Fishing In Style
by Lois Beath
Time to plan the family vacation. Dad wants to fish. Mom wants to relax. The kids just want to have fun. After much arguing, nobody’s happy. If this sounds familiar, it doesn’t need to happen to you any more. 2011 brings the inaugural season of InnerSea Discoveries
adventure cruising with something for everyone. A hot tub and on board masseuse for comfort, plenty of hikes and kayaking for entertainment, and the all-important fishing opportunities. Glaciers, wildlife sightings and ice bergs round out the itinerary, with options for things like flightseeing and jet boat rides at some stops. They call it the uncruise, instead of busy ports you experience wild Alaska in all her natural glory.
We had a wonderful time on the test run of the InnerSea Discoveries cruise, on board the Safari Quest of InnerSea’s sister line, American Safari Cruises. We toured the Wilderness Discoverer, currently in drydock having renovations such as an undersea bow cam for a channel where guests can view life under the sea on the flat screen TV in each cabin. The cabins aren’t the biggest around, but with so much to do they’ll just be a place to sleep anyway.
After boarding in Juneau, we had dinner while the boat cruised toward Windham Bay, our anchorage for the night. We woke up the next morning to beautiful sunshine and turned down the options for a long kayak trip or a skiff ride in an inflatable boat. Instead, we paddled around the bay in a kayak on our own. Seagulls dotted the mouth of a stream, feasting on spawned-out salmon. The occasional eagle flew overhead. We dropped a line with a 3 ½ oz green pearl Point Wilson Dart and momentarily hooked a small rockfish. John spotted a small island across the bay and we reeled in the line, got out the paddles and headed for it. Four sea lions greeted us with a loud whuff as we approached. Seals basking on a rock in the sun ignored our presence. We dropped our line again and caught and released several more rockfish and a funny little stickleback, the likes of which neither of us had ever seen before.
After lunch we took a skiff ride across the bay to hike near a pink salmon spawning stream. Many dead salmon littered the banks, live fish swam in the stream and near the beach. The afternoon brought more meals that I didn’t have to cook, and whale watching in Frederick Sound as the boat got underway again.
Morning in Thomas Bay dawned with more sunshine, dubbed “cloud failure,” by Kevin, the expedition leader. We took a hike to a waterfall and paddled the kayak around the bay before lunch, when the boat set off for Scenery Cove and a hike on Baird Glacier. That night John decided to try out the stand-up paddle board and go for a polar bear swim. A quick in-and-out followed by a dash for the hot tub. Later that evening we had a view of the northern lights.
Anchors away early and off to LaConte Fjord the following morning. Everyone piled into the two skiffs and cruised around a fjord filled with many ice bergs. Then we were off to Ideal Cove. While the rest of us went for a hike on a boardwalk trail made by the Forest Service, John skipped the hike and went kayaking by himself, with just his trusty fishing rod for company. He saw the structure of the bottom of the bay on a chart and couldn’t resist. He dropped a line in 90 feet of water over a bank he refers to as looking like a left sock. He had the same 3 ½ oz green pearl Point Wilson Dart on the line that we caught the rockfish with. He got more than he bargained for when he hooked a 60 pound halibut. That’s a pretty big fish for one person alone in a kayak. Everyone on board had halibut tacos for lunch the next day, with enough left over for a halibut dinner.
The next day in Wrangle we took a jet boat ride up the Stikine River. Wrangle has fishing charters, but we did not go on one. The jet boat tours sometimes go all the way to a glacier, but with water so low that none of the float houses where the locals stay when they hunt anywhere close to floating, we did not get that far. Back in Wrangle, we visited Chief Shakes house and heard stories from local Tlingit natives.
The next morning, our fishing guide “Batman” from Yes Bay Lodge picked us up right at the stern of the Safari Quest in his 20-foot Olympic boat. We did not have to go far to get into coho territory. While he had lures that no doubt worked, he was kind enough to let us try the things we brought. After slamming several coho in quick succession on John’s new mini fat squid, we decided to try trolling a deep stinger jig. People sometimes ask if they can troll them, so we thought we’d give it a try and see what happened. John hooked a half ounce white stinger up behind a 0/0 dodger and trolled it close to the downrigger ball. So the answer to can you troll a stinger is yes, fish will indeed bite on a trolled deep stinger. We caught enough fish to feed everyone on the boat in less than half the time alotted for our fishing charter. Batman suggested we go to Neats Bay. They have a chum and chinook hatchery there and often bears hang out at the salmon stream. Not only did we see bears, but we also saw lots of moon jellyfish near the dock and sea lions sunning themselves on a rock. When we got back to Yes Bay Lodge, the dockhand was so fast he had the fish filleted and vacuum packed before John even had a chance to look for his filet knife.
We took a Flightseeing tour from the dock of Yes Bay Lodge, in a plane provided by Pirate Airworks of Ketchikan. We had a nice flight over the Misty Fjords National Monument, and one curmudgeon who actually complained about the lack of mist. Who complains about rare southeast Alaskan sunshine? Never happy, there’s one in every crowd.
The final day of our cruise brought us to Ketchikan. We docked next to the Aleutian Ballad, formerly of the “Deadliest Catch” TV show, which now gives public tours. Our group took a walking tour of the town given by the former mayor, a Tlingit native with lots of history to weave into the tour. We also checked out Snorkel Alaska. Yes you can snorkel in Ketchikan, wet suits provided so nobody gets cold.
All the fun, and none of the work, what could be better? Welcome to fishing InnerSea Discoveries style.