The Upper Base Camp
The Kanektok River Orientatation Letter


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Dave Duncan and Sons
Kanektok River Upper Base Camp


Please take some time to read this orientation as it is designed to give you a better understanding about your up coming trip to our Upper Base Camp in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR). We have been operating within the TNWR since before it was established in 1982.  The TNWR is an extremely unique area that provides some of the best fishing and wilderness opportunities available today. We should all feel privileged to experience an area that is as unique and unchanged as the TNWR.

The TNWR was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be managed for the purposes:
1. To conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, salmonids, marine birds and mammals, migratory birds and large mammals (including their restoration to historic levels).
2. To fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats.
3. To ensure, in the manner consistent with purposes set forth in   subparagraphs (1) and (2) the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents.
4. To ensure, to the maximum extent practicable and in the manner consistent with the purposes set forth in subparagraph (1), water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.
Although none of the refuge purposes relate directly to providing for recreation uses of TNWR, they do provide standards for establishing public use goals and objectives. The goal of the public use program at TNWR is "to provide high quality lands and wildlife oriented recreation, subsistence, interpretive and educational opportunities consistent with the refuge's resource   oriented purposes."

The public use objectives of the TNWR:
1. To ensure that public use programs are consistent with maintaining the natural diversity of refuge resource and habitats.
2. To provide public use programs which minimize possible conflicts between and among subsistence, recreational and commercial users.
3. To provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to continue to do so.

4. To provide opportunities the opportunity for fish and wildlife oriented recreation emphasizing short-term, low density public use.

5. To provide for a range of high quality recreational opportunities, including wilderness areas that emphasize naturalness, solitude and primitive recreation.

6. To maintain wild fishery stocks in their naturally occurring spaces diversity, abundance and age class composition.
7. To ensure availability of public use sites for the needs of subsistence, recreation and commercial users.

You will be around smaller aircraft in Bethel and in Quinhagak. Please keep your safety in mind at all times. Stay at least fifty yards away from all aircraft unless you are actively getting on, or off the aircraft. When you land in Quinhagak you will be met by the camp manager and the guides. We will then transfer your bags from the aircraft to the boats for the boat ride up river to camp.

It is a unique wilderness area in that it allows airplanes and power boats within the wilderness area as means of access. We will see other power boats on the river; they are being used for sport fishing and by native Yupik Eskimos for subsistence. We will also see rafters floating the river and should be respectful and courteous to all of these users.

The natives have been using this river for subsistence hunting, fishing, ice fishing, berry picking and firewood gathering for thousand's of years and we should respect their beliefs and culture. Their subsistence use is also very important to the local economy.

We have many friends in the village and they will be stopping by our camp to say hello. We stress that you do not ever offer our friends any alcohol beverages, the village of Quinhagak is "Dry" and it’s illegal to drink alcohol. If you wish you can arrange through our native friends to buy authentic native arts and crafts from the village. We will keep Salmon during the week for dinner, appetizers and for smoking but we do not allow fish to be taken home at the end of the week.

We practice trace free camping, this means leaving absolutely nothing behind. If you smoke we ask that you put the cigarette butts in your pocket or give them to one of the guides. Because we practice these techniques you will see very little litter in the wilderness area and anything you see should be picked up or point it out to one of the guides. This includes monofilament fishing line or anything else that is foreign to the area.

We practice catch and release fishing, using debarbed hooks. We have found that it’s much easier to debarb all of your hooks prior to fishing so that you don't have to debarb each hook while fishing. This way it reduces the chance of someone forgetting to debarb a hook and unnecessarily harming a fish. You will need to keep your fishing license with you at all times while fishing on the river.

Although we (the guides) will try to release all the fish there will be times when guests will have to release their own. This usually happens when the guide or guides are busy releasing another guest’s fish or controlling the boat. The Teeny Hook Release on the gear list is a great tool for releasing fish.

When practicing catch and release techniques the angler should try to get the fish in as soon as reasonably possible so that the fish is not too tired. In most cases the fish should be able to be released without touching the fish by simply removing the hook.

If you have to touch the fish you should wet and wash your hands to get any muskol or other impurities from them. You should gently grasp the fish by the tail and under the belly, making sure not to squeeze the fish. You should never grab a fish by the tail and hold him vertically as this separates their vertebras. The gills on a fish are very delicate and you should take special care not to touch them. Always keep the fish in the water. You should gently   take the hook out and hold the fish with its head facing into the current until it swims away.

When releasing a fish from shore you should keep the fish in the water at all times, and always release the fish in at least one foot of water. If we are floating and you want to take a photograph of a fish we will pull the boat over to shore. No photographs will be taken of fish from the boats unless it is of the fish in the water. We allow fish to be photographed but discourage excessive photographing of fish.

Some of the natives are sensitive to catch and release techniques because it goes against a religious belief that you should never play with a potential food source. Local Yupik Eskimos view fish as thinking, feeling beings and a source of food. Fish consciously give themselves to the angler and must be treated with upmost respect, when a human touches a fish, in the Yupik view, the fish has been polluted and must be retained for consumption.
When photographing a fish from shore you should gently hold the fish in the water until the photographer has the camera focused and has the light aperture set. Then quickly raise the fish from the water about six to eight inches and once the picture is taken, immediately lower the fish back to the water and release it.

The majority of our time each day will be spent float fishing from the boats fishing salmon holding water from shore and walking and wading side channels. We will rotate guides each day amongst the guests so that everyone gets to know one another. Each day you should let your guide know if you have any special interest in a specific species or techniques.

As we float down the river the guides will be constantly pointing out where the fish will be "holding" and how to best present the fly or lure. It is best to have several rods set up so that we can easily switch techniques for the various species that we will encounter throughout each day.

The cook and guides will get up at 5:30AM each morning and will have coffee and fruit ready by 6:00AM. We usually serve breakfast at 7:00AM and are on the river at 8:00AM We bring along a deli-style lunch and have lunch on the river at 12:00PM and usually go back to camp between 6:00PM and 6:30PM. We also have the option of doing a shore lunch where we have fresh fish on the river, just let your guide know before you leave camp in the morning.

We recommend that guest do not drink the water from the river and we provide purified water in the boats and in camp for you to drink. We also have several varieties of soft drinks available.

We have Commercial Type Life Jackets available in each boat and recommend that all guest wear them while in the boats or in the water. Another option is to purchase a float coat, as they are more comfortable to wear for extended time periods. We require that everyone wear eye protection while fishing.

There is no need to wade deeper than your upper knees as it scares the holding fish and is dangerous. If you use waders you should always wear a wading belt to keep water from getting in your waders if you trip or fall in the water. When you are wading, you should be very careful not to step in spawning beds as this could wash the Salmon eggs down river. You should also be very careful not to step out of the boats on the downriver side and always wait for the boat to come to a complete stop before getting up and out to avoid   getting hit by the boat floating down river. While the boats are under power the guests should sit down at all times.

We would like to mention how to react if you encounter a bear. We quite often see bears but rarely see them up close. Because they are hunted in the fall and spring they are usually afraid of people. Guests are not allowed to bring or carry firearms.

We have never had a serious problem with a bear in over twenty years of guiding in Alaska. You should always talk loud so that you don't surprise a bear, and when you see one you should give it plenty of room to do what it wants. Never run. We have found that a little common sense goes a long way in dealing with bears.


We are often asked what an appropriate tip is for the guides. This is a touchy issue for us as we feel that tipping is a personal subject. One guest’s idea of a good tip can vary greatly from another. We do not want you to feel obligated to tip a certain amount. With that said we can tell you that tips seem to average about $500.00 per guest, with some guests tipping   more. You can decide what you feel is appropriate and you can leave it with the camp manager at the end of your stay.

We want you to understand that we are there to help you in any way possible and we would appreciate you letting us know if there is anything we can do to make your trip more enjoyable. We can repair leaky waders, broken zippers or anything else that might go wrong. You should not put up with any discomforts as we have the necessary equipment to fix or replace most items.

If you have any questions after reading through all of this information, or simply want to talk fishing, please do not hesitate to give us a call.


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