Destinations - Alaska E-mail
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 10:16

In the first of this series (Destinations) I presented information on the Everglades.  Chris of Liquid Adventures with a nice silver salmon Florida has so many kayak fishing opportunities that even with my breaking the state down into regions there was still a lot of information.  Alaska, along with Baja, is the other place that compares to Florida in the scope and magnitude of the fishing.  There are many great places to fish and quite a number of species to fish for in a variety of environments.  In another respect Alaska is the complete opposite of Florida.  Florida has SOT kayaks everywhere and there’s dozens of guides, outfitters, stores and too many do it yourself options to list.  There are lots of places to rent kayaks too and it is readily accessible for kayak anglers who wish to drive there since Florida is within a day’s drive for millions of people.  In Alaska there are only a few guides, outfitters and places where you can rent a kayak.  If you had your own kayak you’d be overwhelmed by the opportunities.  However due to the cold water and intricacies of the place you’re better off going with a guide at first if you’re not going with fishermen who have experience there.

Alaska has tremendous reputation for great fishing and it’s well deserved.  There’s five species of salmon, trout, chars, steelhead, grayling, pike, halibut, lingcod and a wide array of saltwater bottom species that are lumped into the group called rock cod.  All can either be caught from or accessed via a kayak.  Some species are almost disdained.  I first went to Alaska in the early 80s and when we asked the captain on our halibut charter about fishing for some rock cod we couldn’t even get him to take us.  Rock cod in Alaska are akin to panfish in the lower 48.  The difference is they’re a lot bigger.  Just like panfish they’re delicious, plentiful and very cooperative.

If you are fortunate to be traveling about Alaska with a kayak you have a lot of opportunity.  Just keep in mind this is a wild land and don’t get in over your head.  However most readers will be flying there and won’t have a kayak along.  So this will necessitate either hooking up with a guide/outfitter or renting and doing it yourself.  There’s a lot of fishing opportunity throughout the state and with so much variety a kayak will allow you to access some terrific fishing.  However kayak fishing is in its infancy in Alaska and rentals are very rare.  Even fishing with a guide/outfitter is limited.  I can count on one hand the number of outfitters I’ve found that offer kayak fishing.  Doing a trip on your own is difficult as there are very few suitable fishing kayaks for rent.  There are thousands of touring kayaks in the state but SOTs are extremely rare.  From what I can ascertain there’s fewer than 20 available in the whole state and half of those are in Valdez.  As our sport continues to grow there will be more options.  At present there aren’t many but the fishing is excellent along with the experience.

The easiest way to set up a trip is to do so with an established guide/outfitter.  Some provide a wide array of services while others specialize in general kayak trips.  What they have in common is they are all avid fisherman who love fishing from a kayak but their businesses focus in running kayak tours.  There isn’t nearly enough business for them to specialize in kayak fishing.  So fishing becomes a sideline.  The two guide/outfitters I know both have cruise ships that supply a regular stream of customers who want to go on short tours and see Alaska’s abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery.

I’ve only been to Alaska twice.  The first time was in the early 80s, long before I ever fished from a kayak.  My buddy and I did two weeks on the Kenai Peninsula, camping and fishing (The Kenai sits below Anchorage and is the most popular sportsman’s area in Alaska).  We did rent a canoe for a few days and hit a series of lakes that had excellent trout fishing.  A couple of kayaks would have been better than the canoe.  There were other places where a kayak would have been terrific and would have allowed us to access awesome fishing but right now I don’t know anywhere that rents SOT kayaks in Anchorage or the Kenai.

Day Trips: This is where a guide takes you out for a day of fishing.  It’s the same type of trip most guides offer.  The guide provides the gear and knowledge and in Alaska there’s often a wide array of species to pursue.  Many can be caught on the same trip but some require some specialization.

Chris of Liquid Adventures fishing Resurrection Bay, Alaska Alaska, while part of the United States but has a different feel to it than the lower 48.  It’s much more remote and has a frontier feel to it.  When I was planning my first trip there we were looking at renting a Suburban so we could access remote places.  One of the guides we were going to fish the Kenai River with was originally from Pennsylvania and he told me not to bother.  He said Alaska wasn’t like the lower 48.  There weren’t many places on the Kenai where a 4x4 would do much for us.  He suggested we save the money and just rent a car.  We took his advice and rented a station wagon.  Alaska does have roads but they tend to connect major areas.  There aren’t many of them that go into the bush.  Alaska is so vast and the way most people get around is by plane or boat.  Planes aren’t practical for transporting kayaks but boats are.

If you’re fortunate to have your own kayak in Alaska there’s lots of places you can access.  In the interior there’s terrific fishing for northern pike, salmon, trout and char.  In the salt just about every stream is going to have a run of one or more species of salmon.  Migrations and the fishing require timing.  Each species has a specific time when they are in a particular area.  This includes both the salt and fresh.  Miss the run and the fishing can be lousy.  On our trip in 2008, Alaska was experiencing its coldest summer on record and because of this things were running late.  We caught fish but we expected to have rivers full of pink salmon on our remote island with dolly varden following them.  We didn’t have any fish in the rivers.

When we were in Seward, Chris from Liquid Adventures told us the chum salmon were running up a river only a mile down the shore.  We used kayaks to access the fishing and had a blast catching chum and pink salmon along with dolly varden.

In Alaska what we generally term Mothership fishing they call water taxi.  It’s using a boat to transport you and your gear to places that would take too much effort to reach or would be impossible.

Multiday Trips – Again you have options.  You can drive to a location and leave from there or use a boat for transport.  In Alaska they call boat shuttles a water taxi.  You can also combine the two.  You could take off from a port and have a predetermined place where a boat will come get you or vice versa.  This cuts your effort in half and would allow you to roam farther since you’d only be going one way under your own power.  You then have the option of taking camping gear with you.  Another consideration is what we did on our trip.  We rented a forest service cabin.  There are a lot of forest service cabins available for you to rent.  Between the National and State programs there’s literally hundreds of cabins that cost very little to rent.

http://www.nps.gov/aplic/cabins/fs_cabins.html

http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/index.htm

In the summer of 2008 several of us joined Allen and Troy, who had kayak fish/camped Alaska the previous summer.  Allen has made several trips to Alaska kayak fishing, probably more than anyone I know.  Also on the trip were Sonny, Joey and Danny, all new to Alaskan fishing.  We had an outfitter transport us to a remote island, 70 miles from port, where we stayed in a rented forest service cabin for 5 nights. The expense is usually getting to and from them.  For instance our transport was over $300 a person to go to Montague Island.  http://www.kayakfishingmagazine.net/community/trip-kayak-fishing-reports/936-alaska-2008.html

Alaskans are a hardy and adventurous lot.  I have found the outfitters to be very knowledgeable and very willing to accommodate your needs.  If you don’t see a service you’re interested in listed just ask.  If they don’t offer it they’ll probably know someone who does but generally they can handle it.  For instance we used Pacific Mountain Guides for our trip to Montague Island.  They supplied 5 of the 6 kayaks, transportation and many of the camping supplies we used on the 5 day trip.  If you read the brief description about kayak fishing on their website you get the impression they only offer freshwater fishing.  They offer and can handle just about anything.

The easiest way to do a multiday trip is to hook up with other anglers who are setting up a trip.  On our trip Troy organized and spread the word.  Allen had fished with Troy the previous year and was in.  Myself, Joey and Danny all fish together regularly.  Sonny learned about the trip on his regional forum where Troy and Allen posted about it.

The Four – is a term I use for Allen, Chris, Howard and Allan.  These are the four fishermen who caught the first salmon sharks from The Four - Salmon Shark fishermen kayaks in the summer of 2007.  Two of the members of this illustrious group are guides; Chris with Liquid Adventures and Howard with Ketchikan Kayak Company.

Water Taxi – this is what Alaskans call a boat that transports people and gear. It can be used Alaskan water taxi with Liquid Adventures for transporting kayaks to remote areas to either beach camp or use a forest service cabin. If you have a kayak or are renting one this is the way to get to remote places.  Most towns on the coast will have one or more operations that offer this service. As stated earlier the bigger problem is finding SOT kayaks.

Liquid Adventures (http://www.liquid-adventures.com/main.html) – Chris Mautino is in Seward.  I first became aware of Chris when Allen said I should look him up when I got to Seward.  Troy and I stopped by his operation and had a nice visit.  He uses Prowler kayaks in his guiding and offers a variety of services.  Day trips both from his facility and via water taxi.  Multiday camping/fishing trips too.

Ketchikan Kayak Fishing (http://www.ketchikankayakco.com/index.html) – Howard McKim, another four member, at present is offering multiday trips.  When I last spoke with him he was no longer offering day trips.  Check out the Foggy Bay trip http://www.kayakfishingmagazine.net/community/trip-kayak-fishing-reports/678-foggy-bay-alaska.html

Kimberlins (http://www.kimberlinswatertaxi.com/) – Offers Ocean Kayak rentals and water taxi.

Pacific Mountain Guides (http://www.pacificmountainguides.com/) – Otto is a full service outfitter.  He has a fleet of series one Wilderness System Rides.  He offers rentals along with all the services you’d expect from an outfitter.  His 34’ boat is the vessel that took the Four fishing and transported us to Montague Island.

Above and Beyond Alaska (http://www.beyondak.com/kayakfishing.html) – They offers day trips however they will accommodate overnight and multiday trips, just ask.

 

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