Mike Campbell

Kodiak fisherman Mike Olsen got to taste what some might consider a perfect fishing day in Homer on Saturday. Sunshine reflected off Kachemak Bay. Temperatures reached the upper 40s, “like summertime,” according to the 45-year-old. And, heck, he couldn’t do any worse than the previous two days of trolling, when he got skunked. About 11 a.m., good turned great when Olsen hooked a beefy winter king salmon, and after a thrilling six-minute fight during which the fish twice stripped out line, he had a 30.4-pound king in his boat, Sea Alaska. It proved large enough to win the $27,762 top prize in the Homer Winter King Tournament -- plus another $24,000 in side bets that earned him a total payday of about $52,000 as the winner of Alaska’s biggest one-day fishing tournament. “I was ecstatic,”...Mike Campbell
Update, Tuesday 5:25 p.m. After swearing off the idea of leading the pack of Iditarod mushers just days ago, Martin Buser of Big Lake rolled into Tanana at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, at the front in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The four-time champion took six hours to make the 66-mile trip from the previous checkpoint of Manley Hot Springs. That's a quick average pace of about 11 mph for his 16 dogs. “I’m not going to jump out front,” Buser said before Monday’s restart in Fairbanks. “I want to be first at the end, not the first at Tanana.” Buser finished sixth last year and a disappointing 17th in 2013, despite leading both races early on. “Now there’s just too many good teams, too many good drivers,” he said. “It’s an awfully high order to win from wire to wire.” Until 4:49 p.m. when Hugh...Mike Campbell
Time to see who has sprint speed. Most of the top long-distance snowmachine racers in the world queued up in the Interior village Tanana on Friday night at the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana rivers, where the two-driver teams will rest before launching a 290-mile dash to the Iron Dog finish line Saturday morning. As they have for much of the 2,000-mile race from Big Lake to Nome and on to Fairbanks, the tandem of former champion Eric Quam and 31-year-old Scott Faeo leads. But an advantage that had been several hours earlier in the race had been cut 32 minutes by cagey veteran Scott Davis, a seven-time champion, and young Aaron Bartel of Anchorage. But on Thursday night, Davis and Bartel sounded like anything but a team that might challenge for victory. “We’re just clicking off the...Mike Campbell
Sled dog racing has the Seaveys and Mackeys, multi-generational Iditarod championship families in which both father and son have occupied the winner’s circle. Now, the Iron Dog may be about to follow suit with the Faeos. No snowmachine driver has more wins than now-retired John Faeo’s six. And barring a catastrophe over the final 530 miles of the Iron Dog trail, son Scott Faeo, 31, could follow in his father’s footsteps on Saturday. It would be the first time both a father and son have claimed Iron Dog titles. The younger Faeo and partner Eric Quam, a 2008 champion, pulled into Ruby at 3:33 a.m. Friday to start a 10-hour layover. They hold a comfortable lead over the next team to start its 10-hour rest at that checkpoint, the surging duo of Shane Barber and Ryan Sottosanti, which...Mike Campbell
A new player emerged Thursday that may have as much influence on who wins the Iron Dog as any of the 22 teams remaining in the world’s longest and toughest snowmachine race. Call it winter. The southern Seward Peninsula was under a winter storm warning expected to usher in blizzard conditions and deliver up to a foot of snow to White Mountain and Golovin, with less-severe conditions farther east, according to the National Weather Service. South gusting winds may hit 40 mph. “Blowing snow with poor visibility will continue tonight,” warned the National Weather Service. “Travel and outdoor activities will be difficult. Locally, whiteout conditions may develop for short periods.” Of course, travel and outdoor activities are what the 2,000-mile race from Big Lake to Nome and back to Fairbanks...Mike Campbell
Led by the speedy Mat-Su duo of Scott Faeo and 2008 champ Eric Quam, rejuvenated Iron Dog drivers ended their Nome layovers and roared east at dawn Thursday. By 9:17 a.m., Faeo and Quam had already made the 75-mile journey from Nome to White Mountain and were looking to put a gap between themselves and the other competitors. “It’s been a very challenging trail,” Quam told KNOM radio in Nome. “I think being a veteran helps a little bit, picking the right speed out there, because you could override this equipment and tear it up. “We’ve just been cruising along, trying to take care of the iron, keeping a good pace,” Quam said. Behind the leaders, six other teams were out of Nome by 10 a.m. Wily veteran Scott Davis of Soldotna and partner Aaron Bartel of Anchorage were on the trail at 8:12 a...Mike Campbell
A collapse of the razor clam population across Kenai Peninsula beaches has prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to close most of them to clamming for the rest of the year, the first time biologists have imposed such a drastic measure. “It’s such an important resource,” said Carol Kerkvliet, a Homer-based biologist with Fish and Game. “All the information we have points in one direction, that these beaches need to be closed.” The latest information is a 2014 survey of the clam populations on Kenai beaches. It found: • The population at the Clam Gulch beach was 89 percent lower than average. • At Ninilchik South beach, the Kenai’s most popular, the population was down 82 percent. • At both locations, the number of juvenile clams was also down sharply -- ranging from 36 percent to...Mike Campbell
After more than a day on a trail either sopping wet or bare and littered with rocks, branches and buffalo poop, two Iron Dog racers with names rooted in the foundation of this rugged 2,000-mile snowmachine ride across Alaska were vying for the lead. One was 55-year-old legend Scott Davis, an eight-time champion who first punched the throttle in an Iron Dog race 31 years ago. Davis and riding partner Aaron Bartel of Anchorage left the Ruby checkpoint along the Yukon River at 5:13 p.m., the first duo to head for the next checkpoint of Galena. The second team into Ruby included 31-year-old Scott Faeo, son of John Faeo, who is tied with Davis for the most victories in Iron Dog history, eight. Faeo is paired with Eric Quam of Palmer, the 2008 champion. “We were breaking snow through (Rainy)...Mike Campbell
When Anchorage racer Ryan Sottosanti punches the throttle of this Polaris Switchback snowmachine Sunday morning on Big Lake to begin the 2,000-mile Iron Dog, he’ll feel the acceleration of his powerful 600cc machine and something he hadn’t experienced for a while. Comfort. Pain-free riding. Sottosanti, of Wasilla, has been dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome in his left wrist for the past five or six years. What at first felt like his hand falling asleep became increasingly painful, both when riding and working as a plumber and pipefitter at Last Frontier Mechanical. “There was lots of pain and tingling after my hand fell asleep,” he said. “It got to the point where it was almost unbearable.” Driving a snowmachine that can travel upwards of 70 mph across bumpy terrain for hours on end may...Mike Campbell
In a topsy-turvy finish to the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, Brent Sass of Eureka gave up a seemingly insurmountable lead and then came from behind in the home stretch to capture his first major sled-dog racing title late Monday night. Sass passed Allen Moore of Two Rivers about midway through the final...
Mike Campbell