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In search of salmon and authenticity
Mantecans Eric Simoni, left, and Danny Lehr take a break after catching salmon in Alaska. - photo by Photo by JEFF LUND

Since the friends that visit during the summer are not paying clients, I can afford certain liberties as I shuttle them around the island under the guise of providing an “authentic” experience.

When Danny and Eric were greeted to 55-degree weather and fits of sideways rain, I said it was good they got to see the real Alaska.

When the ferry from Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island dipped so sharply plates slid off tables and spray hit the windows, again, real Alaska.

But the authentic part they really cared about had to do with fishing.

We tried the Thorne River, but a week of rain has it well above normal and since the salmon run is in its infancy, I decided we’d head north to Neck Lake where Eli and I had snagged some the week before.

We saw a bear and 20 deer on the way to the river and as we flung lures toward the hundreds of salmon, we noticed a pair of seals having their way with some fish of their own.

Neither of these Mantecans has experience salmon fishing, especially with snagging, so I was just hoping they would get into a few. It took them a bit just to get used to the idea that snagging was actually legal.

We stood at the mouth of the river and waited for the schools to drift by, which they did, a lot.

Danny and Eric frantically casted their lures every which way, occasionally putting themselves in a good spot to try and set the hook, only to pull it over the back of the fish.

It happens, and it’s frustrating, but being competitive and enthusiastic helped them hone their snagging skills.

The next day they both caught fish. Since they were getting the snagging thing down, I decided they were capable of cleaning the two buckets of salmon.

I showed them once how to do it, implored them to leave their fingers attached, then set them off gutting the salmon while I rinsed them in the lake.

“I can do this,” declared Danny, “I should have been a doctor.”

I looked at them, blood just past their wrists, digging into the fish in a light rain.

When they stood up and looked down at their hands I could tell their inner kid was satisfied, but wanted more.

Monday, before the Fourth of July barbecue, I took them on a walk from my house up the entire Klawock River. It’s about a three and a half mile round trip hike through mud, forest and thick, seven foot berry bushes.

I made sure to mention that bears love to eat berries, and since we were near loud moving water, it would be difficult for bears to hear us walking, so in order to prevent a surprise, we should talk loud.


On the way back, I stopped and decided to run a bear drill.

“Stop, bear, bear!”

I turned and walked quickly back up the trail toward them, which I wouldn’t do if there was actually a bear, but I wanted to see the responses of my fellow hikers.

Eric stood, wide-eyed, but at full attention, awaiting instruction.

Danny was quickly walking away too, though he said it was just because he saw me doing it.

I told them they did well, and that not only was it a little funny for me, but I believed that if we saw a bear, their reaction wouldn’t lead to my death by mauling.

No need to be that authentic.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail