SAFARI Camp Season Summary, 2021
If you like pictures more than words, check out the 2021 SAFARI camp photos instead of reading the summary below.
2021 had a phenomenal silver salmon run. The pink salmon numbers were solid but not out of control (like 2017 and 2015). The chum salmon run was lighter than average. The Dolly Varden fishing was excellent, but in more concentrated areas of the river. The bay fishing for halibut was really good.
Like 2019, the silver run WOWed us again this season. Our home waters fished extremely well on the tidal flat and in the river. And at our usual helicopter fly-out rivers we pounded silvers during the heli-fishing days in late August and throughout September.
The chum salmon fishing was lighter this season. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. 2019 was fairly light, too. So based on the fact that we’ve seen salmon runs cycle up and down over the last two decades, I’m betting that we’ll see a strong chum run in 2022.
Pink salmon runs are stronger in odd years compared to even years in this region of Alaska. The run this year was just right – we caught plenty, but we weren’t overrun with pinks like in 2017 and 2015.
(Reminder: all salmon runs vary from year to year and decade to decade in fish numbers, fish size, and run timing.)
The Dolly Varden were definitely bigger than average this year. Also, because of the river’s layout this season, the dollies were more concentrated in fewer areas. Typically there is better fish distribution throughout the river, which means we generally move around a lot while dolly fishing. This year we had some stellar long runs that required less fisherman relocation. The flip side, some sections of the river that historically hold good dollies fished lightly. Also, like in 2019, we did a lot of exploring way the hell up our river in mid to late September. Wow, we found some big dollies!
Bear activity was the lightest we’ve ever observed in two decades. Sure, we still saw piles of bears, and we even saw some up close and personal, but the 2021 bear pile was pretty small relatively speaking.
Wolf sightings were light overall, wolf track sightings were common. One guide did observe on a helicopter fly-out, as the aircraft approached the creek, 8 bears and 3 wolves in some sort of standoff. Over fishing rights to salmon, perhaps? Maybe there was a kill somewhere nearby? Pretty cool sighting, though!
I recall two caribou sightings – a single bull along the beach on day one, and a herd of 4 below the sawtoooth ridge to the northeast of camp. Moose sightings were up this season, from the ground and air.
Whale sightings were lighter than average.
Migrating geese and duck sightings were heavier than average, and like 2019, the sightings started earlier than normal. Horned puffin activity in the bay seemed light to normal. But we did see a couple of female stellar sea lions, which is pretty rare on our coastline.
Without a doubt this past September was the coldest sustained weather we’ve seen in 20 years. We’ve seen colder overnight low temps in past years, but not sustained cold like this. The cold weather was definitely more invigorating than limiting, but we sure did burn a lot of firewood in the dining tent’s wood-burning stove!
Starting in late August, the big mountain near camp (~7,000 ft) was hammered with snow multiple times in September. The lower peaks (3,000′ to 4,000′) also received good solid dustings of snow.
Rain-wise, it was a good season. Bug-wise, mosquitoes were very light (which is pretty normal) but the no-see-ums (a biting gnat) were bad relative to past years.