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A shameless plug for beloved 49th state

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POSTED October 5, 2011 2:04 a.m.

I’ve had a few more than a ton of people ask me about taking trips to Alaska.

I don’t mind providing input, because a trip to the 49th state usually results not only a personal revelation for the visitor, but also an explanation for others as to why I see certain things the way I do.

It isn’t written, but island living clearly states that a person shall not be judged by their lawn, nor shall the expanse of one’s house equate to success or status.

Not that the denizens of rural Alaska are lazy primitives that barter otter skins and don’t know what a rake is, but how can you have a strong community if you spend all afternoon fretting over lawns? Plus, how do you keep weeds from running amok and a lawn from turning to moss when it rains 110 inches a year?

Fish first, weed-eat later.

The resulting culture of a community that defines materialism more by tools to fill the freezer than articles to look good is refreshing to many.

Anyway, here are some recommendations about where to go and stay:

I am partial to Southeast Alaska because it is what I know best. Those of you looking for 6-foot halibut that make great pictures but terrible tacos would be better served staying in a place like Seward or Homer, both of which are southwest of Anchorage, well north of my old stomping grounds.

Other places on the Kenai and Alaska Peninsula’s offer some of the best fishing in the world, but access can be more expensive. Just to the north of the Alaska Peninsula is Bristol Bay, which you may have seen in those radar shots on the “Deadliest Catch.”

There are a bunch of fly-in lodges that can put you into legendary fishing in this area. Gone will be the days that you consider a 20-inch rainbow huge, here the “inch” is replaced by “pounds” following the hyphen. The massive rivers that drain Alaska’s interior also contain the runs of freshman-sized king salmon and huge resident trout.

My home waters of Southeast Alaska provide healthy supplies but the rivers are much smaller. On Prince of Wales Island, king salmon stay out of the rivers, but off the coast the fishing has been insane. Last year, most of the fish were cookie cutter chrome-bright 25-30 pounders with the occasional fish getting into the 50s and 60s.

So while my buddy, Abe, and I were wishing for bigger fish, limits were expected daily and I don’t remember an afternoon we didn’t release a few kings hoping for bigger ones. Anytime you are looking at a 25-pound king salmon and say, “Nay, let’s let this one go”, is a pretty good day.

The river fishing is fantastic as well with coho salmon averaging 8-10 pounds depending on the river and the run. The runs that started in July are only just now slowing. My first day on the Thorne River last summer (June 4) I brought in a two-foot steelhead that was heading back to the ocean. There were some other late steelies milling about a few other creeks, but I don’t feel like saying where.

Each town offers unique accommodations. For full-service-seekers, I am partial to the Fireweed Lodge (www.fireweedlodge.com) because I spent almost every afternoon there growing up, and now recap the fishing with the guides. It’s a first-rate establishment.

Again, this is from an admittedly bias perspective, but just about everyone that owns a business in Craig or Klawock either coached me (Don Busse, Trophy Inn, www.spaciousskies.us/Trophy/), officiated my games (Kelli Larson, Southeast Retreat, Inc. www.southeastretreat.com) taught me, (Rob Steward, Changing Tides Inn, www.changingtidesinn.com)  employed me (Ken Owen, Dream Catcher Bed and Breakfast www.dreamcatcherbedandbreakfast.com) or worked with my parents (just about every business in the Chamber of Commerce www.princeofwalescoc.org).

So what am I going to say?

Tickets usually run between $550 and $750 on Alaska Airlines, and rates vary from $125 a night at a bed and breakfast to $3200 for a 3-day/4-night all inclusive fishing package.

So there it is, Alaska, reduced grossly to 707 words. If you don’t like it, see it for yourself.



To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.

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