It’s an amazing thing, life, learning, and showing those most important to you the little things that you have experienced in the outdoors. This year I was blessed with an invitation for my family to spend some quality time in Juneau, Alaska. Not exactly a fishing vacation I have been accustomed to, but an adventure none the less, with friends and family. This trip was also the first time I got to take my daughter Lillian and girlfriend Jennifer to Alaska.
|On the way to Mount Roberts. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
Juneau, the capital of Alaska is found in the Southeast Panhandle of the State, right in the heart of the Tongass National Forrest. Here the Juneau Icefield holds thirty different glaciers, bringing tourists and cruise ships to its shore via the Gastineau Channel. The sheer size of the tourist ships parked in Downtown Juneau is a sight to see. Air taxis in the form of Otter Planes and helicopters are flying people back and forth to tourist destinations, including fly fishing adventures via Bear Creek Outfitters. The Goldbelt Tram is also location right on the waterfront where tourist can ride to Mount Roberts overlooking the town with lots of hiking opportunities.
With fishing a priority, but not the priority, we were blessed with many options to choose from for the family to experience. Spending time viewing glaciers, watching bears, hiking, photography and shopping for the ladies kept us busy with at least a few hours of fishing tucked into part of the day. The Mendenhall Glacier and Viewing Center provided a great opportunity to be close to sockeye salmon spawning with black bears searching for dinner. Within a few hours we got to see three black bears, one of them chasing fish down a creek that fed Mendenhall Lake. We literally stood there and saw one charge down the creek and pull one from the spawning bed lying in. The glacier itself covered all shades of blue and with the blue bird day we had, we were able to enjoy it in its majestic splendor.
|Hmm, dinnertime. Fuzzy Photo: Michael Davidchik|
Creeks were full of spawning salmon and I finally got to explain the life-cycle of salmon and steelhead to Lillian and Jennifer. Though we have salmon at home, standing in a tidal flat below a creek, they could see in detail, in the crystal clear water what they were doing. And with that they were able to witness the importance of a life-cycle that rejuvenates the ecosystem. They got to see how sea gulls, bald eagles, humans, bears and dolly varden rely on this yearly occurrence to live. I only hope that by teaching this to Lillian at a young age, it will help her appreciate and understand why we protect this resource.
|Hungry Dogs doing their thing. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
But enough with the lessons, the fishing was fun and perfect for newcomers and both Lillian and Jennifer were able to experience fishing in the Tongass. Lillian caught her first Chum and Pink Salmon on the first day, though I found myself casting for her because I was too stubborn to take out a spinning rod. My rational at first was I did not want her to snag salmon while they were on their journey and remarkably that did not bother her because she was having too much fun enjoying the surroundings around her.
|A Chum Dog that got in the way. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
It was not until the day before we left we figured something out. While all the fishermen in town were fishing in the Golden North Salmon Derby we were hearing stories of ridiculous catches of Silvers being caught just outside the channel. Being stuck on the road system wasn't so bad and we didn't have too much company.
|Jennifer fighting one of many. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
|Success!. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
While running around in the afternoon to a couple different locations to fish, I finally broke out the spinning rod for Lillian. Though she had not hooked anything we finally stopped at a creek we had been leaving alone due to time. As soon as we got there Lillian turned to me before I could get my pack down and asked if she could cast. “Sure,” I replied. Casting a spinner, I thought she was going to catch the trees on the other side of the creek, but it went in and when the spinner started to turn, her rod dropped to the water. “Daddy, I think I got one she screamed.” Yes she did, but this time I saw something that we really had not seen yet on the trip, chrome. Minutes later I watched as she brought the fish to the bank and I tailed it for her. Our first silver of the trip and finally I started to see things come full circle. My seven year old caught her first salmon on her own and I saw a smile on her face that I will never forget.
|The smile says it all. Photo: Michael Davidchik|
Juneau is a great location to experience Alaska without roughing it with the family. Yes, to some that may be weak, but for those who want to choose an experience with those not used to camping in the dirt for long periods of time, or don’t want to pay the high cost of your average Alaskan fishing trip, this may be one for you. Southeast Alaska and the Tongass National Forest, The American Salmon Forest have a lot to offer. Though not highly talked about like Bristol Bay or the Kenai, the Tongass holds its own in different ways and I won’t mention many of its secrets.
|Douglas Island Pump House Photo: Michael Davidchik|
Big thanks to Christine and Mark!