For the lover of the great outdoors, nothing beats a relaxing day spent in Mother Nature’s backyard with family or close friends. Throw in a lake or river and some fishing tackle and suddenly, nirvana doesn’t seem that far away. Regrettably, once the migrating salmon return to the waters of Alaska, all hopes of peace and quiet go out the window like a teenage boy caught in his girlfriend’s bedroom after midnight. Welcome to the time of year known as Combat Fishing Season.
What Is Combat Fishing?
I brought a couple of my closest friends!
Combat fishing is roughly defined as 1000 or so agitated strangers geared up in fashionable hip waders, standing approximately a foot apart in thigh deep, body numbing, ice cold river water, in a highly competitive attempt to land the much sought after Alaska salmon. These river warriors can be witnessed performing their loosely choreographed dance of fishing line, sinkers and sharp hooks in the Russian River, Kenai River and Ship Creek from May through August.
A Few Rules To Fish By:
To avoid bodily injury, be it from flying hooks or flying punches, a few rules have been established to prevent becoming hooked or bloodied by a neighboring fisherperson. Among them are; don’t steal another person’s place in line, follow the rules of the river, and dress for battle.
1. Sacred Ground
No matter how tempting it may be, the first rule of combat fishing is never taking someone else’s spot. Even if they are battling a salmon though the gauntlet of fishing lines, sharp hooks, and oblivious fishermen, they will be back to take ownership of their spot on the front line with their fellow anglers. To step in and use it while they are busy is asking for a tongue lashing at the very least, and full blown fisticuffs at the most. The only thing on the river that will make a person hand over their prime spot walks on all fours and causes a major pucker moment when they stroll onto the scene. You have not seen grown men attempt to walk on water until you witness a full grown bear saunter up and covet a man’s fish.
2. Our Lines Got Crossed
The number two no-no in combat fishing is do not cast over other peoples’ lines. Not only will your tackle be forfeited when the other guy cuts your line, it will also earn you a verbal beating and the reputation of not being able to play well with all the other big kids on the river. Then, when a Fish & Game Officer shows up, which is as inevitable as little Suzy having to go to potty after you have her dressed out in her snowsuit, you will be crucified by the other guys on the river to appease the Gods of Good Fishing.
3. Fish On!
Nothing makes a fisherman happier than uttering the phrase “Fish on!” to announce his success or luck at fooling a fish into believing a sliver of metal with some bright, shiny plastic to be a gourmet meal. While everyone standing around will silently curse the lucky dog’s name, it is proper river etiquette to rapidly remove their lines from the water so that the now hysterical fish does not get tangled up in their lines while attempting to free itself. ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ doesn’t hold a candle to a pissed off fisherman that lost his holy grail to an imbecile that refused to follow proper fisherman’s protocol.
4. Tangled Web
In the event that your line should become tangled with another fisherman who has hooked a fish, be a gentleman (or woman) and cut your line. More than likely, once the fish is landed, you will be able to recover your gear. And no one will call you nasty names behind your back while they secretly stash fish guts in your tackle box to lure a bear to your surprise party. Don’t forget to apologize for jeopardizing their catch; it’ll win you extra points and maybe a beer.
5. Don’t Forget Your Protection
Like any other contact sport, combat fishing requires a certain amount of protective gear to keep the participants safe from sharp hooks and airborne sinkers. Flying hooks have been known to miss the intended target and end up in another fisherman; which any bear will tell you, aren’t nearly as tasty as a fresh caught salmon. Suggested gear for combat fishing includes: protective eye wear, hat or another form of head covering, long sleeves, gloves, and a good pair of snipes to cut the line or hook in case one does find contact with a very freaked out human target.
This is what it’s ALL about!
At the end of the day…
Combat fishing on the rivers of Alaska can be a triumphant occasion, except for the fish, if everyone plays by the rules. It only takes one or two inconsiderate people to spoil the experience for everyone. Respecting fellow fishermen goes a long way towards making a day on the river with friends and family a memory to cherish for a lifetime. Landing a couple of salmon doesn’t hurt either.