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Psychologist builds wilderness business

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 1997

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Tuesday, September 2, 1997Psychologist builds wilderness business

Last modified at 3:19 p.m. on Tuesday, September 2, 1997

By KARREN MILLS

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ELFIN COVE - You could call him the fish psychologist. Then again, that might be just another fish story.

Gordon Wrobel, a Minnesota psychologist who spends nine months of the year trying to help troubled teen-agers, is full of fish stories from his other life - owner of a remote fishing lodge in Southeast Alaska.

But Wrobel, who also captains one of his two sport fishing boats, insists his fish stories are true.

There's the one about the 10-foot octopus that clamped onto the bottom of the boat. ``We finally got him on board. He filled the cockpit.'' Instant sushi, says Wrobel, 43, of St. Paul, Minn.

This summer, one of his guests caught a gull that was swimming underwater. That was a catch-and-release.

Wrobel, who grew up in Browerville, Minn., and has worked as a psychologist for Minneapolis Public Schools and the state of Minnesota, has been coming to Alaska for about 25 years.

Nine years ago, he came to Elfin Cove - an island fishing village of 30 year-round residents 65 miles west of Juneau - to visit friends who had bought an old farmhouse to convert into a fishing lodge.

Wrobel spent vacations helping renovate the lodge. With his wife Dorothy, he eventually bought in. The couple expect to be sole owners soon of the lodge and land valued at around $500,000 and they have no thoughts of selling.

``If you go out by yourself and you look at the whales and you look at the mountains, there's something very spiritual, very healing,'' Wrobel said.

A 45-minute flight from Juneau, Elfin Cove is a mix of small town and wilderness. There's no town government and no police, but he doesn't mind.

``You have all the comforts - water, heat - yet you can walk out this door and there's a place where nobody's ever walked before,'' Wrobel said. ``The fishing is intoxicating. It's hard to explain to somebody the mass quantities of fish that are in the water here.''

Wrobel's guests who come to fish have little trouble taking home 100 pounds of flash-frozen fillets each.

But the Wrobels encourage guests to do more than fish during their five-day, all-inclusive stay, which costs about $2,500 including the float plane ride from Juneau. They take customers whale-watching, shrimping, plant-hunting and scuba diving.

``What brings people back is the whole experience,'' Dorothy Wrobel said. ``We want people here who will enjoy an intimate experience. The meat hunter mentality is beginning to ebb away. We feel it's important to diversify.''

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Southeastern Newspaper Corp.

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