The trip begins a bit rough: Our film crew has been bumped from a flight to Denver, where we already had a tight connection flight scheduled to our final destination in Anchorage, Alaska. Judging by expressions appearing on the faces of our airline representatives–each working diligently to find an alternative schedule for getting us there–this appears to be a rather daunting challenge.
Eventually, after spending more than two and a half hours watching them pecking away at keyboards and listening to them exchange numerous phone calls involving some rather intense discussions, they find a way. If everything works out, I’m told, they can get us to Anchorage later in the evening. Unfortunately, this will cause us to lose a half day of fishing, but at this point, I’m just relieved to know we will get there.
After a tiring day of dealing with canceled flights, long lines, TSA security checks and baggage claims, we finally arrive at the Anchorage airport, where we’re happy to meet with Fish Alaska Magazine’s regional sales manager and ice angler extraordinaire, George Krumm. His energy and excitement appear to match mine.
“You ready for this?” George chides, as we pile gear into the truck.
“Couldn’t be more so,” I respond. This will be my first opportunity to fish arctic char, and I’m really looking forward to becoming acquainted with this beautifully colored, native Alaskan.
THE ARCTIC CHAR
The arctic char is a cold water fish belonging to the biological family Salmonidae. Closely related to both salmon and lake trout, they display similar characteristics, and vary in color based on the environment where they’re found, time of year, depth they’re holding and predominant forage.
Their favorite habitats include deep, cold glacial waters, so it’s not surprising to learn few other freshwater fish are found as far north. Individual fish typically average between 2 and 5 pounds, but given an appropriate environment, record sized fish may approach 20 pounds.
A true sport fish, arctic char battle every bit as hard as any species, and as I’ll soon learn, are unquestionably among the most challenging fish I’ve ever hooked and fought through the ice.
Due to our late arrival, it’s already dark, and I’m not able to see much as we circumvent the northern-most reaches of Cook Inlet. Too bad. I know these waters loom on one side of the road and distant mountains encompass the other, but right now, this highway appears no different than any other, because in the darkness, I see only blacktop, road signs and oncoming headlights.
Sean Casper, our videographer, leans against a duffel bag and decides to catch a few winks. I don’t mind, as my conversation with George is second to none. We’ve often visited on the phone, just never met in person, and our shared, extreme passion for ice fishing makes it quite certain we’re destined to become great friends.
We pass another dark opening alongside the road—a lake. George points and begins outlining the lake characteristics and species present. Had a few more seconds passed, I would have asked anyway. After all, what serious angler doesn’t eye up potential new locations?
We exit the highway, and soon pull up to the home of Fish Alaska Magazine’s Wayne Norris to pick up the ice fishing gear I shipped ahead, then, at nearly midnight (accounting for the three hour time difference from Wisconsin, that’s three o’ clock in the morning to Sean and I) we finally pull up to the Trout House Motel in Wasilla, where we exchange good nights and head to our rooms. I’m tired, but remain up to plug in my Vexilar charger, assemble a few rod combos, spool line and start organizing lures. After all, arctic char await!