The 90 mile Kanektok River Float Orientation Letter
Please take some time to read this Orientation as it is designed to give you a better understanding about your week on your Float Trip on the Kanektok River. We recommend that you keep this letter and reread it just prior to your trip. You should also have received a letter that will give you some suggestions of flight information.
Your Alaskan experience will start with a flight on a DeHavilland Beaver through the scenic Togiak National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR). This flight will be chartered through Papa Bear Adventures, out of Bethel, Alaska. Dave Duncan and Sons has been operating within the TNWR since before it was established in 1982. The TNWR is an extremely unique area that provides some of the best fishing and wilderness opportunities available today. We should all feel privileged to experience an area that is as unique and unchanged as the TNWR is.
The TNWR was established by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be managed for the purposes:
- To conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, salmonnoids, marine birds and mammals, migratory birds and large mammals (including their restoration to historic levels).
- To fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats.
- To ensure, in the manner consistent with purposes set forth in subparagraphs (1) and (2), the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents.
- To ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, and in the manner consistent with the purposes set forth in subparagraph (1), water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.
Although none of the refuge purposes relate directly to providing for recreation uses of TNWR, they do provide standards for establishing public use goals and objectives. The goal of the public use program at TNWR is to provide high quality lands and wildlife oriented recreation, subsistence, interpretive and educational opportunities consistent with the refuge’s resource oriented purposes.
The public use objectives of the TNWR:
- To ensure that public use programs are consistent with maintaining the natural diversity of refuge resource and habitats.
- To provide public use programs which minimize possible conflicts between and among subsistence, recreational and commercial users.
- To provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to continue to do so.
- To provide the opportunity for fish and wildlife oriented recreation emphasizing short-term, low density public use.
- To provide for a range of high quality recreational opportunities, including wilderness areas that emphasize naturalness, solitude and primitive recreation.
- To maintain wild fishery stocks in their naturally occurring spaces diversity, abundance and age class composition.
- To ensure availability of public use sites for the needs of subsistence, recreation and commercial users.
The TNWR is a unique wilderness area in that it does allow airplanes and power boats within it’s boundaries as a means of access. While floating the river, you are sure to see a few power boats; however, they shouldn’t be numerous. Usually they do not start appearing until we get into the middle to lower section of the river, closer to the town of Quinhagak. Although some are guided sports fishermen, most of these boats are skippered by native Yup’ik Eskimos who are subsistence fishing.
The natives of Quinhagak have used the Kanektok River for subsistence hunting, fishing, berry picking, and firewood gathering for thousands of years. Their subsistence use is a key factor in the local economy. While in Alaska, it is important for us to remember that we are visitors to their home. And as such, we should always treat the Yup’ik people, their culture and beliefs, and their river with great respect.
Once we are in the lower river, our native friends will often stop by camp to visit. Because the village of Quinhagak is “dry”, making it illegal for residents to possess or consume alcohol, we ask that during such visits no alcoholic beverages are displayed openly or ever offered to our native friends. Many of the Yup’ik natives are skilled craftsmen, and if you wish, you can arrange to buy authentic native arts and crafts from the villagers.
In efforts to preserve the beauty of this wilderness area, Dave Duncan and Sons has always practiced trace free camping. This means that absolutely nothing can be left behind. If you smoke we ask that you put the cigarette butts in your pocket or give them to one of the guides. Because we practice these techniques you will see very little litter
in the wilderness area. Anything that you may see should be picked up, or pointed out to one of the guides so he can pick it up. This would include monofilament fishing line, or anything else that is foreign to the area.
Catch and release fishing will be practiced throughout your trip, with the occasional exception of taking a dinner fish or two. The upper Kanektok River has a hook size regulation of nothing larger than #1 or 1/0. Single debarbed hooks are to be used at all times. Please try to debarb all of your hooks prior to your fishing day. This will prevent you from losing any precious fishing time while debarbing, and/or from accidentally casting a barbed hook out and causing unnecessary harm to a fish.
Although we (the guides) will try to release all of your fish, there will be times when you will need to release your own. This usually happens when the guide or guides are busy releasing fish caught by another angler.
When practicing catch and release techniques, we strive for the highest survival rate possible. After hooking a fish you should try to get it back in the water as soon as is reasonably possible, so that the fish doesn’t over tire. In most cases, you should be able to release a fish without even touching it, by simply twisting the hook out backwards. We want to keep the touching and handling of fish to be released or photographed to a minimum. If you have to touch the fish you should first wet your hands in the stream water to get any Muskol or other impurities off them.
When landing and releasing a fish from shore, you need to keep the fish in at least a foot of water at all times. Never pull a fish up onto the beach. Next, you should gently grasp the fish by the tail and under the belly, making sure not to squeeze the fish. Never grab a fish by the tail and hold him vertically. This can separate their vertebrae. The gills on a fish are very delicate and special care should be taken not to touch them. Try to always keep the fish in the water. After gently taking the hook out, you should hold the fish with its head facing up stream, slowly working it back and forth in the current, until it swims away.
We do not allow fish pictures to be taken in the boats, because of the possibility of dropping the fish and causing injury. If you wish to take a photograph of a fish caught while floating, it’s possible to lean out over the side of the boat and photograph your fish while it’s still in the water, or you can simply ask your guide to pull the boat over to shore. This is usually not a problem; however it does depend on where you are on the river. We allow fish to be photographed, but discourage excessive photographing of fish.
When photographing a fish from shore, you should gently hold the fish in the water until the photographer has the camera focused and all the settings correct. Then quickly raise the fish from the water about six to eight inches; and once the picture is taken, immediately lower the fish back into the water and release it.
Out of respect, we do not allow photographing of fish when natives are present. Some natives feel that catch and release techniques, as well as photographing fish, go against a Yup’ik religious belief that states that you should never play with a potential food source. Local Yup’ik Eskimos view fish as thinking, feeling beings and a source of food. They believe that fish consciously give themselves to the angler and must be treated with respect. When a human touches a fish, some Yup’iks believe that the fish has been polluted and must be retained for consumption
As you float down the river, the guides will constantly be pointing out where the fish are “holding” and how to best present your fly or lure. It is best to have several rods set up, so that you can easily switch techniques for the various species that you will encounter throughout each day.
On the first day of your trip, each angler will be given two waterproof “dry bags”, as well as a Thermorest mattress. The Thermorest air mattress that we provide is self inflating, and each morning it should be deflated and put into your larger dry bag with your duffel. Before going into the community tent for breakfast, we ask that you pack your gear and mattress into your large dry bag. Items you feel you will need throughout your day (i.e. camera, rain gear, fishing gear etc…) can be packed into your smaller dry bag and kept with you. Remember, in Alaska, a sunny day can quickly turn into a rainy one, so it is good to keep your rain gear close at hand regardless of what the day looks like in the morning. The larger dry bag should then to be left inside of your sleep tent. This greatly speeds up the process of breaking down camp in the morning, by allowing the guides to take down the sleep tents, and haul your bags down to the rafts while you are still eating breakfast. And, of course this translates into more time on the river and more fishing.
The guides will get up at 6:00am each morning and will have coffee ready by 6:30am. We serve breakfast at 7:00am and are usually on the river by 8:30am. Around 12:00pm we will stop for a deli-style lunch along the river. Usually camp is set up for the day between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.
We strongly recommend that guests do not drink any water directly from the river. We provide purified water in the boats and in camp for you to drink. A variety of soft drinks are also available.
Each boat is equipped with Type 5 Commercial Life Jackets. It is recommended that all guests wear them while in the boats or wading the water. We require that every angler wear eye protection while fishing. On the Kanektok, you will discover that there is no need to wade any deeper than your thighs. Not only is wading deeper dangerous, but it is detrimental to your goal, in that it scares the holding fish. When you are wading, you should be very careful not to step in any spawning beds, as this could wash the Salmon eggs down river. To avoid getting bumped by the boats, always exit the rafts on the up river side, and wait for the boats to come to a complete stop before attempting to get out.
In the twenty plus years Dave Duncan & Sons has been guiding trips throughout Alaska (including Kodiak Island) we have never had a serious bear problem or injury. None the less, we don’t ever want to experience one in the future, and this is why we need to talk about bear behavior and how to best avoid a confrontation with one. Like any animal found in the wild, a bear’s behavior can be unpredictable. But we have found that a little common sense goes along way.
Because the bears on the Kanektok are hunted in the Fall and Spring, they are usually afraid of people. We do see some throughout the summer, but rarely do we see them up close; and, we would like to keep it this way. The majority of bears that we have observed in Alaska wish to avoid close contact with people almost as much as we wish to avoid close contact with them. With this in mind, you should always talk loudly to one another, so that you don’t surprise a bear. Most reported bear attacks are the result of a bear being startled. The majority of bears will flee an area once they realize people are present.
Although it would be rare that a Dave Duncan and Sons’ guest would not have a guide present with them or very nearby, we would still like to talk about how to react if you were to encounter a bear while by yourself. Again, the best situation is to try to avoid any encounter at all by making noise (i.e. talk, clap, sing, or whistle to yourself etc…). Bears have a keen sense of hearing and would most likely leave the area upon hearing you.
The first and most important rule to remember in a bear encounter is to never turn your back on a bear, and never run. Because of the bear’s past associations with this behavior, it would be the bear’s natural instinct to pursue a fleeing or defenseless (back turned) animal. If you spot a bear at a distance that appears to be unaware of your presence, simply back away slowly, and get back to your group. Always let your guide know if you spot a bear, no matter how far away. If the bear is at a distance, aware of your presence, and starts to move towards you, it is best to repeatedly shout loudly at the bear (i.e. “Hey Bear!”). This usually scares the bear away. Also shouting, and including the word “bear” in your shouts, will let your guide know that a bear is nearby. If you are making noise or talking loudly, it would be unusual for you to encounter a bear at a close distance. However, if this were to happen, you should try not to make eye contact with the bear, and you should give the bear plenty of room to flee. Again, do not turn your back or run. Attempting to stay calm, and using common sense are really your best allies.
We hope you understand that we are here to help you in any way possible. While floating the river, please let us know if there is anything we can do to make your trip more enjoyable. You should not have to put up with leaky waders, broken zippers, etc. as we have the necessary equipment to fix or replace most items. If you have any questions for us after reading through all of this information, or if you simply want to talk fishing, please do not hesitate to give us a call.
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