Unfortunate encounter spoils a perfectly good day

Out and About

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2004

Summer is almost here on the Kenai Peninsula, and with it comes the great migrations.

Caribou are moving across the tundra, salmon are fighting their way upstream, and of course the biggest migration to occur in Alaska is under way the vacation herds are moving northward in their pressed aluminum homes away from homes on wheels.

That's right the tourists are here, and many in our community welcome them with a smile and a pat on the back because these summer folk bring with them the promise of wealth. However, I'm not one of the people that's entirely happy to see them.

I can handle the traffic jams getting into and out of town due to the miles of RVs and campers that now clog our roadways like cholesterol clogs arteries. I can stand waiting an additional hour when I have breakfast at my favorite local restaurant.

But what I can't stand is how many tourists treat the year-round residents, the wilderness and wildlife they've come so far to enjoy, with almost complete and utter disregard. These visitors treat many peninsula residents the way strangers treat each other on a New York subway, and treat the Great Land like some people treat a hotel room left filthy with garbage everywhere.

Gone are the days when I could enjoy the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and beautiful sights of the lupine blooming while taking my dog on a walk through the recreation area near my house.

Now the sounds that await me are the mechanical hums of RV generators running and tourists arguing over firewood.

The natural sights have been replaced by gobs of tangled fishing line on the riverbanks, while further up in the campground there are broken bottles, crushed beer cans and other debris in the fire pits and scattered throughout the sites.

And don't get me started on how frequently these people attempt to poach fish, clams and anything else they can possibly harvest.

I don't want to scapegoat Outsiders alone for all this. More than a fair share of the damage is also done by weekend warriors and city slickers down from the big city Anchorage.

Allow me to share just one of my more recent, and least pleasant, run-ins with someone not from the peninsula.

A week or so ago, on one of my days off, I decided to head to the Kasilof to do some bank fishing in an attempt to land an early season king. I knew it would be crowded, but I went on a weekday and got an early start to try and beat the mob.

By 5:30 a.m. I was already flogging the water and things were off to a good start. I hooked into a wild king not long after getting there, and I was hoping to catch an adipose fin-clipped keeper before things got too crowded.

Around 10 a.m. things were still pretty spread out. The closest angler on my left was about 100 yards away, the closest angler on my right was about 50 yards away.

Then, it happened.

A guy walks up and starts fishing I kid you not 4 feet downriver from where I'm fishing. I'm a little perturbed, but hey, I've had some great conversations while waiting for a fish to bite maybe this guy is just looking to chew the fat with somebody.

And at first it seemed like that was true. He started saying how he had just made the trip down from Anchorage, which seemed like the usual small talk to start a conversation.

However, the guy quickly started spouting off at the mouth about how he didn't like having to combat fish at a spot he's been coming to every year since he moved to Alaska. And saying it with a real rude tone too, like he's trying to get me to read between the lines or something.

So, I'm thinking, if the guy hates combat fishing, then why the heck did he just walk down right next to me?

I was there to fish though, so I just blew it off and continued casting.

That's when the guy drops the bomb.

After he sees me using a Spin-N-Glo rig, he said "Oh, a Spin-N-Glo, huh, I never use those. It's rude to use them when combat fishing."

Can you believe the ball sinkers this guy had?

First of all, if that guy thought that morning was anything resembling combat fishing, he should never attempt to fish the upper Kenai during sockeye season.

Secondly, why would anyone stand that close to anyone else when there's so much open riverbank to fish from, and then whine about it? If it were elbow to elbow I could understand, but in that situation there was no excuse.

And thirdly, although I like to mix it up by sometimes using a corky and yarn, or soaking some eggs, there's nothing wrong with using a Spin-N-Glo.

It's a lure that's recommended for kings in 99-percent of fishing books and magazines out there, for Pete's sake.

Also, I could understand if I was the only one using the lure in a clump of fly flippers, but I was one of dozens of bank fisherman using a Spin-N-Glo that day, and successfully, I should add.

What was this guy on?

I was expecting him to open a can of corn and start baiting kernels on his hook, while trying to live out some half-cocked "River Runs Through It" fly fishing fantasy.

Anyway, at this point my morning was ruined, but my options were limited.

Option one would be to knock the guy's teeth out. Option two would be to leave and give up the spot. Or option three would be to drive this guy nuts with passive aggression.

Not wanting to spend a night in jail, or give the guy the satisfaction of fishing alone, I went for option three.

For the next hour I continuously, and very overtly, kept casting over the guy's line, tangling us every chance I could get.

This went on for more than 30 minutes with neither of us saying a word. We just kept casting and staring at each other through tightly squinted eyes, and finally, just as I was sure the tension had built to the point that fisticuffs was imminent, the guy packed up and took off.

I wish I could say I felt a sense of accomplishment after the guy left, but really it left me feeling disappointed that that was how things had to be in tourist season.

Alaska truly is The Great Land and it's filled with some great people. It's just too bad that more visitors aren't considerate of the local inhabitants while in pursuit of the wildlife and wild habitats we all enjoy.

This column is the opinion of Peninsula Clarion reporter Joseph Robertia. Comments may be sent to clarion@alaska.net.

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