By Kent Danjanovich
When the conversation topic is Alaska, usually two words come to mind – hunting and fishing and then it basically just comes down to the situation of which one you are looking to do. And when you really think about it, even most of the hunting trips to Alaska include some sort of fishing, in most cases. So, as far as I am concerned, let’s talk about fishing!
With so many species of fish available throughout the largest of our fifty states, Alaska, for most, is the ultimate destination when searching to fulfill ones’ wildest fishing dreams. Are you after the biggest fish you may ever catch? Well, your dream will probably come true. Are you looking for an adventure that provides literally non-stop action on just about every technique you can think of? Again, it will probably happen. Alaska is truly the place where you can experience a lifetime of fishing adventures bottled into a week or ten days of excitement. The hardest decision you are going to have to make is what part of the state and what adventures are at the top of your list.
For the vast majority of people that I talk to, of course, the words salmon and halibut are the first things that come out of their mouths. Now the order that they come out of their mouths may vary, but those are always the two species that are the focal point of almost every conversation. And along with the words salmon and halibut, the word “BIG” is usually a focal point of the conversation as well.
Now, there are places in Alaska that produce big numbers of fish and some that produce just big fish. Again, it is up to you, the adventurer, as to which line of this wording you are looking to focus on. Now I’m not saying that you may not still catch the biggest fish of your life on a piece of water in Alaska that is more known for numbers than big fish, but you are more apt to catch a monster in areas known for producing them. That’s just the way it is!
Let’s get back to the salmon vs halibut discussion. Salmon is wonderful table fare and is a very popular item in many restaurants around the world, but when you talk to most people when the subject of fishing in Alaska comes up, the first thing they say is, “Bring me back some halibut”!
Well, that is easy for the person that is not going on the trip to request, but in most cases, they have no idea just what the traveler has to take into consideration, when deciding on a destination. Not all areas of Alaska offer both salmon and halibut, making your choice of lodges a little tricky at times. So, plenty of time and research comes into play when choosing the right trip for the right reasons.
Another thing that has to be considered is how well you, the traveler, can handle being on the open seas if halibut is what you are after. Now, some areas of Alaska are more protected from the open waters than others, but the ocean is still the ocean and some people just can’t handle it and believe me, there is nothing sadder than seeing someone miserable (misery comes in many degrees) all day long on the boat while everyone else is having a great time.
But, when you are searching for that perfect destination, one that will not only quench you thirst for multiple species, but also for a little calmer waters in most cases, there are definitely places that can fit the bill.
One such area of Alaska that offers all of the above is the Gustavus area, at the gates of Glacier Bay National Park, about 80 miles west of Juneau. This area of Alaska is not only breathtaking, but its waters are home to some of the best sport fishing in the state. And if you are looking to have a chance at a truly “barn door” type halibut, it is the place to be.
When we venture to this part of Alaska, our lodge of choice is Kent Huff’s Glacier Bay Eagles Nest Lodge. Kent has been in the business for a long time and knows the waters of the area like the back of his hand. He chose this area because of its resources for producing big halibut. The North Pass of Icy Strait is referred to as “Halibut Highway” and is where a lot of the big flat-fish migrate as they make their way into the Inside Passage and the Glacier Bay area to feed on piles of herring, candlefish, pink salmon and pollock. Another nice thing about this area is that the charter fleet of boats is quite small in comparison to most areas, so there ends up being more big fish available for fewer numbers of fishermen.
Many of the largest halibut ever landed have been unloaded at the dock in Gustavus, with many more in the 300- to 500-pound class measured and released boat side. The ten-year average shows the average sized halibut kept in the Gustavus area is three times larger than those kept in most other top producing areas in Alaska.
On our last two trips with Glacier Bay Eagles Nest Lodge, we have brought in four fish over 65 inches, with the largest measuring just slightly under 80 inches, with an estimated weight of 280 pounds! This area of Alaska has a slot limit of one fish over 80 inches or one under 44 inches per day, with the forty inch fish really the targets for the fish box anyway because of their superior table fare, but there is nothing quite like battling a true monster of the depths while surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape in the world, believe me!
By the end of May, the halibut will be starting to make their way into the area in good numbers. Also, king salmon start to show as well. As June turns to July, silver and pink salmon start to flood the area and as August and September roll around, the rivers and streams of the area also become an option for some fantastic fishing opportunities. And all the while, the halibut fishing just keeps getting better and better, along with opportunities for lingcod, yelloweye and sea bass if you are willing to take a little longer boat ride.
Back at the lodge, a warm bed and great food awaits as Kent and his staff always makes sure you never go hungry. A game room, complete with large screen TV, pool table and a popcorn machine is the focal point of night life after a great day on the water.
By the end of your trip, all of your fish has been processed, packaged, frozen and boxed for your trip home and really all that is left for you is deciding when to book your return trip to Glacier Bay Eagles Nest Lodge.
Yes, the Gustavus area of Alaska has a lot to offer and you won’t go wrong when booking your next trip with Kent Huff and his crew. They do a great job and it doesn’t hurt that they are sitting in the middle of one of the best fishing holes in the world! Glacier Bay Eagles Nest Lodge, visit them on the web at www.glacierbayfishing.com and give them a call at 801-376-6513.