Back at the Cannery

carman_cannery.jpgThe Final Resting Place of Carman – Peter Pan Cannery, Dillingham AK | Photo by Ben Knight

Dear Readers,

It has been hard to find a moment to offer my voice to our blog. With the 20 hours of light with the best light quality coming around 12am it has been hard to make time for an update – and there is much to update you on.

We have had an incredible amount of support on the ground here in Bristol Bay. People have been wonderfully kind and inviting.

Local guide and business owner Patricia Edel made our initial welcome over at the Blue Fly B&B (we highly recommend her spot at, but be careful as she can drink you under the table) in King Salmon.

Mark Emery was quick to take us under his wing guiding us out on the Naknek river and answering our every query in regards to filming in Bristol Bay. He has been shooting for National Geograohic and guiding in the area for the last 23 years. You da man Mark! You can check out his work at

After our first 2 days in King Salmon we flew over to Dillingham on a 45 minute puddle jumper to meet the mystery “trout lady” (although she has a hard time catching em) – Lauren Oakes of AK TU and to film a big anti-pebble rally. Norm Van Vector at the Peter Pan Cannery, the oldest cannery in Dilligham hooked it up for us with some dorm style living and amazing mess hall grub. Ben finally got his halibut on. The cannery is pretty rad and has been cranking out processed salmon for over 100 years here in Dillingham.

Ok than it was back to King Salmon to meet Ryan Peterson of the Fly Shop and try to get some more trophy bows out of the Naknek. Ryan flew up from Redding, California to spend some time with us and dial us in on the AK scene. He is an Alaska native like the giant bows here in Bristol Bay. Ryan had been a guide on the Naknek but has since moved on to guide the more exotic waters of Kamchatka in Russia. He still makes an annual pilgrimage back to the Naknek in search of native wild 30+” bows that are not found anywhere else on the globe. Unfortunately our timing was a bit off and the annual smolt run was fickle and rainbows were not caught in abundance, although we did manage a couple with each outing.

The Naknek is a super short (25 miles or so) river that supports some of the largest native rainbows in the world due to the super abundance of smolt and spawning salmon and the health and proximity of Naknek lake. The fish are very close to steelhead in appearance and size but rather than making an oceanic run they migrate to the lake and then spawn in the rivers. Late fall is apparently the time to take the biggest fish of the year when they return to the river to feast on eggs and flesh of spawning sockeye.

Ryan enlightened us with his vast knowledge of AK politics (he worked in the state legislation before moving south to CA and The Fly Shop). He also brought an international perspective on bows that conveyed the uniqueness of the Naknek system. Thanks for making the trip up Ryan.

So here we are back at the cannery loitering around the Peter Pan boat yard trolling for seasoned fisherman to allow us into their tiny living spaces and share their thoughts for the camera. Everyone keeps telling us we look too clean for the boat yard. We do manage to stick out as we are clad in capilene with nylon pants and gore-tex shoes with no grease on our hands.

Our immediate hope is to profile the various approaches to catching the wall of Sockeye that will soon descend on Bristol Bay. As far as commercial techniques you are pretty much either a set-netter or a drift netter. Both have their nuances and techniques for maximum efficiency. We have gotten hooked up with some of the best of each discipline and look forward to getting out on the water with them when the fish finally show up. Right now, we are pointing our cameras in their faces as prep their boats and ready them for the onslaught of sockeyes. It appears to be a late spring this year with only small pulses of Kings in the system. Towards the end of the month the sockeye show up in earnest and then it is non stop for a month with around the clock netting.

Stay tuned…


One thought on “Back at the Cannery

  1. Greetings –

    Great review – now this all makes me want to visit King Salmon even more. I grew up with Patty, I could have told you not to challenge her to well … anything really she can turn up to be more competitive than you’d expect at first!

    We just posted a feature of Blue Fly on our blog site.

    Sounds like you had a great trip – we hope to get out to Alaska within the next few years. I’m dying to try for some of the big rainbows, and we are looking into probably a Caribou hunt along the way as well.


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