King salmon in Ship Creek? You better believe it

craig@alaskadispatch.comMay 24, 2014 

Dennis Musgraves caught what might be the first king salmon of the Ship Creek season, May 23, 2014.The fish was caught using Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle #5 orange skirted spinner on a single hook. The fish was estimated at 11 pounds.

ROB CALHOON — Alaska Salmon Slayers

Eighteen straight days of May sunshine and warmth in Alaska's largest city, and now the king salmon are back in Ship Creek downtown. Does it get any better than this in Anchorage?

Certainly not if you're a fishing addict like 48-year-old Dennis Musgraves, who can lay claim to the first confirmed catch of a big salmon in the 49th state's most popular urban fishery, even if it wasn't that big.

Eleven pounds, Musgraves said, barely above the size of a jack. But still, it's a king.

"I didn't have any hopes of catching any fish," admitted Musgraves, down from North Pole in the Interior to visit relatives over the Memorial Day weekend. He gave the fishing a try anyway.

He couldn't resist. He caught the fishing bug bad, he admitted, shortly after he first came north with the Army as a teenager 25 years ago.

He met a woman here who grew up in Hope. She became his wife. They moved around a lot as military families do.

Much of their time was spent Outside, but Musgraves would come back to Alaska to fish regularly. He was heading north yet again after retirement from the military, he said Saturday, when the Mrs. said, "If you're going to go to Alaska to fish all the time, why don't we just move back there?"

"I love that woman," he added.

She was visiting Hope with her family and the Musgraves' kids on Saturday. Musgraves was headed back to Ship Creek. A sometimes guide in the Interior who runs a business called Alaska Salmon Slayers, he hadn't caught a king in at least a couple of years. So Friday's fish was sort of special and a bit of a thrill.

"Even those small kings put up a pretty good fight," he said, "especially when they're fresh. It still had sea lice on it."

All you need to catch one now is a bit of luck. Musgraves would be the first to admit the early season fishing is far from hot. He put in four hours on Thursday and got nothing. And he didn't see anyone else even hook a fish on Friday, though he reported about 30 anglers down near the port "soaking (salmon) roe."

"I don't like to fish that way," he said.

Musgraves was casting a spinner. Just downstream from the railroad bridge. Just before high tide.

And those are all the secrets he was willing to reveal. Now, go get the fish.

Reach Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com.

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