It’s That Time of Year Again…Spring in Ugashik


It has been a heck of a ride since this time last year. So many ups and downs. We got through last summer – one that saw a fish harvest that was drastically better than the season of ’08.

My understanding, from my contacts on the Yukon and the season’s forecasts, is that they are expecting something better this year, after the disastrous the ’09 season. We will see if we can get you an update on how things are looking up there after breakout.

Our winter temperatures of 2009/10 were not as cold, although we did get caught with higher than normal snowfall during what many call the start of spring – February to April and finally onto a late break up of the river.

Thank the heavens the fuel prices were much lower, $2-$3 in our area, than the previous year.

To think that just a little over a week ago the river was chocked full of ice and now the beaches are ice free. We still have some drifts of snow hanging around in places, but they are fading fast.

The first of the freight hauls, of all sorts of equipment, supplies and big things you can’t bring in other ways, started this week. So much to move in such a short window of time.

May 5th with ice in the river and YES that is a walrus that just washed up on our beach, 20 miles up river. No one in the area remember ever having a  “Wally” this far up river!!

During all this we had a little excitement…..a walrus washed up on our beach. Mind you we are 20 miles up river and no one remembers, EVER remembers, us having a walrus this far up river. There had been a week of heavy winds that we think blew him in and then he somehow got trapped or hurt in all of it. It is sad that he died, and on our front doorstep, but neat that we all got to see him, how huge and just the wonder of these guys.

This might give you an idea of the size of one of these guys!!

Bear season, which is an every other year thing, opened this past Monday in this area. So far, from what we hear, most of them are not out and moving around much as there is still a fair amount of snow pack up high still.

A local ‘growler’ deciding he wants to check out a local’s target. He is just a ‘little’ guy, standing probably about 6′-7′ (Photo: Robert Dreeszen, Ugashik Lakes)

Please understand I enjoy our Brown Bear (Grizzly to some of you) and all they bring to the area. What I do not like seeing is them starving. There are so many of them that they wander into the villages looking for food. This can’t be allowed as it is just too dangerous. This includes moms and babes, which usually means the moms get shot and then in a few weeks, when the babes are REALLY starving we have to shoot them too.

I am hoping that the guides and the lodges in the area are very successful in thinning the ones they can, which is usually the males. That the locals who have a tag on their hunting license allowing them to kill a bear, which we are only allowed one every 5 years, can do still more thinning, again usually males.

This might give the moms and babes a better chance…but I am off the general subject I started on.

We are currently hiring crew for the operation. Thankfully that chore is almost done. It is hard to choose people that you feel will make the journey, work out well, make as much money as they possibly can and most importantly go away from our part of Alaska feeling they had a heck of a good experience. Since no matter how much you send pictures, have people read testimonials or try to prepare them for either Alaska or the fishing season in Bristol Bay you just can’t.

We continue to work on getting our new airstrip improved. This project will likely take another couple of years to get it where we can accept most aircraft used in the bush and used on a year around basis if needed.

I am sure most people have no idea how vital airstrips are to most of rural Alaska. Given we have no highways connecting major hubs or even between most villages. Without airstrips that are long enough to allow various sized freight and passenger airplanes to make deliveries and pickups it leave us to the mercy of many times only one airline. I AM sure most people can guess what that means when it comes to cost and service.

Fishermen, processing and support companies are scrambling to get people hired, supplies shipped in for these few short months of work. The barges from the lower 48 and Anchorage have been heading this way for the last few weeks. I heard today the ice pack is still not far off shore in the bay which has to be delaying some deliveries farther north.

Village governments are putting their orders in for at least their spring and summer fuel. Projects that require good weather are in full swing, or close to it.

The Ugashik Lakes have ‘blown out’ most of their heavy ice and thus pretty much ice free. This year there is a research sonar project to count our out migration of salmon smolt, baby fish,  in the next few weeks. I will be giving you a glimpse into that project in the next weeks. It is exciting for us and a great tool that is so needed.

The ‘rural’ part of Alaska is alive and busy and we will be sharing more as we move forward.

~ Victoria Briggs


3 Responses to “It’s That Time of Year Again…Spring in Ugashik”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    Happy to hear all is going well in getting ready for fishing season even though I know there is so much work left to be done… :-)

    Had an email from someone in Eagle a couple weeks ago which sent me searching for this cool river map. Yukon breakup has been normal this year… even a bit on the “quiet’ side

    The normal flooding picture for the river during this time generally includes some breath-holding and plans for evacuation/moving to higher ground related to jams along the way but so far all is going pretty well.

    Am so glad for all those neighbors who got whapped so badly last year that this one is going easily !

    “A 25-mile ice jam on the Yukon River has broken up enough to no longer threaten to flood the village of Galena”

    Read more:

  2. Scott Coughlin Says:

    Hi Victoria,

    I really enjoyed your post; came across it in a Google newsfeed that I get which aggregates news and posts about Bristol Bay and sends it to my Inbox every morning.

    I’m a longtime (former) Bristol bay drifter – mostly an Egegik guy – and I was wondering what kind of Internet service you have in the Ugashik area these days? Who provides, and what kind of up-link do you have? It’s been quite a while since I was up there.

    Also, would you do me a favor and let your friends know about another source for very motivated and trainable crew applicants? I run a little side business and here is the website URL for it – it’s called the Alaska Fishing Jobs Center, and we have LOTS of great applicants, ready to go.

    It’s completely free for permit holders – completely, forever, no charge. (Strangely enough, the web developer that helps me with the website is a former Ugashik river fish-counter!)

    Thanks and have a great season!

    Scott Coughlin

  3. ugavic Says:

    So glad the Yukon is breaking out in a more ‘normal’ fashion. I had heard rumblings that this year’s break up was going well overall. Sure hope those that suffered last year will be able to make more progress this year on returning to their homes and homesteads!
    Thanks for the link, is good.
    I am familiar with your fishing jobs site. We have used it as have many other fishermen I know.

    Ugashik has its Internet service provided by a couple of different satellite providers. Each household decides on what will best serve their needs and installs it like any household in the lower 48. Overall service it good and uplink is as good as most anyone gets in your area :-)

    We post on Bristol Bay and other rural areas all the time. Since fishing, hunting and other issues like barging are familiar to all of us you will see those topics many times. We are always happy to see new people ‘discover’ us.

    Come back often. It might familiarize you with the area and issues again.

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