Alaska Excursions

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Outdoor Life names Kodiak 4th best for sportsmen

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Outdoor Life names Kodiak 4th best for sportsmen

What's better, bagging a giant king salmon or a kokanee, the landlocked red salmon that rarely exceeds 14 inches? A Kodiak brown bear more than 1,000 pounds or a chukar, a small game bird in the pheasant family? Outdoor Life magazine, apparently, prefers modest species gathered in pleasant weather.

ISLAND PARADISE: Magazine ranks town fourth in America for sportsmen; Bend, Ore., is No. 1.

What's better, bagging a giant king salmon or a kokanee, the landlocked red salmon that rarely exceeds 14 inches?

A Kodiak brown bear more than 1,000 pounds or a chukar, a small game bird in the pheasant family?

Outdoor Life magazine, apparently, prefers modest species gathered in pleasant weather.

The venerable magazine's editors, who work out of Park Avenue offices in New York City, weighed an array of factors before ranking Kodiak the No. 4 town in America for sportsmen. Bend, Ore., was the top pick followed in order by Pinedale, Wyo., and Rapid City, S.D. Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula was No. 6.

In gushing prose, editors lauded Bend's "300 sun-filled days to enjoy this embarrassment of sporting riches," including excellent chukar hunting and "great gunning for all the species that course the Pacific Flyway each fall." Oregon anglers can find "enormous brown trout and plentiful kokanee salmon" on their doorstep.

Pity poor Kodiak.

Last year, the biggest bear an island hunter brought home was a brownie estimated at 1,000 pounds.

King salmon fishing was so dismal that two of Kodiak's major rivers, the Karluk and the Ayakulik, were closed to king anglers much of the year. Amid that bad news, it's no surprise that word of the 73-pounder caught by Rick Baker in the Kodiak King Salmon Sportfishing Tournament never reached Park Avenue. In fact, anglers needed a 69-pounder to even place in the island's king derby, which begins May 15.

Wasilla angler Andy Workman's 400-pound halibut, caught out of Port Lions, probably was overlooked too.

But, hey, Bend residents can bask in all their sunshine. The National Weather Service says that Kodiak gets only 58 clear days a year. Half probably came during winter.

Weather isn't an official factor for the Outdoor Life rankings. Instead, editors examined a combination of statistical measures in two broad categories.

A town's outdoors score, worth 60 percent, considers such things as proximity to recreational land and waterways, gun friendliness, the prospect of encountering trophy fish or wildlife and the variety of species in the area.

Weighted 40 percent is a quality-of-life score that includes median household income, cost of living, cultural institutions and access to quality heath care. To mix things up a bit, editors double-weight certain categories. This year, a low unemployment rate and high medial household income were worth more.

The rankings began in 2008.

"It's extremely popular," Outdoor Life senior editor John Taranto said.

Previous winners have included Mountain Home, Ark. (2008), Lewiston, Idaho (2009) and Rapid City, S.D. (2010). Now Bend is No. 1.

"We're not the first publication to tout Bend. It's been very popular for a decade or so," Taranto said.

Fueled by Californians moving north and East Coasters moving west, Bend's population has grown nearly 50 percent in a decade to reach 76,62. At the same time, the magazine noted, median household income has risen 30 percent since 2000, to $53,177.

A 2009 visitor survey showed about 42 percent of roughly 2 million annual visitors come to Bend to enjoy the region's outdoor recreation, including 12 percent who come for the fishing, Kevney Dugan, director of sales and sports development at Visit Bend, told the Bend Bulletin.

"Fishermen come to Bend because this area has a reputation as one of the best fly-fishing destinations in the world," Scott Cook, an owner of Fly and Field Outfitters, told the newspaper. "Some of my favorite spots to hunt and fish are within 15 or 20 minutes of town. Having opportunities that close to town allows me to still enjoy my passions."

Trevor Brown, executive director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, said he was proud Kodiak earned the highest finish ever by an Alaska town.

"It's a great honor," he said. "Obviously, we have wonderful fishing right here. I've gotten 150-pound halibut right in the channel outside of the harbor.

"We get overlooked a lot because we're not on the road system."

Even farther off the road system is another Kodiak Island town. Old Harbor, an Alutiiq village on the southeast side of the island, about 40 air miles from Kodiak. It nailed the No. 83 ranking.

"It may possibly bring a little more attention to our community," said Cynthia Berns-Lopez, vice president of the Old Harbor Native Corporation. "I'd like to think we may have the best fishing in all of Alaska."


Reach reporter Mike Campbell at mcampbell@adn.com or 257-4329.

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