Mike Merlow stood at the edge of Fish Creek Pond, holding a twitching lightweight rod and reel. The fish at the end of his line rose out of the water and performed, short-dancing on its tail before plunging back into the drink with a loud "slap."
Merlow looked around nervously as his rod lurched again, forcing him to take another step closer to the pond.
"I only have 14-pound test," he said. "I don't want him to break my line."
Just then a group of anglers came into the clearing of the pond, carrying fishing gear.
"Do you need a net?" cried out one of the group, who was already reaching to get his net and heading towards Merlow.
"He's not going to hold for long," the netter said, seeing that Merlow's weighted treble hook was tearing away from the flesh where the king salmon was hooked. "Just a little closer."
Merlow made one last pull to get the fish close enough to the edge, and with one quick dip, the salmon was netted. Merlow grabbed the gills, hoisted it up and said, "Looks like about 18 pounds."
This is a typical sight at Fish Creek Pond, the small king salmon gathering point just past the Eaglecrest turn-off on North Douglas Highway.
Although king salmon fishing dropped off in the Juneau area in the past week in the open water, there are still ample opportunities to stock up in Fish Creek pond.
Alaska Fish and Game wants anglers to "harvest as many as possible" in the pond and special rules are in place to make it easier pull in some of the last spawning chinooks in the area.
Fishermen are allowed to use bait, snag, and modify lures and hooks to aid in snagging. The usual 28-inch minimum size restriction does not apply to the pond and anglers are allowed to take four kings each.
For nonresidents, king salmon caught in the pond do not count toward their total king count of three for the year. It is also important to note that these special rules only apply toward Fish Creek Pond and not the adjacent Fish Creek.
The quality of the salmon right now is hit-and-miss. Plenty of bright, chrome-colored kings can be seen constantly breaking the surface of the pond. However, hooking into one can prove to be difficult.
"The darker kings are still pretty good," Nick McCullogh of Washington said. "They're a lot better than cohos when they start turning color. I smoke 'em up and they're good."
Others use the easy-to-catch kings as crab bait, while some just fish for fun.
Fishing purists will argue that snagging is not "really fishing," but it does give less-experienced anglers a shot to fight a big fish without spending endless hours trolling the green sea.
"My dad is a river fishing guide in Oregon," Jake Eide said. "He'd be pretty disappointed in me if he found out I was snagging."
Eide, who works for the Coast Guard, said he started fishing with a Foxtail lure, but after seeing others hook into fish on their first cast, he switched to the weighted treble hook.
"I'm a first-time snagger," Eide said. "Usually, I fish for salmon and steelhead in Oregon."
Some suggestions for a more enjoyable time of snagging at Fish Creek pond include:
Bring bug repellent. Some of the most ferocious gnats in the area make Fish Creek pond their home.
Bring plenty of extra hooks and line. Always be prepared.
Bring a net or gaff hook. You can't always depend on others to land your fish.
Respect others, especially on crowded days. There are more than enough fish to go around. Try not to cross lines and if someone hooks into a fish, give them room to land it.
Good snagging opportunities will last for only a couple more weeks, so better get them now.
Jeff Kasper is a free-lance writer and former Empire sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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