Alaska Halibut Fishing Welcomes Me Home

Bill Hanson with 50-pound Halibut 2016
Bill Hanson with 50-pound Halibut 2016.

Just home from a six weeks away from my home in Southeast Alaska. Although I had half a day of freshwater boating on Keuka Lake in western New York, and a short saltwater kayak trip in the Atlantic,

I’ve been craving my weekly time on the fjords and channels, the network that separates the islands of the Alexander Archipelago.

A Gift halibut Trip from a Friend

So I am grateful to my friend Bob for inviting me on a halibut trip today, one of the most beautiful days of 2017: sunshine, light breezes, and easy water.

Alaska Halibut Fishing with Nathan and Eleanor
Alaska Halibut Fishing with Nathan and Eleanor

A happy day with Bob, his son Nathan, and friend Eleanor. In 7 or 8 hours of fishing, we caught a few halibut (although none as big as my 50 lb. first halibut of 2016) with a smorgasbord of octopus, herring, and pink salmon heads, so a successful freezer-filling day. See the pictures of Eleanor and Bob for examples of our big saltwater reels.

Channels and Currents Offer Food for Salmon and Halibut

My friend Bob knew that I needed time on the water
My friend Bob knew that I needed time on the water

More importantly to me, we anchored where currents from multiple channels mix and flow as the tide changes (a new high or low every 6 hours). These are my favorite saltwater places in Southeast Alaska. With the flood tide bringing in a moderate high tide of 14.6 feet in the morning, and then dropping down to about +3 feet, the currents were strong enough to drag our anchor several times. Look at the textures in the surface of the water in Photo 3: at least a half-dozen different smooth and riffled edges, tiny white-capped waves, the underlying small waves. This place can be extremely crazy in rough weather.

Chatham Strait with the Chilkat Range in background. Mixing zones have ever-changing textures and waves.
Chatham Strait with the Chilkat Range in background. Mixing zones have ever-changing textures and waves.

With a bottom that is mixed rocks and sand, shallow near points of land that separate different bodies of water, down to more than 1000 feet deep in Chatham, the lower and upper layers of water mix, making food available for salmon and halibut. I could have taken a new picture every 15 minutes with completely different surface conditions.

I love the spectacular view of the Chilkat Range of mountains on the Chilkat Peninsula that separates Chatham Strait from Glacier Bay. Other than the shoreline, these mountains are rarely penetrated by humans.

Ahhh … sharing special places with friends, the never ending ebb and flow of tides and life, saltwater and wilderness… home…

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William Arthur Hanson (Bill Hanson) is an Alaskan writer who searches for the roots of life in landscapes and the inhabitants they shape. He draws on 30 years as a biologist, forester, and ecologist. He has worked from the rainforests of Southeast Alaska to the subarctic taiga of the Interior. His writing mixes his deep knowledge of Alaska with people and places from his worldwide travels to Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, Ecuador, Europe, Malaysia, and much of the United States.

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