How many of you out there can remember your first fishing trip? How old were you? Can you remember where it was? Did you catch any fish? Who else was there? Spend a minute and see if you can answer these questions.
I don’t know if I can remember exactly which was my first fishing trip. I DO have little bits and pieces of several trips when I was very young. I can remember exactly which fish were caught and while I don’t know the location, I can vividly remember some of the scenery and the details of the location. I also remember my Dad and uncles who also were there.
I know that those early fishing trips were very important in shaping my future as a fisherman but also as a person. Some of the lessons that I learned were very important to my future as I learned lessons about not always winning no matter how bad you want it (the fish didn’t always bite) or about being prepared both physically(gear and clothing) and mentally (learning how to do things the right way). As I grew older, the lessons were more advanced and more personal. I learned that if you were prepared, you were also more successful.
Fast forward a couple of decades… Now it is the memories of my own kids and their first fishing trips. What will they remember? What legacy have I built for them? Will they come to have the same love for fishing that I have? Will they learn and keep a respect and reverence for Nature and all of her accomplishments? Will they be willing to do their part in saving and preserving the birds and the animals and the fish for their kids? Will they learn to live in harmony with all that is out there in the world? Will they learn the same lessons that I have learned? Or, will theirs be different?
I believe that we have a duty to our kids and to all of the kids out there to give them the same opportunities that we were given and to plant in them the seeds that will allow them to develop a confidence in themselves. I believe that fishing should be required for all kids. I think that fishing can bridge a gap between where they are and where they need to be… in many different aspects of their lives.
I would encourage you to take a kid fishing. Teach them how it is done. Give them opportunities to experience nature. Help them learn that the fish aren’t biting every time but that they will bite next time or the time after that. Allow them to lose and to win at the game. Show them that fishing is just like life. Teach them to apply their fishing lessons to their lives.
I believe that fishing can make our kids into winners at the game of life.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaskan fishing, Alaskan vacation, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, nature, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout
The vast majority of the fish caught in Alaska, or in the world for that matter, are caught by commercial fishermen. These are the guys who are out there catching and then selling fish to make their living. They catch their fish in many different ways. One of these methods of fishing is called trawling in which giant nets are drug along the ocean floor are essentially scooping up everything in their path. When the nets are brought in and the fish are brought onto the boat they then must be sorted. The boat is only allowed to keep the species it was targeting, normally pollock and cod. All halibut caught must be thrown back into the ocean even though many of these fish are already dead or won’t survive when they are thrown back. These extra fish are called bycatch.
By law these fish cannot be kept because they are out of season and over limit to the boats that catch them. Once a certain number of pounds of halibut have been caught, the season ends for the trawlers. This number has been 50 million lbs. since 1989 and is a cumulative total for all trawlers fishing in Alaskan waters.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council oversees the bycatch and set the numbers. This number was recently cut for the first time in over 20 years.
Pacific halibut numbers have been declining for the last several years. Limits to sportfishermen and to commercial fishermen who target halibut have been reduced, in some cases by over 50%, over the past few years. In many parts of Alaska we as sportfishermen who fish with a guide can only catch one halibut where just a few years ago we could catch two. During this same time the commercial fishermen who target halibut have had their limits reduced by up to 68%.
The trawlers have not had a bycatch reduction since 1989. This new reduction will cut 15% off of the 50 million lbs. limit. If my math is correct that amounts to a 7.5 million lbs. decrease in halibut taken as bycatch. This 7.5 million lbs. is far more halibut than the total caught by ALL sportfishermen in Alaska each year.
With the new quota in place, once the trawlers reach 42.5 million lbs. their fishing season will end. This new quota will phase in gradually over the next four years.
I believe that to maintain and even to improve the quality of halibut fishing, as we must do for future generations, we must all do our part. I feel the pain of the men and women who make a living from the fish that they catch. I know that earning a living can be a difficult endeavor and that we need all of the breaks that we can get.
I also know that we must all work together and do our part in preserving and helping good old Mother Nature to save her own.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, eco-responsibility, fishing, fishing policy, halibut, Jim Kell, saltwater fishing
This is part two of a two part post. To access part 1, CLICK HERE.
In the last post we discussed some of the pros and cons of the guided trip. This post will address some of the ins and outs of a self-guided trip.
A self-guided trip can be as simple as a boat rental or as complicated as a semi-supervised adventure. It all depends on the company that you choose to work with. Some supply the boat, rods and reels and that’s it while others offer training or coaching, room and board, and even chase boats to check on and assist you throughout the day.
Some of the pros of a self-guided trip are:
- You call the shots. You decide where, when, how long, and which species of fish you want to fish for. If you want to start early, stay late, take a nap in-between, whatever,… you are the boss.
- You decide how you like to fish. If you want to try something new or different, you have the option to do it. If you want to switch to another species in the middle of the day, you have the freedom to do that. Many times I have targeted salmon early, halibut through the middle of the day, and then finished up with salmon again in the evening. With a guide, that normally wouldn’t happen.
- I have found it to be very thrilling to go out and “do it “ by myself. I have taken a gps unit, driven to the chosen coordinates, dropped a line and caught halibut all on my own with no prior knowledge of the area. I have found this to be extremely fulfilling.
On the other side of the equation, the cons might be:
- No ready source of help or information. No one standing by with tips, suggestions, ideas, when what you are doing doesn’t work. Guides that do this every day do learn how to catch fish. They are good at troubleshooting your setup or presentation.
- Sometimes rented boats, rods, reels, etc. aren’t the best. Someone else used this equipment yesterday or last week and didn’t treat it that well or forgot to report a problem so that it could get fixed.
- Sometimes we just need the boost in confidence that comes with having someone experienced along for the ride. Sometimes we don’t trust ourselves enough to try it on our own.
These are just a few of the questions that one must answer for him/herself when deciding on a trip. Sometime a person just isn’t comfortable going out by themselves for the first time or even ever. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It is all a matter of personal preference.
Personally, I have always fished Alaska on my own (self-guided). I will admit that I was a little nervous about it the first time. One of the guys in my group had done it before and he encouraged me to try it. I DO have a couple of good lodges that I like that offer the self-guided trips. They offer all that they can in the way of support. They are located in the Inside Passage and so one is never out of sight of land. I believe that anyone who can take their own boat out for a trip to the local lake or reservoir for the day can do the same in Alaska with one of these great lodge services AND BE SUCCESSFUL at it.
I have fished other places with guides. Guides also have an important place and also offer a great fishing experience. You must weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself what works for you and what will provide your ultimate experience.
Whether you choose guided or self-guided, ask lots of questions when booking. Know exactly what you will be getting when you arrive and throughout your stay. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from past customers. Don’t hesitate to have them explain everything before you pay out any of your money on a booking.
For part 1 of this post, CLICK HERE
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing
This is part one of a two part post. To access part 2, CLICK HERE.
One of the most important decisions that must be made when planning a fishing trip to Alaska is the choice of guided trip versus self-guided trip.
With a self-guided trip, basically you will get a boat, fishing gear, and hopefully some good advice to get you started. On the other side, the guided trip will have a guide there to advise and assist throughout the day. Both options have pros and cons.
First, let’s talk guided trip. Some of the pros are:
- The guide drives the boat and chooses the spot. This may be good because a good guide is out regularly and knows where to find the fish.
- He/she will know the location, the bait, the depths, etc. that have been working well recently. The guide will handle the fishing equipment and sometimes even bait your hooks for you.
- A good guide will know his equipment and will have it in good operating condition and will be able to handle any malfunctions/breakdowns that may come up either with the poles, reels, etc. or with the boat.
- A guide will assist in landing and taking care of the fish. Some experience and expertise can be helpful in this area.
On the other side of the equation some of the cons are:
- Most guides work on a preset schedule. You will fish for a certain time frame and then the trip is over. For most guides, this will be a 4-6-8 hour day. If you limit on halibut in an hour, in some cases, you may head back to dock and be done for the day. You definitely won’t have the option to start early or stay later to get “just one more” or the “last one” or whatever the case may be.
- The guide is the boss. What he says goes as far as location, presentation, fishing tactics, bait, etc.
- You don’t have the freedom to do as you please. Maybe the halibut just aren’t biting today. A guided trip may not give you the option to switch to salmon or another species of fish to try to salvage the day.
Guides are definitely a good option. They are in the fishing business and they want you to return. They will do all that they can to keep you happy in most cases. At times their experience can be invaluable, especially if the weather or the fish aren’t being cooperative. While most of my Alaskan experience is with self-guided trips, I can see times where I would have found a guide a handy guy to have around. However, I once went salmon fishing (in Oregon) with a guide where we limited on salmon in an about hour and he was finished for the day. I ended up spending a lot of money for a couple of hours on the water.
to be continued
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing
Modern technology has definitely affected all of us in many ways in our lives. The use of technology in fishing is no different. Sonar and fish finders have been around for a while and were amazing inventions in their time, but now we have added gps (global positioning satellites) and the development of systems in which all of these technologies work together.
One of the great modern “marvels” in the deep-sea fishing industry has to be the use of gps. This one invention has made fishing into a whole different game.
The first time that I ever used a gps unit for fishing was in Alaska. I had owned a handheld gps unit for a couple of years and had used it in hunting for elk and had experimented a little bit with geo-caching. I knew how to operate my gps unit and was comfortable in using it but I really had not ever considered using it for fishing.
When I was preparing for my first trip to Alaska, the lodge where I was going emailed me a packing list of what I needed to bring with me. On the bottom of the list was a gps unit. It was optional. They stated that we could bring our own or rent one from them for the week for a few dollars. If we were bringing our own, we could request a list of their way-points by email so that we could pre-load them on to our gps unit. If you are not familiar with gps terminology, a way-point is a bookmark or a pinpoint on a map that has been saved. I requested the list which they promptly sent as an Excel file by email. I plugged my gps into my computer and within a couple of minutes I had 45 or so halibut humps showing up on my gps screen as little fish icons, spread across a little section of the Inside Passage of Alaska.
These little points all had fancy names given them by the lodge. When someone caught a big halibut at the “Water Fall Hump” or “5 Mile Hole”, we all then knew exactly where that was. Also included were the depths of the water at those locations, and by the workings of the gps unit, distances to and from the lodge and to and from other hump locations.
On arrival in Alaska we were given a short orientation after which I was handed the keys to boat #17, a box of frozen herring, a couple of poles, and a lunch box. We motored away from the dock, turned on the gps unit and headed for our chosen hump where we were told that the several nice halibut had been caught the previous week. Literally within minutes, after coming from thousands of miles away and having no knowledge of Alaskan waters, we dropped our lines and started catching fish. To me, that was simply amazing.
Gps is just one of the reasons that I have come to prefer self-guided trips over guided trips. It makes fishing more of a science and less of a guess. I have started to use gps extensively in all of my fishing. I now have several “secret” locations marked among the lakes and rivers that I regularly fish here at home.
Click on the link below for more info on the different types of handheld gps units available along with current pricing for these little “marvels.”
If you are planning a trip to Alaska or even if you just fish for crappie, perch, trout, walleye, or whatever at your local lake, I would encourage you to get familiar with gps and learn to use it where you fish. I know that it puts more fish in my cooler.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, rock cod, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout
There is no other fish that tastes quite as good as a fresh caught halibut in my book. I have several recipes that I like and cook often. One of my favorites is cubed or stripped and then battered, and deep-fried. There just isn’t anything quite like it.
The meat on a halibut is a very firm, white meat. When it cooks, it turns snow-white. It doesn’t have a real strong fishy taste like some other species do.
Halibut is normally filleted in quarters. The fish is laid out on the dock. A slice is made right down the center line. The fillet is then removed on each side of this cut. The fish is then flipped over and the same process is followed on the other side, giving you 4 “quarters”. One side will be a little bit shorter to account for the stomach cavity on the front end of the fillet. The size of the fillets varies greatly depending on the size of the fish, of course, but generally they will be 4 to 8 inches wide and 20 to 30 inches long and 1 to 4 inches thick.
There is lots of debate among fishermen as to what is the best size of fish for eating. Personally, I haven’t noticed any real difference in taste. The size and thickness of the fillets is a noticeable difference, and depending on the intended use of the fish, size could matter. However, if the fish is to be battered and fried, my preference is to cut it down to strips anyway. If the fillets are to be cooked whole, medium-sized fish may make a more convenient sized fillet but there again, they can be cut down if necessary. Really large fish can have a fillet up to 4 inches thick that may be difficult to use but I have handled those by cutting “steaks” off of the end, similar to cutting a loin steak off of an animal. It works pretty well actually. They can be cut to any thickness desired.
Halibut obviously can be a difficult fish to weigh without proper equipment and space (and heavily muscled help). Most guides will be equipped to handle actual weights but it is also very common to use a halibut length-weight chart. The Pacific Halibut Commission did lots of research on the subject and finally came up with a chart that is amazingly accurate. I will include a copy of it below and will also add it to my Halibut Fishing page.
I am also going to attach a digital copy (pdf) of a brochure that I ran across some time back. I am not sure where I got this from but obviously it originally came from the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game although I currently can not find it on their site. It has lots of interesting info about the mighty halibut. Feel free to browse it through or even print a copy.
Overall, the mighty halibut is my favorite to eat out of all of the Alaskan fish species. Maybe it is time to add a recipes page to the website. Look for it soon.
So, all of your planning, saving, and waiting finally paid off and here you are in the Great North of Alaska, surrounded by ocean and beautiful green mountains. You have been escorted to the fishing hole by sea lions and porpoises. You have dropped your lines amid the orcas and the humpbacked whales and you have been awestruck by the bald eagles fishing alongside of you.
You were particularly well prepared because you found www.fishingtriptoalaska.com early on. You have downloaded the free e-book, Alaskan Fishing Tips for Beginners and Pros and used it as a guide for your preparations. As a result of your excellent preparations, you now have a fish on your line. In just a few more moments, it will be alongside of the boat. What, you might ask, comes next?
The answer to that question depends on several things. Obviously, it depends on what type of fish it is. It also depends on whether you are fishing with a guide or are doing what they call self-guided (renting a boat). If you are with a guide, the fun is over because they will recover the fish into the boat for you either with a net, a gaff, or some by other means. If you are on your own, the fun is just beginning, especially if your fish is a big halibut or other monster from the deep.
The big halibut are lots of fun to get into the boat. The self-guided lodges that I have fished with have been good to teach me how the big fish recovery is done. The method that I was started out with is the same method that I have stayed with.
Basically, when the halibut is brought alongside the boat, the first step is to shark hook it. We were given a large shark hook (a large hook about as wide as your hand and with a shank about 3/8 inch diameter). This hook was barbed just like any regular fish hook. In fact it just looks like a giant fishing hook. This hook had a length of rope attached to it about 5 feet long. This rope was to be attached to any one of the cleats along the side of the boat BEFORE using it on the halibut.
So, the halibut is brought alongside of the boat. The shark hook is hooked to one of the cleats. The hook is then hook into the fish’s bottom jaw from the inside to the outside in one quick motion. The rope is held in the hand to ease the strain on the rope and on the fish. Having the end tied to the cleat is just a precaution in case you were to lose your grip on the rope. The fish will always fight upon insertion of the shark hook. When the frenzy dies down, the fish is then stunned with a blow to the head with a small bat or club. If dealt correctly, this blow will leave the fish unconscious and will end the struggling. Some guides will shoot the fish with a pistol or 410 shotgun instead. Smaller halibut can then be drug aboard using the shark hook or a gaff. Larger fish must first be “tailed”.
To tail a fish, a small length of rope is wrapped around the smallest part of the halibut tail just ahead of where it starts to widen out. This provides a handle for a friend (or friends) to help lift the beast aboard. On getting the fish into the boat, I was taught to bleed the fish out. This is done by using a knife to make a sideways slice through the gills on each side of the fish. I had never heard of doing this before but it makes sense. We were told that all fish should be bled out this way, be they halibut, salmon, lingcod, or whatever. We were told that it made for better meat when it came time to eat the fish. It is a practice that has stuck with me.
Well, congratulations, you have just put your first Alaskan halibut into the live-well. Re-bait quickly and let’s get another one.
One fish that I had never heard of until I fished Alaska for the first time is the Lingcod. When I saw the first one on the dock, caught by another fisherman, I thought, “That is the ugliest fish I have ever seen.”
The Lingcod is a not a cod, but is a member of the greenling family. Lingcod are brown (think mud) with brown spots. They have a massive head that appears to be all mouth. Did I tell you that they are ugly? They have very prominent sharp teeth.
The lingcod is a voracious eater and has been to eat anything and everything. I have read stories of them latching their jaws into halibut or rock fish that are being reeled in and having to be pried off by the fisherman.
Lingcod grow to be over 80 lbs. and 60 inches in length. Their lifespan is up to 25 years. They can be found at depths of 1000 feet but prefer and are more commonly found in the 30 to 300 foot range.
When their eggs are layed, the male will stand guard duty over the nest until the babies have hatched. Lingcod are mostly home-bodies, never moving very far from their chosen home territory.
Lingcod are only found along the West coast of the US. They are very common in Alaskan waters and can be found as far south as Southern California.
The meat from lingcod is very white with large, firm flakes. It is said to be more tender than halibut and is preferred over halibut by some people. It is a very tasty and nutritious meat.
Lingcod in Alaska are most often caught by jigging in areas with a rocky bottom. A baited hook with a jig skirt would be a likely choice. They are aggressive at taking the bait and provide a good fight. Just be ready for… ugly… when they break the surface.
Included below are a couple of links with more information about these great fish.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, Lingcod, rock cod, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing
The policies (and politics) that affect fishing regulations in Alaska can be complicated and difficult to understand. This is mostly due to the fact that the regulations are made by different entities. The State of Alaska is responsible for some of the species while NOAA is responsible for other species. Some of the species are regulated by agreements with other countries while other species are covered by US federal regulations. Still other species have only state regulations. Then there are different groups who all want the fish. The Native Alaskans, the commercial fishermen who fish for an income, and the sport fishermen who fish for fun, all want to have a share in the catch. It can make for a complicated mix of who has the say and who gets the fish.
I won’t get in to right and wrong or opinions of how it should be. My only goal with this post is to try to explain why the regulations are the done the way that they are.
Alaska has five species of salmon, five species of crab, Pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, lingcod, pollock, herring, several species of shrimp, several varieties of rockfish and flatfish,… all oceangoing species. In addition there are many species of trout, steelhead, dolly varden char, and others that are regulated in the rivers, lakes, and streams of Alaska. Just listing all of the species and who has a regulatory interest in them could make for a long list.
Basically, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is over all of the Pacific Halibut regulations while the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is over the most of the other fishing regulations within the state of Alaska and its offshore waters. That being said, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game does have to listen to other groups who help in the decision making and have a vote on the regulations for many of the federally regulated species and species that are of interest to other countries.
Then, one has to consider what is best for the fish. They must be managed in such a way as to keep the species strong and their numbers growing. Their habitat must be protected and their food sources considered.
After all of this, there is the problem of who gets to have the fish that are harvested. The US government has made treaties with the Native Alaskans giving them rights to continue fishing as they have done for years. The commercial fishermen depend on catching and then selling their catch in order to make a living. The sport fishermen like you and I enjoy the chance to go and catch our own dinner. Each group has a legitimate argument and some claim on the available catch.
In all, it makes for a complicated set of regulations in order to give each group AND the fish a fair shake. The end goal is to give Alaskan fishing the best possible future.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, fishing, fishing policy, halibut, Jim Kell, Lingcod, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout
I once had that dream. As a teenager, I watched one of those travel channel sportsman’s shows one day and the host and his guest were fishing the inside passage of Alaska. They caught fish and talked about the fish and their habitat and how to catch them. I sat and watched, enthralled with what I saw. I decided on that afternoon that someday I too, would go and give that a try some day.
Well, the years pass as they do and many years went by before the perfect opportunity came along. Then one day I got a phone call from a friend with whom I had discussed going fishing to Alaska. He invited me along on his next trip. I jumped at the chance.
We had a wonderful time. We caught fish every day until we were tired out from it. I remember sitting in the boat one day and we all reeled in our lines and sat for a while to eat our lunches because we were tired of reeling in halibut. We hadn’t been able to leave our lines in the water for more than a couple of minutes without having to reel in a halibut and we just wanted a break. We lunched and rested and talked for 45 minutes or so to take a break before we went back to work reeling in fish. An hour or so later, I latched in to a monster halibut that totally wore me out with an hour’s long fight. It weighed in at 168 lbs.
We spent our mornings on halibut but then the afternoons were spent trolling for salmon. The salmon fishing was also superb. We hooked up time after time with jumping, running, fighting salmon. Many times we had two or three on at a time. I even remember netting one guy’s fish and then dipping the net a second time to get the other guys fish in the same net. What a hoot!
How about taking along your kids or your spouse? There is no better way to spend quality time with family members than fishing. There always seems to be time to talk and get to know each other in new ways. The conversation tends to be different (and usually better) when we are out of our everyday setting. I have had some wonderful opportunities to connect or reconnect with family members or close friends while fishing.
Does this kind of fishing trip sound like something you would want to try? I think that every fisherman owes it to himself to go and have the experience of fishing Alaska.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan vacation, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing