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Thread: Western Cook Inlet

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Western Cook Inlet

    Being fairly new to salt water boating in South Central, I hear folks talking all the time about boating in PWS, Resurection Bay, and Katchemak Bay. Seems like folks boat very little in the Upper Cook Inlet. I especially hear very little about fishing and hunting over on the western side of Upper Cook Inlet, around Beluga, Ladd, and Tyonek. I understand that area is plumb full of bears. Also, you never hear folks talking about going over to the western side of Cook Inlet, west from Kenai and Nikiski.

    Why don't more folks boat and fish and hunt over there?
    Tides? Shoals? Distance? Sorry if it's a dumb question.

  2. #2


    I spent 3 years as a Cook Inlet driftnet deckhand. The tidal influence in Cook Inlet is more drastic than that of the PWS area I believe, plus the shape of the inlet (more narrow than long) really moves some water, especially during big tides. I've been over to Chisik Island/Snug harbor about 5 times; about half of those trips were flat calm, perfect cruise, beautiful. The other half were pretty snotty, but you have to time everything by the tide. Keep in mind we were in a fairly slow (8-10 knots) heavy 34' driftboat, so even in crappy conditions, it wasn't too bad; took about 3-5 or so hours to get over/down to Chisik. Over by Kalgin (a little more south than where you mentioned, I know there's shoals to look out for). With a faster boat, watching the weather/wind forecast, watching the tides, I don't think it's a problem, but have to take all the precautions (survival suits a must). I've been commercial fishing in the famous "middle rip" and even in that commercial boat, I've been downright scared, what a wild event! Trees, weeds, kelp, and tons of sockeyes in that mess, very eerie to say the least.
    Back to the tides again; we've had the boat in neutral and on a big flood or ebb, we were doing 4-8 knots by the GPS. Keep in mind that the tide times vary as you get farther away from the Kenai river; can't recall exactly, but the timing can vary by 1 or 2 hours towars the middle of the inlet. The guy that I used to fish with used to run a big aluminum setnet skiff back & forth all the time from the river to Chisik, but he's got a lot of good stories!
    Be careful & don't let the sometimes serenity of the Inlet lure you into visions of grandeur! Don't mean to be such a pessimist, but I've been out there on quite a few really bad days (i.e. that 34' coming completely out of the water, with dishes, tea kettle, etc. all coming down on the floor!) but also have been out there (overnight by the Bite & tower) with flat calm, beautiful conditions!

  3. #3
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Mean streets of Fairview

    Default Tides and shoals...

    ..might be enough. I run 2 of my boats across the inlet. One is an 18' Bayrunner and the other is an old 16' Hewescraft. They have both scared the crap out of me. Good water out of Anchorage doesn't mean good water at the Big Su. When the wind kicks up, there is no place to run to. The shallow bottom just stands the waves straight up. A tall narrow wave allows the drive to come out of the water when you are on the wave crest. The wind spins you sideways and when you drop into the trough the next wave body slams you, sometimes so hard you lose your grip and have to crawl back to the wheel.
    Catch a Spernak flight to Tyonek during low tide and see how far out into the middle there are shoals. Besides standing the waves up they will also bring you to a screaming halt. Depending on the tidal action, this might be a good time to panic. I have yet to spend the night high and dry, but I have come close.
    If you get past the Big Su you have a very limited # of safe anchorages. You cannot count on the rivers unless the tide is exactly right and there are no log jams (which there normally are) I keep a trailer at my cabin. It doesn't take much of a swell to make beach launching exciting.
    Anchoring off the beach means you have done your homework and carry 2 anchors. Then hope a log doesn't hit your anchor line.
    Anchoring in the river has more logs, plus the added bonus of wind and tidal influence. I once left my 16'er double anchored in a river bight. The wind or river debris pushed it sideways onto the bank at high tide. When the tide dropped so did the boat. When the tide rose, the boat didn't. The first of 2 sinkings for me. The second was when some logs caught my stern line and pulled the boat low enough to sink. This is not counting the time that I have lost power and drifted into logs ripping the top from the boat, snapping all of the aluminum rods. It's a convertable now.
    Then there are the time the ice dam goes out and the river rises more then 10' in hours. I once found my boat 200' back in the trees. (Hagglund to the rescue)
    Now that you have your feet on the ground you need a set of wheels. Trying to hunt out of the boat is iffy at best due to the afore mentioned reasons. It is a big country and walking is a poor option. I keep 2 rigs over there (Beluga) and I spend almost as much time working on them as driving them. There are oil exploration roads, but they pound the trucks to pieces. Near Beluga the roads are maintained by the gas field operators.
    Ladds Landing is nothing more than a piece of history. It's an old barge landing that has been replaced by a private operation. A couple times a year an oil co will pay to have the access re-eworked, but the eroding bluff wipes it out pretty quick.
    Don't expect open arms if you show up in Tyonek unannounced. The village council actually outlawed the white man years ago. Try to fish land they claim under the settlement act and you can expect an armed visitor to ask you to leave or pay $250 a day. (One of mine was an actual Pinkerton detective who rolled his shotgun off of his shoulder as he "asked". I refused and took my .45 in hand. He left and the trooper helicopter showed up in 45 minutes. Explaining that I had walked up from the inlet, staying below the high water mark, he let me stay.) There is a current effort to have the Chuit declared non-navigable and therefore totally off limits.
    After a lot of years of effort I am set up enough to enjoy the place. The moose hunting sucks due to predation. The bear hunting is good. Nothing like a brownie walking up to the bait and scattering a half dozen blacks. Then tossing a pine cone on his back just to watch him ripple. Or having a sow chase her cub up your stand tree!
    Then there are days when the tide is right and the fish are in. These are the days we don't advertise. I have taken friends over and had everything go well. At the end of the day they claim the trip was something out of an extreme fishing video. They still talk about it, but few have gone back.
    Ya gotta want to go to the West side.
    Live life and love it
    Love life and live it

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Anchorage, AK

    Default I have allways wanted to do it.

    If anyone out there wants to split the fuel bill or tag along when i get around to it feel free to p.m me. If you hunt bear you need to know how to do it, because I haven't done too much hunting in my life, so I won't be much help in gutting and skinning. I wouldn't mind getting some cool pics though. I run a 20 foot zodiac hurricane commercial series RIB and it takes rough water with the best of them (and better, in my opinion). I think tuxedni bay across from ninilchic would be an excellent place to go find brownies, and most of the creeks support salmon runs. It has been a place I wanted to explore, but didn't dare cross that far with my 14 foot avon. I know the forlands rip that is talked about here, I crossed it in my 14 footer and it was creepy to say the least. Huge trees, a tv, and lots of kelp.. Sort of eerie.. But cool..


  5. #5

    Default OneRound

    I have some friends that did the trip you're talking about in an open aluminum skiff (used for set net fishing). They took their skiffs across to Big River and had a blast slaying fish and saw lots of bears. They told me crossing was not a problem but the return trip was scary cause they timed it wrong and the waves were very close together.

    My father once told me the scariest boating experience he's ever had was crossing the rip in a 24' Whitewater years ago.

    I would think you should have knowledge of when HIGH slack tide is for crossing and returning, pick a good day and take two boats.

    Also check out this website, it's pretty good. Scroll down till you get to the Northern Cook Inlet nautical map. It looks like there are lots of rocks at the mouth of the Kenai shallow in spots too....

  6. #6

    Default Middle Rip

    Where in the inlet is the "middle rip?" Sounds like something to avoid.

  7. #7
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    SE Alaska-Summer Columbia River-Winter

    Unhappy Cook Inlet

    I used to go out of Anchor point quite a bit. Had some great fishing holes and great times. Sometimes the weather would change on a dime and you had to be prepared.

    When the tide was right I would launch in the river and go out the mouth. When low tide was in the morning, I would use the tractors.

    Last year was the last time I will go out of anchor point. I can deal with the politics of the beach and the time and money I spend to go there. What really ticked us off was the "doubling" of fees by the tractors. $45 in and out one time, with the state getting $5 to park in their parking lot. A total of $50.00 for just a boat launch. When I approached the owners, they had an attitude toward pleasure boaters and said take it or leave it. They said "they charge the charters this fee and if we didn't like it don't use us, but you really don't have a choice do you?" Another words, "we don't want you smaller boats here, this is a charter operation!"

    I chose to start going out of Whittier instead. It is closer and cheaper.

    1988 M/Y Camargue YachtFisher
    MMSI# 338131469

  8. #8

    Default I'd go but

    I've always wanted to run over there too. Reasons I have not include what other folks have said (huge tides, long fetches & heavy weather, lack of shelter) plus a few others.

    Its really really silty and hard to see much in the water. I would think that would be hard on the fishing - in some areas the water runs like liquid mud there is so much silt and this is not good on motors.

    The shoals shift a lot and there are plenty of unmarked rocks and glacial erratics.

    A friend of mine told me he was out bear hunting and anchored on the western side. he tried to take his inflatible raft back to his boat but the tide was so strong his electric motor would not get him back. He had to use his oars in combination with the motor to reach his boat. Then a river iced out in the night, sending huge bergs at his boat, he spent all night at anchor with the motor on moving back and fourth trying to keep the biggest ones from hitting him.

    Not to say I wouldn't go with someone who was experienced and knew the area.....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Thanks a ton

    Thanks for your info and stories about operating on the west side. Makes me want to get over there even more... but I'll take the information and the warnings to heart.

    Again, thanks for all the info! This is why this forum is so great.

  10. #10

    Default dont forget

    If you go - please give us a post-game report.

  11. #11


    Big Jim here again; can't say enough about the scary middle rip! It's in the middle. The basic scene of the rip is you have two conflicting or different rates of water travel speed. As was said a few times in this thread, very scary and hard to explain the feeling you get when you're in it! I spent 3 summers deckhanding on a gillnetter, and have been in the "rip" more than a few times; all scary & careful. Hanging 900' feet of net out behind the boat really makes things interesting; as soon as the "rip" gets a hold of the boat or worse, the net, it corkscrews the whole shebang together and you really got a mess on your hands, which gets worse by the second no matter how much horsepower you got All this while sometimes you've got 10' vertical waves immeadiately on both sides of the rip dumping in the back of the boat. Probably the most scared I've ever been. Glad those days are over! I've spent a few nights in Tuxedni (sp?) anchored up. All of those experiences were on a 34" commercial gillnetter, heavy, comfortable, serious anchor lines, equipment; made all those adventures somewhat livable; no doubt life and death can be determined in the "rip"!
    I will say though that it is dang beautiful over there (west side) and I never really got to check the place out or go ashore, except on Chisik Island.

  12. #12


    "Also check out this website, it's pretty good. Scroll down till you get to the Northern Cook Inlet nautical map. It looks like there are lots of rocks at the mouth of the Kenai shallow in spots too...."

    I can tell you a little about that.
    When I had my 16-ft. inflatable about 6-7 years ago, I'd take it to go dipnetting. A couple of those years, I'd launch it in the Kenai and then motor out into the inlet and down to the Kasilof to dipnet. On my first trip, I came back at low tide. About 1 mile (estimated) from the mouth of the Kenai as I was trying to come back in, the water got so shallow that I couldn't use my outboard, even with it tilted up. My buddy jump out of the boat and into about waist-deep water and just held us in place until the tide started to come back in. I was amazed at how shallow it got and how far out it was shallow. I can only imagine how shallow it was motoring from the Kasilof to the Kenai at low/near low tide. The only thing that probably kept me from getting stuck during that part of the trip was the fact that I had to go so far out from the shore to avoid the dozens of set nets. After a lot of practice, you get pretty good at seeing what looks like hundreds of set net buoys and picking out which ones are paired up and have a set net strung in between them. What an absolute pain. That said, I would do it again if I still had my inflatable.

  13. #13

    Default western cook

    A few years ago I heard about a place in western cook inlet where fisherman can take their boats out and have them hauled over land to Bristol Bay. Does anyone know if this place still exsists or if it would haul a recreational boat? If so, are there any facilities there at all? Just curious

  14. #14
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    You might want to read about it in a trip

    There is a portage to Lake Iliamna via truck. I have no idea how to contact the folks to arrange it. You might want to drop Renn Tolman a line to see if he still has contact information.


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