2012 Season Review:
In May of 1993, a 19 year old kid from a farm in Minnesota named Chuck McNamee stepped on my boat as a deckhand. He’d never seen the ocean. I’d say he was a bit green, but he worked so damned hard and learned so fast that it didn’t show. We worked together on my boat Obsession for 3 years, then he earned his skippers license and took the helm. We ran a two boat operation that year – 1996. We keep working together – he clearly gets more experienced while I just get old. This past summer was our 20th season fishing Sitka together, which provides a long view perspective for the Year in Review.
2012 Season Report card:
Sitka at its worst is better than most ports at their best and 2012 is a prime example. To be perfectly frank, the past season ranks down there with 1996 as one of the most challenging. The run forecast was strong and the kings started out well in mid-May. We saw some ups and downs until early June when the bite went wide open. Unfortunately, that didn’t last and, while most of June produced limits, we didn’t see the “kings on demand” type of white hot action we typically enjoy. Still, people left smiling.
July and August delivered king action sometimes and a near disappearance at others. Thankfully, the silver run was well established by the time the king inconsistency began. Despite the lack of dependable king action in July and August, many were landed and there was always hope for a king as demonstrated by a pair of kings – 18 and 30 pounds taken Mark and Tamara Goochman fishing a half day on September 4. Overall season grade = B-.
Big King 2012: 47 pounds caught by RustyLyons of Waistburg, WA
We saw our first hot silver bites in late in June and the run built to a lasting peak that ran until early September. The action really heated up in the second week of July, disappeared for a weird 3 day hiccup at the end of that week, and then became firmly established until the end of August. As always, the silver run had moments of completely chaotic biting. There were also a stretches of a few days when the fish made themselves scarce.
Baitfish, primarily small needlefish (Pacific sandlance) were abundant and the silvers well fed. The upside was larger fish. The downside was two and three hour periods when the silvers were too stuffed to feed. In 2012, silvers earned a solid B+. What kept them from earning an A was the occasional disappearing act, finicky biting periods due to abundant bait, and the run petering out a little earlier than normal.
Big Silver 2012: 18 pounds caught by Congressman Norm Dicks.
The big plus for halibut 2012 came on the regulatory front. We shifted from one fish per day with a 37 inch (22 pounds) maximum size in 2011 to one fish per day under 45 inches (44 pounds) or over 68 inches (160 pounds). The plus 68 inch target was hard to achieve but two of our groups succeeded: Andrew McCoy boated a 165 pounder fishing with Captain David Gross and the Burritt party, fishing with Captain Phil Carlson landed a 180 pounder.
If the ocean was calm enough to run offshore, we were typically able to get quick limits of halibut from 25 to 40 pounds. Inshore limits of smaller halibut were readily available on mooching gear. The halibut resource remains in a rather strange place with a fairly high abundance of fish, but very slow growth rates which is driving dramatic decreases in both commercial and charter catch quotas. Why they are growing slow is the big question. When the will start growing faster again is the big unknown.
All in all, the halibut season earns a solid B. The quality of the fish was very good on the offshore grounds as was the pace of catching them on most days. The regulations represented a substantial improvement over 2011. We’re working hard to see that trend continue.
Big Halibut 2012: 180 pounds caught by the Burritt party from Minnesota and Indiana.
Black rockfish (sea bass) catches fast and furious for all who tried. The frenzied action is a great way to end a day, especially on lighter tackle. Yelloweye and a wide assortment of other rockfish generally came with the halibut catch. We did venture into deep water and managed to bring in some Blackcod that were well appreciated by our customers. Lingcod were abundant, but it’s sometimes hard to find fish that fall within the slot limit of 30 to 35 inches.
A big mention goes to salmon shark, which seemed pretty abundant offshore. Deckhand Bo Breuner, who works onboard with Captain Greg Mohs, developed an obsession with figuring out how to catch them and had break through moment with the Silverman party in early August when they boated a 185 pounder. After that, Captain Greg’s boat brought in two more. These are a very hard fighting shark that are extremely good eating. If you like swordfish, you’ll like salmon shark.
Grade for the season: B+. We’d give it an A but lingcod inside the slot were hard to find and dragged down the grade.
The twist in the jet stream that caused most of the lower 48 to bake during summer 2012 provided the opposite effect in Alaska. May and June were persistently wet and unusually cool. The daily highs were mainly in the low 50’s – nearly 10 degrees below average. And, it was constantly cloudy with a fair bit of rain. July and August brought better high temperatures and a few stretches of calm sunshine, but the predominant them was gray and wet. Fortunately, we had only a few stretches of wind with the gray. Most of the summer ranged from calm to manageable on the ocean.
Overall grade for the weather – C for cloudy.
Angling Unlimited is in the people business and it begins with our wonderful crew. The goals are always the same: hard work, smart work, attention to detail, and genuine, friendly connection with all our guests. We think our wonderful office help, our hostesses, our deckhands, our captains, and our processor earned an A in 2012. For those of you who fished with us, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a grade. We’re always trying to make it better.
Thanks AU for another memorable trip to Sitka. Captain Tom’s description of the season was right on as we had the worst weather, hit and miss fishing, but mitigated by the best staff a herring soaker could ask for. And of course, our positive vote: “see you again in 2013!”
Tight lines, Ron
didint fish this year .. probably this is the 2nd tiem in 10 years or so. I lived my weeks by reading your capt Blogs… hope to make it in 2013.