Halibut and Salmon Fishing in Southeast Alaska
Article Contributed by J. Grummett
It’s “Freezer Season” here in Southeast Alaska, and the freezer is in short supply of fish and red meat. It’s that time of the year where I buckle down and begin my focus on fishing for salmon and halibut, two of the largest subsistence food staples in Southeast Alaska followed by Sitka black tailed deer. I spent this past weekend on a fishing trip for Coho salmon and halibut with my father. On top of having a successful trip and bringing home both of our limits, we had many encounters with rare marine life.
We left early in the morning in route to our halibut honey hole known to us as “The Farm”. The Farm is located roughly 3 hours away from our residence in Juneau, Alaska. Being a lifelong resident of Southeast Alaska I have had my share of rough and calm weather when out on the boat. This trip had rough weather that will most likely rein champion in my boating book for some time to come. Instead of the scheduled 3-hour trip to The Farm it took us almost twice as long, heading into 6-foot seas on a 28 foot pleasure craft. It was a violent, unforgiving, and harsh trek, with the occasional self-assessment… “Should I be here?” After 5 hours we finally made it safely to our destination and had the anchor dropped and lines out within 15 minutes of our arrival, where the trip really began
With anchor set, hooks baited, lines down, and coffee in hand I was ready for anything. The water had calmed a fair amount and things already looked up for us. The day ahead was truly unexpected and memorable, humpback whales began breaching the surface like buses flying out of the water with a white explosion of sea spray upon impact, porpoises began circling the boat, and as a lone gull wavered in the rolling sea just 10 feet off of the stern of the boat the halibut started hitting the deck! With no other boat in sight we filled the open air with “Wu whoos!” and “Hell Yeahs!” as we brought up fish after fish. We had our limit within an hour and half of fishing, but decided to keep them on a live line and fish a couple more hours to see if we could wait out some bigger fish. Within the third hour of fishing we had traded out two of our fish with larger halibut in the 60-70 pound range. Exhausted from fighting each fish we decided to call it a day for halibut and headed in closer to try our luck with some early season Coho salmon fishing.
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We dropped our lines at an area we knew had produced some decent numbers of Coho in the past. I had just sat down from baiting and setting the lines when the first rod went off. Within a couple of hours of constant “We’re On!” and “Tie up more lines!” we had our daily limit of Coho on deck and headed into Hoonah, a small village located on Chichagof Island. We decided it was the kind of day to celebrate with a good double bacon cheeseburger from Mary’s Restaurant adjacent to the local cold storage. After we finished our burgers is when the true work of the trip began. It took us roughly and hour to clean and process the days catch before settling down for a cocktail and slice of pie we had bought on the way out of Mary’s Restaurant. A successful day down, belly’s full, and fish processed we hit the rack to rest up for yet another exciting day ahead of us.
Day two was quite rough as well so we decided it was best to stay in close to land and work the Coho spot that had delivered so well for us the day prior. After getting lines down and settled in we didn’t have quite the start we did the day before but a couple of hours into our fishing day things lit up. I was sitting on the bench eyes fluttering heavily with exhaustion from the day before when I saw both poles pop off the downriggers and dance as the lines were ripped from the spool, a double header! Two hours later we were on our way home with an overloaded cooler and covered deck. What a trip to start the “Freezer Season”.
It is important to remember that although some trips may pay great dividends like the one I have pictured here, the most important part is to have fun and enjoy the time you spend with your loved ones or friends. My biggest and most important relationships are built on the bonding time found in the moments on the water and in the woods. It’s always more important to remember the time together and not the fish caught. Remember the meat is truly the bonus and the reminder of a great time spent together.
About the Author
Jack is an outdoorsman born and raised in the Tongas National Forest of Southeast Alaska. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at the young age of 6 and hasn’t looked back since. His greatest peace of mind can only be found in the high mountains and open waters of his home in Alaska. He hopes to share both his stories and the harvest that may accompany them.