CAST and BLASTs Across Alaska
Blog Post by Marcus Weiner
Cast-and-blast is the generic term for fishing and hunting in the same trip. This blog will highlight several such opportunities across the state.
Elfin Cove: Extreme Cast and Blast
Salmon shark, or Lamna ditropis, is an apex predator in Alaska waters and a thrill to catch on rod and reel. Elfin Cove Resort offers a cast-and-blast that allows anglers to target salmon shark and blacktail deer. Be prepared for a long battle with a hard-fighting, super-fast shark. They are able to regulate their body temperature—a process called homeothermy—which enables them to keep their cores heated and that increases their speed in the water. Use heavy gear rated to 200 pounds as fully grown sharks can easily reach 400 pounds. Be ready with your GoPro, as sharks will often rocket completely out of the water and barrel-roll. Also be prepared with at least a 20-foot steel cable leader as shark skin (and teeth) are capable of cutting any fishing line.
Sitka blacktail deer roam the mountainsides of Chichagof Island. Bucks can be taken from 08/01 through 09/14 and any deer can be taken from 09/14 through the end of the year. Bag limits vary depending on exact location. On a recent hunt, we glassed several nice does, but since it was before 9/15, we could not take them. Best advice is to get to the mountaintop one day and set up camp—bucks will be in the high country at first light, especially in the early part of the season. As fall progresses, bucks and does will come together during the rut and move to lower elevations. When winter hits, expect deer to move lower down the mountains, and as the snowpack increases, hunters can find deer on the beach. Contact Mike Legowski at (907) 957-8103 to set up a trip to Elfin Cove Resort.
Old Harbor, Kodiak: Freezer-Filling Cast and Blast
In our trips to Old Harbor, we've come to realize that the area is like a living grocery store. Multitudes of fish can be caught year-round; Sitka blacktail deer and mountain goats dot the mountainsides, and ducks of many varieties inhabit both the lakes, rivers and sea.
In our pursuit of the cast-and-blast in Old Harbor in mid-September, we began by trolling for and harvesting many nice Chinook. Next, we took to the hillside on Sitkalidak Island and bagged a nice buck before heading down the mountain and resuming fishing. By day's end, we'd also caught true cod, halibut and black rockfish. If you are interested in this bounty, contact Jeff Peterson at Kodiak Combos (907) 350-2799.
King Salmon: Hiker's Cast and Blast
The Naknek River is one of our all-time favorite trout rivers in Alaska, offering legitimate shots at 30-inch trout from March through October. On a past trip to these special waters we first plied the flows for rainbows, Dollies and coho. Fishing with Tom Baumgarnter, owner of Rainbow Bend Lodges, we managed many nice fish in our day on the water. Tom's place sits about a 10-minute boat ride from the lower end of productive rainbow water and the spot in which I landed a 32-inch rainbow buck that weighed about 15 pounds—easily my largest rainbow trout to date. We've landed several trout between 30- and 32 inches in this river and consider it the best chance at a trophy trout in Alaska.
Tom is an avid upland bird hunter, so the next two days of our trip were spent hiking the tundra in search of ptarmigan. On the first day, windy conditions made for tough hunting, but large covies of birds were plentiful and we managed to drop many nice birds. I'd say we hiked about 5 miles on day 1. Moving into high gear, we were flown to a different spot on day 2 and spread out to cover more ground. Eight hours and 10 miles later and we'd managed 20-plus ptarmigan. I saw more ptarmigan than I could count, with large covies the norm and clucking birds everywhere. This is spectacular country filled with ptarmigan that are challenging to shoot and delicious to eat. You'll need to be fit to handle the hiking as the springy tundra tires the quads and hamstrings faster than flat, hard ground. I'm itching to go back. Contact Tom Baumgartner at 503-705-2273.
Yakutat: Action-packed Cast and Blast
Yakutat is one of our favorite fishing destinations in Alaska. In the spring, one can land steelhead in the Situk, as well as kings and halibut on the salt. Later in the summer, sockeye pour in, allowing anglers limits of succulent, prime-eating salmon. In the fall, coho are abundant, and not only in local waters such as the Situk and Dangerous rivers, as well as Tahwah Creek, but in fly-outs to rivers like the Italio, Akwe, Yana, Yahtze, Tsiu and East Alsek.
By mid-October, duck hunting can be mixed in with coho fishing. Species are plentiful and both sea ducks and puddle ducks are in ample supply. Some waterfowl species that you will find include bufflehead, mallard, pintail, widgeon, gadwall, green-winged teal, American and Barrows goldeneye, common, hooded and red-breasted merganser, black, surf and white-winged scoter, harlequin, old squaw, greater scaup and northern shoveler. Puddle ducks can be found on lakes, rivers and marshes. Contact Kip Fanning at Gulf Air at 1-800-YAKUTAT (1-800-925-8828).
Kotzebue: Arctic Cast and Blast
The Arctic cast-and-blast located in Kotzebue focuses on Arctic char and caribou. Char fishing in the region can be among the best in the world. Many of the Alaska state-record char have come from rivers such as the Wulik and Noatak, which are easily accessible from Kotzebue. Fish Alaska Contributing Editor George Krumm floated the Wulik River and landed a studly 37 1/2-inch char that's on the cover of the January 2015 edition. These sea-run fish are strong, aggressive and spectacular.
The Western Arctic Herd of caribou is the largest in the state. While these nomadic ungulates range great distances, estimated at 140,000 square miles, the vast number of animals makes it possible to complete the Arctic cast and blast. The 2013 census estimated the herd at 235,000 animals, giving hunters ample chances at quality caribou. Contact Jared Cummings of Golden Eagle Outfitters at 907-388-5968.