Combat Fishing In Alaska!
If you have heard of combat fishing, you may have wondered what it looks like. To get an idea, take a look at the picture; it explains a lot.
Only on rare occasions, however, as when one angler treads on another angler's fishing equipment, do you witness anything like fisticuffs. For the most part everyone pretty much minds his or her own business, that of casting one of the current season's favored fishing lures into fast-moving river water when the sockeye salmon return to breeding grounds in Alaska's summertime.
Most Alaskans believe the term originated in the North Star state, and perhaps it did. At any rate when the word gets out ("The reds are in!" "The reds are in!") a veritable exodus of cities like Anchorage occurs as avid salmon seekers rush off to catch their limits. A popular rendezvous is the Russian River that empties into the Kenai River on the Kenai Peninsula. At the height of the summer runs, thousands of sockeye stream past a given point along the river's angler-crowded banks.
The sockeye or red salmon (also sometimes called the blueback) leads a somewhat different lifestyle than the other species of these large, prized Pacific coast fish. Though born in a fresh water stream, the sockeye fry need a lake close by in order feed and grow and thrive. Also, unlike the other salmon, the sockeye feed exclusively on tiny zooplankton in lakes and krill in ocean waters.
After two or three years in the lake of their youth, sockeye migrate to the ocean to take on more weight as they mature. They spend up to four years in salt water before returning to the stream of their birth, possibly led there by its familiar smell. As the fish return to their natal stream, their shiny silver color changes to a bright red along their chunky bodies and a shade of green on their heads. As spawning time nears, the male sockeye backs begin to display the telltale breeding hump and their jaws become markedly hooked in shape.
During peak periods of salmon returns between July and August, coastal streams can run thick with sockeye bent on reaching their spawning grounds. They have little else on their piscatorial minds. They rush past fishing stands in close-packed droves.
So, to return to combat fishing ...
Strangers to the exercise might ask, "How does anyone manage to fish in such a line up, let alone catch one?"
The answer lies in the tactics an angler uses in combat fishing. The methods take into account the fact that sockeye salmon almost never strike at a lure. They remain intent on getting the job done of producing offspring and have no interest in food. This means an angler must present the lure in such a way that it just naturally slides into a sockeye's gasping mouth as it continues upstream.
The angler casts a short line, no more than twenty feet or so, comprised of heavy backing and a short leader with a weight and the lure. The angler casts slightly upstream, lets the lure drift downstream just far enough that the weight can bring the lure two or three feet underwater. The angler then whips the line shoreward through the water, aiming to drag the lure into the sockeye's gaping mouth.
The rapid fire, short-line method of casting and retrieving a lure permits anglers to fish in close proximity, almost shoulder to shoulder: Combat Fishing.
Armed with this vital information, any angler with carefully selected fishing gear can successfully vie with the best of those combat fishermen and women.
Headquarters for Russian River fishing.