KENAI - Mindy Webster, of Mindy's Outdoor Adventure Guide Service in Soldotna, likes nothing more than having a rod bend while backtrolling the Kenai River for king salmon, but early last month, seeing a pole pulse downward in the "Honeymoon Cove" area wasn't an indication of anything good.
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Located roughly 15.5 miles from the mouth of the river, Honeymoon Cove is locally known as a sweet spot for setting the hook on big salmon.
"It's not uncommon to see 30 to 40 boats fishing in there at the same time," Webster said.
Right about the time the calendar flipped to July, though, a sticky situation started to develop there.
"It just appeared and everyone was getting snagged on it," she said.
At first Webster did her best to fish around the problem, but the underwater obstacle was in the best part of the deep hole.
"It was in a bad spot. It was sitting the last third of the hole, right where we would drift through while backtrolling. I catch a lot of fish in that spot," she said.
Webster said she's never been one to leave something that needs doing for someone else, so when a salmon used the snag to snap a line to freedom, she knew it was time to take action.
"It was ruining the hole, but when I lost a fish, that's when I decided it had to go, and I was determined to get it out of there," she said.
Webster went out in her power boat on July 15, a Sunday, when guides aren't allowed to be on the water with clients. With a grappling hook and length of strong rope in hand, and the help of friends - Reubin Payne, Alyssa Whitman and David Wynche - she managed to get on top of the bottom-dwelling problem.
"We were pretty dialed in to where it was, so after a few trails runs, we were able to pull it up to the surface," she said.
Once out of the water, Webster's party determined the snag was a branchless tree, roughly 15 feet long, but with a small base of twisted roots, which was apparently causing most of the problems.
"The base had collected most of the tackle. It ended up having 50 Kwikfish, 17 divers of all sizes, 31 Spin-n-glo's and cheaters, and about one pound of swivels, beadchains, hooks and beads," she said.
A survey of all of the tackle removed from the snag. "It was like a fishermen's Christmas," Webster said.
Webster said that, with so many reusable lures, it was a sweet pay-off for the little bit of gas and effort she and her friends had expended to remedy the snaggy situation.
"We were high-fiving and jumping up and down when we saw all that tackle. Each Kwikfish is worth about $5 a piece and the divers anywhere from $5 to $10, so the whole find was about a $400 value. It was like a fisherman's Christmas," she said.
Webster said the salvaged salmon gear also gave her insight into what other anglers were using to target fish.
"Two of the Kwikfish had treble hooks, which is illegal gear, so since that was a brand new snag, I know somebody's been breaking the regulations," she said.
Beyond the free gear and learning some of the competition may not be playing by the rules, Webster said the most satisfying part of removing the snag was simply having one of her favorite fishing holes back in action.