Sunday, May 30, 2010

Excursion Inlet

I know that it's been a while since I posted anything, but as I mentioned in the last entry, it's the busy time of year here with maintanence on the boat and fishing and all the other spring/summer things that have to be done while the weather cooperates. Spring has been beautiful this year thus far, with lots of sun and a little too much heat. I hope we don't have another hot, dry summer again. We really need the rain to keep everything in balance.

I was trolling for King Salmon the other day with relatively little success. I'm like the vitamins so far- one a day, which isn't a very good average. At this moment I'm going in the hole fishing, but hopefully that will turn around soon. I ran across Icy Straits to fish Homeshore last week. Historically the kings run up that side of the Straits on their way to the Taku or Chilkoot or Chilkat Rivers. I'm not sure how well the wild runs are doing. I know a lot of the fish we catch now are hatchery fish. The commercial fishermen are assessed a three percent tax to pay for the hatcheries which I don't mind paying,but a good bit of the fish they raise are feeding the sealions. More needs to be done as far as curbing the explosive sealion population. Right now they are protected by law and they have no fear of humans. What the animal rights groups either don't know or don't want to talk about is the amount of fish each one consumes every day. It's staggering- hundreds of pounds per sea lion per day. Multiply that by thousands of sea lions and it's no wonder that the salmon are getting harder to find every year. Unfortunately, like so many other things the feds are involved in, they won't take action to correct the situation until it's become a disaster. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. From Homeshore I worked my way on up into Excursion Inlet. There is a cannery there that processes salmon. It's quite a sprawling complex visible in the second picture. It used to be XIP, but I think Ocean Beauty bought it. Years ago there was a second cannery at the head of the inlet, I'm not sure but it runs in my mind it was owned by Pacific American Fisheries. Back before Alaska became a state there were fish traps at most of the canneries. Apparently they were incredibly efficient and almost wiped out the salmon fishery. Once Alaska became a state, they were outlawed. In talking with some of the long time residents here I discovered that the site where the cannery is now served as a prisoner of war camp for the German prisoners. One of the Hoonah residents said that when he was a boy he and some of his friends would go to a hill overlooking the camp and toss rocks down at the prisoners.
Like so many of the bays and inlets around here, the mountains seem to rise right out of the water. Right up against the beach in a lot of places the water will be 100 feet deep or more. With such steep terrain, there aren't a lot of suitable sites on which to build. However, a few hearty souls have overcome the problem by picking whatever available flat spot they can find and cantalevering out from the mountain. Personally, I wouldn't care to do that. As you can see from the top picture, rock slides are always a possibility if you build on steep terrain. Fortunately, there were no homes at this location when the land decided to let loose.
Excursion Inlet, like so many other formerly remote locations in the state now hosts two lodges. Huge complexes that house hundreds of fishermen during the season and unleash them on the surrounding waters. One lodge run by a fellow named Doc Warner sends out groups of four fishermen to a skiff to fan out around Icy Straits. They descend on the area like misquitos on bare skin and can be just as annoying. I wouldn't mind so much if there weren't so many of them. At any given time I have to dodge dozens of skiffs while I'm trying to make a pass down the shoreline. I know that times have changed and things will never be as they once were, but it sure is hard to take.


  1. Nice pics dad I have never seen that place before only heard a lot of stories about it.

  2. Hello, Hello, hello Tom and Jan!! I've thought of you all so many times and wondered how you were. Spoke with Matt Ortega today and learned you had written a book. I have so got to get it. I love all the beautiful pictures you have featured here. Do take care and write when you can. Email address is Love to hear from you guys. By the way this Regina(Nailer)Smith.