Tight Lines: Sport Fishing in Alaska
The Seward Military Resort has four deep-sea halibut charter fishing boats that operate seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Resurrection Bay. All fishing equipment is provided, but we obtained our fishing licenses, and brought our own rain slicks and rubber boots to help keep dry in anticipation of wet weather.
On the morning of the trip, we woke just after 5AM. Once outside, we were uncertain about the trip’s status, as we felt strong gusts of wind at the resort suggesting the bay might be too choppy for fishing.
But the resort, who arranged our reservation, assured us that there were plenty of fish to catch without care for the weather, so our trip was definitely on. I learned that in Alaska, you must be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. There is the local saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” No truer words.
Around 6AM we boarded the bus with over a dozen other fishers and headed to the bay. Along the short drive to the docks, we received some instruction about what to expect then headed to our waiting boat, the M/V Top Cover for a lesson in salmon and halibut fishing 101.
We motored out of the bay for about 30 minutes, while I napped under the effects of a few preventative doses of Dramamine.
Among the group, I was especially glad to meet Luther and Eric, two brothers who shared with me they fish all over the globe in search of the best catch. And they were here in Alaska to fish each day for the entire week.
Our boat used sonar to detect fish, and sea depth. So we stopped at spots to drop our lines that had the best likelihood of catching either salmon or halibut.
To catch salmon requires constant, shallow, up and down movement of fresh bait on the line. Halibut requires a two-pound weight on heavy gauged line that drops to the bottom floor where these fish dwell. This kind of fishing is not of the pedestrian variety, and was definitely a workout!
At first, the bites on the boat were mainly rock fish and cod, and after hours of moving around the bay, with few of us catching the prized fish, we became uncertain about how the day would turn out. On top of that, the weather became very unstable.
The ocean swells moved our boat up and down several feet, and rain whipped us from every direction. It was necessary at times to set aside the poles and go inside the cabin, or hold on to avoid going overboard! Eventually, rain found its way into my boots, and through my clothes. Without the constant exertion from the movement of my pole, my body started to chill. We noticed these weather conditions also meant few other fishing boats and charters besides ours were on the bay that morning.
After several determined hours of moving around the bay guided by sonar in search of fish, we experienced more inclement weather, yet the views of the surrounding mountains and wildlife were stunning with sea lions and puffins on the horizon. But eventually with patience, we each began to have tight lines!
“Fish on!” we called out when we had a bite.
“Color!” we shouted, as reeled fish came close enough to the surface to be in view.
With these calls, the charter staff rushed over to help bring in the fish with their nets.
It was in the last two-hours of our journey that I caught all my fish for the day. Mark and I were proud to reel in halibut, salmon, rockfish, and cod. But there were two salmon that got away from me — a real bummer, and now I can fully appreciate the saying that describes, “the one that got away.”
In the end, our group returned with dozens of fish, and headed to the resort fish house to fillet and vacuum seal our catches. We shared beers, filleting tips, and lots of camaraderie along the way.
After all the processing was over, with our fish was packed away in the resort freezer, Mark and I set-up a portable stove outside our room to cook halibut cheeks, a favorite delicacy, with lots of butter and garlic with new friends Luther and Eric — a wonderful sea-to-table experience.
On my last night in Alaska, I went to bed grateful for dryness and warmth, but also for the exciting adventure of the trip to America’s last frontier.
And I cannot wait to return.
Outdoor Afro is grateful for Mark B. who hosted such an amazing and fulfilling tour of Alaska!