called on two meters and said we should be able to see Denali Mt. If we went up the hill so we jumped at the chance and sure enough there it was the first time since we got to Anchorage on July 6th other than on July 17th we seen it dimly in the clouds and haze so it is tough to see in the summer time.
Day 53, August 2, Thursday
I was very happy to hear Del KL7HF on as he had been gone to Sourdough, AK and I was concerned we were going to miss him. We were able to contact him and come over to visit and do some computer work and say good bye. We had a great time and I was able to do my Internet Banking, get my regular E-mail, send some E-mails. I found out a former class mate had open heart surgery and they also found out he had cancer so that shocked me and I sent him a get well message. We then said good byes and got some groceries, and finished getting ready to move and headed for Wassila, AK to meet Dan-KL7Y. We stopped at Walmart and I made the 6 pm sked and Edith did some shopping. Dan showed up and we followed him out and had a great tour of his station which is definitely the biggest ham station in Alaska. He has 4 antennas stacked on 10 and also 15 which is better than I have, I like my 20 a little better. He has a shortened 40 at 160 foot where I have the full size at 70 foot and the full size quad. He has antennas for 12 and 17 and high dipoles for 80 and 160. I have the verticals. He has a hill top location in three directions ans is especially good to the west with better siting than I have but my ground conductivity is a lot better. I would call the two stations different but over all similiar. Dan has a position for each band so way, way more inside! We then headed north and parked for the night by Talkeetna and I sent and got E-mail about 10 pm and it appeared to be fading so right now between 6-10 pm local seems to be the time frame.