Alaskan Adventures - August 2018
Connor (8) and Adam (5) are just getting to those ages that they will have specific memories of our adventures together and it's so exciting to watch their curious minds soak up our adventuring like little sponges. We are blessed to be able to take the boys nearly every year to Alaska. It does help that we have family and a local small business that draw us up there every year, it's just a bonus that we all get to experience the great northern playground of fishing and hunting. Of course, it takes a little more packing when you take children with you on any trip, but a trip to Southeast Alaska takes so much forethought. You're on an island; it's not like you can run down to the local clinic or clothing store for supplements (there aren't any.) In fact, other than a small grocery store, hardware store and tackle shop and limited amount of cell service; you are on your own once you get there. Kids need A LOT of snacks and band-aids!! And you can't discount the outdoor dirt and grime that will inevitably cause either endless laundry or a mass amount of packed clothing. In our case, I vote for packing more so our time can be better spent playing instead of cleaning clothes.
Our first stop is Ketchikan, which in and of itself, is a mighty adventure. The boys can sit and watch the float planes, barges, boats and cruise ships all day without getting bored. We typically take them down to the docks to explore the large commercial fishing boats and sea life. It's not unusual for us to see whales, otters and schools of fish swimming around. We also take a quick stop out at the creeks to view the bald eagles and hordes of salmon as they prepare to go upstream and occasionally catch a black bear feasting on them. After we have our fill of seeing Ketchikan through our boys' eyes, we book our float plane for a 30 minute flight to Prince of Wales Island. This is where we do most of our fishing and scouting.
This year the boys were just old enough to fish all on their own. Unfortunately for us, the weather was unforgiving and had been hot in the 70’s without any measurable rainfall for weeks. This is devastating for the local rain forest habitat that is used to overcast and 50’s to 60’s at the most with the rain really starting to pick up mid August. The fish were stuck in the bays and straights with no where to go and being picked off by predators while they huddled. The rivers were too low and warm and barely survivable. Anything in the streams were slow and you'd be lucky to find a silver over a pink salmon. So we quickly realized that because we don't care too much for harvesting pinkys (they stink and their meat is usually pretty mushy by the time they are in the rivers) we took the opportunity to let the boys really dive into choosing their own flies and spinners and landing their own fish. We spoke a lot about caring for the fish as they landed them to keep them as healthy as possible when letting them back to the water. After just a few casts, they were well on their way to catching a million pinkys, all on their own and doing quite well at it. They would wake us up in the morning begging to hit the rivers again each day. For what could have been a pretty disappointing aspect of our trip, the boys once again helped us find so much joy. My favorite day was watching a momma black bear an her three cubs crossing the river about 200 yards below us, then staying in view as they continued walking up river just on the other side of the shoreline from us as we continued fishing as a family.
Our mornings and evenings would be spent on the rivers, driving to endless new honey holes. During the day we would spend more time on the 1,500 miles of roads on the island looking for more bear and deer sightings. A lot of our time would be spent looking down at tracks, determining what species we were tracking and discussion about where they came from, what they were eating and where they were headed. My oldest found a prize in the woods called Chicken of the Woods. A mushroom that spanned the entire trunk of a downed tree, taller than him! We harvested about 50 pounds of mushroom to share with friends and family and cooked some for dinner that night. Surprisingly, it really did taste like chicken! LOL!
We did end up getting out in the salt water to catch some silvers to take home and the boys, at this point, had become fishing fanatics and had no trouble switching to the boat to bring in "keepers!" It was also the perfect opportunity to take them out for setting the crab pots. We spent a whole evening just eating crab for dinner. In fact, we ate so much crab and fish, that by the end of our trip, we started to actually save some to take home.
When it was finally time to head home, we booked a three hour ferry ride back to Ketchikan. It was fun to ride home on this little ferry with nothing more to do but search through pictures while taking in the beautiful shorelines of Prince of Wales Island. I was fortunate to grow up on this island and took it all for granted back then, but cherish every moment now I get to share with these boys and hope the tradition continues on.
- Written by Future of Hunting Team Member, Jenn King
You can follow Jenn on Instagram at @jking_livingnw