Our Halibut: 3 X larger than Sitka, Seward or Homer
Our King Salmon: Highest catch rate in the state!
The Intelligent Fisherman
(not always an oxymoron)
While some folks might throw a dart on the chart to choose which stock to invest in, others take a practical common sense approach to choosing an investment. Likewise, choosing where to fish can be approached in much the same way. I have constructed a rational argument for the Highliner Lodge as the premier sport fishing destination in Alaska. No longer should you rely on insider tips, or irrational exuberance, when making this most important of life’s decisions.
HALIBUT CATCH ANALYSIS
Why do we claim to be "Closest to the Fish!”?
Location, Location, Location!
There are reasons that our average halibut are 3 times bigger than Seward, Homer or Sitka! We are NOT limited to one halibut per day! There is a reason that our king salmon catch rate is the highest in the state. There is a reason that our peak king salmon season is 3 months long while at most other locations the king salmon season is 3 or 4 weeks long at best. I will present the facts… the reasons. It is up to you to decide if this is an honest and compelling argument. If it is… it should trump any other reason to choose where to go for a great fishing experience at an Alaskan fishing lodge. They call them fishing lodges for a reason. People like to catch fish! That is supposed to be why you go there… to catch fish. There are many very fine hotels and restaurants in New York and London… but there are no fish in those waters… and everyone understands that. If you are going to a fishing lodge… your first concern should be… are there any fish there?…and what are the catch rates? People don't understand that there are very few fish to catch at many locations in Alaska. They might have a masseuse and a world famous chef, an endorsement from a famous fishing celebrity… a Frank Lloyd Wright designed Lodge and genuine Lincoln Log bedroom furnishings… but don't you think that they might be trying to overcompensate for something?
This chart shows the annual migration of halibut and king salmon from the West, to the East, and then South down along the coastline to Southeast Alaska and British Columbia... then on to Washington... Oregon and finally California. This is the route they have taken for hundreds of thousands of years. The pathway is well defined, as commercial fisherman have chased these fish for over 100 years. When you study the charts and tables below… when you look at the facts… you will note that, year after year, some places catch many more fish that other places. They always will. These fish are creatures of habit.
To catch a lot of fish you must be in their migratory pathway. You must go to where most of the fish are. If you get in the pathway, but there are tens of thousands of other fishermen there with you… well, do the math… you have to share with tens of thousands of others. Your share won't be very big. If you are late… you won't even get your share. So it is obvious that you need to get in the pathway AND go where there aren't tens of thousands of fishermen, AND if you want to get more than your share…to experience great fishing… you need to be first-in-line too!
This is where the above chart will start to make more sense. Please look at the 400 mile-long UNFISHED AREA shown on the chart in dark blue. This area is inaccessible to cruise ships, has no roads, few harbors and no cities, and therefore… almost no fishing effort. It is, in effect, an unofficial marine sanctuary. King salmon and halibut aggregate here and then continue their migration to the southeast where you can be first-in-line!
The table above shows that the two areas closest to the unfished 400 mile stretch (shown in dark blue on the chart) have the biggest halibut in the state. Coincidence? Not at all, it is attributable to biology and fishing pressure. There are still big halibut near Sitka, Seward and Homer… lots of them. They ARE located where the fish are. The problem is… that there are literally tens of thousands of fishermen fishing there! So it shouldn't surprise anyone that the chances of actually catching a big halibut in those locations is now very low… that is why the average halibut caught there is only 15 pounds. Our average halibut is 45 pounds. Because we don't have the overwhelming fishing effort that they do.
Other places are so far away from the Gulf of Alaska that they just don't have an abundance of halibut or salmon. They never did. They never will.They are not on the migratory pathway of these fish.
Some locations are on the pathway… but sadly (for them) they are last in line. California is last in line to catch even their own king salmon… they are caught in Alaska first, then in British Columbia second, then Washington… and Oregon… if you are from California you know what I'm talking about! So even if a fishing lodge is isolated and doesn't have overwhelming fishing effort… they will catch vey little fish if they are off the migratory pathway and, or, last in line.
We on the migratory path, we are isolated, we are not overwhelmed by fishing pressure, and we are first in line!
This chart also shows the two regulatory areas for halibut. In area 3A the daily bag limit is 2 halibut of any size, across the line in area 2C, the daily limit is one halibut under 45" or one halibut over 68" (You must release any halibut between those sizes… that is, any halibut weighing between 45 and 170 pounds). Not only do we have the considerable advantage of being first in line (we like to say… “Closest to the Fish!”) we have the ability to cross that line and fish in area 3A where the daily bag limit is much more generous!
The further down the line you are... the more disadvantaged you become!
This chart depicts the fishing effort in Alaska and British Columbia. Pelican is not in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska! I have put the dot that represents Pelican's fishing effort there so you can see it. The red dot that represents Pelican (where the Highliner Lodge is located) is so small as to be virtually invisible. Pelican (the Highliner Lodge) is located where the arrow that points to the East is pointing. The effort in Sitka, Homer or Seward dwarfs that of Pelican. There is about 50 times more fishing effort in each of those ports than in Pelican!
What happens when you are in a good location, but too many fishermen go there?
This Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) chart above shows that all inside waters in and around Sitka have been closed to charter fishing for the past 9 years! This is because there is too many fisherman depleting the local halibut resource.
including a growing sport fishing charter industry, is
vital to the economy of Sitka and other communities. The
number of registered charter vessels based in Sitka nearly
doubled between 1991 and 1992, and, between 1992 and 1998,
doubled again to 240 vessels. In 1998, harvests by anglers
aboard charter vessels comprised 65%, 85% and 88% of all
king, coho, and halibut harvested in the Sitka marine sport
fishery. Between 1982 and 2001, the number of charter
fishing boats in southeast Alaska increased from 139 to
1,343! “ (ADF&G 2000)
Is there really any wonder why this area has been restricted to a bag limit of one halibut under 45” or over 68"per day? Do you now understand why the average halibut is only 16 pounds (even before there was this restriction)? This is why you cannot fish for halibut in the calm inside waters of Sitka Sound. But you can fish the calm inside waters for halibut at the Highliner Lodge!
This chart depicts the average weight of landed halibut in Alaska. They halibut icons are sized proportionally so that you can visually see the difference between the average size halibut in the different locations throughout Alaska.
that "Yakutat" and the "Glacier Bay" areas (the Glacier Bay
area includes Pelican) have the largest average halibut in
all of Alaska, more than quadrupling Seward!
Data tables from: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/halibut/sport.htm
This chart shows the average amount of pounds of halibut landed per angler, per day, in these Alaskan ports. This takes into consideration that you could keep 2 halibut of any size in area 3A and you could retain only one halibut under 37” in area 2C in 2011 (future regulations may change but the differences will always be there).
KING SALMON CATCH ANALYSIS
The bigger the red dot the better the fishing! I have depicted the various king salmon catch rates with a red dot sized proportionally to represent the king salmon catch per angler. Notice that Seward and Homer have such a terrible king salmon catch rate that the red dot is nearly invisible! The data is from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) tables below.
Our king salmon catch rate is 5 to 50 times greater on the outer coast than on the inner coastal areas of southeast Alaska. A very large portion of the king salmon caught in southeast Alaska were destined to spawn in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon & California. Most of the Alaska king salmon are caught in the ocean and not near the hatcheries, or streams, where they would will spawn. The closer to the ocean that you are... the more king salmon you will catch! Ketchikan, Juneau and Petersburg have terrible king salmon fishing compared to Sitka, Craig or Pelican. They are over 100 miles from the ocean. The king salmon fishing has never been, and will never be very good in those locations.
Halibut and salmon are replenished from the ocean, but not at a rate high enough to make up for the fish taken out of local waters where there is very heavy fishing effort, as in Sitka. This leads to "local depletion"
NMFS tables below show the actual king salmon catch based
on logbook data from south-east and south-central
Don't be distracted by the sheer volume of salmon caught in a particular port. It is NOT the overall catch that is critical; it is what YOU will catch. The catch per unit of effort (per angler day or per rod hour) is the only thing matters.
See the spreadsheet below. I built this spreadsheet based on the above data for the whole season. The catch rate is computed by dividing the total number of king salmon caught, by the total number of angler days: for example, there were 367 king salmon landed in Pelican... divide that by 569 angler days and that equals .63 king salmon caught per day.
In other words, in Pelican, the average king salmon catch per angler, per day, was .64 king salmon. We only fish for king salmon about 4 hours per day.
This works out to be a fish every 6 hours, everyday, all season long! In contrast, it would take, on average, over 26 days to catch a single king salmon near Seward!
Sitka's Catch Rate: 7,889 king salmon / 44,194 angler days = .64. In other words, just slightly less than Pelican.
I built this argument for a prospective quest who had gone to Larsen Bay (Kodiak) and was disappointed because although he caught some halibut... he did not catch any salmon. In Larsen Bay, the average catch per angler, per day, was .05. This means that Larsen Bay averaged one king salmon for every 20 DAYS of effort. Again, the data in the spreadsheet represents the whole season. If you choose more optimal dates with us, your actual rate can improve markedly.
What really counts? How many fish you catch per hour!
We will have to use this Sitka table because Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game doesn't bother to make a king salmon catch rate table for our area… to little fishing effort to bother! We have already shown with the NMFS tables above that we have a slightly better catch rate for king salmon than Sitka. We will use Sitka's stats to represent the Highliner Lodge when comparing king salmon catch rates.
Please note the charts represent how long, on average, it takes to catch a king salmon, not how many king salmon were caught. Notice the window of opportunity to catch kings is nearly 4 months long! Now look at the Juneau chart below.
can’t I show you a harvest rate table for Pelican? Because
the fishing effort is so small that we are virtually
invisible to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and
they don’t bother to compile a table for our area. Please
let me know if you'd like any further information. I have
charts for most areas of Alaska.
you can hope for in the Juneau area is a king salmon every
2 or 3 days fishing. More likely, your might catch a king
salmon in Juneau once every 7 days. Around Sitka (same as
Highliner lodge) you can catch a king salmon every 4-5
HOURS! Juneau's "window of opportunity" is only about 3
weeks (June 8 to June 26). Our window is nearly 4 MONTHS
long (May 4 to August 31)!
This is the generic chart that you will see on almost every other web site. Those charts are worthless at best, and downright misleading most of the time!
They are an amalgam of ALL salmon fishing in ALL of Alaska. There is usually very little correlation between the fishing at that particular lodge and the chart. After comparing the our catch rates and the Juneau area catch rate on the charts above you can see how meaningless… well, like I said… down right misleading… this chart is.
The distance between the Highliner Lodge and Juneau is about 100 miles (as the fish swims). Our catch rate far exceeds Juneau's because We are located very near the Gulf of Alaska; and we are north of all of the other fishing areas in Southeast Alaska. I can present charts from every other area of SE Alaska and make the same point. The catch rate in our area exceeds all other areas by 2 to 15 times! Our catch rate is equal to, or better than, Sitka’s, because of our location and lack of competition.
We are in the migratory pathway, isolated from extreme fishing effort and first in Line!
Compare us objectively to any other destination and you will find we are indeed “Closest to the Fish!” There is no better place to fish for BOTH king salmon and halibut!
After perusing this information and studying our charts, I hope it is clear that fish are not evenly distributed in the ocean. One needs to break away from the crowd, and go to where the fish are, and almost as important, get away from overwhelming competition.
Aside from the objective arguments, there are subjective attributes that don't fit into spread sheets, that can't be fact checked, and tend to look like hyperbole...until you experience it (Please see our other webpages and consult our former guests).
Please consider the Highliner Lodge for your next Alaska fishing adventure!
We are undeniably... “Closest to the Fish!”
Fact: There are less than a dozen boats registered to charter fish in Pelican, but only 3-4 boats actually go out each day. By comparison Sitka has 285 registered charter boats!
Cross Sound to Icy Strait