Sitka , Rain, and Bear Stories

I took my cousin Amy to Sitka with me to get fish. Poor girl doesn’t like the rain, and I can see Southeast Alaska may not be for her. It rained on the way over, while we were there, and all the way home. King salmon fishing is very slow this year, and so not much in the way of fish from my friends there.

I bought a new trifold sleeping pad for the ferry at Costco. It’s bulky to carry, but well worth the great night’s sleep. We left about 1 or 2 am, and arrived late in the morning. I showed Amy around a bit, and then got the call, and off we went to the drive down dock – a feat of engineering Juneau Docks and Harbors somehow can’t figure out.

I took my bigger scale, which really speeded things up. The king salmon were real monsters with many in the middle and upper 20 to 30 lb range (dressed weight) and ocean bright. Just not a lot of them, but plenty for our needs. We also got some very nice cohos.

We stayed the night with my friend Mike, who, like me, grew up in Western New York state. His dad was in town, so I went to store to buy burgers and salad and we had a relaxing dinner.

We left the next day on the fast ferry, which only takes 4.5 hours to get to Juneau – half the time of the larger, slower ferries. The boat was packed with kids going to softball camp in Juneau.

Also onboard was a woman who teaches with my wife at the high school. She sat down and told me about her trip, which she was just finishing. She’d taken her kayak on the ferry to Kake, and from there paddled down the west side of Kuiu Island, then over to Coronation Island and back to Cape Decision… BY HERSELF! At one beach, she said, after paddling about 30 miles around Coronation Island, she camped on a beach. After setting up her tent, she collapsed for a restful sleep. She then heard “crunch, crunch, crunch” on the beach gravel. In her semi-conciousness, she thought, “Oh, I wonder who this is walking down the beach”. Then she remembered: I’m in the middle of absolute wilderness here. That “somebody” is likely a bear. Her eyes popped open wide, she rolled over to look out her tent window, and all she could see was black and bear! She said she knew the bear would wind her soon, so she started talking softly to the bear so it would hear her first and not get excited when it finally smelled her. She got the bear to take off. She got out of her tent to look down the beach to see where the bear went, and then heard commotion behind her. The bear had doubled back behind her tent to come back and check out what had scared it. She said she spent the next while shooing the bear away, and it finally left.

The next day, on a different beach, she heard the “crunch, crunch, crunch” again, and swore under her breath – another bear! Preparing herself for a similar ordeal as the day before, she got out of her tent toot sweet this time. She saw what was making the sound and relaxed – a doe Sitka blacktail deer and two little shaver fawns.

The weather kicked up at Cape Decision, and she managed to catch a ride to Sitka on a fish tender – a boat that collects fish from fishing boats and takes them to the processing plant. She said she was on the boat 3 days on it’s trapline and then back to Sitka. So, we caught her on the final leg of her trip back to Juneau on the ferry, and glad we did.

Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
Wild Salmon and Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy Juneau, AK 99801

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