Tag Archives: Robin Barefield

Why Do Salmon Jump And Other Questions

Why do salmon jump?

This is the question our guests most frequently ask about salmon as they watch fish pop out of the water around them. The answer is: no one knows. Some speculate salmon jump to loosen their eggs from the membrane encasing them, but males also jump, so this reasoning doesn’t work. Another explanation is they jump to catch flying insects, but their jumping behavior increases in frequency as they near their spawning stream at the same time their digestive system is shutting down and they stop feeding, so this explanation also is not valid.

I like to tell our guests the salmon they see jumping are teenagers. As a salmon prepares to spawn, its hormones rage and its body changes color and shape. These jumping fish are the equivalent of a human teenager, so they act like teenagers. While this explanation is always good for a laugh, there is no scientific evidence to support it.

My opinion, for what it’s worth (and not much, since there is also no scientific evidence to support this), is salmon have evolved to jump because jumping is beneficial to their survival. Salmon that have inherited the genetic characteristic to jump when they near their home stream are more likely than those who cannot jump to make it upstream and spawn. They then pass along this trait to jump to their offspring. Evolution has selected this jumping trait. Most salmon spawn in small streams and they must navigate shallow water, rapids, and sometimes even waterfalls. If they couldn’t jump, many salmon would never make it to their spawning grounds. Again, this explanation is only my opinion, but I believe it has some merit.

The correct answer to the question, “Why do salmon jump?” is: no one knows.

Do all salmon return to spawn in the same river or stream in which they were born?

No. A small percentage of salmon spawn somewhere other than where they were born. This behavior is called “straying,” and it is adaptive because it allows salmon to colonize streams that do not currently have a salmon population. It also allows salmon to spawn somewhere if the stream where they were born no longer exists. Pink salmon and chum salmon both often spawn close to the mouths of small streams. If these streams are diverted by winter storms, as often happens, the returning salmon will stray to a nearby stream.

When a salmon returns from the ocean, how does it find its spawning stream?

Salmon must navigate a long distance from the open ocean to their spawning stream. Evidence shows they use magnetic cues, the position of the sun, and day length to know when to begin their migration back to their natal stream and how to get there. Once salmon near and enter fresh water, scientists think they use their sense of smell to find not only their home stream or river but the specific tributary or area of the river where they were born. Juvenile salmon imprint on the unique chemical signatures of the waters where they were born and occupied as fry as well as on the waters they migrated through to get to the ocean. When they return to spawn, they follow this chemical smell back to where they were born.

How many salmon eggs hatch, develop, and return as adults to spawn?

Salmon have tough lives. From the egg stage, until they spawn and die, they are a food source for a wide variety of fish, birds, and mammals, including man. Biologists estimate 1 in 1000 eggs will develop, find their way to the ocean, swim back to their natal stream, and spawn. Depending on the species and the age of the fish when she spawns, a female salmon lays between 1000 and 6000 eggs, so the survival rate is not good.

I hope I’ve answered a few of your questions about the amazing Pacific salmon. Next week, I will tackle a big question. What is the difference between Atlantic and Pacific salmon?

________________________________________________________________________

If you haven’t seen my webinar on how I became an author and why I write Alaska wilderness mysteries, this is the link: http://bit.ly/2pcCOo6. If you like it, please share it with your friends. The free book offer is sincere, and there is no catch. Also, please sign up for my free, monthly newsletter about true murder and mystery in Alaska. This month I am writing about the Fairbanks Four. Four young men spent 18 years in prison for a murder they didn’t commit. 

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

Welcome, 2018

I am excited to welcome 2018 and not at all sad to leave 2017 behind me. Do you wish you could see into the future? I certainly would not want that ability. I looked back at the post I wrote a year ago, and I was so enthusiastic and excited about what I would accomplish in 2017. I had no idea I would spend most of the year sick, weak and in pain, and I had no clue my brother, uncle, and cousin would pass away in 2017. I would not have wanted to know any of these things on January 1st, 2017.

New Year’s Day is a time for planning, dreaming, and looking forward. Life happens, and plans get derailed by sickness, death, and catastrophes, but still, the ability to plan and dream is a luxury, and I know I am extremely fortunate to live someplace where I can indulge in that luxury. I think about people who live in extreme poverty or war-torn countries. What are their dreams when they know their situation is unlikely to improve in the coming year? What is New Year’s Day like for them? For me, 2018 is shiny and bright and full of possibilities. I am very lucky.

My health is improving with every passing day.  I am regaining my strength, and my muscles are slowly returning to life. Before long, I will be able to exercise again, and then I will have more energy and a sharper mind (I hope!). I often have been told to appreciate my health, but I don’t think I gave it a second thought until now. I won’t take my health for granted again.

I checked my resolutions from the post I wrote last year to see what I did and did not accomplish. I wanted to publish my third novel, and I did. The Fisherman’s Daughter is now available at online booksellers. I hoped to finish and edit my wildlife book, and I accomplished half of that resolution. I finished the book, but I haven’t edited it yet. I hope to tackle the big job of editing it this winter. I resolved to work on the camp cookbook, but I didn’t do much on it. I also resolved to have the rough draft of my fourth novel written, but nope, I haven’t done that either.

So, what have I done? Editing The Fisherman’s Daughter took much longer than I anticipated, and while I hate to blame anything on my health, it took its toll. I only had enough energy for my job, my blog posts, my newsletter, and editing. I did write approximately 20,000 words of my next novel, and I know the story I want to tell. I am excited about the novel I call Karluk Bones, and I think it will be a good story. I am working on it again now, so I’m sure I will finish it in a few months, and I hope to have it published sometime in 2018.

I have written enough Mystery Newsletters about true crime in Alaska to compile them into a book, and I hope to self-publish my true-crime book this year and offer it free to my newsletter subscribers. If I finish my true crime book, my wildlife book, and another novel, I could publish three books in 2018. I may be dreaming, but I think it is good to dream.

As a nice surprise this year, my publisher started a website called Author Masterminds: https://authormasterminds.com where I and some of his other authors can sell our books. I have my personal information on my author page, so if they want to, readers can contact and correspond with me. The site is also an easy place for authors to discount their books and run promotions. I think the site has a great deal of potential, and I am anxious to explore and spend more time on it in the next few months. It is not easy to be a successful author in today’s marketplace, but so far, I still think it is possible. I still have that dream!

My publisher also created a webinar for me about how I became a published author, and soon it will be ready for you to see. I used Mike’s gorgeous wildlife photos and my friend Ryan Augustine’s amazing photos and videos to create the webinar, so I am very happy with the way it turned out. If you want to take a quick trip to the wilderness of Alaska, I think you’ll enjoy the show.

I wish you a happy 2018. May you have good health, happiness, and love, and may you never stop dreaming.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

 

Happy Holidays

 

Happy Holidays! I hope you are enjoying a festive or peaceful holiday season. I know some enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays while others seek peace. My holidays are very quiet, and I enjoy the peace.

This is the season when I have time to write and indulge myself in a few hobbies. Of course, I also have plenty of work to do this time of year, but I do it on my schedule.

So far, our winter has been wet, windy and warm. The weather has not lured me outdoors for a hike, but I’m happy to have warm weather, even if it is stormy. When the weather is warm, we don’t have to worry about our water line freezing, and more importantly, we don’t have to watch the deer struggle to stay warm and finally die from exposure and starvation. Last winter was very cold, and approximately half the deer on the island died. When we returned from our vacation in March and hiked into the woods, we found deer carcasses everywhere. When it snows here, it is beautiful, but then I think about the deer, and I begin to worry about them.

We are gaining a few seconds of daylight each day again, but right now, it starts getting light at 10:00 am and dark again at 4:00 pm. Kodiak Island is in the southern part of Alaska, so we have more daylight than most of the state. I don’t mind the limited daylight, but what wears on me is even when it’s light in the middle of the day, we don’t see the sun because it is low on the horizon, and mountains surround us. I miss the sun, and I will be very happy when it returns in a few weeks.

A perfect Christmas day for me will be (weather permitting) a hike on the beach with Mike and our cats, followed by a Christmas dinner with our neighbor, Jim, and capped off by a hot-buttered rum in front of the woodstove.

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate this time of year, I wish you joy, happiness, and peace.

_______________________________________________________________________

If you’d like to buy yourself a gift, my novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter, is now available for sale in both e-book and print formats. For a free gift to yourself, sign up below for my newsletter about true crime and  mysteries from Alaska.  You can check out this month’s newsletter about the ambush of two Alaska State Troopers by following this link:  Massacre in Tanana.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

King (Chinook) Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

King salmon, also called Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are the largest Pacific salmon, and they are also the least abundant of the Pacific salmon species. Adult kings average 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 cm) in length but may be as long as 58 inches (150 cm). They average 10 to 50 lbs. (4.5 to 22.7 kg) but sometimes grow much larger. The world record sport-caught king, caught on May 17th,1985 in the Kenai River in Alaska, weighed 92.25 lbs. (44.11 kg.), and the largest king salmon caught by a commercial fisherman weighed 126 lbs. (57 kg). This fish was caught near Rivers Inlet, British Columbia in the 1970s.

King salmon can be distinguished from other Pacific salmon species by the black spots present on their head and on both the upper and lower lobes of the tail and by their black gums. In their marine phase, kings are dark green to blue on the top of the head and back and silver to white on the sides, belly, and tail. When they return to fresh water to breed, they turn olive brown, red, or purple in color. Males are more brightly colored than females. In the ocean, kings are torpedo-shaped with a heavy mid-section and a blunt nose. During their breeding phase, males develop a hooked nose and enlarged teeth. Fry can be identified by well-developed parr marks extending below the lateral line. When they become smolt and are headed for the ocean, they have bright, silver sides, and the parr marks recede to above the lateral line.

In North America, king salmon range from Monterey Bay in California to the Chukchi Sea in Alaska. On the Asian coast, kings occur from the Anadyr River in Siberia to Hokkaido, Japan. In Alaska, they are most abundant in the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Susitna, Kenai, Copper, Alsek, Taku, and Susitna Rivers. Kings have been introduced to many areas, including the Great Lakes of North America, Patagonia, and New Zealand. King salmon are raised in pens in New Zealand and are an important export for the country.

King salmon spawn in fewer rivers than other Pacific salmon because they require larger, deeper rivers and spawn only in areas with good water flow through the gravel. They migrate from the ocean back to their birth streams in the winter and early spring, and while some enter fresh water as early as May, most enter streams in late June or early July. Most Alaska rivers receive only a single run of kings each year. Usually, those entering the streams first are the ones that will travel the furthest. Yukon River kings may travel more than 2000 miles (3219 km) to the headwaters of the Yukon River to spawn.

When a female king arrives in the spawning area, she selects a spot for her nest. She swims to the bottom of the stream, turns on her side and gives several powerful thrusts with her tail to remove gravel from the stream bottom. She continues to dig, resting occasionally, until she has a long, deep nest. While she is digging her nest, she drives off any other females that approach but pays little attention to the males. She is usually accompanied by a dominant male and one or two subordinate males. The dominant male, and occasionally one of the subordinate males, drive off any other male intruders. The males do not help with the nest digging, but the dominant male may court the female by resting beside her and quivering or by swimming over her and touching her dorsal fin with his body and fins.

When the nest is finished, the female drops into it followed by the dominant male and sometimes one or more of the subordinate males. The fish open their mouths, quiver, and release their eggs and sperm. The female then swims to the upstream end of the nest and begins digging a second nest, covering the eggs in the first nest with the gravel she unearths for the second nest. She continues digging four or five nests or more over the next several days and lays between 3,000 and 14,000 eggs. Even after all her eggs are laid, she continues digging in a haphazard manner until she weakens and dies. The male may mate with another female, but he also will soon die.

In Alaska, king salmon eggs hatch in the late winter or early spring, depending both on when they were laid and the temperature of the water. The hatchlings are called alevins, and they live in the gravel for several weeks, receiving nutrition from their attached yolk sac. Two to three weeks later, the young fry, as they are now called, wiggle up through the gravel and begin to feed on their own. Fry in fresh water feed on plankton and insects. Some kings, called “ocean-type,” migrate to saltwater during their first year. “Stream-type” kings remain in fresh water for one or even two years. In Alaska, most kings remain in fresh water one year and then migrate to the ocean as smolts the following spring.

In the ocean, king salmon eat herring, pilchard, sandlance, squid, crustaceans, and other organisms. They are voracious feeders, and they grow rapidly in the ocean, often doubling their weight in just one summer. Most king salmon have pink or red meat, but 3% of all kings have white meat. In Southeast Alaska, as many as 40% of the kings in some runs have white flesh. Biologists are unsure whether the variable meat color is due to genetics or to what the fish eat.

Kings become sexually mature anywhere from their second to their seventh year, so they vary greatly in size when they return to spawn. A mature three-year-old king, called a “jack,” would weigh less than four pounds (1.8 kg) while a mature seven-year-old would probably weigh more than fifty pounds (22.7 kg). Males mature earlier than females, so most jacks are males, and in many spawning runs, males outnumber females in all but the six-and-seven-year age groups.

King salmon are considered relatively uncommon but not rare in Alaska, but in some rivers their numbers have dropped drastically in the past few years. Over the next two weeks, I’ll write about the various fisheries for kings and the controversies swirling around them.

_____________________________________________________________________

If you enjoy mysteries set in the wilderness of Alaska, I just released my third novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter. If you want to read about true murders in Alaska, sign up below for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

 

Author Platform

Last week in my Thanksgiving post, I mentioned working on my author platform. Since I am often asked how I sell my books, I decided to write a post about my author platform and how I promote (or how I should promote) my books.

I love to write and enjoy creating a fictional story, but the rest of my job as an author is not easy, and I’m not good at it. My latest novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter went on sale four weeks ago, and at first, sales were good, but lately, they have dwindled. I know sales have fallen because I have not been promoting the novel as I should. My excuse, and it is not a good one, is I’ve been exhausted. As we neared the end of the season at our lodge, I only had enough energy to work with nothing left over for writing or promotion.

According to my publisher, I should dedicate at least two hours a day to social media. Lately, I have fallen one hour and fifty-five minutes per day short of this goal. I also have not “advertised” my book in any other way. In today’s market where thousands of books are published every day, it is not easy for an author to find readers. There are, however, scores of “promoters” ready to tweet about an author’s book to the masses for a fee (and sometimes a hefty fee). I have fallen for some of these offers, and they did not work. If an author wants to find readers, she must reach out and approach them one at a time.

An author’s platform is a way an author attracts dedicated readers. A platform consists of a website, a blog with frequent posts, and a newsletter where an author can contact a prospective reader through his or her e-mail inbox. The platform also includes social media, such as an author’s page on Facebook, a presence on LinkedIn, an active Twitter account, a Pinterest board, Instagram, Google +, Goodreads, etc. The platform also includes non-internet activity such as book signings, speaking engagements, and other appearances where an author talks about her books.  The platform can also include many other things, but this gives you an idea of the basics.

I have a website and a blog, and I post frequently, I also have an e-mail newsletter. I am on social media, but I do not post as often as I should, and I am not active in the social media groups I have joined. I don’t usually have two hours a day to spend on social media, and if I did spend that much time on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I’d never find time to write.

Unfortunately, while the number of brick and mortar bookstores decreases, the number of books being published increases. More than one million books are published in the U.S. each year, and it is impossible for a new author to get her book into a store without the backing of a large publishing agency. Most authors I know are not great at promoting themselves or their work. We want to write not sell.

I will keep working on my author platform, and maybe I’ll get better at self-promotion. My publisher is currently encouraging me to work on a webinar about how I became a published author. It’s a fun project, and I’m excited to work on it. I’m not sure how I will use it to sell books, but I’ll let you know when it’s done, so you can take a look at it and tell me what you think.

I’ll continue my salmon posts next week when I write about king salmon biology. My fish posts have been popular, and I love the opportunity to dive into each species and learn as much as I can about it. Learning about fish is so much more fun than selling books!

Please sign up for my newsletter so I can put another brick on my author platform!

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my U. S. viewers, and thank you to everyone who reads my weekly blog. I think it’s great we have a holiday dedicated to reflecting on what is truly important to us and reminding us of all we have.

I’ve had a tough year, but instead of leaving me less thankful, this year has made me more thankful for all I have now and for all I’ve been blessed with in my life. Last year, my oldest brother died, and this year my other brother died, leaving me with no parents or siblings. The thought of being the last of my childhood family has knocked the wind out of me. Family memories from my childhood belong only to me now, and they are a burden that weighs heavily on me. I can no longer e-mail my brother and say, “Hey, remember the Thanksgiving when. . . ?

Holidays can be sad when a loved one has recently died, but I’m trying to focus on the good, and I have many wonderful people in my life for which I am very thankful. This year, in particular, I am taking stock of my loved ones.

I have also had a rough year health-wise, but I am slowly recovering, and I made it through our busy season, so now I can rest. My illness has made me think about people who are disabled with no hope of recovery, and my heart goes out to them. Not being able physically to do what you want is tough, and I am thankful I will recover my strength within a few months.

Writing brings me joy and gets my creative juices flowing, but lately, I have been too tired to write. Our lodge is now closed for the year, though, and I am looking forward to again tackling my writing projects. I’ve started my next novel and hope to edit my wildlife book and get it ready to publish.

Working on my author platform is necessary if I ever want to make a living as an author, but I have put little effort into promotion lately. I plan to spend a great deal of time working on my author platform over the next several weeks.

Life in the wilderness can be hard. We must do everything ourselves. We can’t call a mechanic if something breaks or hire a crew to build a new cabin. It’s up to my husband and me to do these jobs, and sometimes I yearn for an easier life. Then, I look around me at the beauty of the ocean and the mountains, and I pinch myself. I am the luckiest person in the world to live in such a beautiful place, and I am very thankful. Where else could I look out the window and see a beautiful fox sitting in the backyard?

I am thankful for all of you who have read my books, my mystery newsletters, and my blog posts. The number of people who visit my website each day has slowly increased over time, and the number of subscribers to my newsletter continues to grow. Whenever I receive a notice saying someone new has signed up for my newsletter, I cheer. I value each of my subscribers, and I work hard to write interesting newsletters for them each month.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect, and I only need to watch the news to realize how fortunate I am to live in a country where freedom is a right, not a dream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

Sockeye (Red) Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye salmon also called red salmon and sometimes blueback salmon, are larger than pink salmon but average smaller in size than other Pacific Salmon species. Sockeyes measure between 18 and 31 inches (45.7-78.7 cm) in length and weigh between 4 to 15 pounds (1.8-6.8 kg). In their marine phase, sockeyes have iridescent silver sides, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue back. Due to this marine coloration, sockeyes are sometimes called blueback salmon. While they can have fine, black speckles on their backs, they lack the large spots found on other species of Pacific Salmon. The flesh of a sockeye in the marine phase is bright orange and firm. This beautiful, firm flesh with its rich flavor makes sockeyes highly prized and a culinary favorite.

When sockeyes return to their natal streams to spawn, their bodies turn bright red, and their heads become green. They are called red salmon because of this spawning coloration. In addition to changing color when they return to spawn, males develop a humped back, and hooked jaws called a kype. Breeding females are paler in color than males.

Unlike pinks, chums, and cohos that can spawn close to the mouths of small streams, sockeye salmon usually spawn in large, complex river/lake systems. Most sockeyes spawn either in streams connected to lakes or along the lakeshore in areas of upwelling. Because a sockeye requires unimpeded access to a lake to complete its life cycle, it is susceptible to habitat manipulation or degradation. Not only man but also beavers can alter a river system by building dams, effectively blocking a river or stream and denying salmon access to the lake.

The natural range for sockeyes is from the Klamath River in California and Oregon north to Point Hope in Alaska. In the western Pacific, sockeyes range from the Anadyr River in Siberia south to Hokkaido, Japan. Sockeyes are most numerous in the Fraser River system in British Columbia and the Bristol Bay system, including the Kvichak, Naknek, Ugashik, Egegik, and Nushagak rivers. Some populations of sockeyes do not migrate to the ocean but spend their entire lives in freshwater. These landlocked salmon are called kokanee salmon. Kokanees are found from Siberia to Japan on the Asian side of the Pacific and In North America from the Kenai Peninsula to the Deschutes River in Oregon. Kokanees have been widely introduced to lakes in the U.S., including the Great Lakes.

In Alaska, sockeye salmon return from the ocean to spawn from July to October. Like other Pacific Salmon species, sockeyes spawn in the streams where they were born. Some sockeyes spawn in streams not connected to lakes and others spawn near the lakeshore, but most spawn in streams attached to a lake. A female digs a nest in the stream bottom by giving several, powerful strokes of her tail. Once she finishes digging the nest, she rests while a dominant male courts her by nudging her side with his snout and then coming to rest beside her and quivering. The female then drops into the nest, and the male follows, stopping beside her. Both fish arch their bodies, open their mouths and quiver, releasing their eggs and sperm. Other males may also enter the nest and release sperm. The female will continue to dig nests until she has deposited all her eggs. She usually digs three to five nests over the course of three to five days, and she may breed with several dominant males. A female deposits between 500 to 1,000 eggs in a nest and lays a total of 2,500 to 4,300 eggs. A male sockeye may breed with several females, and both male and female sockeyes die within a few weeks after spawning.

Sockeye eggs hatch in the winter, and the young alevins remain in the gravel, gaining nutrition from their yolk sacs until spring when they emerge into the stream. At this stage of their lives, the young sockeyes are called fry and have dark, short, oval parr marks on their sides. Fry move out of the stream and into the lake where they spend one to three years in fresh water, feeding on zooplankton and small crustaceans. As they prepare to leave the lake, sockeyes lose their parr marks and turn silvery. They are now called smolts. Smolts weight only a few ounces when they enter the ocean, but they begin to grow quickly, mostly feeding on plankton, insects, and small crustaceans. A sockeye’s beautiful orange flesh comes from eating plankton and krill in the ocean.

Sockeyes spend one to four years in the ocean where they travel nearly continuously, covering as many as 2300 miles (3700 km) in one year. As it begins the return trip to its spawning stream, a mature sockeye swims even faster, covering 28 to 35 miles (45-56 km) per day during its last two months at sea. Sockeyes are prey for nearly every animal they encounter that is bigger than they are, and they are a valuable species for commercial fishermen.

________________________________________________________________________

Next week, I will cover the commercial and sport fishery for sockeyes as well as the status of sockeye populations and threats to their survival, including the controversial proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

I would love to hear your opinions and ideas about the Pebble Mine as well as about anything else related to salmon conservation or any of my other posts.

My novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter, is now available for sale at Amazon and other online booksellers, as well as on my page at www.authormasterminds.com

As always, thank you for reading my blog, and if you would like to receive my free, monthly newsletter on murder in Alaska, sign up on the following form.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

 

 

Pre-Order The Fisherman’s Daughter

 

I am thrilled to announce the e-book of my new novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers. Here is a short synopsis of the novel:

Seventeen-year-old Deanna Kerr fights to start her outboard engine as storm-tossed waves fill her boat with water. Panicked and crying, relief spreads through Deanna when a boat approaches her. She believes she is about to be rescued. Four months later, Deanna’s bones are found in a pile of kelp on the beach. Her ankles are wired together, and her skull crushed.

Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Dan Patterson fears a serial killer is stalking women on Kodiak. Including Deanna Kerr, three women have been murdered on the island in the past six months.  When a park ranger discovers the body of a fourth woman dumped in the park in the middle of a blizzard, Patterson contacts the FBI and requests their assistance.

FBI, Special Agent Nick Morgan has been to Kodiak before on another case, and he volunteers to return to the fascinating island and its unique, independent people. He knows he also accepted this assignment because he hopes to see Dr. Jane Marcus, a woman he met on his previous trip to the island and hasn’t been able to stop thinking about since then.

Morgan flies into Kodiak on an icy, December day to offer his assistance to the investigation. Only 13,500 people live on Kodiak Island, but Morgan soon realizes the list of suspects for these crimes is long. Could the killer be the crab boat captain who knew Deanna Kerr and was the last person seen with one of the other victims, or is the murderer one of the coaches at the high school or the strange assistant coach who seems to have an unhealthy relationship with children? The killer could also be someone related to one of the victims. Morgan believes the killer is a person the victims had no reason to fear and he thinks they willingly met with him. As the investigation proceeds, Patterson begins to worry the murderer could be a police officer or a trooper and may even be one of the members of his task force.

When the murderer strikes again, tensions escalate, and Patterson and Morgan know they must catch this monster before another woman dies or before the killer leaves the island and begins preying on women somewhere else.

The Fisherman’s Daughter will be released as an e-book on October 17th, and the print version will be released on November 1st. If you are planning to buy an e-book of The Fisherman’s Daughter, it will help boost the book’s ratings if you pre-order it. As always thank you for your support!

________________________________________________________________________

Sign up below for my free, monthly newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

 

 

 

Summer Update

This week, I would like to give you a summer update. Last week, I wrote about the difficult spring and summer I have had, but I didn’t want to leave things on a negative note. I began writing my last post a few weeks ago, and since then, I have gotten stronger and am beginning to recover the use of my muscles. Lately, I’ve been going out on the boat nearly every day with our summer guests; although, I will admit I’m not much help.

While I have been challenged by the physical demands of my job this summer, spending my days with our guests and the wildlife of Uyak Bay has done much to repair my psychological health. Mike took the above photo one day when a pod of Orcas fed and frolicked near our lodge. An abundant, sustained pink salmon run this summer has provided food for everything from Orcas to bears to eagles. Our fishermen have also enjoyed catching salmon.

Soon after my return from the hospital (you can read about that drama in my last post), a group of Australian guests involved us all in an interactive murder game, lasting their entire stay. The game was great fun and had us each trusting no one else in camp. It did not surprise me when Mike (my husband) won the game by murdering the most people. As if my summer hadn’t already been bad enough, Mike even murdered me!

The most uplifting news for me this season was to learn that a sow we have watched for the past eight years showed up this summer with three newborn cubs. The sow was badly injured by another bear when she was very young, and her rear end was flayed open. The injury was so bad, we didn’t think she would survive. We were happy and surprised to see her the next summer, and while the scar has faded over the years, it is still obvious. She has always been a favorite bear for us and our guests because she seems to like to perform in front of us, often catching a fish and then turning toward the photographers, fish held high while the cameras whir. The walls in our dining room are covered with photos of bears, and many of the photos are of her. As the years passed, and she appeared by herself summer after summer, we assumed she was a barren sow and wondered if the horrific injury she received when she was little more than a cub had anything to do with her inability to reproduce. We couldn’t have been more surprised when she showed up this summer with three tiny cubs trailing behind her, and I immediately began e-mailing some of our past guests to tell them the exciting news. From all accounts, she is a good mother, and all those years of fishing on her own have made her a proficient provider. She still doesn’t seem afraid of us, but she keeps her distance from humans now because she has more than herself to worry about.

We still have several weeks left of our summer season, and if nature follows its usual trend, fishing will peak in late August, and bear viewing will get better every day right up until our last day of the season in mid-September. Every year, nearly 50% of our guests are returnees, and this year is no exception. We love the mix of returnees and new guests, and I like to think of it as old and new friends.

No matter how bad the first part of my summer was, I knew things would improve once I climbed onto our boat, the Mary Beth, and began enjoying adventures with our guests.

You can read more about our lodge at www.munseysbearcamp.com .

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.

My Summer – Part One


This year, I struggled through a difficult spring into a terrible summer. It often seems bad things happen in bunches, and this has been my year for one of those bunches. In April, I experienced a painful outbreak of shingles. I live a floatplane ride away from a doctor, and it costs approximately $2000 for me to make a quick visit to my family practitioner, not counting the cost of the doctor’s appointment. I have to charter a plane both ways, rent a car, and usually stay in a hotel for at least one or two nights. When I face such an expense, I must stop to consider whether a trip to the doctor is really necessary. When I broke out with shingles, I decided I could not get to the doctor in time for the anti-viral medication to be effective, so I felt there was nothing a doctor could do for me.

The shingles virus raged inside my body. At times, I felt as if I had broken a rib and at others I swore I had pneumonia or was suffering a heart attack. The stabbing pain in my side was the most intense, and it was relentless. At night, I could find no position in bed where my body did not scream in pain, and I usually curled up in a chair for an hour or two of restless sleep. I am certain those of you who have had shingles understand the pain I am describing.

I foolishly thought once the blisters from the rash healed, I would recover. Unfortunately, though, the pain only seemed to get worse. In late May, we took our boat to town to have work done on it, and I saw my doctor who prescribed a medication to help numb the nerve pain. She also informed me the pain could last for several months or years, and I decided I’d better learn to live with it. Luckily, the medication did help, and the pain lessened.

In late June, I flew back to Kodiak to help my husband bring our boat home, an eight-to-12-hour voyage, depending on the weather. When we got back to our lodge, we were very busy getting things ready for our summer, tourism season. We are building a new cabin, so I spent my days painting walls. I also painted the long board-walk skirting our cabins, and I did yardwork and tended my garden. I could tell something wasn’t right with me, though. After we returned from town, I felt tired and blamed it on the very busy two days I’d spent in Kodiak. Then, I began to notice how difficult it was for me to walk up the hill from our dock. A few days later, I was startled when I could barely climb the stairs to a storage room. My left leg refused to work. Soon, I noticed weakness in my right leg and both arms. When I began to feel intense tingling in my hands and feet, I knew I had a neurological issue.

At first, I denied I had a medical problem; the last thing I wanted to do was fly back to Kodiak. Finally, two days before our summer season was to begin, I had to be helped onto a floatplane for the ride to town. My plan was to see the doctor and fly home the same afternoon.

I at first stumped the doctors in Kodiak, but when they consulted a neurologist in Anchorage, they came up with a possible diagnosis of Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). They explained to me that my immune system got confused while fighting shingles and turned on my nervous system, stripping myelin from my nerve sheath. GBS can be dangerous and in an extreme case, an individual has difficulty walking in the morning, and by afternoon, her entire body, including her chest wall, is paralyzed, forcing her to be on a ventilator just to survive.

Doctors in Kodiak wanted to medevac me to Anchorage, but I assured them I could get myself on the jet to Anchorage and to the hospital once I arrived there. Further tests at Providence Hospital in Anchorage confirmed I had GBS, and the neurologist recommended an infusion of immunoglobulins each day for the next five days. Meanwhile, physical therapy could work with me to determine if my symptoms were getting better, staying the same, or worsening. The usual progression for GBS is to worsen rapidly and then stay steady for a period before slowly improving. The neurologist explained it would take a year for me to recover, but nearly everyone who has GBS recovers completely.

I felt thankful to receive treatment and to know I had something from which I would recover. I hated not to be home to finish the hundred little chores I wanted to do before our summer season began, but I knew my husband, Mike, and our brilliant cook, Mary, would have no problem starting our summer season without me. I especially regretted I would not be at our lodge to greet our new, young camp helper, Emily, but Mary assured me she would orientate Emily, and they would do fine.

I sat back in the hospital bed and watched the infusion drip down the tube and through the needle into my veins. All would be okay; I would get through this. I reminded myself repeatedly that it could be worse. And then it did get worse – much worse.

On my last day in the hospital, I decided to call my brother, Russell, his wife, Melanie, and their son, Nick, in Kansas. I am very close to my brother, but we usually communicate by e-mail, mainly since it is nearly impossible for me to make a telephone call from our remote lodge. I decided to call him from the hospital, though, because I knew he was worried about my condition, and I wanted to assure him I was recovering and would be okay. I reached Russell and had a nice conversation with him and his family. Then, according to Melanie, after we disconnected, Russell decided to mow the grass in 100⁰ heat.

Melanie called me back at the hospital just as the nurse was starting my final infusion and gave me the horrible news. Russell had suffered a heart attack and had died while mowing the grass, little more than an hour after I had talked to him.

My world crashed down around me at the news of my brother’s death. I couldn’t believe such a strong force and one of the most important people in my life could be gone, and I stupidly kept thinking he couldn’t possibly be dead because I just had talked to him. I worried about Melanie and Nick and what they would do without Russell. I know Melanie is strong, but they were a unit, and I couldn’t imagine her without him.

The following morning, the doctor released me from the hospital. I took a cab to the airport and made my way from the entrance to my gate, shocked by how slowly I walked and exhausted I felt. It had been too foggy for planes to land in Kodiak for the past two days, but I was lucky, and the fog lifted just before my flight.

In Kodiak, a van whisked me to Andrew Airways, and soon, I was in a floatplane flying home. I felt numb and very tired as we skirted emerald mountains, plunging waterfalls, and deep valleys formed by glaciers and cut by rivers. All I cared about was getting home and curling into a ball with my cat to lick my wounds. I knew I would cherish my last conversation with my brother and would always be grateful that for whatever reason, I had placed the call to him only an hour before he died. I knew I wasn’t well enough to be much help to Mike on our summer trips. My usual job is to work on the boat as a wildlife-viewing and sport-fishing guide, but now I wasn’t even sure I could crawl onto the boat. One day at a time, I told myself. I would improve.

As we circled our lodge and came in low for a landing, I looked at our dock and nearly burst into tears. There stood Mike, Mary, and Emily, and Mary held a beautifully designed “welcome home” sign for me. With their help, I stepped off the plane and hugged each of them. Even Emily, who didn’t yet know me, gave me a big hug. I’ve never been so happy to be home in my life, and yes, my cat allowed me to cuddle beside her while she licked my hand, and I took a nap.

__________________________________________________________________________

Next week I will tell you about what my life has been like since I returned home, and I promise that post will be full of stories about healing, wildlife and wonderful guests.

Mystery Newsletter

Sign Up for my free, monthly Mystery Newsletter about true crime in Alaska.