I just spent a few days on the water along the southeast Alaska coast. The time struck me variously as beautiful, exciting and sobering.
While not the first time I've fished the Pacific amidst the grandeur of this coastal wilderness, the trip did mark a couple of firsts for me.
For one thing, I don't recall arriving at an Alaska destination in mid-June to be greeted by a north Pacific storm with gale-force winds - that's hardly unusual in the winter months, but it's rare in summer when the weather is more often sunny and calm. Yet for the first couple of days after Sport Fishing's editors and publisher arrived at Sitka the night of June 11, the wind howled and drenched the coast in an incessant rain.
Fortunately, we needed a couple of days to work on our 2011 editorial plan, and while the weather raged, we enjoyed the dry comfort of a generous living room/kitchen in a four-bedroom unit, part of the lodge at Kingfisher Charters (www.kingfishercharters.com). Once we'd finished most of our work, the weather began to settle out at least a bit, and we went fishing. And we caught fish - the sheer amount of life here (including whales, sea otters, sea lions and eagles) and biomass (reflected in huge red blobs on depth sounders) is astounding. You can get a feeling for some of the excitement we enjoyed and a sense of a visit to fish Sitka at our photo gallery.
It's impossible to fish southeast Alaska without a sense of exhilaration at the scale and primordial nature of the state's coast.
On this trip, though, unlike previous years, my mind kept returning to another coast, one closer to my home and very near and dear to my heart: Louisiana's amazing and productive estuarial marshes. Time and again, I found myself thinking about how a cataclysmic event, unnatural and avoidable, was even then befouling a very different, magical fishing place. The pristine Alaska coastal wilderness served as a reminder how our actions can ruin precious coastal resources.
We can only hope that enough lessons will be learned from the tragedy and travesty of BP oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico to avoid another such event - here or anywhere.