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Winning not required We’re idling along on a glassy sea. Somewhere ahead of us water meets sky, but a thin veil of fog renders the horizon indiscernible at times. Behind us, the town of Valdez has revved into the full swing of its 55th annual silver salmon derby.  I’m with my brother Chris aboard the Cape Corona, a vessel of his own handiwork, thanks to the events of 2020. While many of us flocked to the stores to garner toilet paper, Chris procured gallons of fiberglass resin and rolls of the various fabric that comprise the laminate. With months of downtime on his hands, he gutted a 22-foot hull to its bare bones and built what he hopes is the ultimate saltwater fishing machine. With us today is 26-year-old Sarah Minturn, whose dexterity at untangling lines and agility on deck are at once enviable, if not a grim reminder that…

Alaska’s Other Trout by Joe Jackson Alaska is a place of fish stories. Between our abundance of Pacific salmon, whose annual runs generate staggering amounts of biological productivity for virtually everything on the food chain, along with the state’s incomprehensible quantities of pristine water, we’ve got big fish—and lots of them. It only takes a quick Google search of “Alaska fishing” to verify this. You’ll be instantly met with photos of king salmon as large as Labrador retrievers, speckled rainbow trout with not a scale out of place, Dolly Varden all colored up like clowns for the impending spawn. But one fish you probably won’t find on the internet, at least without some more pointed investigation, and one fish you most definitely won’t find featured in tourism ads, is, in my opinion, the coolest one out there: Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii. The coastal cutthroat trout. The first time I ever fished…

Biologist and Expert on Sheefish, Whitefish, and Cabin life Randy Brown first started fishing for whitefish when he was 18, living alone on a remote tributary of the Yukon. Sheefish was tasty and healthy, and gave him a good source of protein when the salmon stopped running. After 15 years during which his main jobs consisted of hunting, fishing, and bowl-carving, Randy moved to town with his wife and two kids and studied biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Today he studies sheefish, humpback whitefish, broad whitefish, and other whitefish all over interior and arctic Alaska with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ensuring these populations stay healthy for others who depend on them. —AS TOLD TO AND EDITED BY MOLLY RETTIG What brought you to Alaska when you were only 18? I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was a great place to grow up, but…

Relearning how to be outside When Ira Edwards was struck by a rogue tree he was felling in 2010 and paralyzed from the waist down, he knew life would never be the same. But it never occurred to him to stop doing the things he loved: hunting, fishing, skiing, and being outside in Alaska. “A lot of that is believing you can. It just takes me a lot longer to do.” Named “the real-life most interesting man in the world” by The Chive, Ira shares how this injury has shaped him and how the outdoors helped him become happy and healthy again. —AS TOLD TO AND EDITED BY MOLLY RETTIG Let’s start by talking about life before your injury. I grew up in Palmer skiing and being outside. The whole world revolved around skiing, having kept up a 163-consecutive-month ski streak. I raced for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and…

A time of renewal for all Capsizing in my sea kayak is one of my biggest fears. Taking a class in self-rescue is on my list, and I know that completing such a task would ease my anxiety. I’ve practiced in shallow, calm, warmish lake water—and though I was able to haul myself back on deck and into the cockpit, it was exhausting and required all my strength. I ended up with bruises. Tipping over in cold marine chop far from help is another story altogether, and one we present as a feature in this issue, about an experienced kayaker whose wherewithal, preparation, and luck saved his life. Alaska’s waters are, of course, also major sources of fun, subsistence, income, environmental data, and natural beauty. We cover all of this in these pages, from spring river breakup to a portrait of a remote island in the Bering Sea to steelhead…

Absolute Perfection The jet skiff skimmed up the Ambler River, my guilt fading with each bend. I’d sworn to myself to stay glued to home, attending to a pile of now-or-next-year chores. But here I was, heading out into the country instead. The day had started with the same grungy, rain-spattered weather that had defined the past month; but by afternoon the clouds had dissolved into a blue sprawl of sky, colors glowing, the breeze sighing of summer—the best day of the whole damn fall. As a bonus, the hordes of mosquitoes and gnats that had plagued us had evaporated. So, what to do—spend this afternoon patching and painting a storage shed desperate for it five years ago, or take a river run somewhere? Not much of a decision. The shed was good at waiting, after all.  Soon as I’d decided to duck out, I knew where I was going—up…

Advanced Lessons on the High Seas by Scout Edmondson It’s 2 a.m., dark and windy. F/V Epick bobs along in tumultuous gray water near the beach, while I sit on a buoy in the corner of the port side stern with tears streaming down my face. Just moments before, the towline connecting the net to the Epick’s mast got caught on something along the railing, sprang loose, grabbed my head, and smashed my face against the thick aluminum stern roller.  My baseball cap, caked in sea salt and fish slime, flew off my head and over the stern and floated away in the dark. I’m crying because my head hurts, but also because I’m a scared, sleep-deprived 18-year-old in a harsh, dangerous place. My captain, fellow deckhand, and I are on set in the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay, trying to catch enough sockeye salmon to stay on quota for…

Loss beyond years and miles I’ve just checked my box at the Ambler post office on a mid-August afternoon; Sarah Tickett might have smiled and handed me my mail; instead, it’s someone else. Just across the trail stands Nelson and Edna Greist’s plywood cabin. The door is open, an armload of wood on the stoop; a familiar, fireweed-framed clutter fills the yard. But there’s no sign of Nelson sitting in his spot to the right of the door, working on a piece of spruce or jade; no huge, squinting, gap-toothed smile as he invites me in with his signature “Gonna coffee!” and he and Edna welcome me like a long-lost relative; no Inupiaq legends or tales of his youth, living from the land in the wind-raked Killik River country, his family sometimes on the edge of survival. Another couple hundred yards toward my place on the downstream edge…