Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mining and Fishing - Real Alaskan Pastimes

Last weekend we visited Hatcher Pass Lodge and Independence Mine Historical Site (#64 on our list), both located up towards Hatcher Pass from Palmer. For those that remember, we tried visiting these earlier but were told they did not open until June 20th so we came back. Hatcher Pass Lodge is a nice little lodge, situated up in the Talkeetna mountains. There are rooms where you can stay and there is a quiet restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We did not eat there but the food smelled delicious. As we were pulling out of the lodge, a marmot ran across the road in front of us and posed for some pictures (part of #86)
Then we drove a little ways farther up the road to Independence Mine. It was the biggest hard rock gold mining location in all of Alaska. The buildings were all still standing, but some of the other structures (stairways, railways, etc.) have begun falling apart. We gave a $5 per person donation to have a guided tour from one of the volunteers there. The tour lasted about an hour and was very informational.

From there we tried to drive through Hatcher Pass towards Willow, but discovered the road doesn't open until sometime later in July (it had still been snowing in the pass). So, we are going to have to travel up there a 3rd time later in the summer. As proof that the weather was still a little bit of a question mark we got caught in a hail storm as we were leaving the mine.

On Monday we both took the day off from work and went King salmon fishing up on the Little Su (new entry #90). We woke up at around 3am, just as the sun was beginning to rise (strangely from the North), and headed up through Wasilla down to the landing where we were meeting our guides for the day. Just as we pulled into the area of the landing a mother moose and a baby moose ran across the road in front of our car, and Rebekah made sure to get a picture.
We pushed off and headed South from the landing as the guide began introducing himself and telling us how the fishing had been going lately. It was not a promising conversation as nobody from his boat had pulled in a fish all weekend. However, as we rounded one of the first corners a Bald Eagle (the first we have seen) was resting on the banks and took off flying right in front of our boat (I wasn't able to get my camera out of my pocket fast enough). We headed down and through the first few holes of the day it appeared it would be more of the same as nobody got any hits or movement at all. We were back trolling with spinning rods and were beginning to give up hope when one of the other people we were with got a huge hit. She fought the fish and fought the fish and finally pulled in the 30 pound King salmon. From there, the day got better. Two holes later Rebekah brought in a small 3 pound King salmon. It was less than 20 inches, technically considered a Jack instead of a King, so Rebekah was able to keep fishing (there is a one King salmon limit on the river, once you keep one you can't even drop another line in).

Two holes after that I nailed a 10 pound King Salmon. It was by far the biggest fish I have caught, and I thought it was huge until I put in the cooler next to the 30 pounder. Everyone caught a salmon except for the guy who organized the trip. But in the end he was glad he didn't, because his girlfriend's 30 pounder will be enough salmon to last them all winter.
We were very lucky to catch three fish. It was a down year since salmon run on a 5 year cycle and 5 years ago the Little Su had major flooding which killed many salmon. And it is said that it takes around 40 fishing hours to pull in your first King salmon, as they are the biggest and most particular salmon. Other salmon, such as the Silvers only get up to about 15 pounds but will bite at just about anything and you can keep up to 2 Silvers. That would be a different type of salmon fishing, but would also be fun and we will probably try that at some point.

Our guide at the Alaska Salmon Fishing Guides was excellent. And while we caught 3 fish, all of them were small by Alaska standards. On the Little Su, 30 pounds is the average King salmon brought in with the top end being around 50 pounds. And on other rivers the average King salmon pulled in is 50 pounds with the top end reaching over 100 pounds.

The fishing was excellent and we will definitely be doing more of that. Even Rebekah enjoyed it! And we had the river to ourselves that day (highly unusual) and only saw one other boat the entire time we were fishing.

Anyone who wants to come up and go fishing is more than welcome!



  1. We loved it!- Mom

    I guess you'll have to try to take mom fishing. Heh.


  2. Hi you two-
    I never thought I'd see the day when Rebekah is holding fish in her bare hands!!! Guess you can really say you caught a fish "this big"
    Talk you you soon.

  3. Hey guys,
    I wish I were there so that you could cook me up some salmon. Steven, I hope that you are learning to like fish a little more. We missed you in Maine!