Commercial Power Trolling for Salmon
This is what we call "Dude Fishing" (you know, like the Billy Crystal movie "City Slickers" )
Commercial power trolling for salmon has been called the “Gentleman’s Fishery”. It is as much a lifestyle, as a living, for many. It is at times beautifully serene, and at other times, full of swashbuckling adventure. Possibly a cross between gold-mining and cattle rustlin’?! Salmon Trolling is acknowledged to be the commercial fishery requiring the highest level of skill & sophistication. It is exactly like sports fishing for salmon, except you are trolling 40 to 60 lures in the water at one time (That is ten lures per guest), instead of 3 or 4! As much art as science, locating and catching salmon to earn your livelihood can be an exercise of extreme humility. As in sport fishing, some fishermen seem to have all the “luck”, and these fishermen are called “Highliners”! When you have worked your heart out all-day-long for only a half-dozen king salmon; while your fishing partner has caught 50 or 60...well, life just does not seem fair...when this happens too often...well, in my experience, you aren't partners anymore!
But, we are "DUDE FISHING"... and this is for fun!
A commercial power troller fishes for salmon exactly like a charter boat trolling with down riggers… the difference is a matter of scale. A typical troller drags four stainless steel wires through the water. These SS lines have a 50 or 60 pound cannon ball attached to the bottom (like down riggers...think BIG DOWN RIGGERS on steroids!) The boat moves through the water at about 2.5 knots (3 MPH) dragging these cannon balls very close to the bottom of the ocean. These stainless steel lines have stops every few fathoms (fathom = six feet) and at each stop we snap on a 3 fathom (18 foot) leader. At the end of each leader is attached either a flasher with a tail leader or simply a shiny metal lure. When all four SS lines are deployed, you may have as many as 60 lures trolling through the water at once!
Now, that was the easy part...next you must locate the fish and then...stay on them...that is the essence of all fishing... locating the fish and staying on the fish. Nothing else matters... if you can't locate the fish!
Dude Fishing on the Fishing Vessel Pelican.
The F/V Pelican is a beautifully finished 50' yacht equipped to power troll for salmon and long-line for halibut. “Dude fishing” is either a live-a-board experience, or you may return to the lodge each evening. This is not the "Deadliest Catch" ...there is No danger, No Drama, but is a real, hands-on adventure in commercial fishing. You get to run the hydraulic gurdy (think BIG, POWERFUL fishing reel) and YOU get to land the fish (club the king salmon in the head and gaff it, then pull it on board...the trick is doing this without the salmon getting off the hook, or getting the gaff pulled out of your hands by the fish! I promise not yell at you if you loose a fish... this is strictly for fun. I will instruct you, you will grow proficient and it will be fun! The blood lust runs high... and people get hooked on this very quickly.
The crew & I do the heavy lifting; run the boat, clean & ice the fish, and you guys get to run the gear and land the fish! We can overnight on the boat, tucked safely away in a little cove, or you can be taken back to your suite at the Highliner Lodge on a fast boat, have a fabulous dinner and come back out in the morning. At the end of the day we split the catch: one for you, one for me, one for you, two for me...and so on...
This fishing has much more action than sports fishing...after all, we are trolling up to 60 lures in the water at the same time! It's not uncommon to have fish biting continuously for hours on end. Very exciting!! A great way to bring a lot of fish home for the freezer!
Hello Prospective Dude Fisher,
Thank you for your interest in the Highliner lodge and more specifically "Dude Fishing".I have not promoted Dude Fishing very much...I am not an arm twister...but will suggest it more and more in the future. We had about 36 of our guests choose to go "Dude Fishing", rather than sport fish, for at least one day of their trip to the Highliner Lodge this summer. I really feel vindicated...every guest really enjoyed the experience! Most were somewhat apprehensive about trading a day of their Alaska sport fishing vacation to do something many had never heard of before. But many said that, "Dude Fishing was the best part of our trip!"
Dude fishing requires much more active participation that sports fishing, and most of the time there are fish being landed non stop for hours at a time. The guests both run the hydraulic down riggers and stun and gaff the fish themselves. We instruct guests and oversee their operation of the equipment. The captain drives the boat. The captain and/or crew cleans and ice the fish. It is safe and not terribly difficult… after you get the hang of it
We split the catch as follows: the first 3 cohos (silvers) go to each guest (if we have 4 Dude fishers the first 12 fish go to them) the next 12 go to the boat (24 fish: 12 to guests and 12 to the boat) after the guests reach 6 cohos each, then we split the catch 50/50. Usually this results in the guests catching their limits of cohos (even when the sports fishing for cohos can be very slow), having a great time, and learning the mechanics and culture of commercial salmon trolling. If we are fishing for king salmon (July 1-10) we give the first 2 king salmon to each the guests, then the next 8 are for the boat, then one to the guest and then 8 for the boat… doesn't sound like a fair split? You will catch more fish and have more fun than if you were sport-fishing that day! What could be better than that?
We have had up to 6 guests on the boat at one time. This is not an over crowded situation, the F/V Pelican is uniquely designed to accommodate 6 fishermen actively participating at one time. A "real" commercial salmon troller has a narrow cockpit from which the fishermen work and a very crowded deck... it is designed to be operated by one or two man crew. Our deck is wide open and easy for the "Dude Fishers" to work together.
We have several options for dude fishing trips. We can leave the dock in the morning at 6:30am and return at 5:00pm (just like our fast charter boats do). Or we can arrange for our guests to go out to the F/V Pelican where it is anchored at the fishing grounds via the fast charter boat and return the same way. Or, we can overnight on the boat starting our fishing early in the morning. We can spend more than a single day on the boat… spending more than one night. Sometimes we will anchor up tied to another troller (usually my son, or a good friend) have a barbecue and watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Alaska.
Some advantages of the dude fish option:
1. Great way to spend a bad weather day... yes we do occasionally have a rough weather. The boat is stable and heavy, warm and roomy!
2. Great way to spend a "not very many salmon around" day...this happens even in Alaska... even at the Highliner Lodge...even with me as the captain!
3. Great way to develop team work and camaraderie.
4. Great way to fill up your fish box with salmon to take home. While we get our limits of cohos and kings many days while sports fishing , sometimes the fishing can be slow, and this is a very good bet to get a lot more salmon to bring home than you would if you were only sport fishing.
5. In my opinion (and many of my guests agree...although some don't want to admit it): It really is more fun and interesting and active than sports fishing.
6. There is no other fishing experience in Alaska like this!
If you have a big group (8-12 guests) we could rotate 4-6 guests dude fishing for a day while the others sport fished, then change out the "Dude Fishers", and have them sport fish the next day, while taking on a new group of "Dude Fishers". I have had groups who choose 3 days sport fishing and one day of dude fishing, or 4 days sport fishing and 2 days of dude fishing. We are pretty flexible, you don't have to make a reservation to Dude fish… but it is first come first served.
One thing we cannot accommodate on the dude fishing is drinking while we are fishing...that is not acceptable (you will be operating powerful hydraulic equipment). You may however, enjoy beer & wine on the way back to town at the end of the fishing day. Also, if a guest cannot (or will not) carefully follow the captain's instructions regarding operating the equipment... I cannot take them out.
We retain, and sometimes sell some of the catch to cover the extra cost of this operation (at this time we do not charge extra for Dude Fishing). We also supply fish to the Highliner Lodge for your dinners.
for Halibut & Black Cod
We can also "Dude Fish" long-lining for Halibut, Black cod, Lingcod, Yelloweye and many other species of rockfish. We accomplish this by hand baiting a few hundred circle hooks and then setting the long-line gear by running out about a mile of 5/16" line with the baited hooks placed on gangions (leaders) every 6 feet. This line sinks down 100 to 500 fathoms to the bottom of the ocean floor (6 feet per fathom...yes, that is up to 3000 feet deep!) and is marked on each end with a set of anchors, buoys and buoy line so that we can retrieve it later. After it has "soaked" 3 to 8 hours, we start to "haul the gear" by pulling the buoy line up with a hydraulic sheave (think REALLY BIG FISHING REEL). After the buoys, buoy line and the anchor is hauled up...we are continuing to haul the "ground line" (the line with the gangions and baited hooks and now...fish!! attached to it) up over the side roller and onto the boat. We must gaff the fish and help them over the side. Imagine retrieving hundreds of baited circle hooks in an hour or two!
Again, this is real commercial fishing...but for fun.
"DUDE FISHING" (think City
Slickers meets Deadliest Catch during a Perfect Storm!!)
Well, we don't do this unless the weather is really nice.
No one has ever been injured on my commercial boats in over
35 years of operation, so there is nothing really deadly
about it and like "Curly" in the movie “City Slickers”...
I'm really a pussycat. Hmmm...(can't believe I said that).
This is NOT the target fish!
My son Jon (on the right) hanging upside down to pose with the imposing shark he has inadvertently caught while long-lining for halibut and black cod.
Sperm whales are almost always next to the boat while we longline for sablefish (black cod). The smart ones eat our target catch. Some sperm whales, the dumb ones (is it politically correct to call a sperm whale "dumb"? Would that constitute harassment of a marine mammal?) haven't yet figured out how to get a free lunch...but they are learning. When the whales take too many fish...it may turn an otherwise reasonable man into a Captain Ahab!
Related Future Topics:
Commercial vs. Charter Halibut Politics
The Deadliest Catch
Steve Daniels: No Friend to Sports Fishing?