Southeast Alaska Fishing Lodges- 10 Hacks to Savings and Success
By Joe Byers
Southeast Alaska fishing lodges are not hard to come by, but which one to pick can be a difficult choice, especially if you’re an experienced angler. Petersburg has four fishing lodges that offer anglers the chance to maximize their skills and talents while minimizing price. Limits are liberal and you can fish from dusk to dark, a long time in Alaska summer. Best of all, you’ll get great hospitality, guidance in your gear, and get to fish for a week for the price of a weekend at a fly-in lodge.
I just returned from Island Point Lodge just south of Petersburg Alaska where I shared my experience with two fishing couples. Neither couple had fished in Alaska previously, and really had barely any fishing experience at all. Despite their lack of experience for salmon and halibut, at the end of the trip we boarded our plane home with just under 200 pounds of frozen fillets and enough memories and photos to last a lifetime. Without the use of a guide, special equipment, or remote fly-in, we had a fantastic week.
I first fished Island Point Lodge (IPL) in the late 90s and was immediately impressed by the opportunity to successfully fish for species I’d never caught before. At that time Frank Stelmach’s operation was the only game in town. Soon afterward, one of his experienced employees built a lodge adjacent to his and another employee ditto on the south. Thankfully, the fourth operation was established across the channel.
The lure of this area is the five-species salmon run and halibut fishing which allows two fish per person. Additionally, boating doesn’t require extensive experience because you mainly fish the Wrangle Narrows which is sheltered from ocean waves and allows safe travels even in windy weather. If this angling adventure has allure, keep these 10 tips in mind.
Travel like a Minimalist
If you arrive in Petersburg wearing shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops you can still find success. Most visitors bring more gear than they need and want to maximize their luggage weight with fish on the way home. As a result, IPL has a room filled with waders, rain pants and jackets that guests may borrow. Personally, I’d recommend a pair of breathable, lightweight waders, wading shoes, and a quality rain jacket with hood. Temperatures in summer will be in the 60’s and 70’s so dress accordingly.
IPL provides a 16-foot Lund skiff, 50-horse motor, bait, tackle and gas. All you need is a knife and needle-nose pliers which can be purchased at the lodge.
Pack Reels not Rods
If you are an experienced angler, you may want to bring your favorite reels with fresh line and leaders. I brought six rods this trip thinking that my friends would want to borrow them. I only used one… my flyrod. IPL had dozens of rods set up for halibut and salmon, including floats and hooks.
My ambitious rod travel cost $40 in luggage fees each way, so it wasn’t a wise decision. Fly fishermen can usually take a rod tube as a carry-on item and pay no baggage fee.
Don’t Bring a Cooler
Unless you fly first class on Alaska Airlines which entitles you to three 70-pound bags, it’s more economical to buy a freezer box to fly fish home. Coolers weigh between 10 and 18 pounds which consumes much of a 50-pound baggage allotment. An insulated cardboard box (available at the lodge) weighs less than 4 pounds maximizing your baggage expense. Remember halibut sells for $15 a pound, so the more you ship home the more you save.
Wear an Organizer
I wear a fly-fisherman’s vest whenever possible. Whether from a boat or wading streams, you’ll need to change lures, re-bait hooks, and often re-rig from fish that have broken your line.
Throughout a fishing day, you will need simple angling tools and having them on your chest where they can be quickly reached is very satisfying, even after you lose a big one. Also, you should have angling glasses, a pair of gloves, and a small box for flies, lures, and sinkers.
Sure, this is a fishing trip, but it’s also Alaska. As we returned to the lodge one afternoon, three orcas swam nearly under the boat. While fishing a stream we watched a black bear search for salmon and then swim across to the other side. Another time, we had a 2,000-pound sea lion within casting distance and it’s thrilling to see these creatures up close. Also, you’ll see as many eagles as robins back home and seldom tire of watching them.
Time Your Trip
The Petersburg area experiences all five salmon species runs as well as spring steelhead fishing. Because of the extensive water system, halibut fishing remains strong all summer and fish over 100 pounds are not uncommon.
Chinook (king) salmon begin the year with trolling, mooching, and jigging in saltwater in May, followed by river fishing in June and early July. The reds, or sockeye, move into selected streams in mid-July with pinks, chums, and silvers following through August and September. All four lodges have websites that specify the best times for each species, and you can speak directly with someone by calling the main numbers.
Take Your Family
Although this is Alaska, all four lodges offer amenities like hot showers, prepared meals, laundry, and advice on boating and fishing. Plus, Petersburg is a quaint fishing village with most of the amenities of American small towns.
Two large glaciers are within boating distance of Petersburg and you can schedule tours to kayak among ice bergs or just get up close and personal with more ice than you’ve ever seen. Petersburg has three main hotels, bed-and-breakfast establishments and homes through Airbnb.
The Blind Slough may be the best king salmon fishing hole in Alaska and allows four king salmon per day. Thanks to a salmon hatchery at the mouth of the waterway, ADF&G captures the eggs needed to sustain the fishery and allows anglers to harvest the rest.
Halibut fishing in much of Alaska has a one-fish limit, sometimes with a size maximum. By fishing unguided, the Petersburg area allows two fish per day with no maximum size. Be sure to check regulations and Emergency Orders as regs are subject to change at any time.
These four lodges are fish camps and as one might expect, anglers are tight-lipped about their favorite fishing holes. If someone brings in a 100-pounder, don’t expect him or her to say exactly where it was caught. However, when you have breakfast and dinner with groups of people, the kinder side of humanity emerges, even among fishermen, and soon secret locations and tackle designs are shared. This is particularly true if you have a teenage son or daughter after their first big fish.
Finally, below are the websites for the four DIY lodges in Petersburg. Each differs in amenities and price, yet all offer the “on-your-own” experience. Our group had a wonderful time fishing and sharing each other’s company. The views were spectacular and the harvest satisfying, even though several big ones got away. We will return.
Island Point Lodge: islandpointlodge.com
Green Rocks Lodge greenrockslodge.com
Rocky Point Resort rockypointresortak.com
Petersburg Sportfishing petersburgsportfishing.com
Joe Byers has been communicating a love of the outdoors through text and photography for 40 years. He has fished the four corners of Alaska and hunted much of the world. A retired educator, sharing the excitement, adventure, and passion for the outdoors is homework he loves.