Alaska 2008 E-mail
Monday, 23 November 2009 11:26

Jon with a couple Port Chalmers halibut

While down in the Everglades I got a call from Troy (yakonthefly) asking if I’d be interested in a trip to Alaska the following summer.  He and Allen (polepole) had been there the previous summer.  The highlight of their trip was the couple days they spent at a remote forest service cabin.  They caught a lot of fish that included ling cod to 4 feet, lots of 10-20 pound halibut, salmon and rock cod.  The plan was to get six kayak anglers together and spend five days at another cabin on the next island over.  I said count me in.  Danny, Joey and Sonny filled out the roster.  We had our six; Danny, Joey and me from the NY metro area, Troy from South Carolina, Sonny from California and Allen from Washington.

Our crew was we get set to leave for Port Chalmers Cabin at Port Chalmers, Alaska We used the deck to store gear The plan was to Crew at the table in cabin leave from the port of Valdez and spend five days on Montague Island at a spot called Port Chalmers.  All of us except Allen were meeting at Anchorage airport where we had reserved a van to drive to Valdez.  Everyone arrived within a several hours of each other.  Sonny’s flight experienced delays and he was the last to arrive.  We loaded the van and drove overnight and arrived in Valdez in the morning.  We hooked up with Allen, had some breakfast, got settled at his buddy’s house and went pink salmon fishing.  We caught a bunch of salmon did some stuff around town.  The next day we were to leave for Port Chalmers.  We got up and met the captain and loaded the boat.  It took about 3 hours to get to Port Chalmers and nobody bothered to jot down the GPS coordinates.  So Allen and me hopped in kayaks and paddled up the cove where we thought it should be.  We found the cabin nestled at the tree line well back in the cove.  We let the boat know and they off loaded the rest of the kayaks and gear.  A zodiac was used to transport gear.  You know you’re out there when the outfitter hands you a rifle just in case the neighbors get too friendly.  I had read that problem bears from the mainland were exiled here and while I didn’t anticipate using the gun it was sure nice to have along.

We settled into the cabin.  It had 4 bunks, with the bottom bunks being wide.  They doubled as bench seats for the table that was between the bunks.  There was both a wood burning and kerosene stove.  The cabin was only 12’ by 12’.  There was a deck with an overhang and this is where we put our gear because with 6 of us in the cabin there was very little room for it.  There wasn’t a stream nearby for freshwater so the cabin had a catch system that used the entire roof to collect water that went through a strainer and ended up in two 50 gallon plastic barrels.  It worked very well and there was an outhouse about 100 feet up a trail.

All of us outside the cabin The Outhouse Joey with rod and gun Jon heading back from fish cleaning area After we settled in it was time to go fishing.  Joey and I went across the bay to scope out a couple streams and rivers to see if there were any salmon running and the rest of the crew headed out to the straight that separated our bay on Montague Island from Green Island.  There weren’t any salmon so Joey and I joined them.  We caught a mess of rock cod and kept a bunch for dinner.  On the way back to the cabin we stopped about a mile up the shore to clean them.  They were delicious.  The next morning everyone headed to the outer area.  It was approximately a two mile paddle from the cabin.  Danny hooked the first halibut and it was big, somewhere in the 50 pound neighborhood.  He lost it at the kayak.  Everyone kind of paired off and Allen and I ended up together.  Ironically we had all the electronics: Allen the fish finder and I a hand held GPS with mapping.  We had nicknamed and island off of Green, Dickhead, I don’t recall why, but Allen and I worked our way towards it.  We used the GPS to mark high spots as the slopes are where we found the best fishing.  A school of whales put on a terrific aerial display for us.  Otters were everywhere and the occasional seal.  It was pretty cool.

Troy with a Copper rockcod Joey with a 20 pound halibut Allen with a 50 pound halibut, largest of the trip Allen's 50 strapped to the bow We caught a lot of fish on the trip but it paled in comparison to the trip Troy and Allen had the previous summer where they caught lots of halibut, lings and salmon.  We caught some butts with Allen’s 50 being the largest and I got the only ling.  Alaska was experiencing its coldest summer on record and things were running late.  We’re fairly certain if we were there a few weeks later we’d have much better fishing.  That’s why they call if fishing and not catching but we had a great time in spectacular country.  We ate great too.  Halibut sashimi was outstanding.  It was good cooked too as were the rock cods.

Allen and Jon just before cleaning Alaskan halibuts Joey cruising along For the rock cod a medium weight outfit and anything that got to the bottom worked.  We used jigs and iron.  The halibut required stouter gear.  They’re 70% muscle by weight and terrific fighters.  A heavy conventional outfit was required as the lures required to reach the deep water they like averaged six ounces.  I was using an Avet SX spooled with 65# braid on a Tsunami 3 piece travel rod rated to 6 ounces.  This is the heaviest travel rod I’m aware of and I loved it.  Allen has since bought one for his traveling.  My hot lures were Tsunami ball jigs in chartreuse glow in 4 and 8 ounces.  On the hook I had a huge glow curly tail grub.

We fished every day except one when it was raining very hard.  We couldn’t see staying in the cabin so we donned our dry suits and went for a hike to the other side of the peninsula.  There was a river there and we wanted to see if it had salmon.  We had a great excursion but didn’t fiind any fish.

One morning when the guys were heading out to the straight they saw something swimming.  They assumed it was an otter or seal but when they got closer they were surprised to see that it was a grizzly bear.  When Joey got close enough to tell the bear headed straight for his kayak.   He quickly put some distance between himself and the bear so it continued on to an island.

The guys ran into Yogi swimming Joey and a grizzly bear On the last day we didn’t have any idea when to expect the boat.  So we packed our gear and Allen and I went fishing.  The boat came in and picked up the guys and all the gear and got us on the way out.  So we missed the loading.  Once we got back to Valdez we unloaded and took our first real shower.  We had been using solar showers with heated water since the sun never really shown the entire time.  The entire time on the island it was cloudy, drizzling or raining.

Allen with a pink salmon in Valdez Sonny with a pink in Valdez Troy cleaning fish at the Valdez harbor facility Jon fighting a pink salmon on the fly rod in Valdez After a good night’s sleep we went pink salmon fishing and again did really well.  Everyone took a limit and we went to the harbor fish cleaning station and processed all the fish.  Allen was staying on a day or two and the rest of us packed the van and headed back to Anchorage.  Danny, Joey and Sonny were flying back and Troy and I were going to spend another week.  Troy had made a friend online who lived just north of Anchorage.  We smoked some fish at his place and went fishing for silvers nearby.  Unfortunately we didn’t catch any silvers but we made a new friend.  Ironically what got Jim into kayak fishing was the cover photo and story of Allen and crew who went fishing for salmon sharks with kayaks.  We did our laundry at Jims and our next stop was the army recreation resort in Seward.  A few hours later we arrived at what would be our home base for the next week.  We originally didn’t plan on spending the entire week there but the facility was so nice we changed our minds.  We headed over to the Russian River and fished for sockeye salmon.  It was the typical zoo there but there were plenty of fish.  We hooked them on fly rods but with all the people we didn’t land many.  I sure wished I had a yak to float downstream a ways to water without people.  I had been here in the summer of 84 and my buddy and I hiked away from the crowds but I was a lot younger then.

Troy with his first ever Chum Salmon in Resurrection Bay, Alaska Jon with a nice Chum Salmon at Tonsett Creek Troy with his first Chum from the kayak Alaskan wildflowers Allen had said we had to look up Chris at Liquid Adventures in Seward.  So we stopped by one day and had a great visit.  He knew of me so we had a great time talking kayak fishing.  Turns out he and his girlfriend spend a few months each winter surfing and fishing Baja and Mexico so we had lots to talk about.  Chris had the following day off and said he’d look into arranging a water taxi and we’d go out for silver salmon.  For that day he suggested Tonsett Creek about a mile up the bay where the chum salmon were running.  Neither Troy nor I had caught one yet and they were on our list.  However we couldn’t walk along the shore as there were sheer cliffs that met the water so we had to take a trail up and over.  We loaded some gear and went on a hike.  When we dropped down the river there was a bridge and below us was a scene right out of National Geographic.  There were salmon all over and a sign that clearly stated you couldn’t fish above the high water mark and we were easily 100 yards above it.  So we headed down to the bay.  We rigged up our rods.  The tide was out so I hiked out on the right side out onto a bar and Troy used the one pair of waders we brought and crossed the river to the cove.  I didn’t know that Chris said that was where the fish would be.  Troy immediately hooked a chum so I headed over.  I rolled up my pants and took off my boots and socks.  The water was so cold I was cramping by the time I reached the other side.  The glacier was only a few miles up the river.  Since we only had one pair of waders we traded off.  We each got to catch two chums and then we’d switch.  We caught several fish each and headed back.

The next day Chris said he couldn’t get the water taxi and decided to take a much needed day off but he lent us a pair of Prowler 15s.  So we loaded up and headed right back to the creek.  It was such a pleasure paddling a mile opposed to hiking almost twice that.  The tide was out when we arrived and immediately we started catching chums from 5 to 15 pounds on 8 weight fly rods.  It was a blast.  My best fish ran out 50 yards of backing 3 times.  In the shallow water the fish had no choice but to run and greyhound as they fought.  The hot fly was a beadhead not pink chenille ice concoction.  Nothing else came close to its effectiveness.  Once the tide got too high the fish would run up into the river where we couldn’t fish so Troy went and took a nap and I did a variety of things.  I walked in the spawning salmon and videoed them.  I took a variety of pictures of flowers, interesting features, and all sorts of stuff and eventually took a nap.  When the tide receded we resumed fishing and the action was even better.  Pink salmon and dolly varden joined the catch.  We even got a small halibut.  We had been away about 12 hours and figured Chris might we wondering where his kayaks were.  We got back, thanked him, tried to take them to dinner but they had plans so we headed back to camp.  It was a couple of days of terrific fishing and the end of our trip.  So we packed our gear and headed back to the airport and home.

 

 

 

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