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Lachsfischen in Alaska

AThere isn’t much going on this morning at Auke Bay harbor. The small town offers a view of Mount McGinnis. Not far away is the magnificent Mendenhall Glacier, which shimmers blue in the valley. Seagulls screech. A pair of bald eagles sit on a lamppost. Whale-watching ships swing abandoned at their moorings. The end of September is the end of the fishing season in Juneau, the small capital of Alaska. Many Pacific salmon have swum up the rivers to spawn.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

However, Captain Grant Moore is confident that he will catch a few more specimens in the ocean. He has an idea, says the 46-year-old bearded man, pointing to his trolling boat. From the port it goes past the Tongass National Forest through the Saginaw Channel. The goal is the lighthouse at Point Retreat. You drive out for a good hour, past the northernmost tip of the ninety mile long Admiralty Island.

Bears and spruce trees

Tourists mostly see the lighthouse when entering Juneau from their cruise ships. But only a few go ashore here. There is only one small village on the island called Angoon, a Tlingit settlement. The Tlingit, the largest indigenous people in southeast Alaska, call the island Kootznahoo, which translates as brown bear fortress. Nowhere else in the world is there a more dense brown bear population. The landscape in the Panhandle of Alaska, which borders the Canadian province of British Columbia in the east, is shaped by the oceanic climate, which only becomes subpolar further north: the island landscapes are dominated by temperate rainforests. There are 220 rainy days a year in the region. But on this day the sun is shining. The fir and spruce forests in the mountains glow blue-green.

Given the fine weather, Grant is in a good mood. While he is untying his boat, he tells anecdotes from his fishing life. He is an experienced fisherman. A photo shows him next to a halibut. The fish, which is also common in the northern Pacific, is significantly larger than it. But Grant’s passion is salmon fishing. The captain owns five charter boats. He has been renting them out for 17 years or outing small groups of anglers himself. This morning, too, he has a good nose.

Boats in wintry Auke Bay, southeast Alaska.

Boats in wintry Auke Bay, southeast Alaska.

Bild: Picture Alliance

When he arrives at Point Retreat, he stops the trolling boat and grabs the trolling rods from the roof. He puts them in the back of the brackets, connects the line and bait and then digs out a mirrored “flasher”, a lure plate whose lighting effects underwater should arouse the salmon’s curiosity.

Trolling includes what is known as a downrigger: the electric boom, to the steel cable of which a lead ball is attached, ensures that the fishing line brings the artificial bait, known as the wobbler, to the right depth: to where the salmon swim. The fishing line, in turn, is connected to the steel cable with a clamp. “When the fish bite, the line loosens and the rod begins to wobble,” explains Grant. “So, keep your eyes open.” He’s going to a depth between 20 and 70 feet, says the captain, pointing to the depth scale.

There’s something on the hook

It doesn’t take long before Grant calls out: “Fish on.” Now it’s time: anglers against salmon. Now you take the rod out of the holder, clamp it in front of your stomach and start to reel it. Then the fight begins, the angler fighting the fish. You reel up, give line from time to time and then pull the rod a little higher again. So the fish becomes exhausted over time. When it becomes visible on the surface of the water, Grant instructs the angler on which side to pull the fish. Then he grabs the net and uses it to heave the fish on board: “Wow, a Coho!” Shouts Grant. It’s a silver salmon. “A real beauty.”


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