Fish Alaska's 2016 Fishing Report 
for Icy Bay, Alaska

Check back for updates from around the state all summer! Submit your local fishing reports here, be sure to include all pertinent information.
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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
June 22, 2016

The last 6-8 weeks have been sunny and dry in Icy Bay, so much so that our well was running empty. We have been hoping for rain for quite some time, and last week it started. Now that it’s here, it seems like a different world. Unfortunately, with this particular low pressure system, the rain has come with strong winds and high seas that have challenged us and kept us away from some of our normal offshore fishing grounds. Although we have several spots inside the comfort of the bay, we don’t see the mass numbers of lingcod and black rockfish we are known for. This week’s guests hail from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Colorado, and they have had to battle through the weather. They are experiencing a classic case of “shoulda been here last week,” but they are taking it well and making the best of the situation. We have been catching some halibut and getting into the cod with a couple rockfish mixed in. The real issue has been the plague of dogfish that come through in the fall and like to hang out in the silty waters of the bay. We can’t decide if it’s better to catch and release a couple hundred dogfish in a day or just catch nothing at all. The consensus seems to be that a bent rod is better than nothing. The weather looks to be improving in the next week which should bring fishing back to normal. The silver salmon are jumping just offshore, so we are hoping to start catching them as the weather improves. 

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
July 19, 2016

Fishing in Icy Bay has been good for bottom fish with some bigger fish being caught offshore. Incoming tides have been best for halibut, and we had a day with multiple triple digit fish, including a 73-inch halibut on Monday that fell for a chartreuse grouper jig tipped with herring. The rockfish have been on fire, and we’ve had to upsize jigs to keep them off the lines after we fill the limit. For the last couple weeks the lingcod fishing has also been stellar. We have caught and released hundreds of lingcod in the last two weeks and the average size has been bigger than usual. The guests get a kick out of watching the lingcod stalk rockfish on their way to the surface, and we have been keeping a fly rod ready to go on the deck for the fish that come to the top looking for a meal. Watching a hungry lingcod engulf a fly at the boat is an incredible experience. Icy Bay Lodge guide Michael York was also able to get out last week and take advantage of the hot bite in a kayak with a GoPro camera, a truly unique way to fish the Gulf of Alaska. Closer to shore the dogfish are starting to become a nuisance, but we have good luck avoiding them by staying off anchor and fishing a drift. The king salmon have slowed down so much that we have only been targeting them occasionally, but the silvers have been showing up sporadically and hitting spoons trolled in 40-60 feet of water, and we are excited for the fly-fishing season to come.

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
June 22, 2016

After some seasickness on anchor, our guests requested that we do something to keep the boat moving, so Wednesday gave us a chance to drop the trolling rigs and look for the king salmon that have been so elusive lately. The bite was still slow, but we managed to pick up a couple nice keepers in shallow water. 

This week’s guests found out that reeling in halibut on the troll takes a lot of effort, and we released countless chickens during our pursuit of the king salmon, but it all paid off when Ben from Madrid, NE hooked the biggest salmon of the week on a salted herring behind a flasher in about 40 feet of water. There is something about a beautiful feeder king that leaves everyone momentarily speechless… the screaming clicker of the line counter reel, the nervous moment when the fish is right there and I’m trying to seal the deal with a commercial style whack the head before the victorious lift into the boat. All the cruising back and forth and fighting off the chickens is worth it when a fish like this makes it into the hands of a first time Alaskan fisherman!

The king bite is still hit or miss, but the size quality when we do hook up has been great. Hot colors were… herring. We ended the day with more ice viewing and relaxing before returning to the lodge to fill up on home grown sweet corn and steaks, courtesy of our Nebraskan guests. 

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
June 20, 2016

June has been beautiful in Icy Bay, and we were due for some inclement weather. Monday brought rain, high winds, and big seas to the bay as a nice welcome to our newest guests from the hot and sunny corn fields of Nebraska. It was like a different world on the ocean compared to the shorts and tee shirt days we had last week… fierce winds on the brink of a gale and a 9-foot swell kept us in check. After a rough day on the water Monday, our guests woke up Tuesday ready for redemption.

The weather was great, and the stunning view of Mt. St. Elias had everyone staring into the distance as we made our way out of the bay and into the gulf. The seas were still a little worked up from Monday’s storm, and we knew that we needed to get on some fish right away before the afternoon wind kicked things up. 

We got to our spot and the fish were waiting. Almost immediately, 14-year-old Kyler hooked up with a beautiful halibut, his first ocean-caught fish! It was a great start that would lead to personal best fish for four of our six anglers. Kyler’s parents, Suzi and Brett, had fished with us last fall during the coho run and brought the family back to experience the summer this season, so it was only fitting that Suzi caught the biggest fish of the day. The rockfish were a little less aggressive than usual, but the pacific cod provided plenty of action, and a bonus lingcod had everyone smiling. 

We called it a short day when the weather kicked up, and dropped a couple of our anglers off at the lodge before taking the remaining guests on a combination trolling/ice viewing adventure. 

Fishing was best on dropper rigs with smaller presentations, even for the bigger fish. They seemed to react better to the finesse rigs tipped with herring than the bigger jigs we usually drop. Hot colors were purple and turquoise in about 110 feet of water. It’s hard to say if the kings were on or off, because we didn’t give it much of a chance yesterday, but they have been hit or miss all month.

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
June 16, 2016

Thursday was one of those rare days on the boat where everyone was… overheating. Yes, it was warm, even 12 miles out on the ocean, surrounded by snowcapped peaks and glaciers. I don’t know what the official high temperature was, but I ditched the Grundens early on in favor of basketball shorts and a tee shirt. It was a beautiful day to be fishing.

There wasn’t much current to speak of, and the wind wasn’t blowing. It may sound like perfect conditions, but we prefer at least a little water movement to get some scent flowing and bring in the big girls. Yesterday was kind of the specialized day of the week, and the goal was to make sure all of our guests got there limit of yelloweye/non-pelagic rockfish.

We set up on a hump in about 80 feet of water (no typo, we don’t fish very deep in these remote waters), and proceeded to limit out pretty quickly. The guys from CA were happy with the size of the rockfish or “rock cod” as they call them down south. I think they have plenty of rockfish where they’re from, but I’m not sure they have the same size class as Icy Bay. One of our guests, Davy, wasn’t getting the love from the yelloweye, but eventually he brought one on the boat that ended up winning their daily pool at 28.5 inches.

Plenty of halibut were caught and released after the limit was filled, and we came up one short of a limit on lingcod. They have been around according to some of my underwater video, but haven’t been as aggressive as usual. We caught and released a couple short lingcod, and kept three fish in the 38-41 inch range. I didn’t bother to mention that the black rockfish were coming up on just about every drop in between our target species. 

We trolled for a bit on the way in, but after a couple chickens went nuts on our salmon gear, we decided to call it a good day and get back to the lodge so the guests could catch the end of the ballgame and recharge in preparation for today, the last full day of fishing for this group.

Hot colors Thursday were green, white, red, and orange jigs, usually tipped with a herring head. 

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York

Icy Bay
June 15, 2016

Fishing is an inexact science, and lately I’ve been feeling like the weatherman. In my last report I mentioned that we were having trouble getting into the beautiful feeder kings we have grown so accustomed to in Icy Bay. I posted that report about ten minutes before I hopped on the boat this morning. Well, with the current NOAA halibut regs keeping us from retaining halibut on Wednesdays and a great group of guys in camp this week, the stars aligned. We found the kings. We didn’t catch a TON of fish, but the bite was good, and the average size of the fish was great. Life is back to normal in Icy Bay… big halibut, beautiful king salmon, and an ocean to ourselves. 

Hot baits for the kings today were green spoons and herring, with and without flashers. The most effective trolling depth was the classic 35-65 feet. We typically prefer a little overcast when we’re after chinook, but today the kings came out to play in sun. 

A side note for the folks who think a king salmon is a king salmon… maybe so, but there is something special about catching a white king. Tastes the same, looks different. We caught two today. Don’t be fooled into paying more at the fancy restaurants, but it’s definitely worth some bragging rights amongst your fishing buddies!! They are more common in some places than others, but today was the first day in a long time we have pulled any up in Icy Bay, and our guests got a kick out of it. 

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York
Icy Bay
June 13, 2016

There is something about a clear summer morning in Icy Bay that can’t quite be put into words. The crisp bite that comes with the first breath outside is a reminder that the colder days of fall and winter are never all that far away. A view of the Robinson Mountains to the west, never completely free of last season’s snow, provides a stunning backdrop. A thin layer of mist hovers just above the turquoise water that seems as smooth as glass. 

I assured our guests (all but one very experienced big game anglers) that I would provide the proper mojo and good luck to find some bites. After a couple hours, I was worried that the fish gods weren’t going to play along. We limited out on black rockfish in short order. We have a pretty killer spot close to the lodge, and when they are on the feed, you can’t even get your jig to the bottom. What impressed our guests the most was the average size of the rockfish, and we were throwing them back (with our deep water release mechanism to avoid barotrauma) left and right, just picking the bigger ones. We didn’t catch any non-pelagic rockfish in this spot, but we will probably get into some of those on Thursday. Hot colors for the rockfish were… everything we dropped. The only challenge yesterday was a pretty strong current, so we were using jigs that were either heavy (16oz) or slender to get down straighter.

After we limited on rockfish, we upsized the jigs in search of the halibut. Usually the halibut are mixed right in, but I think they were somewhere else on the rocky reef yesterday. We started getting some scent down… old herring, squid, guts, whatever we had to get a nice oily scent-trail going. It took longer than usual, maybe an hour or so, but finally we had a nice halibut hooked up. Kirk from SoCal got the first nice halibut of the day, a 50-70 pounder. Once the first one was on the boat, we started hammering them. Usually this is what happens… whatever we toss off the boat may not hit the bottom for half a mile or more, but the fish following the breadcrumbs and end up on our jigs. The biggest fish of the day went to Davy, originally from Scotland and the self-proclaimed rookie of the group. The fish taped out at 69 inches, a nice big one. We kept four fish and released a bunch more before hitting the troll in search of some king salmon.

We trolled our usual spots, tried deeper, tried shallower, tried some dead-looking water we need fish… nothing. The kings just aren’t really here yet, but we are going to keep trying. Last week we hammered some keepers, and last year we got on them a little later in the summer, so our spirits are still high. No birds, no whales, no bait, no kings. Some of the halibut and rockfish have nice big herring in their stomachs, so they are out there somewhere. It’s only a matter of time, but this group of anglers understands the patience required to get on the fish, so we are just going to keep at it!

The funny highlight of the day was Steve and the broken rod. We tell people all the time that they can put the rod in the holder and crank if they are tired of holding it… the only real problems that arise happen when a big fish shoots straight under the boat. That’s what happened to Steve yesterday, and the rod didn’t stand a chance. It snapped right at the handle. Then something happened that we don’t see very often. Steve, being an experienced fisherman, didn’t give up on the fish. He just kept fighting it from the reel and what was left of the rod until he got it within range of the harpoon, and a potential letdown turned into another great halibut on the boat!!

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York

Icy Bay
June 11, 2016

Today marks the end of the first real week of the fishing season in Icy Bay. The fishing and catching stayed consistent, and our guests limited out on everything but king salmon. The king fishing offshore was a little slow during the week, and we were impeded by an east wind and some seas that made trolling tough outside the bay. We also needed a few days to find out where they are hanging out this time of year and get an idea of what they’re keyed in on. We found them on Thursday and Friday when the weather improved and boated a total of 8 keepers and released several short fish. Hot colors for the kings were green and silver. We also caught and released quite a few halibut on the troll, which is kind of an inconvenience but fun for the guests to talk about. Halibut may be bottom fish, but they hit spoons ten feet below the surface when they get excited. We were trolling in fairly shallow water, anywhere from 30-60 feet, but didn’t have much luck trolling deep. The halibut and black rockfish were consistent all week in 80-130 feet of water on jigs tipped with herring or squid. Lingcod were the random catch of the week, showing up here and there on our rockfish spots. On Wednesday we took a break and did a nice glacier tour. Our plan was to take a look at the landslide damage in Taan Fiord, but the ice was too thick to push through, so we settled for hanging out in front of the Yahtse Glacier, collecting some icebergs, watching seals, and enjoying the scenery. The weather is looking better next week, and we can’t wait to get a fresh group of clients in tomorrow to show the remote fishing experience in Icy Bay. 

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York

Icy Bay
June 11, 2016

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Icy Bay Lodge
Mike York

Icy Bay
June 6, 2016

The first week of June marks the first week of offshore fishing guests at Icy Bay Lodge. This week we are hosting a group of six anglers, including a couple from Bend, Oregon, two gentlemen from California, and a couple from Aurora, Colorado. All of our anglers have fished Alaska before, but decided to give the remote experience a try. After a traveling nightmare that included delays in Juneau, and a five hour weather delay in Yakutat, our guests were ready to hit the water. The seas have been a bit rough the last couple weeks, but things looked pretty good Monday morning. Usually we fish within ten or fifteen miles of the lodge, but if the weather allows, we try to make a long run once a week and head out about 30 miles. After a slightly bumpy ride, we got to our spot and tried a drift to see what was going on. The rockfish were a little slow to start, so after a couple missed bites and snagged jigs, we repositioned and dropped anchor in about 125 feet of water on a gravel bed between some house-sized boulders. The bite was slow to start, but picked up within about 40 minutes. Due to the current limits, our anglers the last couple years have had to pick and choose the fish they keep. Since we have a group of guests for a week at a time, there is no rush to fill the annual limit of four halibut, so they each kept one nice fish, the biggest on Monday at 65 inches. Finding any fish under 28 inches is pretty uncommon once you leave the confines of the bay, so it’s pretty much one fish per day until the annual nonresident limit of four halibut is filled. The halibut went into a bit of a frenzy and we released a lot of fish in the 40-50 inch range. No giants were caught, but the action was steady, and everyone was worn out from fighting fish after fish. The lingcod that are usually so vicious and eager to bite were a little slow, and we only bagged four keepers, releasing a couple fish in the slot. The black and yelloweye rockfish are usually the first thing we get into out deep, but they were a little sparse where we set up. Four of our anglers filled their annual limit of one yelloweye, and only a handful of blacks were caught. Kurt Anderson, one of our anglers from Bend, Oregon, let me attach my GoPro camera to his jig and we got an incredible view of what is actually going on, with over 8 species of fish visible in the video, including a halibut engulfing the camera. The video ends with a giant skate gliding in and taking the jig, just what an angler needs to add that extra burn to the biceps at the end of the day. The water temp is a little higher than usual for our area, sitting at almost 58 degrees, but it was nice and clean. The weather for the rest of the week looks to be agreeable, and our guests are going to try to use this opportunity to tag some kings before getting back on the bottom fish. The best baits were 12 oz. spire jigs, hand tied with red bucktail and tipped with small chunks of herring.