When it comes to Salmon fishing, Alaska is hard to beat. We have world class Salmon fishing for a number of species and they can be caught in a number of different environments. Some people like to take Salmon in the salt water where they are the freshest. They will use private boats or charter out. Others like the solitude of fishing on a wilderness stream, there are plenty of places like that in Alaska. Some people who just like to get their limit of salmon will fish off of coastal rocks or walls. There is one method that is only open to residents, that is the dipnet fishery. There are places in Alaska that can be fished with a dipnet, which is simply a large net on a very long pole. They are generally used in rivers like the Copper River and it takes a strong pair of arms to fish this way.
I prefer rod and reel, whether it is from a boat or along a stream, I love to feel the power of these fish. They are especially difficult to catch when they have the stream current to help them. You have not lived until you have a 40 pound King Salmon on the line and he decides to take off down stream. It is times like these that your fishing trip turns into a marathon. There is no choice except to follow, over rocks and logs, through mud and water, and all of this at top speed. The alternative is a broken line or worse, a broken rod. (ask me how I know this?)
The fish on the right were taken in 1975 in the Chena River, which flows near my house about 30 miles outside of Fairbanks. At this point in their journey they have traveled more than 1500 river miles to reach this spot and they are very red in color, but still very strong. The largest of these fish was almost as long as the rod and about 35 pounds. Salmon fishing is no longer allowed in this section of the river, but they can still be caught downstream from this point near Fairbanks. When the Salmon are running in the river, you can have some of the best Grayling fishing there is. The Grayling like to hang in behind the Salmon and pick up eggs as they are dropped. I have had some good luck fishing for them by drifting a daredevil lure in behind the Salmon. For the most part, these are very big Grayling, they have to be to hang in there with the Salmon.
Valdez, Alaska is situated on the southern coast of Alaska on Prince William Sound. It is home port to a vast fishing fleet as well as transient fishing boats from as far away as Seattle. When the Pink and Silver Salmon return from the sea, the spectacle has to be experienced to be believed. There are virtually fishermen everywhere. But more than this, there are fish everywhere. They come in such great numbers that when you look out in the harbor, all you can see is fish jumping everywhere. I have seen them so thick that they literally jump in the boat with you. Some years they also jump up on the docks, where people just pick them up.
Valdez is in a beautiful location with towing mountains all around. It is situated about twenty miles inland from Prince William Sound on Valdez Arm, which is a narrow body of water walled by towering mountains. There are many many coves and bays where you can spend the night and never see another soul, it is a great place to explore. There is abundant wildlife to be seen both in the water and ashore. This is the home of the Coastal Brown Bear, as well as numerous Black Bears, Blacktail Deer, River Otter, and Sea Otter. Eagles abound here as well as many species of duck. If you have time enough, you will see Humpback Whales, Killer Whales and even Salmon Sharks.
There are many sights to be seen as you traverse Valdez Arm and Prince William Sound, not the least of which are numerous waterfalls that cascade down from dizzying heights and aqua-blue icebergs of varying sizes. On the right is a photo of just one of these magnificent waterfalls. The vegetation ashore is lush, this is part of the northern rain forest. The climate here is wet, with few sunny days, but when the sun does shine it is a spectacle to behold. The town itself, although a port city is decidedly "small town", It is neat and clean and boasts a first class harbor facility.
Probably my favorite kind of fishing in Valdez is for Halibut. Some of the largest Halibut in the world are caught here. You have to fish deep for them and just pulling a one pound sinker up from 100-300 ft. is a chore if you do it enough. If you get a sizable Halibut on at these depths it can turn into some real work to land it. They can exert tremendous force because of their shape, it is something akin to trying to drag and animated sheet of plywood, that is fighting all the way, broadside to the water. It's a tough job but someone has to do it...(grin)
My friend Bill Huhn and I had his daughter aboard for one Halibut trip. We were fishing from a 24' Uniflight Cruiser. We had tried out in the Sound with no luck and decided to try closer in. At the entrance to Valdez Arm is a reef that has become infamous, it is known as Bligh Reef, this is where the Exxon Valdez super tanker ran aground and spilled thousands of gallons of oil. Today there is no trace of the oil or the supposed disastrous effects it was supposed to bring about. The water is clean and the wildlife and fish more numerous than before the spill.
We had been fishing for about an hour with nothing happening, it began to get pretty boring. Bill's daughter asked if she could fish my pole for a while and I readily agreed. She did not have to pole for five minutes when all of a sudden the rod tip slammed downward against the rail. His daughters eyes got real big as she gave out a hi pitched shriek and tried to keep from going in the direction the pole was going. I told her how to set the hook and she managed it admirably. But then the fish decided to simply "bulldog" and would not move. It was like she had hooked the whole bottom of the sound, there was absolutely no "give" on the other end of the line. Being a gentleman, I asked if she would like me to reel it in...(snicker) HAH! she wasn't having any of that, this was her fish and she was going to reel it in if it killed her...(which it looked like it was going to do).
After about an hour, with the rod in every conceivable position including upside down, she brought her fish to the surface. It was about a hundred pound Halibut, a Halibut this size you have to shoot. It can cause a lot of damage if you bring it on board alive. I leaned over the rail and shot it between the eyes then gaffed it aboard. Bill's daughter was so excited she could hardly contain herself, she kept saying, "I caught THAT?.... I don't believe I caught THAT." We wanted her to hold it up so we could get a picture of her with it, but it was just too heavy and she wouldn't let anyone else in the picture....this was HER fish! We took the picture anyway, and as you can see even on the deck it is a big fish.
Many days here it is soggy and drizzling, but this day was bright and sunny and this fish was a fitting end to a very nice day on the water. If you get to go to Valdez, there are many places you can fish for Salmon on the way. You will cross many rivers and streams that are brimming with them, but unfortunately they are also brimming with fishermen. I hate "combat fishing" and will go to great lengths to avoid it. On most of these rivers there are competent rivers guides that will take you to a good spot and you WILL catch Salmon, and without the hassle of elbow to elbow fishing and crowds.
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