When my friend Chad Busiere proposed the idea of traveling to Alaska to fish some of the most plentiful waters in our country, before he could finish speaking, the answer was “yes”. It was always going to be “yes”! I have dreamt of fishing Alaska since I was a child. To have the opportunity now to go with some good friends and apply our preferred method of fishing which, as you may have guess, is slow pitch jigging, well this…this was not to be missed!
Having had some experience in destination fishing, I had much of the necessary luggage required to safely transport my gear and accommodate all of TSA and airline requirements. You have to be sure your rod tube meets the length requirements and that your tackle bags meet the weight requirements. As well, you should find out the restrictions for your carry-on luggage. For example, some airlines will not allow you to fly with fishing line on your reels in your carry-on. It is critical to do your research beforehand. In my personal experience, especially preparing for a new destination, I tend to overpack. I live by the old “I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it”. Needless to say, in Alaska, I had more than enough gear.
Thirty-five hundred miles later, Chad Busiere, Josh Hanna, and I arrived at our final destination from Orlando, FL to Sitka, Alaska. We were greeted by our gracious hosts from A to Z Sport Fishing Charters and it was off to the lodge to settle in and ready ourselves for the next 3 days on the water. This lodge is a top notch accommodation including a view of a volcano from the porch, a live-in chef, laundry services, and fish processing at the lower level with a flash freezer!
Time to fish! Quite literally the best weather day of the year thus far for Sitka and it wasn’t set to last. That being said, the decision was easy to go deep while we had the opportunity. After leaving the dock, it was about an hour or so run to our destination. At about the halfway mark we ran into a wall of fog, the likes of which I have never seen. So dense that from a distance it looked solid and impenetrable.
A short time later, we reached our target depth of 1000’ of some hard, rocky patches among the mud with hopes of it holding some Demerzel Rockfish. A quick pass to check the drift and it was off to the sea floor. A few quick cranks to make contact with my jig, back to the bottom and begin to fish. In just a few short pitches, my line went slack and I quickly caught up to the fish and buried the hook. The battle began.
Instantly I could tell it was a good fish but not a giant. When it surfaced, we all went wild! It was the Shortraker Rockfish – the species we were searching for! A round of high fives, a brain spike, and reset the drift which immediately resulted in a repeat for me: another Shortraker Rockfish almost double the size!! Half a day of fishing and my trip was already made. I went with the Vanfook BBS-88 size #6/0 Single Assist tied with 200lb J-AL assist line with the anticipation of a long fight from a large target. The choice was proven to be a wise one.
Vanfook BBS-88 size #6/0 – Shortraker Rockfish
After we reached our Rockfish limit (one per day per person), we pushed out deeper, much deeper, to the “Black Cod Edge” in excess of 2000’. We stuck it out for a while but had no luck there. We were eager for a consistent bite so we made our way back shallow into that sub 200’ mark and it was game on. Almost every drop was a fish. Halibut, Lingcod, Yellow Eye Rockfish, Quillback Rockfish, King Salmon…the day was a complete success!
Vanfook Spear size #3/0 SA-60 Single Assist – Lingcod
What began as a beautiful clear day was forecast to turn real ugly come early afternoon and set to stay that way for the remainder of our trip. Collectively we decided…back out to the deep, of course! On the way out to the Black Cod territory, we hit a spot in 700’ hoping to pick off some more Shortraker or other Rockfish. Both Chad and Josh were eager to get on of their own. Almost immediately, Josh hooked up and I followed suit for a nice pair of Redbanded Rockfish, another first for us. These fish are tight to the bottom. They have many similarities to our grouper species back home.
Vanfook BBS-88 size #6/0 – Jigz-up Abyssal 500g – Spathe Deep P2 -Redbanded Rockfish
Having reached our Rockfish limit again, and with weather quickly approaching, onward we went once again in search of the Black Cod, a fish I admittedly knew nothing about prior to this trip. I sent my 1000g jig 2200’ down to the muddy bottom armed with my Marfix N4, Spathe Deep P3 and some of the sharpest Japanese hooks on the market, in this case the Jigen Hyper Twin JHT-55 size #7/0.
Knowing very little about this species and wanting as many points of contacts as possible, I chose to go with doubles rather than my usual singles in extreme depths. I worked the jig, not in the traditional sense of slow jigging, mostly just bottom bouncing at this depth and at last a strike! Ever so subtle but he was there! Now all I had to do was crank it in manually from nearly half a mile down…I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Vanfook Jigen Hyper Twin JHT-55 size #7/0
Our final day of fishing. With the weather on a steady decline since the afternoon prior, which consisted of a lot of wind and rain, we had no choice but to fish near shore. Which honestly, we were okay with giving us time to really target the King Salmon. We drifted around near some islands, picking off a fish here and there. We continued to stick and move. Then we found ourseles in a channel with a big ball of bait on the screen. It wasn’t long before we found the Salmon. What a blast! Captain Taylor would continuously call out depths “three fish at 60 feet” or “five fish at 90 feet”. It was fast paced fishing and a ton of fun! The King Salmon are able to take long runs and surface for some acrobatics which we witnessed over and over. We finished out our final day of fishing hooking into dozens of Salmon, landing and keeping the ones we could. The Jigen Hyper Twin JHT-55 #4/0 was the optimal choice for me in this scenario.
The trip of a lifetime!
If you haven’t made it to Alaska yet, you should consider it. And if you’re considering it, you should pull the trigger. It lives up to the hype and so much more. Thank you to our hosts A to Z Sport Fishing – they really went above and beyond both on and off the water. Thank you to Captain Taylor for accommodating us jig guys and letting us make a believer out of him. A shout out to our cameraman Colton for capturing it all on film. And of course my friends, Josh and Chad – can’t wait to run it back!!