Fishing hot as temperatures cool

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- While the fishing season may be cooling off for some anglers as the salmon runs begin to wind down and hunting season approaches, things are just getting hot for fly fishermen and women in Fairbanks. At least that's the way Howie Van Ness at the Alaska Fly Shop sees it.

''For fly fishermen, the best fishing is ahead of us,'' Van Ness said. ''As the water cools off, the bigger grayling drop down in the watershed and rainbows in September are in prime shape.

''Lakes in the Interior start fishing better the last week in August and the first week in September when the lakes turn over,'' he said.

One place that Van Ness mentioned as a hot spot to catch some feisty fish is Little Lost Lake, about 80 miles south of Fairbanks. The lake is on the same road that leads to Quartz Lake and there is a good supply of 12- to 14-inch rainbows in the lake that are plump and playful. What's more, the fish won't survive the winter because the lake is too shallow, so it's best that anglers fish them out before it freezes.

Arctic grayling fishing in the Chena River has fluctuated with the water level, which was high and muddy earlier this week. That may be the case this weekend, too, if it rains.

One place you don't have to worry about water levels is the Delta Clearwater River, which is spring fed. Grayling fishing on the Delta Clearwater is excellent, Van Ness said.

Anglers have also been having decent success catching grayling on the Chatanika River, Jim Masterson at J&L Sports reported.

-- Down the Richardson

Dipnetting in the Copper River at Chitina was way down this week because the river was way up.

Charter boat operator Mark Hem described the dipping as ''very slow'' on his answering machine (823-2200) on Wednesday and said the water was still high due to heavy rain throughout the Copper River basin.

There should be fish available at Chitina for the next week if the water level drops, and Hem said he anticipates ''a lot'' of fish to come yet.

The sonar counter at Miles Lake was removed on July 31. The last count on July 30 was 1,960 fish. The cumulative count for the season was 816,825 fish.

In Valdez, hometown angler Ramona Mooney came within 1.2 pounds of taking the lead in the Valdez Halibut Derby. Mooney caught a 249.0-pound halibut with Dave Bruss on No Excuses on Tuesday. Ed Stevenson of Fairbanks remains the leader with his 250.1-pound fish.

Lester Green of Valdez assumed the lead in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby on Monday when he caught a 19.22-pound coho. Donna McGee, also of Valdez, is in second place with an 18.76-pounder.

The silver derby ends Aug. 31 and the halbut derby closes on Sept. 2.

Anglers still aren't catching many silver salmon off Allison Point, said Dave Winney at Hook, Line & Sinker in Valdez. Boat anglers are catching their limits, however.

-- In the Valley

If you're looking for silver salmon, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley might be a good place to start.

''It's excellent fishing almost everywhere,'' said sport fish biologist Dana Sweet with Fish and Game in Palmer.

Though rivers rose because of rain earlier this week, the water should be down by the weekend.

The Parks Highway streams north of Wasilla (i.e. Willow, Little Willow, Sheep, Montana, Rabideux, Birch, Goose, Sunshine and Caswell creeks) should continue to produce good fishing for the next week.

Fish Creek on Knik-Goose Bay Road will open to silver salmon fishing 24 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays starting on Aug. 17 because of a strong coho run and the bag limit was bumped from two to three.

Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks, which are open to fishing only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, are also loaded with fish, Sweet said. Anglers are still reporting good coho catches on the Little Susitna River, too.

Anglers are also having success catching silvers at Jim Creek and the Eklutna Tailrace south of Palmer.

The Talkeetna River is having a good silver return and anglers at Clear Creek are finding lots of fish.

Rainbow trout fishing should be good in the Parks Highway streams, too. Rainbow trout tend to congregate behind spawning salmon to feed on eggs.

-- On the Peninsula

While the red salmon run in the Kenai River is nearing its end, the first of two silver salmon runs is nearing its peak.

Anglers are still catching a fair number of reds in the upper Kenai River and the Russian River but sockeye fishing in the lower river is slow.

Silver and pink salmon are spread throughout the lower Kenai and all the way up to the Russian River. The early run of silvers typically peaks around the third week in August.

Red salmon fishing on the Kasilof River is tapering off but anglers are picking up a few pinks and silvers.

Dolly Varden and rainbow trout fishing in the Russian River and upper Kenai River is reported to be good.

On the lower Peninsula, silver salmon fishing in the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River should remain good through Labor Day weekend. There are lots of pinks around, too.

Halibut fishing out of Homer and Deep Creek is still good as long as the weather is. Clayton McDowell of Eagle River holds the lead in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby with a 347-pound fish caught on July 28.


Minnesota is a haven for 'flying dogs' like Ms. Ruger


Minnesota Public Radio

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota has a lot of lakes, and those lakes have lots of docks on them, and a lot of Minnesotans have dogs.

It all comes together at a dock dog-jumping competition.

Ms. Ruger is young. She's not even one-and-a-half yet. And she's small for a dock-jumper. She's a 45-pound German wirehaired pointer. Most of the best leapers are male black labs, so Ms. Ruger raised eyebrows this summer when she placed fourth in a national competition. Her longest jump was 22 1/2 feet from the end of the dock to splashdown.

Ms. Ruger's human companions are Robin and Mark Braaten. Earlier last week, Robin Braaten and Ruger went to a public boat landing on Island Lake near Duluth to train. Ms. Ruger was out of the car and on the dock in seconds.

She's a hunting dog, and she loves to fetch her plastic duck. That's how Braaten coaxes Ms. Ruger to jump. Not that it takes much coaxing.

Ms. Ruger sits on the dock -- sort of. She really wants to go, so Braaten keeps a hold of Ruger's collar, with the plastic duck in her other hand.

All of sudden they're both running down the dock. Braaten yells ''Fetch!'' and tosses the plastic dummy out into the lake. Ruger goes springing 12, 14 -- maybe 20 -- feet off the end of the dock.

There's a big splash, and Ruger's chugging her way back to the dock with the dummy in her mouth. Ruger's been known to fetch her plastic duck 100 times in 45 minutes.

''She loves it,'' Braaten said. ''She just loves it.''

Braaten said she and her husband saw a dock-jumping competition at an outdoors show a few years ago. They decided to give it a try with their next dog. They got Ruger last summer, and they started training.

''We just started throwing the dummy off the dock at a short distance,'' Braaten said, ''and she would jump in.''

Dogs like Ruger are bred to retrieve. Robin said that part's easy. But as for jumping, it seems some dogs are born to do it and some are not.

The Braatens bought Ruger from a breeder in southern Minnesota. The breeder could tell Ruger would be a jumper, and wanted to keep her.

''Except Ruger liked to climb and jump over the fence,'' Braaten said, ''and she didn't want a fence-jumper. And I said, 'Thank you very much,' because we sure enjoy her jumping abilities. I think she's got springs in her legs.''

Ms. Ruger is on the dock-dog circuit now. She'll head for Missoula, Mont., this fall for a big competition. She'll have company from a lot of other Minnesota dogs.

This summer at the Great Outdoor Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., five of the top 10 dock jumpers were from Minnesota -- including Ms. Ruger.

The winner in Lake Placid was a black lab from Shakopee named Little Morgan. He set a world record with his jump of more than 26 feet.


Fire worries leave Uintas less crowded



OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Wildlife managers in fire-damaged areas are desperate to get the word out: The fire has left fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities undiminished in two of Utah's most popular outdoor recreation areas.

''Fishing's great, crowds are light; so grab a fishing pole and head this direction,'' said Roger Schneidervin, aquatic biologist for the Division of Wildlife Resources' northeast region.

Schneidervin is speaking of Flaming Gorge and the Green River, brushed by the 20,000-acre Mustang Ridge fire. But the same could be said of the Uinta wilderness and the campgrounds near the East Fork fire.

The East Fork fire drove Farrell and Vivian Lunt out of Little Lyman Lake Campground, located on the north slope of the Uintas, just after July 4. They came back soon after it reopened for the next holiday, July 24, and were the only campers that had arrived by 3 p.m.

The fishing was fine. Twice in 10 minutes, and simultaneously, both of the Lunts' grandchildren reeled in small rainbows that had taken their salmon eggs.

''They planted it just before the Fourth and then they closed it for the fire, so nobody's been in here since,'' Farrell Lunt said.

Even the 16 campgrounds along the Mirror Lake Highway, which were open throughout the fire, have seen a sharp reduction in use. Mirror Lake Campground, one of the most popular sites, has had first-come, first-serve sites available every weekend since the fire started. And no fire in sight, not even in the campground's fire rings.

Alexandra Botello, recreation manager for the Kamas Ranger District, attributes the slowdown both to fire and the lack thereof: Concern and confusion about the forest fire teamed with a campground fire ban to keep people away.

''The Mirror Lake highway was never closed, but I think people stayed away thinking it was. Also, the campfire closure has been a factor. Without that experience, some people just don't want to come camping,'' Botello said.

Use has also been relatively low on the Green River below Flaming Gorge, according to Schneidervin. A few storms have washed some ash into the river, leading some fishermen to imagine the worst.

''There's a perception that the fire was more destructive than it was. They can look down and see that the trout are doing fine, so then they start worrying that it might have killed the invertebrates and hurt the food supply,'' he said.

But the tests he's taken over the past few days have come out roses. The oxygen level is fine, the pH level is normal and trout fry are thriving, even in areas where the ash-foam was crusted along the bank, he said.

There's also plenty of water in both places. The lakes and streams in the Uintas are down, but fish populations are strong. Flaming Gorge is 25 feet lower than normal, but most boat ramps areas accessible as ever and the lake, up to 400 feet deep, is still holding healthy populations. Ditto for the Green River.

''The river's been fishing extremely well,'' Schneidervin said. ''It's as good as it's ever been.''

But less crowded.

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