Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pavlof Harbor

Just the name Pavlof floods my brain with vivid memories from this special location. We usually anchor within sight and sound of the waterfall where several species of returning salmon jump and splash noisily, non-stop throughout the bay, and deer and grizzly frequent the shallows and the shore. There’s always the expectation of great fishing and endless photo opportunities.

Well, the weather was calm and the fishing was hot! On our first fishing trip we ran about 3.5 miles outside the bay in the skiff, hooked some rockfish, caught five salmon (drat! lost a big one), and brought three large coho back to the big boat. All that in less than three hours.

Three big coho - that’s the good news. The freezer is almost full - that’s the not-so-good news. We need to eat a lot of fish before we go fishing again. We’re up to the challenge with barbecued salmon for dinner, salmon salad for lunch, and lox curing in the refrigerator for snacks and appetizers in the days ahead.

Salmon jumped all over the bay, dotting the surface with splashes like popcorn kernels exploding in a hot skillet.

Ron couldn't resist the lure of all those the jumping salmon and had to bring back just one more coho. Check out that smile as he singlehands the fishing and netting.

Hundreds of returning pinks and coho fought their way through the shallows and leapt up the steps in the concrete fish ladder, battling the torrents of water rushing down from Pavlof River and Lake. All of those fish, and only one grizzly?! I fear that popularity has spoiled changed this special place.

Pavlof has become a heavily scheduled destination for small cruise ships and smaller charter boats. We observed 75-passenger ships anchor by 8:00 a.m. and efficiently launch a handful of large rubber rafts and a flotilla of kayaks. The rubber rafts transported the guests ashore to hike to the falls, take a naturalist-guided walk to the lake, kayak around the bay, hopefully photograph some wildlife, and generally enjoy an Alaskan wilderness experience. By 1:00 p.m. the guests, kayaks, and rafts were recovered and the ship cruised out of the bay. Evidently grizzly bear are not fond of crowds, since they hid and didn’t join the party.

We did see one lone grizzly, a youngster, who chased salmon each day at dawn and dusk. His capturing skills needed a lot more practice.

Do you suppose the bear have moved up the canyon, where the streams run into Pavlof River, to feed undisturbed by all of us visitors? Has hunting made them more wary along the shoreline? Are they still inland, eating berries and grass due to late-returning salmon runs?  I especially wonder what happened to the sow and her two beautiful blond cubs that we saw last year at this time. 


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