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Thread: Tustumena ice fishing

  1. #1
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Tustumena ice fishing

    I've been living on the pen now for over a decade, but I still have never fished the "Big T" during the winter. I've fished it during the summer, with no success, and I've fished the outlet all seasons with some success, but through the ice, no.

    Today when I was cutting wood I saw a group of snowmobilers go by with ice fishing gear, and I'm wondering if they're fishing for lakers.... hmmm...

    Anyone have any experience ice fishing this big old lake?

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    Default New road to Tustamena

    I have never fished the lake due to the limited access and the way you have to get there thru the river. It sure would be nice if they built a road all the way to the lake and a decent boat launch with campground.
    I would bet there are some giant lakers in that lake.

  3. #3
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Default Be careful!

    I have never personally fished the lake in the winter time either.
    I have snomachined the lake dozens of times including one trip where we went across the lake from the winter trail and all the way around the back side. We usually leave right from my dads house in Kasilof and it's not that far to the lake.
    Almost fell through jumping a pressure ridge on that long trip though.
    One of the main problems with Tustumena is that it doesn't always freeze all the way across. some years not at all.Extreme caution is warranted when crossing in front of stream mouths on the lake ice.
    Several years ago a man fell through the ice I believe at the mouth of Nikolai creek. snowmachine tracks led right up to a hole in the ice. I don't think they ever found the body.Lots of people have drowned in this lake in summer boating accidents.
    Most of the snomachiners you see heading to the lake are just riding for fun or going to their personal cabins. There are also a few Refuge rental cabins on the lake .Usually you ride the lake shore or the edge of the ice not going too far out.
    People I have talked to who have tried ice fishing the lake never did any good. I think big lakes like this with no good baythemetric maps are going to be a litle tricky to fish the first couple of times. You also gotta watch your depth. I know of spots on the lake where 1,000 ft depth finder lost bottem! Many areas are 5-800 ft in depth.
    I would probably try one of the many stream mouths if I was to try it.
    Good luck and be safe Chris.

  4. #4
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default No road

    I've pondered on this before, and I think the reason there is not a road up to the lake is because it is wilderness and they don't really want people there. It was on the basis of it being a wilderness that the antis had the red salmon enhancement shut down a few years ago. Another reason may be that the lake is a tricky one, and they want to limit fatalities.

    So Chris, there is a winter trail? Is it the Pollard horse trail? I have often wondered about going x-county from my house in the Irish Hillls vicinity using the powerline right of way and tundra meadows, then going by Raven and Star lakes to arrive at Tusty:

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    Default Tustamena Charts

    I looks like this chart is 20 years old - but gives you some idea of the wide range of depths. I still think it's a shame that there isn't more public access to this very large lake.

    http://www.fws.gov/filedownloads/ftp.../Tustumena.pdf

  6. #6
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Default Winter trail

    Sayak yes the winter trail does follow the horse trail for a ways. It crosses a couple of lakes and a bunch of swamp. I know star lake is one of them the other may be raven I don't remember offhand but it sounds right.
    My dad lives on a private drive on the upper river.
    You can get to the winter trail via the Decanter bar area or off of yukon rd. off pollard loop. you could probably park at the decanter but I don't know where you would park off yukon?
    Once you are on it you really can't get lost at least not in the daylight.Pretty easy to follow others tracks in the open parts and narrow trail through the wooded parts.
    Some years the USFWS from the refuge marks some areas with flagging so they don't get lost themselves.
    Last year the lakeshore was pretty rough due to lack of snow pretty much un-rideable and I didn't go far before I turned around.
    You also have to wait until they open the area to motorized use as per refuge regulations.
    If we get a lot of snow it can be a fun ride if not don't bother.
    Although access is limited thats part of the appeal.
    With a snowmachine or boat the lake is pretty easy to access.
    Its only a little over a mile to the lake upstream from the launch. Just be careful of the sandbar. If you draw more than 3' with your boat your gonna have trouble.Otherwise no problem to get there.
    As for a road thats easier said than done.Not really anywhere to put one that would be very cheap. you either have to bridge the river or cross a lot of swamp ( wetlands destruction). Thats coming in from any direction. The only other way would involve several miles of road and thats not going to get funded or permitted.

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    Default

    You can catch dollies, rainbows, and lakers through the ice. Even an occassional coho. Mostly the shallower drop-offs. The lakers don't get very big, and they are fussy biters. However, they are very good eating. I would say if you don't have some local knowledge of that dangerous lake, then you should not go.

    Fish and Wildlife should be ashamed at how they limit our access....one small access/road and 10 campsites for a lake that size. Guys, the feds just don't want us there, even though one of the main purposes for the refuge is for our recreation.

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    You can catch dollies, rainbows, and lakers through the ice. Even an occassional coho. Mostly the shallower drop-offs. The lakers don't get very big, and they are fussy biters. However, they are very good eating. I would say if you don't have some local knowledge of that dangerous lake, then you should not go.

    Fish and Wildlife should be ashamed at how they limit our access....one small access/road and 10 campsites for a lake that size. Guys, the feds just don't want us there, even though one of the main purposes for the refuge is for our recreation.

    I believe it is a wildlife refuge and not a recreation refuge, besides, IMO tustemena doesn't offer too much anyways, if you are looking for a better lake, Skilak has good access

  9. #9
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Yes and no...

    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    I believe it is a wildlife refuge and not a recreation refuge, besides, IMO tustemena doesn't offer too much anyways, if you are looking for a better lake, Skilak has good access
    ... fishing may be better, road access and camping is better, but you can't hunt around Skilak, so in effect, it's even more of a refuge than Tustumena.

    Keep in mind that Tustumena was once considered the crown jewel of hunting for the peninsula, offering sheep, moose, black and brown bear. Andrew Berg caught fish nearly every day of his life there. And in addition to the above, he noted fox, coyote, wolf, wolverine, grouse, waterfowl and ptarmigan which he harvested or merely encountered in his travels.

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    Default 114 square miles of water & no Access

    Any lake that has over 114 square miles of water and over 100 miles of shoreline should have better access for all to enjoy. Having better access to that lake might take some of the pressure off the other areas.

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sayak View Post
    It was on the basis of it being a wilderness that the antis had the red salmon enhancement shut down a few years ago. :
    Wait its "the antis" shutting down sockeye enhancement? God forbid that river gets more fish for the commercial guys to steal from you.

    Non Terminal Salmon Enhancement is a pretty bad idea in a lot of places, especially when the natural run is ginourmous.

    Anyway back to the original subject, maybe move to cooper landing so you can gillnet through the ice
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by akfishnut View Post
    Any lake that has over 114 square miles of water and over 100 miles of shoreline should have better access for all to enjoy. Having better access to that lake might take some of the pressure off the other areas.

    There is a road that goes up to the outlet of the lake where there is a boat launch. Minutes from there you can be on the lake. How much more access do you want, a paved road around the whole lake.

  13. #13
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Ouch!

    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    Wait its "the antis" shutting down sockeye enhancement? God forbid that river gets more fish for the commercial guys to steal from you.

    Non Terminal Salmon Enhancement is a pretty bad idea in a lot of places, especially when the natural run is ginourmous.

    Anyway back to the original subject, maybe move to cooper landing so you can gillnet through the ice
    I've been flamed by the monkey!

    That was not "the original subject". The original subject was whether there were fish to be caught through the ice, and where, and possibly how to catch them.

  14. #14
    Member NickofTime's Avatar
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    Default

    I've been flamed by the monkey!

    Deputy Fife loves to recite his text book learnings from the day before....

    (His class must have just covered Chapter 8...." Non Terminal Salmon Enhancement ")

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Oh, and another thing AKPM

    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    Wait its "the antis" shutting down sockeye enhancement? God forbid that river gets more fish for the commercial guys to steal from you.

    Non Terminal Salmon Enhancement is a pretty bad idea in a lot of places, especially when the natural run is ginourmous.

    Anyway back to the original subject, maybe move to cooper landing so you can gillnet through the ice
    I have nothing against comm. fisherman. The enhancement helped them as well. Patrick, I was a comm fisherman for the better part of thirty years in Bristol Bay. I was a fisherman when you were still a sperm. Please don't make blanket assumptions based on your ig.... um... shall we say, your lack of knowledge.

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    Default

    Personally, I'm glad that there isn't more access to the lake. A long rough road and a mile or river keeps it a wilderness lake, which is the way I like it. I totally agree with hoose35... everyone is debating with the assumption that there is no access to the lake, when in fact, there is a road leading right to the river that is only about a mile from the lake -what more do you want? There are lots of lakes with paved roads surrounding them in other places, but that's not what I want to see in Kasilof, Alaska... do you?
    www.akfishology.com

    fishing isn't about life or death... it's more important than that.

  17. #17
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default I'm not complaining about access...

    ... but I am aware that the Feds don't want many folks there. And I did take issue with the assertion that folks could just go recreate at Skilak instead, which has access problems of its own.

    Personally I have no problem boating up to the lake. It is a nice boat ride, and I have never bottomed out. My thread's purpose was regarding how and where to access the lake with a snowmachine. Would rather it stay that way, as I am still looking for answers from folks who have ice fished and caught fish there. Thanks to all of you who shared your knowledge.

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    Default try creek mouths and watch the ice

    I used to ice fish at the mouth of Nikoli Creek. We would usually ride to the cabin on the island and then through the little shortcut between the island and land. We used to go to the mouth of Indian Creek too, but the last few times we tried it we came upon pressure ridges mid lake with open water leads along side them. Spooked us enough that we haven't tried it since. We caught lakers, dollies and rainbows and even a few steelhead off Nikoli creek using whistle jigs with eggs and/or shrimp. Be very careful around the creek mouths because the current coming out creates thin ice and it is not always at a 90 degree angle........ (Nikoli's channel used to run a little along the bank back towards the island). If you ride or walk up the river from the launch be extra careful. Some years ago here is what happened to me. We had ridden machines to Nikoli and back, no problems. On the way back we stopped and drilled holes in the river along the high bank a ways up from the landing. We jigged up some great trout, so the next day I called another buddy and made plans to go again. Since it was just a short walk we left the machines at home. To my surprise there was a set of truck tire tracks going up the river, staying close to the right bank. They were not there when we came out the night before. We began walking in them and about 300 yards above the launch my friend, who was walking right beside me, fell through the ice. I stepped away from him, towards the bank, and spread eagled and slid him my pack and he grabbed it and I pulled him out. That river ice, or any ice for that matter, that has water moving under it is subject to change without notice. Please be careful out there.

  19. #19

    Default too funny

    Sorry Monkey: but NickofTime Im ganna be laughing about the deputy Fife comment for a while. That was funny!!

  20. #20
    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Scary story...

    Quote Originally Posted by gotfish? View Post
    I used to ice fish at the mouth of Nikoli Creek. We would usually ride to the cabin on the island and then through the little shortcut between the island and land. We used to go to the mouth of Indian Creek too, but the last few times we tried it we came upon pressure ridges mid lake with open water leads along side them. Spooked us enough that we haven't tried it since. We caught lakers, dollies and rainbows and even a few steelhead off Nikoli creek using whistle jigs with eggs and/or shrimp. Be very careful around the creek mouths because the current coming out creates thin ice and it is not always at a 90 degree angle........ (Nikoli's channel used to run a little along the bank back towards the island). If you ride or walk up the river from the launch be extra careful. Some years ago here is what happened to me. We had ridden machines to Nikoli and back, no problems. On the way back we stopped and drilled holes in the river along the high bank a ways up from the landing. We jigged up some great trout, so the next day I called another buddy and made plans to go again. Since it was just a short walk we left the machines at home. To my surprise there was a set of truck tire tracks going up the river, staying close to the right bank. They were not there when we came out the night before. We began walking in them and about 300 yards above the launch my friend, who was walking right beside me, fell through the ice. I stepped away from him, towards the bank, and spread eagled and slid him my pack and he grabbed it and I pulled him out. That river ice, or any ice for that matter, that has water moving under it is subject to change without notice. Please be careful out there.
    ... with the tire tracks and your buddy falling through. Spoooky!
    I once had an experience with thin ice when living out in the Dillingham area. I was a greenhorn on a snomachine and to ice fishing, so when I saw a group of villagers clustered at an area across the lake, I made a bee line for them. They all started waving at me, and thinking they were being friendly, I sped up and arrived with a smile on my face. They were polite to me, but the jist of the greetings were, "Wow (you idiot Kassaq), you just crossed thin ice at the mouth of the creek and you're lucky you didn't go through!". I've been very careful ever since.
    If you ever go fiish your old haunts on Tustumena, Gotfish, drop me a PM. I'd sure like to hang with a person in the know. I may try the river up from the landing this weekend but I'll tie a rope to me from the shore if I do!

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