Spent much of the last 2 weeks in PWS. I first went out on a boat to test fish with purse seine gear for pink salmon coming into the sound. Since this is an even year, the pink return is expected to be lower than the odd year, but it looks like it will be another strong year. Valdez Arm may be a record return. We make three sets, estimate how many fish we catch, then let them go, except for about 30 fish that we pull otoliths to see what the wild to hatchery ratio is at the time. The thing I look forward to most going to Cordova is eating at Baja Taco. Best food I’ve had in Alaska. The fish burrito or any breakfast meal is fantastic.
A few days later, I went back to PWS, this time to chase pink salmon up their spawning streams. Baja Taco was again a highlight of the trip. We were there to collect otoliths and tissue samples for a genetic study. We traveled on a 28 foot planing hull with an outboard that was a tight fit for the 4 of us, but everyone was good natured about it and knows going in about the tight quarters. We anchor near the stream, then take a small inflatable raft with outboard to the stream mouth, and then walk upstream maybe half a mile and start collecting pink salmon with a beach seine – and if that doesn’t get all we need, we collect more with landing nets. On the very first stream, my two collegues were in front of me, and I was trailing behind saddled with a backback of the sampling gear. As they came to bend in the creek, I decided to cut across a grassy area in a straight line to catch up with them further up stream. I heard them say “hey bear” as they rounded the corner, thinking this was just a practice to let any bears know we were there. Then I heard a quick growl, saw the grass moving across my horizon 40 yards away, then heard one of my collegues say there were 2 bears (grizzly bears, it turns out) that they’d scared up into the woods. So glad I wasn’t further across the field or they might have scared them right on top of me. Each day, during the time we’d travel from stream to stream, the weather would be overcast with little or no rain. As soon as we got to the stream to start work, it would start raining. And not just a drizzle. Torrential downpour. We’d do our work the next 3 hours in the pouring rain, then pack up, and head back to the boat. Within 20 minutes of arriving back at the boat, the rain would quit until our next stop. This happened time after time after time. We tied up in Valdez on day 2 near the Coast Guard station. I bought a new poly pro hoodie as the cotton one I had was not appropriate for all the rain. 2 days later we landed in Whittier, then back to Anchorage and I caught the noon flight back to Juneau after 5 days of good exercise in the PWS wilderness.