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Alaska offers some of the best fisheries in the world

No, November isn't the best time for a sportsman to venture north to Alaska for sport fishing, although many do combine a bear hunting trip with some fishing. There are a great many varieties of salmon available in Alaska's waters, along with the best for meals, the halibut. Salmon is the most sought after, however, with some varieties considered to be superior to others.

We have made four trips to Alaska, and we fished on three of these occasions. The best one of course was cruising the inland waterways from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to Anchorage. This was the trip that we took with George Disse and the late Gene Johnson. Gene had won this $11,000 week-long trip in a national contest.

It was on this trip that we learned there are a considerable number of varieties of salmon in these waters. The top of the line, however, is the king (chinook) salmon. Nobody will name any other to top this king, red salmon. The fish has a grey back and silver sides, lives in deep water, but is hatched in swift running freshwater streams. The King salmon is occasionally taken at over 100 pounds, but are more often a bit below that. On our voyage, now more than a decade ago, we caught this prize at 40 to 60 pounds, and we did it several times a day. The halibut, a delight on the dinner table on our yacht, ran 35 to 75 pounds regularly, but we saw others with halibut that would weigh in at 100 pounds or more. Halibut is on a restricted take from commercial fishermen, as the species has been over-fished, with Japanese crews having been a bit cavalier for years and fished halibut down to dangerous levels.

After chinook, sockeye (red) salmon is considered very good. Coho, or silver salmon are common in Alaska waters, with pink salmon and chum (dog) salmon completing the list of the six varieties in the state's waters.

Sockeye (red) salmon is a great fish and sport angling boats a lot of these. Most visiting sportsmen buy the seasonal license for $100, but you could fish for a week on a license costing but $30 if you wish.

Rainbow and steelhead trout are leaders in stream fishing, along with steelhead and lake trout. These run big and angling for them is a popular venture in Alaska.

Alaska fishing is one thing that you must strive to participate in, at least once in a lifetime. Alaska is easy to reach and is a delight in many ways. Be certain to buy yourself an ulu knife, or several for friends. The ulu knife makes a great memento of a sensational fishing trip to our forty-ninth state.

Names & prices of the exotic non-toxic shot shells

When I've visited with local duck hunters I've found that many aren't aware of the names and brands of exotic non-toxic shells. Here's the lowdown:

Kent's fasteel is their super speed loads at over 1,600 fps. Their cost is about as low as you can get at $15 a box of 25 shells. The Winchester offering is their Xtended range hi-density loads, also at high density of 1,550 and a cost of $33 for 25, but devastating performance. Federal's Black Cloud pellets aren't round in shape, but they're killers. They cost $29 and are great performers. Remington's load is their Wingmaster HD, also priced at $29. Hevi-Shot is perhaps the top performer. Now sold direct to hunters from the Oregon factory, I've found them to be deadly. It's my favorite at $33 for a box of just ten shells. Each manufacturer also offers standard steel shot loads at much lower prices. Most of the exotic non-toxic loads are a combination of tungsten-iron-bronze-tin alloy combinations. They do perform but they cost important money.

The NRA and the election

The National Rifle Association didn't surprise anyone with its vigorous condemnation of Senators Obama and Joe Biden. The organization's magazines and television spots have thoroughly acquainted members and the general public of the Democratic candidates positions on gun issues.

Senator John McCain is profiled as the pro-gun guy. Actually, Senator McCain isn't a hunter, although he's said that, "I occasionally will wet a line." Of course, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been featured with an over-under shotgun on her shoulder. Actually, she really does hunt and has taken all heads of her state's big game and hunted extensively in several western states.

The NRA had a special series of TV ads made up for the voters of North Dakota and many were aired over Fargo stations. Not every member of the NRA is going to vote for McCain, or make this a single issue election. You need to balance your ideas and beliefs, considering all issues. But on sportsmens' issues, environment, clean water act and others, McCain does have a voting record the NRA approves of. Each of us has his own values on every issue confronting America. The new president is going to be faced with many tremendous challenges, and whether you and I have guns may not be one of the top concerns.

Firearms deer season opens Nov. 8

The firearms deer season opens next Sat., Nov. 8. The zones have been changed, and it is suggested that you carefully read and understand the regulations as printed in the free hunting manual that is free at your license agent. A good harvest is expected, however, the early antlerless season in far northwestern Minnesota has seen some does taken, but fewer than had been expected. Due to some lousy weather, the hunting pressure has been light. The kill zone is #101 and is in Roseau and Beltrami Counties.

Lead free venison

We've been warned that our bullets may contaminate our venison with flecks of lead. There are several things that a hunter can do. First of all, if you process your deer at home, cut generously around all of the meat around the wound channel. Discard this.

Select your processor carefully if you have the deer cut up and frozen by a commercial butcher shop. Instruct him that you will not grouse about losing a few pounds of meat. Use premium bullets, the kind with the non-lead cores. Yes, they cost more, but it does give you some additional assurance that your meat will be free of toxic lead. And, give some of the packages of steaks and chops to the food bank. Be sure that the processor prepares your meats, and doesn't toss everyone's deer into a communal pile.