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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Passage to Alaska

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  • photo by Mark St. Onge
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By Chuck Petrie

The package includes waterfowl and upland bird hunting, world-class fishing, first-class accommodations, and idyllic scenery that you will never forget

Outfitter Ted Gerken banks his DeHaviland Beaver floatplane to starboard, beginning a shallow turn on our initial approach for landing. Sitting in the copilot’s seat, I look out the window at the broad expanse of Lake Iliamna, Alaska’s largest freshwater lake, 500 feet below us. Eighty-five miles long and 25 miles wide, the center of this 1,000-square-mile inland sea (more than 1,000 feet deep in places) lies roughly 200 miles southwest of Anchorage and 100 miles northeast of Dillingham. Forty miles to the east of the tiny village of Iliamna, located on the lake’s north shore, and beyond the Aleutian Range’s rugged, snow-corniced Chigmit Mountains, the salt water of Kamishak Bay laps against the mainland’s rocky, volcanic coast. The surrounding country is untamed, overwhelming, intimidating, and drop-dead gorgeous.

Iliamna radio, this is Beaver nine three zero Tango Golf, I hear Ted’s voice crackle through my headset as we approach the Newhalen River. We’re headed back to Iliamna and nearby Roadhouse Bay after a morning duck hunt.
Nine three zero Tango Golf, the air controller at the small airport repeats Ted’s aircraft’s identification, acknowledging his message.

Nine three zero Tango Golf, Ted responds. I’m southwest 20 miles, five hundred feet, inbound for the Frying Pan. I have your traffic and numbers.

Outfitter Ted Gerken banks his DeHaviland Beaver floatplane to starboard, beginning a shallow turn on our initial approach for landing. Sitting in the copilot’s seat, I look out the window at the broad expanse of Lake Iliamna, Alaska’s largest freshwater lake, 500 feet below us. Eighty-five miles long and 25 miles wide, the center of this 1,000-square-mile inland sea (more than 1,000 feet deep in places) lies roughly 200 miles southwest of Anchorage and 100 miles northeast of Dillingham. Forty miles to the east of the tiny village of Iliamna, located on the lake’s north shore, and beyond the Aleutian Range’s rugged, snow-corniced Chigmit Mountains, the salt water of Kamishak Bay laps against the mainland’s rocky, volcanic coast. The surrounding country is untamed, overwhelming, intimidating, and drop-dead gorgeous.Iliamna radio, this is Beaver nine three zero Tango Golf, I hear Ted’s voice crackle through my headset as we approach the Newhalen River. We’re headed back to Iliamna and nearby Roadhouse Bay after a morning duck hunt. Nine three zero Tango Golf, the air controller at the small airport repeats Ted’s aircraft’s identification, acknowledging his message.Nine three zero Tango Golf, Ted responds. I’m southwest 20 miles, five hundred feet, inbound for the Frying Pan. I have your traffic and numbers.

Not that air traffic here is stacked up, but bush pilots are constantly flying in and out of Iliamna’s airspace, which also accommodates turboprop commercial flights and air taxi services from Anchorage as well as other small airports located in Homer, Kodiak, King Salmon and elsewhere. So, it’s good to know who’s in the aerial neighborhood.

Roger, zero Tango Golf. You have an outbound Cessna two-o-five at four hundred and climbing.

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