Alaska Vacation Lodge & Cabins

By Tim Chapman

Afognak Island, with its wildlife and scenery, redefines ‘great outdoors’.

SEAL BAY, Alaska – Kodiak is more than bears, it is whales, eagles, land & sea-otters, sea-lions, seal, fox, birds and salmon. The salmon so thick in the river mouths of Afognak Island you can see 20 Silver Salmon jumping at once. It is a place I’ve dreamed about all my life, off the cover of an outdoor magazine. It’s teeming with fish & game and a loveliness that draws independent souls like Roy Randall, who came in 1961 to hunt seals for a living and lose himself.

Randall stayed, built a cabin, met his wife and hunting partner, Shannon, raised a wilderness family and found himself. That is lucky for fishermen and hunters who experience the Afognak Wilderness Lodge where Roy and his sons, Luke and Josh, guide fishermen to some of the best fresh & saltwater fishing along with hunting for bear, elk, deer and ducks. The seal hunting was put off-limits to non-Natives in 1972 but they can still be photographed along with whales, sea-lions and the multitude of other wildlife. My son, Eric, and I flew to the lodge on a floatplane in mid-August from the town of Kodiak after a breathtaking 25 minute flight. As soon as we took to the air, the Alaskan wilderness displayed itself with mountains and inlets where whales breached and Bald Eagles soared below us.

That morning, we headed to Otter Creek with several other fishermen in one of the three cabin cruisers where we beached the boat and waded upstream to look for Silver Salmon. We saw hundreds of salmon along various streams, mostly Silvers, making their way upstream to spawn and die. Eric caught some nice ones on various flies. We decided to hike back out to the mouth. A school of Silvers were just heading upstream and Eric cast in front of them. The salmon were as strong as any fish I’ve seen and everyone caught their daily limit of 5, then did “catch & release”.

Luke, our guide, decided to take us to another river so we ran back out to sea along the coast by cliffs and rock formations loaded with seals and sea-lions. We saw Humpback whales blowing in the distance, so we headed over to photograph a 45 foot female and calf. She came up to look us over, showed off for a while then dived with a fine display of her flukes.

We fished other beautiful river mouths the next day, seeing the whales on the way out and passed about 50 bald eagles and many playful sea-otters.

On the third day, Eric and I joined a bear-viewing expedition of tired fishermen up Little Waterfalls River, on foot. We took no fishing tackle, just cameras and Luke carried a .375 Remington rifle, just in case. As we followed a trail along the stream, we saw thousands of Pink salmon trying to get upstream. We passed bear-dung and the prints of the giant bears. One print was more than 10 inches across the front paw. As we were climbing down a bank, Luke stopped and just a few feet below us, a large brown head emerged from the lush forest, thick with ferns, blueberry & salmonberry bushes. The Kodiak bear looked up at us, just as startled as we were and bolted up the opposite steep bank. The speed of the large animal put us all in awe. Luke said, “He’s a small one, maybe 3 years old.”

We finished the day fishing at another river mouth that produced countless Silvers that seemed to be showing off with dramatic leaps. Eric and I had seen Afognak beyond the bears & caught salmon usually only found in dreams. Sadly it was time to leave this great wilderness.

Special to the Miami Herald Thursday, October 3, 2002.