Southeast Alaska Fishing Charters information
Fishing Area: the area we fish most often is 45-60 minutes from the lodge on the outside coast of Yakobi Island. This area is know as Deer Harbor and is the go-to fishing location for charter boats from Pelican, Elfin Cove and Gustavus as well as private boats from Juneau and yachts from all over the world. We just happen to be the closest fishing lodge to Deer Harbor in the area!
As you can see from the above map, Deer Harbor is exposed to the open ocean from the southwest and so fishing there is weather dependent. Not to worry, a benefit of our prime location is that we have plenty of great fishing in calm waters too. Inside of Cross Sound, Icy Strait and Lisianski Inlet the water is flat and while it's not the instant gratification that we usually find on the outside coast the fishing is still pretty good. Sometimes fishing close to the lodge in the flat calm water is more productive as less run time makes more fishing time.
Southeast Alaska King Salmon Fishing:
Our area is well known for being some of the very best king salmon fishing in Alaska. Alaska Department of Fish & Game lists the front side of Yakobi Island as an "area of high king salmon abundance" which can be can be seen here on page 3 of this Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Division of Commercial Fisheries news release
if you don't have a PDF reader click this link (https://get.adobe.com/reader/)
June is best for kings but they are around all year and fishing is good for them May-September. We fish for king salmon in several ways depending on time of year, conditions and our guests preference.
Trolling: trolling for salmon is the technique that is most common in our area. Electric down riggers with 12 pound cannon ball weights get the gear down around 120-150'. Trolling speed is usually around 2-2.6 knots and our favorite gear consists of flashers with herring or hoochies and large copper or brass spoons. Trolling is nice in that it requires little physical effort allowing everyone to sit back and watch the rods. When a rod is bit the person whose turn it is leaps across the deck and sets the hook in a wild frenzy. Sometimes all the rods get hit at once and things really get out of hand! Trolling is a very effective way to fish for salmon and is also a good way to keep "scrap fish" off the lines. In our area there are a lot of black rockfish and depending on the time of year, huge numbers of "humpie" or pink salmon. Trolling allows us to fish fast enough to keep the undesirable fish off the gear, leaving more hook time for the big kings!
Mooching: mooching is a great way to fish for salmon (and halibut) although it requires a little skill and constant activity. We either drift or anchor and drop cut plug herring or lead painted jigs down to depth mooching with long pulls, dropping the rod quickly so that there is slack in the line and the gear flutters convincingly down. You can also drop down to the bottom and reel up fast. The fish will generally bite as the lure or bait is falling, your line will go slack for a moment and that is your indication that it is time to set the hook. Setting the hook with the boat not moving you "feel the fish" much more than while trolling. Also, the lack of a flasher means having nothing between yourself and the fish which also helps in feeling the fish and allows the fish to fight harder as they are not pulling the flasher sideways through the water.
Regulations for king salmon are changed in season depending on the number of fish biologists are seeing. Regulations allow for one or two fish per day and a 4,5 or 6 fish annual limit per person, the king salmon must be over 28" in length.
King salmon offer a recovery rate of about 55% and while we catch giant kings many of them are in the 16-18 pound range, so four-six decent kings will come close to filling a 50 pound box.
King salmon are an amazing eating fish and these kings are not heading to rivers to spawn so they are fatter and sweeter than kings you might catch in a river system after they have stopped feeding. The kings in our area of Northern Southeast Alaska come from different rivers along the west coast, British Columbia and Alaska.
Southeast Alaska Silver Salmon Fishing:
Silver salmon show up in the ocean around our area the last week of June and enter the rivers mid-July. They start out weighing around 4-5 pounds and gain one pound every two weeks throughout the summer. By late September the largest silver will weigh 24 pounds!
Silver salmon are a great fighting fish, they generally hang out in large schools and feed fiercely. When a silver bite is on in the ocean the action is wild and limits can be pulled quickly.
One of our favorite things to do is fish silvers in freshwater, or to be more accurate in the salt/fresh mix of the sloughs where rivers pour into the ocean. From mid-July on the silvers are entering freshwater. It is possible to fish the ocean in the morning and a different slough or creek for silvers each day. While fishing silvers with spin rods or fly rods can be very productive it also requires some work and skill and generally ocean fishing will fill the fish box faster. However, getting into some of these special places in the rainforest to fish for ocean bright silvers is a part of southeast Alaska that you won't want to miss.
Silver salmon regulations are six fish per person per day and they must be longer than 16". Silvers have a similar recovery rate to king salmon, they are good eating and with a four day limit of 24 fish your fish boxes will be getting full!
Southeast Alaska Halibut Fishing:
Halibut fishing is very good in our area and they are everywhere! The big ones will often times lurk on top of a rocky pinnacle, or cruise around very fast switching depths often. Radio tags with depth recording devices have been attached to halibut and it has been found that they will often swim from 60-600' a few times each day! When fishing for large halibut it is common to anchor and "soak bait". Usually after an hour has gone by or sooner the fish will show up. Anchoring where the current will feed the bait smell up in to likely ground is a good strategy as common sense tells us that they follow the scent trail to the boat.
Our normal halibut fishing area is also on the outside coast of Yakobi Island in the same location we fish salmon, at Deer Harbor. Everything can be caught there and halibut are no exception. This location has several large areas that we refer to as the "chicken patch". Chicken patches are where the halibut are small but very numerous. It's pretty much an instant fish-on the minute your gear hits the bottom. In fact the halibut can be real pests when we are trolling for kings as they will swim up and grab the salmon gear. If we are not looking for exclusively giant halibut then a good strategy is to carefully catch and release these feisty little halibut from the chicken patch until we land limits of decent size (20 pounds or better).
The recovery from a halibut runs around 50% so if you keep a 20 pounder you get 10 pounds of meat. catch four 20 pound halibut in four days and you have 40 pounds of high quality filets to take home. I think most people agree smaller halibut are better eating than larger ones and its a fact that large halibut are female spawners, so it's a good idea to fill your freezer with the small fish and catch and release the barn doors so future generations of fishermen get to enjoy decent halibut fishing too. The fish boxes hold 50 pounds so the other ten pounds can be filled with lingcod and rockfish.
Current halibut regulations in our area have been getting a little complicated of late but we have been making it work. For this year guided sport anglers in area 2C (the area we are fishing) are allowed one fish daily that is less than or equal to 43 inches or greater than or equal to 80 inches in total length. This reverse slot limit allows anglers to keep halibut less than 30 pounds and greater than 208 pounds after the head and guts have been removed.
There is an area to the west of us referred to as 3A, that allows a larger limit of two halibut per day, one halibut can be of any size and one has to be less than or equal to 28" which is a 7 pound halibut, also in effect is a Wednesday closure each week and annual limit of 4 fish. We do not have permits for area 3A and although the fishing out there is good it is a long run in open ocean which takes away time from salmon fishing. Also, the fishing area is unprotected open ocean far from a decent hiding spot if the weather comes up.
It makes some people sad to release a huge halibut but look at the bright side, you get to enjoy the spectacle of your guide struggling to measure a 200 pound fish in the water as it flops about, what fun!
By the way, non-resident self-guided anglers still get to keep two fish per day of any size. So after you get home from the days fishing, take a hot shower and grab a cocktail you can walk down to the beach and enjoy self-guided beach fishing for the big one.
Southeast Alaska Lingcod Fishing:
Lingcod are very numerous in our area and are an excellent eating fish. They are easily caught as they have huge mouths and will swallow just about anything. One of my favorite techniques for fishing lingcod is to catch a rockfish on a jig and leave it down there as live bait. Pretty quickly a giant ling will come along and grab the rockfish, then you reel up slowly until the lingcod is laying on the surface unwilling to let go of its prize. They will often roll like a crocodile in an attempt to kill their prey. One word of caution, don't attempt to grab hold of a lingcod as they have very sharp gills and teeth. Your guide knows the best way to deal with lingcod which is to wear gloves and softly lift them by the gill flaps without getting your hands in too deep. Done right a lingcod can be held up for a quick picture and released safely.
Current lingcod regulations in Northern Southeast Alaska for non-resident anglers are one daily per person annually with a size limit between 30-35" and one more lingcod annually if it is over 55". That's a huge lingcod but they are out there!
Lingcod are mostly head (we like to call them bucket heads) so the recovery rate is only about 35%. The meat is very good tho and they help fill the box!
Southeast Alaska Rockfish Fishing:
Rockfish are almost a pest in our area. If they didn't taste so good we would complain. However, the black rockfish or "black bass" as we like to call them and yellow eye rockfish are really premium fish! There are places we can go where the black bass are so thick they will swarm under the boat and actually leap in the air to take your gear! Any pinnacle or rocky ground will usually be covered in yellow eye, quill back, china or other numerous species of rockfish.
Regulations for rockfish are broken in to two categories, Pelagic rockfish which includes the black bass allows for 5 per day. Non-Pelagic rockfish which includes yellow eye allows for 2 per day, only 1 which may be a yellow eye. Additionally there is a 1 yellow eye per person annual limit. We have release mechanisms on board to get the rockfish back down to the bottom safely so they can be caught and released without harm.
Rockfish only yield around 30% recovery in two decent filets of crisp white meat but they also help to fill the boxes and offer some variety.
Southeast Alaska Freshwater Fishing
Steelhead, rainbows, cutthroat, dolly varden, silvers, sockeye, pink, chum..
Many people come to fish southeast Alaska and go from the lodge to the boat, flog saltwater for 8 hours and back to the lodge each day with barely time to stop and view a whale or look for a brown bear on the beach never getting a chance to experience the forest and streams that make up the character of the country. We like to give our guests a well rounded experience in addition to filling their fish boxes so depending on time of year and your interest your guide can take you on an adventure in the rainforest hunting for trout, steelhead or salmon.
As discussed above the silver salmon begin entering fresh water mid July; also at that time the rivers fill up with sockeye, chum and pink salmon and along with them are dolly varden char that feed on salmon eggs. The rivers will be so thick with fish you could almost walk on them and its nice to get off the boat and stretch legs while exploring the tongass rainforest and possibly viewing brown bears, hopefully at safe distance! Your guide is armed and experienced with bear country so will make sure the area is safe and no one wanders in to bear trouble.
Earlier in the spring (late April, early May) we have steelhead and in May and June our lakes have good rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing. Getting to these fish requires some hiking and the only trails are game trails so you need to be in shape, but it's worth it to be out in the pristine Alaska wilderness where very few go.
If you'd like more detailed information regarding the fishing contact your guide, Denny Corbin.
Denny has been fishing this area his entire life and is always happy to discuss Alaska and fishing!