Saltwater Observations from 2013

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Anglers across the state enjoyed success in the saltwater in 2013. From halibut to king salmon, yelloweye rockfish to lingcod, Pacific cod to coho, a trip on a calm day usually produces good memories and choice fillets. Our experience was no different. We began the year on a May excursion in Yakutat Bay and found a pocket of good weather between the storms to allow us to boat the first of our season's halibut, Pacific cod and black rockfish. It came just in time as the freezers had run empty from 2012's bounty. 

On another outing we were aboard the Noble Eagle, fishing with Captain Will Gentry and Deckhand Dusty from Glacier Fishing Charters. We love fishing with these guys as they always work very hard to get us into the best fish and the most species. As usual, it was another banner day, despite the rough water, and we managed a boatload of fish. Highlights of the day included catching live herring on sabiki rigs, a first for the Fish Alaska crew, which later served as excellent bait for big lingcod. The trick with that process is to find the bait and then stay on top of them, which Will was able to do very effectively. If you find the bait, catch some, and the fishing slows, it's time to reposition.

Another highlight from the trip was the use of Ahi USA's Assault Diamond Jigs. The lingcod that I am shown holding was caught on  a Glow 12-ounce version. When we switched to halibut fishing, it proved absolutey deadly, and outfished live herring and other bait combinations easily by a factor of 3 to 1. Brian Woobank, Fish Alaska magazine Contributing Photographer and friend to us all, and I had halibut on our hooks the entire time we targeted them with the Assault Jig. It was a clear observation that day that the halibut preferred the jig to any other presentation.

On several drops to the bottom, I noticed that I was getting bit on the way down. Coho were attacking the 12-ounce jig! Shortly thereafter, I jigged in the upper third of the water column and boated two fat silvers. Jig fishing is not only an exciting and interactive way to catch saltwater fish, but it is incredibly effective for a wide range of species.

Two weeks later I received a photo from Captain Will of a giant halibut that one of his anglers caught that day. It weighed 314.5 pounds! Will told me that anglers have put four fish over 200-pounds and one fish over 300-pounds on the boat in 2013. Keep an eye out for the Go Pro footage of the battle with the 314.5 pound fish, coming soon to this website.

Charter captains from Kodiak conveyed to me that king fishing has been good around the island this year in the saltwater. Reports from friends and industry insiders from Sitka boasted extremely good catches of king salmon. I got reports from one reliable source saying 20 kings per day mooching in late June. That's hot Chinook fishing! We'll have more to say about that subject in the December 2014 Sitka issue.

One of the greatest attributes of the Alaska saltwater landscape is the variety of species available. As anglers, we sometimes get over-focused on one species and forget about the other options out there. Rockfish are a prime example. Schools of black rockfish seem to exist all across the Greatland, provide for excellent action and even-better table fare. Instead of setting expectations of triple-digit halibut and 40-pound ocean fresh Chinook, I prefer to look at the bigger picture and realize that variety is the spice of life and a pleasure to the palate.