Fish This!

Autumn reflections on the water
We live in a place where the minutiae of our daily lives are exposed to our neighbors and acquaintances to the point of absurdity. The insignificant facets of day-to-day living are expounded upon ad infinitum through gossip disguised as casual conversation and allegiances are made by the declarations of common idiosyncrasies. It is human nature guided by the stress of an overwhelming seasonal torrent, flooding the mind with visions of dollars pouring from the wallets of visitors with mouths agape at the awe and splendor of this final frontier.
It is autumn, and this flood is now turned to a trickle. It is a sentiment echoed in nature. The waterfalls and swelled rivers that raged throughout the summer are now but a murmur as the headwaters freeze and colored leaves float in the shallows and out to sea.
It is often said that Skagway is seasonal. The season is over.
Amidst the chaos and the repetitive questions of tourists there have been moments of singularity. For some it is a race on a bicycle, and for others a trip down south to visit family. Many find peace hiking in the woods with a pet, and some need the help of a six-pack of beer to achieve simplicity.
For me, time spent on the water clears the deepest parts of the mind. This is a state of clarity achieved by the focus and coordination of memory, active thought, versatility, dexterity, and at times inspiration.
One of the greatest pleasures of angling is watching the surface of the water and reflecting on its properties. While the act of fishing focuses the elemental foundations of the brain on the temporal nature of the task at hand, the creative energies are free to explore the significance behind the obvious. It is as though the mind has an awakening and this meandering of water molecules transcends its physical characteristics and implies depth and dimension. It is window to the world under the water and a mirror of spirit.
This is where instinct and experience combine, and their symmetry will lead to success.
Success has been commonplace this season. Dolly Varden were the first fish to make their appearance known, and their numbers and individual size seem to get larger with each passing year. From the Taiya River Bridge to Yakutania Point, in Pullen Pond, and beyond these scrappers were ready and willing to take a lure, egg cluster or fly throughout most of the spring and summer.
A four-pound spawning Dolly, in full colored regalia, was pulled out of Pullen on Sept. 20, proving that the fall run is going to be one of the best Skagway has ever seen.
Chinooks have been plentiful all season for both saltwater anglers and shore fisherman. Surely the incredible summer weather played a part but one cannot discount the efforts of the school hatchery program in years past making this run arguably the best this town has ever seen. The hatchery program perseveres despite DIPAC’s mishandling of its fish, frequent vandalism of the weir, and public ignorance in the necessity of this program for future Chinook runs.
King salmon are truly the prize of our waters. They are the tarpon of the tundra, the sailfish of Southeast Alaska. Anyone who tangles with one is immediately hooked on the sport, and his or her eyes will soon be contemplating the water from which it was hoisted.
Many look at pink salmon as a necessary nuisance, but how much joy do these underappreciated fish bring to the casual visitor or the child who is fishing for the first time? We take them for granted, but a bright pink puts up a darn good fight on light line, and they afford much needed practice for the novice fly fisherman.

Tagish Bridge gang silhouette. AC

Who can’t help but stare down into the water at their mating antics and try to decipher a language that has been spoken millennia before man ever uttered a word. Their vast quantities bring vital nutrients to the streams, rivers and oceans in and around Skagway. They provide bait for our winter shrimp pots, and their decomposing remains have even brought halibut to Skagway this season, in numbers that have not been seen for some time.
Without the pinks, fishing in Skagway would be a joke.
This season saw the end of our “no ship days.” The added noise without respite and demise of our much-needed Sabbath has made it vital to seek out quieter and more desolate environs. A short drive to the north has reaped rewards for both solace and sensational fishing.
From the first of April grayling began to bite with abandon anywhere ice was not blocking the way. Wind or calm, rain or shine, they were everywhere this year and willing to take a fly or a small spinner or even a spoon meant for larger prey.
It is important to mention the susceptibility these fish have to over-fishing. They grow very slow and some have noticed the fish being caught are smaller and smaller every year. This is the first sign of a species in trouble. Responsibility is key. Obey the laws of the Yukon and British Columbia, and if practicing catch and release, know when enough is enough. Take a break and watch the fish rising. It’s like rain falling from underneath the water.
Pike began to bite early in May with lake trout turning on around June 15. Lake trout fishing was not very good in 2003. Many involved in Yukon fisheries were concerned that they were being over harvested. The laws were changed to reflect this and 2004 saw some of the best lake trout fishing in shallow water that has ever been seen. It seems, that much like the grayling, the average fish are getting smaller but there are plenty of them. The new laws will strengthen the fishery by protecting the large spawning fish, so it can only get better in coming years.
Tagish Bridge is one of the premier trout spots for the shore angler in the Yukon. It is also a great place to stare down at the water passing by for hours on end. Swallows nest in the nooks of the bridge while eagles search for food in the trees along its banks. The terrain rolls out to infinity and the sky blazes with sun beaming through streaked clouds. The water is clear and trout appear from the depths in a surge feeding on large, tight knit schools of ciscoes. The ciscoes undulate in the current obviously communicating on some unseen level.
If one could travel up current, along the six mile river to Tagish Lake, through Windy Arm along the grayling-filled banks of the ghost town of Conrad, up Lake Tutshi to the narrows that meander near Log Cabin, into the rapids that flow from the portages of Fraser and on into Summit Lake; here are the headwaters of the Yukon River. It is in these waters that grayling have always thrived. In recent years trout have become noticeably more prevalent, possibly even displacing some of the grayling.
This is a pristine alpine atmosphere. Here the water has life and sound. At times it appears to change color with the passing of a cloud or a shift in the angle of light that falls upon it. It has traveled the earth and skies. It has been trapped as ice for eons yet its passing lasts only a moment.
No matter how many glaciers melt away, how many roads are built, or how many visitors Skagway can pack onto its historic streets at one time, this place will always be perfect, quiet and at peace.
I’m glad my eyes have sought to grasp it.

Runners shoot for top 10 at regionals

Skagway High School’s cross-country runners move on to the Region V meet in Sitka this weekend after posting improved times over the past two weeks in Haines and Petersburg.
For the first time this season, they won’t be running against the bigger 4A schools from Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Going head-to-head against 2A and 3A schools at regionals, Skagway has a chance to land a few runners in the top 10 and, with a strong overall race, possibly sneak in a second place team finish for the girls, said coach Gary Trozzo.
“The girls team did really well in Petersburg,” Trozzo said. “Candi Ketterman came in sixth and Cierra Hahn seventh in small schools, and the team finished third in small schools.”
Trozzo said the Lady Panthers could have finished second if not for a bandage issue. Crystal Ketterman had wrapped her shins too tight and stopped to try and find someone with a knife to cut the wrap. It took about two minutes, otherwise she would have been right up there in the top 10 with her sister and Hahn, Trozzo said.
“I was really pleased with the girls,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do at regionals. It will be a real challenge for us. Craig has a tough team, and so does Haines.”

Candi Ketterman sprints to the finish in Petersburg. Klas Stolpe, Petersburg Pilot Photo

On the boys side, John McCluskey continues to run strong, although he was just out of the top 10 in Petersburg.
“They all have their work cut out for them to reach State,” Trozzo said.
The team left on Wednesday night’s ferry. First stop is a Juneau junior high meet for the young runners who have been practicing with the team. The junior high girls posted great times in Haines two weeks ago, as did Mickey Wilson in the boys race. Paige Hahn was the top Skagway girl, even beating the high school runners. And Amanda Jensen, Emily Herbig, and sisters Lian and Ariel Stegal ran well, Trozzo said.
“They’ve been training with us all season and I’m really pulling for them to do well down there,” Trozzo said.”And we’ll see how Mickey Wilson does with kids his age.”
Then it’s on to Sitka where the varsity will have a day to get ready and run the regional course.
“Most of our kids have run in Sitka many times,” Trozzo said. “they like that course.”
Skagway times from Petersburg: GIRLS - Candi Ketterman, 24:02; Cierra Hahn, 24:14; Anna Shiplova, 25:09; Crystal Ketterman, 26:46; Florence Schlageter, 26:55; Ali Doland, 26:58; Teslyn Korsmo, 29:58; Michelle Harris, 30:17. BOYS - John McCluskey, 19:31; Khaled Jezini, Skag, 26:18.
Skagway times from Haines: Boys- John McCluskey 19:52; Mickey Wilson 22:06; Khaled Jezini 24:59. Girls- Paige Hahn 23:30; Candi Ketterman 24:10; Amanda Jensen 24:24; Cierra Hahn 24:45; Emily Herbig 25:25; Anna Shiplova 26:15; Florence Schlageter 27:51; Teslyn Korsmo 29:45; Michelle Harris 29:53; Ariel Stegal 29:54; Sierra Moran 31:09; Liana Stegal 31:35; Erica Harris 32:18; Elise Doland 32:36; Melissa Carduso 32:55.