Posted: Wednesday, April 04, 2007



In May of 1995 I flew to Alaska from Wisconsin to find a place to live, and I then flew back and began packing for our move here. I remember driving on Turnagain arm and seeing the many cars parked by the many streams that empty into the ocean from the mountains. I stopped and observed people of all ages and all races dip netting hooligan along streams. Some of the people had small fires burning and many were sharing the same fires from time to time. I visited with many of these people and was even offered a bucket of smelt by an elderly black man who almost insisted I just needed to try these ocean fresh hooligan on my table in Wisconsin.

Since I was already on my way to the airport and had no way to clean these fish or room to pack them I had to decline the generous offer. I must admit I was pretty impressed by how friendly everyone in Alaska seemed and how so many different races of people were getting along. I have since learned that in my nearly thirteen years here in Alaska that is not always the case especially in certain parts of Anchorage.

Sometimes people are not too easy to get along with and when God distributed gifts to us humans, being friendly to everyone we meet just wasn’t a gift everyone received. Sometimes on our so-called bad days we must all learn to let our conscience become involved and use it to guide us. The one tool the Bible assures us that everyone has, a conscience.

I have seen numerous fisherman through the years about bite off someone’s head over another fishermen asking a few questions such as a what kind of bait are they using. In reality there are plenty of fish here in Alaska for all of us.

Granted there is a few times some people get just plain obnoxious and need to be chewed on from time to time. I had an uncoordinated fisherman try casting over my head who was standing about twenty feet behind me while I fished the Kasilof River. He not only knocked my hat off with his sinker besides thumping me on the head. I told him in the most controlled voice I could muster that if any part of his fishing pole came in contact with me again there could be some combat fishing involved. It is also the reason I refuse to take my children to some of these areas to fish. The chance of one of them losing an eye isn’t worth the risk in my opinion.

Through the years I have been able to help many fishermen by drilling holes for them or borrowing them bait or tackle. I have seen several situations where a couple words of advice or a few different techniques can make a difference in whether or not you take home fish that day. Many of these people that I have met on the ice here in Alaska have turned into long time friends. I certainly would not have had these friends today if I hollered at them for some reason when we first met.

How do you treat your fellow fishermen when you’re out on the ice or fishing in open water? I have compiled a list of questions you can answer to help you find out if you’re a helpful friendly fishermen or a grouchy one.

(1) You observe a man drag a sled out across the ice by himself and then try to drill a hole through nearly 40 inches of ice with a dull hand auger. Your power auger is there on the ice; do you help this guy or watch him struggle?

(2) Your having a great day of fishing but notice two elderly guys sitting not too far from you have only one fish between the two of them. Finally one of the two senior citizens slowly walks over to you and says politely “Sir I hate to bother you but could I ask you just what kind of magic bait your using?” Do you help him out, ignore him or worse yet holler at him?

(3) You’re on a small lake and another boat drifts by and asks how you’re doing? Your pulling fish after fish in while they are there by you. You explain that you’re anchored over a big school of kokanee and they reply they don’t have an anchor with them. Is there anything you can do to help these fishermen out? If so is that the choice you would take or would you ignore them?

(4) One of your fellow fishermen runs out of bait, and you have a lot of extra bait. Is it your normal procedure to help those you meet while fishing or is it every one on their own?

(5) You see a couple struggling to get their boat loaded while your group stands there watching at the city dock. He is screaming at her and she is screaming back. The boat is not centered on the trailer and needs to be either reloaded or simply picked up and slid over. You have 4 other guys with your crew; do you help or mumble how long it is taking these two to get their boat loaded?

While fishing on Kenai Lake this winter I met a few gals out taking a walk on a day when fishing was really slow. These ladies were very interested in knowing if the ice was safe to walk on and how our fishing huts (as they called them) worked. Once I opened the door to the one where Richard Wagner was fishing with his grandson Travis Perkovich one of them exclaimed “Oh they drilled a hole right through the ice!” They were very friendly and I hope they found our hospitality just as pleasant.

Being pleasant to everyone we meet out there is something all of us fishermen need to work on, as there really is enough fish here in Alaska for all of us. You really need to lend a helping hand from time to time to help out some of those who are not having much luck. It may not have been part of your normal routine in the past to help others but it is the right thing to do.

I once observed a fisherman on Skilak Lake walk out over a mile from the boat landing and start to drill a hole with a hand auger on a very cold day with over 30 inches of ice. I walked over to him and offered to drill him a couple holes with my Jiffy power auger. Then I realized I had a better deal for him, I had less people show up so I had an extra heated fishing shack sitting there not being used with the holes already drilled. I told him he was welcome to use that. Today Joe is one of the best friends I have here in Alaska and it really didn’t cost me a dime!

Perhaps one of the most gracious and sincere friends I ever met on the ice was Spence Devito. Spence likes to help others just as much as he likes to catch fish. I observed him offering advice and anything he could do to make everyone’s fishing trip successful each time he went out whether they came out with him or not. A true example of what all of us ex-grouchy fishermen need to become “more like Spence!” See you next week!

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