The Washington Outdoor Report - week of July 18


Josh Pearce and Captain Hunt Edwards with a 37-pound halibut. Courtesy John Kruse

The Washington Outdoors Report heads north to Alaska this week to report on the great adventure my daughter Faith and I enjoyed at Sportsman’s Cove Lodge on Prince of Wales Island. The journey started at SeaTac airport where a quick two-hour flight brought us to Ketchikan. After lunch in town, we boarded a de Havilland Otter floatplane and enjoyed a 20-minute flight over the Inside Passage to the lodge. The facility is located in a remote cove and features comfortable accommodations, a large dining room, a small pub, laundry facilities and the docks where the fishing boats are docked and where the fish are processed, vacuum packed and frozen for your journey home.
After a dinner of soy-glazed salmon we headed to the docks where our captain made sure we had the correct sized rain gear and gave us an orientation to the 37-foot Delta fishing boat our group of six would be fishing out of with him and his deckhand for the next several days. The boat has a comfortable cabin, a marine head, and the ability to completely walk around (and fish around) the boat.
Mornings at the lodge always start off by making your lunch from a variety of sandwich fixings, before eating a hot breakfast that changes daily. By 6:30 a.m. you are on your boat and the fleet of five charter boats heads out for the day.
Faith and I were on board the Mystic Lady, captained by Hunt Edwards, a Florida charter boat captain who had been working at Sportsman’s Cove for 10 seasons. Our deckhand, Jim, was a friendly young man from Kentucky and had the strongest work ethic I have ever seen.
Our group of six anglers consisted of Gary Parks and Ward Erickson, two friends from Port Angeles who decided to enjoy an Alaskan fishing adventure together. Also, on board with Faith and I was Mike Kirchner who like me, was bringing his 18-year-old (Pearce) from Colorado to Alaska for a memorable family fishing trip.
 The fishing was very, very good. Our mornings were spent fishing off the bottom for halibut and true cod and once we had our limit (of one quality halibut per angler) we would head towards an area where the salmon were schooling in good numbers.
Most of the salmon were pink salmon but there were also coho (silvers), bright chum salmon and a few Chinook (kings) as well. Our method of fishing was an old school one called mooching. We each had a cut plug herring with three to four feet of leader tied to a six-ounce weight and would drop it down and reel it back up rapidly in a controlled pattern. Many times, the salmon would follow the bait all the way to the boat at which point you dropped your bait back down 30 feet or so, reeled up again, and quite often the salmon would then take it. With every day a 40+ salmon catching day on the boat, we had lots of excitement on the water.
Around 3 p.m. the fleet comes back to the docks where photos are taken of the day’s catch and appetizers await. Dinner is then served at 6 p.m, followed by an awards ceremony where the anglers catching the big fish of the day from a variety of different species gets a coffee cup with their name and the weight and species of the fish on it to memorialize the occasion.
You’ll want to bring your camera and binoculars too because wildlife is abundant. During our visit we saw bald eagles, humpback whales, Orca whales, sea lions and black bears.
The whole experience was fun and wonderful. Part of the reason for this, in addition to the great fishing and food, is the fantastic customer service. This is established through careful hiring practices and also through the fact that there are 32 staff members on hand to take care of the 30 anglers who occupy the lodge for any given 3 to 4-day stay during the summer.
On the final day you actually get to fish again for most of the day before taking a floatplane back to Ketchikan. Most stay one more night in town, which gives you the opportunity to explore Alaska’s First City, a very popular destination for cruise ships.
The return rate to Sportsman’s Cove Lodge is very high and with the pent-up demand of this season they are sold out for this year. Fortunately, an additional four-day trip has just been added at the very end of the season, arriving on September 8 and departing on the 13th. This is typically the time of year when the biggest coho salmon of the year are landed. If you want to book this trip (or book a trip for the 2022 season) you can do so by going to www.alaskasbestlodge.com or by calling 1-800-962-7889.
 John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com

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