Who will catch the first king salmon of the season?
It shouldn't be very long until someone catches the first king salmon out of Ship Creek, signifying that the summer and fishing season are really here. Odds are it's going to be an Alaskan that catches it due to coronavirus keeping tourists out of the state.
Over at the Bait Shack, Dustin Slinker, the owner, said he's definitely expecting his business to feel the impact of fewer tourists. However, he recognizes that there are a ton of people right here in the state that are going to be out fishing. So he's getting ready regardless.
"I think once everything in the U.S. gets back to the 'new normal' I suppose we'll probably start seeing more adventurous individuals that are going to hop on the planes and come north to Alaska," he said, "I think we will see a decline in the tourists but hopefully we see more Alaskans taking advantage of the resources and hitting the waterways."
As many know, it's a big deal once that first king is landed at Ship Creek. Slinker said it won't be long after that anglers will flock to the banks in larger numbers.
There are of course health risks associated with crowds right now. Slinker said people out catching fish should simply mind other's space to keep any threats of COVID spread minimal.
"I hope that everybody and all Alaskans and our out of state visitors that do come up this summer respect what's being put out for safety and health guidelines. I hope they respect other anglers and their personal space and give everyone that six feet of separation in between," he said.
He also pointed out that there are face shields designed for fishing that protect against the sun and double up as a mask that can help prevent spread. It's also a common sight for the anglers to be wearing gloves.
Slinker showed Channel 2 the prize package he's put together for whoever lands that first king salmon. He said it's one of their ways of getting people excited about fishing and giving back to the community supporting the Bait Shack.
Inside, there's a brand new rod and reel, tackle and lures, and a lot of Bait Shack merchandise. Essentially the person who makes that catch gets everything they need to get out there even more to fish, along with significant bragging rights according to Slinker.
So while the world remains a strange place during COVID-19, Slinker said Alaskans should take stock in where they live and make the most out of being here.
"It's been a long winter. King's are here, summer's here, we're ready to have a good time," he said.