Tips and Mistakes Spearfishing Whitefish on the Chatanika River near Fairbanks

Spearfishing whitefish on the Chatanika River, September 2023. Photo by Clay Duda.
Spearfishing whitefish on the Chatanika River near Fairbanks, Alaska, September 2023. Photo by Clay Duda.

I didn’t even know what a freshwater “whitefish” was when I applied for a permit to spearfish them. I’ve lived in Alaska for 7 years now and never drawn a tag. I’ve put in for moose and mountain goat and Kodiak elk and a bunch of other things with no luck. So I figured my chances of getting a whitefish tag was slim to none.

Then, in August, I got an email back from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game awarding my first ever Alaska draw tag: to spearfish whitefish in the Chatanika River near Fairbanks. Me and my friend Dan were the only 2 people on the Kenai Peninsula to earn a tag.

Pew Pew Portraits with the Boys from Pig Problem, Inc.

Hog hunting guides with Pig Problem, Inc. in Americus, Georgia.
Handgun drills in Homer, Alaska with the Pig Problem, Inc. guides from Americus, Georgia.

It is September in Alaska, which means the fishing season is finally slowing down for us fishing guides in Homer. It also means that we have more time to hang out and goof off with friends since we’re not offshore fishing seven days a week.

A few days ago I caught up with some of the guides from Pig Problem, Inc. and went out for a little target practice. Most of these guys do thermal night hunts for hogs out of Americus, Georgia during the winter months and work on fishing boats in Alaska during the summer.

Ring leader Maximus Maximum was training up a new recruit and refreshing skills with handgun drills to put down charging boars or cardboard hitmen or something like that. I really just tagged along to take photos and smell gunpowder.

That Time We Caught a 100-Pound Halibut Hooked in the Tail

Two very happy anglers holding their catch aboard the Storm Petrel in spring 2020.

A light, icy breeze blew down Cook Inlet at we headed out of Homer, Alaska in the spring of 2020. The cloud ceiling was high, but the air was still filled with a grey morning light. A slight chop rippled the smooth, deep green ocean water as we throttled down in a thicket of kelp blooms north of Homer.

Fishing those areas can often be slow, but the fish are usually plump and healthy, and sometimes there are lunkers cruising the shallows looking for an easy meal.

It was early morning, maybe 7:30 a.m., when I threw anchor over the side of the Storm Petrel in just 30 feet of water. The stern of the boat pointed south with the gentle pull of an outgoing tide. My guys took their rods and dropped bait to the bottom — it didn’t take long to get down.

Some Gritty Black and White Photos of Days N’ Daze Playing Live in Homer, Alaska

Days N' Daze play live at Alice's Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. July 30, 2023. Photo by Clay Duda.
Days N’ Daze play live at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. July 30, 2023.

Dude, I used to love concert photography. Back in the day when I worked as an editor at Creative Loafing Atlanta (RIP), I used to go photograph shows weekly, sometimes more. It wasn’t really in my job description as “Digital Editor” or whatever, and I made salary so they didn’t really pay me to do it, but I got to see a lot of really cool shows for free and got to meet and hang with some pretty cool people.

That’s one of my biggest peeves about now living at the end of the road in Alaska — there’s not very many touring bands coming through. Probably because there is no “touring through.” You get to Homer, and you either stay or you turn around. I prefer to stay.