Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Fishing at Point Baker (and a salmon recipe)

This has been an amazing summer for good weather, and on one of those sunny, calm days we left Wrangell in the boat and headed west. 

Looking back at Wrangell with a cruise ship in port. 

The Alaska Marine Highways ferry Taku was headed in to Wrangell to join the cruise ship in front of town.  We continued out Sumner Strait.

The ferry Taku headed for Wrangell. 

Standing wheel watch. 

Standing wheel watch. 

Just for a good excuse to get out of town and go play, we had two relatives from the midwest on board. They flew in to Wrangell on Alaska Airlines and then we ran around town to get their fishing licenses and some groceries. After that we whisked them out of town on the boat. Actually we cruised out of town at eight knots, which is about ten miles per hour, which probably doesn't qualify as whisking, does it? 

Once they were trapped on board we merrily put them to work on wheel watch and lookout. They didn't seem too broken up about the duties.

Lookout watch.

Lookout watch.

They were here for vacation, and wanted to do a little fishing while in the area. We hadn't been out fishing for two years, so we rounded up some fishing gear and bait. Not being sure if we have all the right gear, or if it works, just kind of adds to the adventure.  

We poked our nose into St. John's Harbor along the way, but the dock was full, so we continued on to Point Baker. That little touch of fate put us in the right place.  

About six hours out of Wrangell a DeHavilland Beaver floatplane circled overhead and then landed in a narrow entrance ahead of the boat.

The entrance to Point Baker

We turned, and followed the plane into Point Baker.  By the time we idled in there, the Beaver was unloaded and the pilot was taking off again. Two women were handling the mail and freight from Ketchikan. You can see them on the airplane float in the photo below.

The dock at Point Baker. 

This service is a lifeline for Point Baker, a tiny community that has no roads at all.  

The Beaver is a great aircraft - a real workhorse.

DeHavilland Beaver floatplane

Pulling in a halibut

With the boat tied to the dock we took the skiff (the Faithful Steed) out fishing. The first day was shakedown day, bringing in a broken fishing pole, a reel with a buggered-up nest of fishing line, and enough salmon for smiles all around. Hey, what is a great fishing trip without having to improvise? We put stuff back together and plunked our seat-sore butts back into the skiff the next day to try again. We were just getting into the groove when something hit that was heavy enough to silence the "Fish on!" holler. We pulled the other lines in and watched. And waited...and watched.



Um, we were fishing for salmon, with salmon gear, prepared for netting salmon into the boat. This could present a little problem. Big halibut in small skiffs are dangerous, and we didn't have a halibut harpoon to spear it.

After about a half hour of bringing the fish up, having it run down, and repeating the process, we saw the mottled brown flatfish come up. It was a fair sized fish. 

Cue the JAWS music...da-dum...da-dum...

Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)

Bring it around, gaff it, and pull it in. 

Ready, set... 

...and the gaff glanced off! 

...and the gaff glanced off! 


The fish was still hooked, and the blow from the gaff slowed it down. He brought it back up, and then it was gaffed and pulled aboard. 

Halibut in skiff

Which splashed the camera lens and made subsequent photos blurry. Blurrier. Bad.

Silver (coho) salmon and pink (humpy) salmon. The closest silver salmon weighed 13 pounds (6 kg) after it was cleaned.

This halibut was 52 inches  (132 cm) long which makes it 68 pounds (31 kg). We had halibut for dinner. Yum! Burp.

The third day of fishing yielded 7 silver salmon and 10 bright, ocean run, pink salmon. For you Alaskans who are groaning about the pink salmon, try it smoked. Try it sauteed and then made into sandwich spread. Need an idea for fish dinner and lunch the next day? Okay, here we go...

Salmon fillet(s), Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, honey (optional), butter, olive oil.  

Put a little butter and olive oil in a pan on medium to medium-high. Put the fillets in, skin side down. Sprinkle the fillets with Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, honey, and add a few pats of butter. Cook about 3 to 6 minutes (cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillet). When the thin belly portion starts to turn light pink, turn the whole fillet over using two spatulas. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes or so, depending on the thickness. Turn the fillets back over. Use a fork to check if the meat flakes apart. Cook a little longer, if needed, until the meat flakes. Serve immediately.

The next day, while you are wishing that you had made more, pull the pin bones out of the leftovers, remove skin, flake the meat into a bowl, and add mayonnaise and sweet relish to taste. Spread on bread or eat with crackers or slap hands as they dip straight into it with a spoon.

I don't have pretty food pictures for you, just raw goods photos. The fish above? I filleted them. Aren't the silver salmon fillets pretty? Yummy, too.

Silver salmon fillet. 

Silver salmon fillets vacuum packed for freezing. 

Hubby and guests worked together to vacuum pack and freeze the fish.

Vacuum packaging keeps air away from the food, reducing freezer burn.

Our relatives took some fish home, and we tucked some into our freezer for winter. Security in Alaska includes a full freezer.

We had lots more fun around Point Baker, including viewing marine wildlife, visiting Memorial Beach, and walking around Port Protection. I will post about that soon! 

Happy fishing dreams! 

Alaska Beachcomber

The Point Baker page shows you a little bit about the community and surroundings.

More posts about the Point Baker area:

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Paddle-tailed darner dragonfly (Aeshna palmata) in flight. 

What wonderful gems of the air dragonflies are! Red and yellow and turquoise - oh yes, I love the turquoise! These four-winged fliers are a joy to watch as they patrol territory, hunt, and interact with other dragonflies.  

Today I stood quietly in the moss near a tiny pond, watching, and trying not to swat at mosquitoes. Water striders prowled the surface of the pond and whirligig beetles spun underwater. It was sunny and warm.

A moth flew up out of the moss just two feet in front of me, and a dragonfly whizzed past, grabbing the moth on its way! The efficiency of the strike amazed me, and I am pretty sure that I heard the small 'crunch' of the moth in the dragonfly's jaws.

Dragonflies don't bite humans, but they eat a lot of bugs that do.

There are several different species that I have seen in the muskeg recently. One is the four-spotted skimmer dragonfly, which is the official Alaska State Insect. (Remind me, why do we need a state insect?)

The Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata) perched on a Sitka burnett stem.

Female four-spotted skimmer laying eggs. 

Female four-spotted skimmer laying eggs. 

Okay, the photo to the left is fuzzy, but it is a female four-spotted skimmer laying eggs in shallow water. She flew just above the water, dipping the end of her abdomen into the water to deposit her eggs.

Four-spotted skimmer on an old grass stalk.  

 We usually just see the adult phase of dragonflies, but they are really aquatic insects. Some species hatch, grow, and change into their adult form in one year, and other species spend years living underwater in the larval stage.  They emerge in the summer, and many only live a month or two as adults.

I am always amazed when dragonflies hover like helicopters, fly backwards, or lift straight up while holding their body horizontal. The trick behind this is that their forewings and hindwings move independently. The forewings are usually up when the hindwings are down, giving the dragonfly tremendous maneuverability.

Dragonflies can even fly sideways!

Below is a Hudsonian whiteface that appears to be contemplating a spider on a web. Hmmm, the spider and the fly...? 

Hudsonian whiteface dragonfly (Leucorrhinia hudsonica)  perched on a yellow pond lily leaf, facing a spider.

Don't you just love the way dragonfly wings glisten in the sun? 

The Hudsonian whiteface really does have a white face. 

Hudsonian whiteface dragonfly on a buckbean leaf. 

Hudsonian whiteface dragonflies (Leucorrhinia hudsonica ) in the tandem position. 

You may be wondering what these two are up to. Okay, the male is in the front, and he is grasping the female's head with special appendages on his abdomen. They are in what is called the tandem position. This pair is not mating....yet. No X-rated bug photos today, folks. 

Nearby a darner dragonfly was pushing her eggs into the mud at the edge of a pond. There are several species of darners that look similar, and I could not be sure of which one this was.

Darner dragonfly laying eggs in the mud. 

I drove to Pat's Lake to see what other species of dragonflies I could find. The paddle-tailed darner below flew back and forth along the edge of the lake. Darners are more flyers than perchers. They flew continuously while I was at the lake.

Paddle-tailed darner dragonfly, landing gear retracted, in flight. 

Isn't Pat's Lake a beautiful place? 

In mid-summer Pat's Lake, near Wrangell, is a good place to watch dragonflies.

Dragonflies and damselflies are both in the order Odonata. Damselflies have a slender abdomen and their eyes are set far apart on their head. Many species of damselfly fold their wings above their body when they perch.  

I heard small wings rattling in the grass, and turned as this female damselfly perched on a blade of grass. 

After mating, the pair below stayed in the tandem position. They flew to various pond weeds and grass stalks and the female laid eggs.  

Damselflies laying eggs.  

They rested momentarily on a pond lily leaf. 

I'll leave you with two more images of a dragonfly in flight. 

Paddle-tailed darner (Aeshna palmata ) 

Paddle-tailed darner (Aeshna palmata ) 

May you dance in the air like a dragonfly!

Alaska Beachcomber

See more inhabitants of the area! Check out the Alaskan Critters index!

Alaska Native Cedar Bark Hats

Alaska Native Elders and clan leaders dancing at Shakes Island in Wrangell.

When the canoes landed at Shakes Island for the Rededication Ceremony (see more on that here) I was intrigued by the cedar bark hats that people were wearing. I had never seen so many of these amazing, precious hats in one place. You can't just walk down to the corner store and buy one. Each hat represents many, many hours of skilled work, and each hat starts as bark on a tree.

Cedar bark hat embellished with ermine pelt and abalone button.

Some of the hats are woven so tightly that they are waterproof!  The Alaskan Native people have practiced this work for utility and art for centuries.

An abbreviated description of how these hats are made goes like this. Long strips of cedar bark are harvested in the spring or early summer when the sap is running.  The brittle outer bark is peeled off of the strip and then the more flexible inner bark is split. Those pieces are then split into very thin strips, which are soaked in water and then woven.

Sometimes Alaska Native weavers use spruce root or cedar root to make hats, but more often those materials are used for baskets and other items. 

What caught my eye were the woven designs and embellishments as well as the variations of the basic shape that the weavers created. 

Alaska Native woven hat Wrangell

The hat above left (with red and black designs) is likely made of spruce root. I couldn't quite catch up to him to ask about it.  

I think each of the hats are beautiful, and hope that you enjoyed a closer look!

The beaded hatband can also be worn as a headband.