Last week, we began our season with our annual Hook It & Cook It event featuring Chef Ludger Szmania of Warm Springs Inn & Winery. All of our boats ran with clients, which made for a lively, packed house for each night of cooking. Ludger, with the help of his sous chef son, Ethan, entertained and treated our guests with his knowledge and skill of preparing fresh seafood from the day’s catch. He used a variety of fish caught in Sitka’s waters including pacific cod, salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. He also shared the complete recipe book for the event for our readers to enjoy. It was a perfect opportunity for everyone to enjoy five-star cuisine, share stories, and reminisce over each group’s photos.
During the four days of fishing for the event, our anglers were fortunate to enjoy record high temperatures in the 70s and some days of lake-like flat water. Continuing the trend from the last few years, heading south to find salmon was the best bet. Areas off the west side of Kruzof proved to be successful some days, while other days tucking behind islands in protected water was the ticket. While it’s common to see needlefish or herring inside a salmon stomach, this year some salmon caught close to shore had squid!
The calm water also allowed most captains to search further offshore for halibut closer to 43-inches. The groundfish were productive with most boats finding their halibut and rockfish, and once lingcod season opened, a few slot lings hit the dock, too. The average king total per boat was in the 5-6 range per day. The biggest king during the event was Jim Wilke’s 31-pounder.
The bonus to the fishing this year was humpback whale and orca shows. Some estimates for the humpbacks gathering south of town were approaching 100! That’s a crazy number of humpbacks feeding in one location – the most we’ve ever seen. And, the orca pods cruising through were in large numbers as well teaching their new born calves how to hunt.
Overall, Hook It & Cook It 2016 was a huge success. It was fantastic to see many new faces at the event, plus many return guests who love the cooking from Ludger and early May fishing. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the spectacular weather, which made for comfortable days on the water and beautiful photos. We enjoy kicking our season off in style and are excited for the season ahead. If you’d like to attend next year’s event, visit our Hook It & Cook It page for more info.
Enjoy these amazing photos from this year’s event: