Sunday, August 10, 2008



About a year ago, a friend of mine, Gary, called and asked if I was interested in getting together a fishing trip. He suggested perhaps somewhere in Canada because he had a friend who had returned from there with lots of fish. He called me because I am the resident trip planner. Actually he wanted someone else to do all the leg work and since I was going to be that person, it allowed me to pick the place I wanted to go. After considerable research, mostly on the Internet, I settled on Frontier Charters in Sitka, Alaska. The prices were cheaper than Canada and you didn’t have to mess with going though customs. The trip chosen entailed two travel days and four full days of fishing.

Frontier Charters is a full service outfit. The trip included, meals, lodging, fishing license, fish processing and packaging for the trip home. We lucked out with the airfare, purchasing it last October we saved about $300 per ticket over the current prices. Although I offered to include others in the trip, we ended up with just three of us. Friend Gary, son Eric and myself.

We arrived in Sitka in the early afternoon and were met at the airport by Justin who got us checked in to our hotel for the 1st night. Subsequent nights would be at the lodge. With the afternoon free, we explored Sitka along with the numerous cruise ship passengers who crowd the small town each day. For dinner, Justin arrived and took us to the lodge for the first of many fine meals prepared by “D” the lodge chef.

The next morning at 5:50 am, the lodge van picked us up and took us to the docks. There we were assigned our boat, the Arctic Diver and met Captain Dan who would be our guide for the next four days of fishing. Also on board was Mike who made our fourth fisherman. Although the boat can accommodate six fishermen, Frontier Charters only assigns four fishermen to each of their boats. Captain Dan explained the ground rules and we got under way.

We headed out of Sitka Harbor into open water. Sitka is situated on the west coast of Alaska and not on the Inland Passage. Consequently the water can get rough, but we were pretty lucky as most of the time we experienced calm seas. Only one day was I glad I got a prescription for seasick patches with seas running around four feet. Most days it would take 45 to 60 minutes to get to the fishing grounds, with Captain Dan using the GPS to locate his favorite spots. When fishing for Salmon, we used the mooching technique. Dan, using his fish finder, would tell us how deep the fish were and we would drop the bait down though the fish and back up again. Salmon fishing was just so-so, with only seven Silvers caught in four days.

When we fished for Halibut, we fished off the bottom with a huge hook baited with various fish parts. The leader on this set up was a ¼ inch nylon rope. We fished in water anywhere from 150 to 350 feet deep. 350 feet is a long way to drag up a big fish. It’s actually a long way to drag up any size fish, as we soon learned. Patience is the key in catching Halibut. It was really hard not to grab the pole and the first sign of a bite. As Captain Dan would tell us on numerous occasions, “wait, wait, not yet, wait” and when the fish pulled hard, “reel, reel, REEL, REEL, REEL”. Sometimes the fish was not hooked, but when it was you pulled hard and for what seemed like forever, until finally when you thought you couldn’t last any longer, the fish was finally on the surface.

Some of the fish we struggled to bring up were not what we were looking for. Ling Cod was one of those. When the first Ling Cod was brought up, by Mike, who by the way brought up lots and became known as "Ling Cod Mike", we all looked at the fish and exclaimed, “Wow, that’s a big fish!” Unfortunately they are not in season and had to be released. When they are in season they have to be between 30 and 35 inches. So when the next on was brought up, “Oh, it’s another big Ling Cod!” And so it went, “another @#%*&^& Cod” and more “*#^&%$ Cod, and more and more. Throw in the same number of sharks and you begin to get tired.

Every so often the right kind of fish decided to grace us with their presences and we managed to get our fair share of Halibut. Eric caught the biggest, weighing in at 63 pounds. I hauled one up weighing around 52 pounds. Altogether the count was 12 between the four of us. Throw in 4 Yellow Eye, a kind of Red Snapper, and 60, yes 60, Black Bombers, better known as Black Sea Bass, and it adds up to a lot of fish.

The Black Bombers were really fun to catch, and easy. Using an artificial lure, Captain Dan told us to see if we could drop it to the bottom. We never made it. A fish was on every time, with the lure never reaching bottom. One day the four of us caught our limit of 5 fish each or 20 fish in 20 minutes.

The most exciting catch I got was a King Salmon. This fish really puts up a fight, taking line time and time again. Dan estimated it weighed around 30 pounds. Too small to keep, it had to be released. Can you believe it, 30 pounds is too small!

The lodge was really nice with staff to match. The food was great, with Chef “D” preparing some really fantastic creations like shrimp wrapped in prosciutto. Each fisherman prepared their own sack lunch with ingredients that included thanks to Chef "D", fresh baked homemade bread and cookies. The boats, 27 foot Seasports, came equipped with the latest GPS plotters, color depth sounders and radar and quality fishing gear. On top of all that the folks at the lodge vacuum pack and flash freeze the catch before packing it in insulated boxes for the flight home.

Special recognition goes to Captain Dan who displayed an enormous amount of patience in schooling us flatlanders. He did everything from finding the fish, baiting the hooks, bringing the catch on board, cleaning and filleting too many fish to count, not to mention reminding us to, “REEL, REEL, REEL, REEL”.

We all had a great time, bringing home a little over 200 pounds of fish between the three of us. Would we do it again? Gary says he can cross off Alaska fishing from his bucket list, but adds he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Eric wants to go back, but would like to include some freshwater fishing. As for me, when do we leave?

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