My camera lens is pressed against the window of the small floatplane as it flies down the thick ceiling of clouds. The fog collides with the hills of a temperate rainforest that descends completely to the rocky coastline of southeastern Alaska.
Plain bank and a small village are seen. Scattering of houses on the water’s edge is built on stilts. We circle and I see fishing boats tied to a large dock and a floating post office. The pilot strangles the bottom and skims the pintons in the water filled inside the bay. We taxi to the public dock and I step in front of the Point Baker General Store.
Life on the Alaska coast is economically and culturally dependent on fishing. Each summer, millions of salmon – after maturing at sea – begin their journey back to the rivers in which they were born. Fishermen along with whales, eagles and bears share in abundance.
For many people in Alaska, salmon represents the wild, untamed landscape that makes their home so special.
Alaska has more than 6,000 miles of coastline, four times more than any other state. There are a multitude of small fishing villages scattered along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and many can be reached by boat or plane. Many of these remote communities are indigenous villages, where fishing has been the cornerstone of life for thousands of years.
I worked fishing in the rivers and lakes of Vermont. My fascination with fish inspired me to study the history of early industrialization in New England and gain an understanding of pollution, dams and overgrazing on the waterways of the East Coast.
Atlantic salmon were once abundant in the Northeast, but Their number has decreased significantly.
My hunger grew to see a river with wild salmon and a culture still interdependent with the bounty of the sea. After college, I started traveling to Alaska every year to fly fish and work as a photo journalist and documentary filmmaker.
At the dock at Point Baker, I load my bag onto the boat of my friend Joe Sebastian, a local fisherman. Which fires the diesel engine and we get out of the port.
Joe, originally from the Midwest, moved to Point Baker in 1978 with the hope of becoming an independent fisherman. When he arrived, he bought a commercial fishing permit for $ 20 and a small wooden skiff with a six-horsepower outboard motor for about $ 1,000.
“The world was much less complicated then,” he says.
Joe started eating fish, learning the ins and outs of salmon trolling already called home to Alaska before the salmon had moved out of the state. Trolling is a highly selective, low-impact method of fishing that involves drawing lines through the water and catching individual salmon that choose to bite the hook. Not to be confused with trolling, which forces the use of huge drag nets, trolling salmon is slower and lower in volume than other methods of fishing. It also maintains the highest quality of fish.
After a decade of fishing in Alaska, Joe and his wife, Joan, bought a 42-foot wooden fishing boat. He raised his children in the winter at Point Baker, and in the summer on his boat, the Alta E.
“To be honest, it wasn’t always a great time – the beach, the tight quarters and the clothes that smelled like fish,” says her 30-year-old daughter, Elsa. Nevertheless, he became a fisherman anyway. She says, “Who do you become by spending on the sea.” “I like that fishing makes me a fundamental part of the ecosystem.”
Alaska is home to five species of Pacific salmon. These fish are anadromous; They begin their lives in freshwater rivers and lakes and eventually make their way. Down in the rivers and the sea. Depending on the species, salmon can spend between one and seven years in the sea where they were born, before beginning their voyage into freshwater.
The ability of salmon to find their home is one of nature’s greatest wonders. Among other navigational aids, salmon can detect a A drop of water from the stream of your house 250 gallons of salt is added to the water.
Once the salmon enter their native waters, immediately some spawn and others travel upwards of a thousand miles or more. Soon after breeding, they die and disintegrate.
Over the past 50 years, anadromous fish populations have declined significantly in California, Oregon, and Washington. Alaska is the last great salmon stronghold of the United States.
Salmon are extremely sensitive to water quality and rely on cold, clean, oxygen-rich water to survive – and Alaska is not immune to the same threats that have destroyed salmon in the South. Logging and mining deteriorate some salmon habitat in Alaska, and climate change is mitigating these effects.
Many Alaskans are still concerned about the threat of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, for which the permit was Refused by the Army Corps of Engineers in November. This region of southwestern Alaska supports the world’s largest hockey salmon run. Since the 1960s, more than half of salmon returning to Bristol Bay have been caught each year, without effect on their overall abundance. Daniel shindler, A biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Attracted by this mythical fishery, some friends joined me on a 10-day fly-fishing excursion in Millingum, deep in the Baikuntha, Togiak National Wildlife Asylum. We load a floatplane with food, an inflatable raft, fishing rods and camping gear. We cross the top of the tundra after a river filled with salmon. From a few hundred feet up, we can see red hockey in dense schools in the slow banks of the rivers.
We descend to an alpine lake at the gateway of the Goodnews River, uproot our terrace and swim downstream. We begin casting, and the action is nonstop.
For three friends who grew up in New England, this journey is an expression of a dream we have held throughout our lives. As children we watched in deep pools of rivers in New England, and imagined them pulsing with monster fish.
Here in Alaska, that dream is still alive.