Jim Lalor, wrote today’s guest blog post.
When planning our Alaskan cruise, Laura noted a salmon fishing tournament at Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage while we’d be there. She thought I should catch a salmon to be smoked and sent home. I thought a fishing trip would be a great way to spend a day but she wasn’t keen on the idea of bobbing in a small boat on the ocean hoping a fish would take the bait. Thus, I began to look for a charter with space for one.
Ketchikan calls itself the salmon fishing capital of the world and we’d be in port from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. Internet inquiries showed many small charter boats for day excursions but several emails and phone calls revealed they were already full on our day in port and no one was aware of a boat having space for a single. Then I talked to Capt. Mike on The Alaska Catch. He had 4 people booked on his 5 fisherman boat. He told me that the salmon fishing would be just starting then and unreliable. He said he had good luck at that time of June with halibut fishing and he preferred eating halibut. The cost would be $220 plus tax and a $20 license fee for a 6 hour trip. There was a fish processor that would clean, freeze, and ship the fish overnight once I was home. I told him to reserve my spot and we made arrangements to meet on the dock at the Oosterdam at 7:00 am.
That morning, I put on warm clothes knowing that it feels about 10 degrees colder on the water. I grabbed my lunch and was one of the first passengers off the ship. After a short wait, I saw Capt. Mike with his sign and a father and son from another cruise ship. A couple from the Oosterdam soon joined us for the short walk to the dock to board The Alaska Catch. It was a clean, shiny new boat that was well equipped. The enclosed cabin had 2 chairs and 2 double benches.
After more than an hour of cruising down the channel from Ketchikan between islands, we got to the edge of the drop off into deep water of the Gulf of Alaska. We anchored in 350 feet of water and prepared to drop lines. The 22 pound anchor was enough to hold the 24 foot The Alaska Catch in the breeze.
Halibut are the largest flatfish in the Pacific and evolved to have both eyes on their brown topside with a white underside. Maximum keeper-size for halibut on a guided trip is 42 inches so the photos you see of the giant halibut catches are from unguided fishing trips. Capt. Mike told us about catching a 220 pounder in the spring when he and another guy from The Alaska Catch stopped to fish for supper after a day of working at a cabin they have for fishing groups.
Capt. Mike said the tidal changes in the area are about 17 feet so lots of water moves into and out of the coastal areas carrying food to the halibut. The halibut lie on the bottom waiting for the food to come to them so that’s where our bait would be. We used large hooks with big chunks of fish and a one pound round weight that looked like a small cannonball. Capt. Mike counted down and we all dropped our lines simultaneously so they wouldn’t tangle on the way down. When they hit bottom, we cranked up a little and waited for a bite.
When the fish hit the baits, it was a major struggle cranking up that much weight from 350 feet. It was soon evident that putting the rod in the rod holder and holding down the reel with one hand while reeling in with the other was the only realistic option. We all caught halibut and quill-backed rock fish. Capt. Mike said the rock fish have a low survival rate when brought up and are good eating so we kept all the rock fish we caught and our limit of one halibut each. The five of us had a marvelous time fishing with Capt. Mike and listening to his Alaska and fish stories. Our group had a 40 inch halibut and several in the 30-36 inch range and 5 rock fish. An altogether successful and awesome morning of fishing, Capt. Mike made this a memorable outing for all of us.
During the hour trip back to the dock, we filled out the fish processing forms for The Cedars Lodge but they actually use Gateway Seafood and Smokehouse for processing. In the section to order retail salmon, halibut, prawns, or crab. I saw smoked salmon was an option and called Laura to ask if she wanted some shipped with the day’s catch. She was excited about smoked salmon and had me order 10 pounds at about $10/lb. Capt. Mike called the processor and they did have smoked silver salmon. Great! It would arrive at our home 2 days after we returned from the trip.
The shipment arrived the second morning we were home still nicely frozen in a styrofoam box. It had many 1 lb. packages of halibut and a package of rock fish filets plus many packages of salmon. We cooked a package of the halibut first and it was delicious. The first package of salmon we thawed was a surprise as it was fresh frozen and not smoked. It was very tasty but not what I’d ordered. I called The Cedars Lodge, spoke to one of the owners, and explained the problem. She checked her copy of the order and said they’d sent the wrong salmon. She asked what day I wanted the smoked salmon delivered at no charge since it was their error. True to her word, the smoked salmon arrived on the designated morning frozen like the first box of fish. We’ve enjoyed the smoked salmon as much as the other fish. It is so flavorful. If you’d like Alaskan fish delivered to your door, this is one option we are very happy to endorse.
Based on events of June 2015.