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Sitka-Big But Capital
Halibut That Is!
By Shawn Arnold

I was sore and tired. In the last hour I had caught four halibut ranging from 25 to 50 pounds. The rough seas had turned the boat into an E ticket ride at Disneyland. I had dropped my line down 300 feet to where the awaiting halibut were hanging out. I put my rod in the holder and decided to take a minute break and chow down on a couple of wheat thins.

Immediately something started playing with my bait. As the rod was twitching Captain Mike Keating of Big Blue Charters informed me I was getting hit and that I should end my fifteen second break and tend to my rod.

I shot Mike a look like I used to give my dad when he asked me take out the trash. Come on, give me a break. Mike figured out my stare and informed me that he was not going to bring the fish in and to get my butt in gear and reel in this fish.

This one was a 60 pounder. Just as Mike had informed us, the longer you stay in a spot the larger the fish become. The small ones hit first. These 10 to 20 pound halibut are considered chickens. They are way to small to keep. I think Mike would rather lose his arm than have a customer have to settle for a bunch of 20 pound halibut.

This 90lb. halibut was caught on a 42” Whopper Stopper rod.Then the 30 pounders are caught. Then 50 to 80 pounders. Every year fish up to 300 pounds are caught. One hundred fifty pounders are common. 
It is culture shock when you catch your first 10-20 pound halibut in Sitka. In southern California this size is a prize. You could win one of the popular halibut tourneys with a 20 pound fish. In Sitka though they laugh at your little fish, and release it. The charter captains do this for two reasons. One they let it go so it can get bigger. Two they are pretty darn certain that you will catch a much bigger one. Or two. 

Bearer Of Bad Weather
As excited as I get knowing that I am going to Sitka to fish, Mike Keating gets similarly apprehensive knowing I am coming to town. Sitka could have three weeks of sunny skies and calm seas but once I arrive it changes. Always. The movie The Perfect Storm comes to mind. A day or two after I leave it becomes beautiful again.

This trip was no exception. I had been in the Sitka area for a couple of days and it was sunshine 68 degrees everyday. The day that I was going to go out with Big Blue Charters blue skies were replaced by black clouds. Calm water was replaced with the afore mentioned E ticket ride.
It had been beautiful until the day I went out. With all my raingear on and the rain I looked like the guy on the Gorton fish stick box. Even with the rough seas I never got sea sick. I took the necessary precautions before I got on the boat. I took some Sailor’s Secret Ginger Tablets and felt great all day. A couple of other guys on the boat took nothing and paid the price. In fact after we caught our limits of halibut Mike wanted to go try for salmon. But the other passengers said no mas. And I can’t blame them. If you have never been sea sick consider yourself lucky. It is hard to imagine a worst feeling. Take it from someone who knows. Don’t risk it. If there is the slightest chance that you can get sick, take some sort of precautionary measures.

Big Blue Charters
There are numerous excellent fishing fleets out of Sitka. The first time I went there I hooked up with Mike and Karen Keating and have not looked elsewhere since. They are nice people and run a good organization. Their boats are 26 foot Ospeys. The boats have a heated cabin, all electronics, down riggers, plenty of fishing space and most importantly lots of storage space for your fish. Within minutes of catching your fish, it is cleaned and being chilled on ice.

Included in the price is all the fishing gear with quality equipment such as Loomis and Whopper Stopper rods, Shimano reels, hooks, sinkers and lures. Raingear is provided along with coffee, soft drinks, and pastries. The only thing you need to bring is a good attitude and a pair of deck boots if you have them.

Sitka the City
Sitka is located in southeast Alaska. It is nestled on the west side of Baranof Island. It is flanked on the east by majestic snow capped mountains and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Jonathan Roldan said it best when he stated, “It almost reminds me of one of those little ceramic villages that you see in the stores around Christmas time.”People are friendly and the attitude is pretty laid back. People tend to talk a lot about fishing. During the right season, salmon are a well sought after target. 

Silver (Coho) salmon are great sport and are numerous from July through September. King salmon are “king” of the salmon and start their run in about the middle of May. Their run continues until the end of July with maybe another run in August.

But make no mistake it is the mighty halibut that people target most and talk about.

Sitka has numerous lodging options, restaurants and things to do and see. Hiking trails abound but you do have to be aware of the possibility of running into a bear.

This 20lb. golden eye made for some great table fare.

Bald eagles are everywhere. Sitka is home to a world famous Raptor Rehabilitation Center that is quite amazing.

Sitka offers a combination of native Tlingit culture, Russian history and the rugged Alaskan wilderness. The Russian Bishops House in the middle of town is one of Sitka’s most popular tourist destinations.

If you go to Sitka and hear a couple of guys bragging about their big buts, don’t try to get a glance of their behind. If you had gone fishing there recently you could probably jump in their conversation.

Ravens Nest Is A Place To Crow About!

Tucked away on one of the several hundred islands scattered around Sitka Alaska is the Ravens Nest. It is a private house for rent on Berry Island. The owners of the island Al and Signe Wilson have done a superb job of bringing luxury to this 12 acre island.

Al and Signe have their own house on the other side of the island. They are available if you need them, not noticeable if you don’t.

The Ravens Nest is truly a luxury destination tucked away in a rugged environment. The house was hand made by the Wilson family and friends. It includes a fully equipped kitchen, a private bathroom, a queen size bed, a sky light loft and best of all an outdoor hot tub.

This is what you wake up to each morning.

The hot tub which is just off the huge1,000 square foot deck is surrounded by the forest. The sights and sounds of the ocean are what you get to enjoy as you relax in the tub.

Hiking trails abound as you can explore tide pools, beaches and breathtaking sights and sounds.

Kayaks are available to rent and are a must do. As my wife and I kayaked around various islands we saw numerous bald eagles, ravens, deer and breathtaking scenery. We did not see any bear but they are around.

Salmon were jumping all around us which added to the experience. Whales are frequent visitors to the area which keeps you “on your toes.” In fact I told my wife that I had heard a whale humming near her kayak. She stopped paddeling to listen. Just then a 6 or 7 pound salmon jumped next to her kayak. The poor girls heart nearly stopped.

The Ravens Nest is the perfect compromise location. I don’t think it is the place for a couple of fishing buddies. It is the place to go for nature lovers who like a little luxury in their Alaska roughing it experience.

Al and Signe will pick you up in Sitka on their boat and take you to Berry Island. When you want to leave they will take you back.

For more information call them at 907/747-5165 or e-mail them at berryisl@ptialaska.net.

HELPFUL SITKA INFO.

Fishing — Big Blue Charters - 907-747-5161

Lodging — Westmark Shee Atika, Nicest hotel in town — lounge and restaurant on premises. Downtown location, close to water, meeting facility 907-747-6241
Ravens Nest — The place to stay if you want to avoid the “hustle and bustle” of Sitka 907-747-5165 

Restaurants — Raven Dining Room, Located in the Westmark Shee Atika Hotel Channel Club — Great seafood. 3 miles out of town.  They will send a van to pick you up.

 

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