That Alaska-based nonprofit we’ve told you about before, APICDA (Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association), has made another big step in the direction of becoming a major player in Alaskan sportfishing. What it’s done is bought Sandy River Lodge, a highly regarded place for steelhead and kings on the Alaska Peninsula. Sandy River also has a respectable run of silvers.
Sandy River Lodge is in the same general area as APICDA’s fishing camps on the Sapsuk River and Steelhead River. The company’s other fishing operations are on the Island of Umnak (the community of Nikolski) and False Pass. The latter offers fishing for halibut that have seen very little pressure.
APICDA is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Corporations that receive and manage Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands commercial fishing quotas for the express purpose of assisting Native Alaskan communities. APICDA’s member communities are Akutan, Atka, False Pass, Nelson Lagoon, Nikolski, and St. George. APICDA, at this point, is the only CDQ Corporation to broaden its mandate to help member communities by diversifying into sportfishing, as well as hunting. In that latter regard, the purchase of Sandy River Lodge brings with it the permits and client base to offer a limited number of bear hunts. Those will augment the company’s reindeer and sea duck hunts, which are already ongoing on Nikolski and near Nelson Lagoon. Bird-watching and other general tourist activities are also on the drawing board.
“The addition of Sandy River Lodge to our current tourism operations is an exciting opportunity for APICDA,” is the way APICDA CEO Larry Cotter described this latest move in a recent press release. “The lodge will provide additional employment for residents of our member communities and generate a positive cash flow. I see the lodge as the next step in APICDA’s overall expansion of tourism as a focus for economic development in the region.”
The appeal of all this to anglers is twofold. On the one hand, when you fish with APICDA, it simply feels good to know your trip fees are going toward a good cause. Native Alaskans, like Indians in the Lower 48 States, are struggling with cultural change. Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and suicide are rampant in many communities. The way forward for these communities lies in the direction of dignified employment, both in commercial fishing and in lodge management, guiding, and other tourism-related positions.
The second appeal to anglers is the low-key way APICDA runs its fishing operations. As a nonprofit, APICDA does not have to cram its facilities with guests every week. And, so far, it has not yielded to the pressure to gentrify its camps. Comfortable cots, good and wholesome food, a relaxed pace—those have been the things I remember about my own APICDA trip to Nelson Lagoon. That trip down the beach from Nelson Lagoon to APICDA’s Steelhead River camp remains one of the most remarkable journeys I have ever taken after decades of knocking around fishing and hunting camps around the world. Whale vertebrae half buried in the sand . . . a brown bear stalking an exhausted seal on the beach . . . veritable stacks of collectible-quality Japanese net balls washed into remote coves . . . a pack of wolves running down the beach.
In my experience, you just don’t often encounter things like that on highticket lodge trips any more. Maybe, with the purchase of an already operational lodge, some of the serendipity and adventure will begin to flow out of APICDA trips. Somehow I doubt it, however.
Postscript: You can find out more about all of APICDA’s fishing trips, including those to Sandy Creek Lodge, by going to the company’s website: www.aleutianadventures.com. There will likely be nothing on the site yet about Sandy River Lodge, so call and ask for General Manager George Weaver: 888-430-8329. As this is written, we are working on a FREE Fishing Trip to Sandy River Lodge. If you are an Online Extra subscriber and you haven’t already received your invitation to throw your hat in the ring for this trip, be on the lookout for it.