First Signs of Spring Poking Through Melting Snows
SLOWLY: Animals, fish begin to appear, but winter still
grips most of the state
Craig Medred / Anchorage Daily News / April 11, 2004
Spring comes late to Alaska even in the mildest years.
April showers might bring May flowers elsewhere, but here April showers just
speed the snow melt.
One thing that's true in Alaska almost every year: April skiing is far better
than April fishing -- if there is April fishing.
Most years, the ice isn't gone from local lakes until the end of the month. Some
years, it hangs on into May.
And the farther north one goes, the more wintry it gets. Big Lake ice often remains
until late May. Lake Louise's might linger into June. If you're thinking about
fishing either one now, you probably ought to be thinking ice fishing.
But spring always comes.
Even when the open-water fishing season remains weeks away, there are always
encouraging signs come April.
The most obvious change has come and gone with the passing of the spring equinox
on March 20. After that seemingly endless winter of darkness, the days are now
half full of light and gaining minutes every day.
This is the light that will change everything: melting the snow, nursing vegetation
back to life, sparking that short, lush bloom that leaves summer visitors to
the state amazed at the greenness of it all.
It'll be weeks before residents take note of that. Count on several weeks of
a white-and-brown landscape.
But some of the wild creatures have already voted with fins and wings on their
faith in summer's arrival.
Gray whales are back, finning their way up the coast past Seward to summer feeding
grounds in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.
Meanwhile, the first Canada geese have returned to Anchorage, as they almost
always do the first week of April. More will filter in daily, looking for possible
nesting sites or pausing to feed on the first green shoots, hopefully, before
By about mid-month, the first black bears will be nosing out of their dens in
Prince William Sound. Although some already have been reported on the Kenai Peninsula,
it will likely be another two weeks or so before one looks for goodies in an
Anchorage bird feeder.
Grizzly bears are another matter. Some of them may already be out, and by the
middle of the month skiers on the trail from Arctic Valley to Indian -- where
the skiing could remain fine into May this year -- should be on the lookout for
fresh tracks and big, brown bodies.
Hooligan will pass through the Indian area about the same time. The first of
the many anadromous fishes to return to Southcentral Alaska waters, hooligan
usually nose into Turnagain Arm by mid-month and can be found in decent numbers
by the end of April.
But the fishing season doesn't really start in earnest until May 1, when the
boat-launch tractors start working the beaches at Deep Creek and charter boats
in Homer and Seward begin regular halibut trips.
There will be both halibut and king salmon in Cook Inlet by then, though the
fishing season never seems to start as fast as an angler would like. By about
May 5, some lucky angler should have caught the first king salmon of the year
in Anchorage's downtown Ship Creek.
The Kenai River is likely to produce a king about the same time, but the fishing
will be slow in most waters until late May. There will be far more people fishing
than catching until then.
To the north of Anchorage, the ice probably will be going out of Palmer-area
lakes around the first week in May, and the Susitna River will remain iced up.
Don't expect to be able to get a boat in the water there before about May 15.
That's when spring really begins to unfold in Southcentral.
By then, the moose are starting to drop their calves, the bears are out in earnest,
the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is gearing up the stocking truck for visits
to local lakes, and enough king salmon have made their way back into the region
that an angler has a real chance of hooking something.
By June 1, many will almost be able to forget the winter of near-record snows.
Snow season will quickly fade, but for fans of endless winter, it is worth noting
the first signs won't be far away -- late July or August.
Skiers usually can get a few runs down Tincan Mountain in Turnagain Pass in July,
and early July hikers on the Resurrection or Crow Pass trails are still likely
to find significant amounts of snow up high.
Alaska might not be "Seward's Icebox,'' but parts of it come close.
This is, all in all, a better state for those who love to ski, or relax by a
roaring fire, than for those who love to fish. But the latter do get about four
months of frenzied activity every year.
It's just around the corner.
Hang in there.
Daily News Outdoor editor Craig Medred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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