All of us at Angling Unlimited express our heartfelt gratitude those who made the Sitka journey to enjoy the best fishing seen in years. We also fully understand why many AU anglers felt the risk or travel outweighed the benefits and look forward to seeing everyone again in a more certain future. We thank the workers in healthcare, airlines, airport, and government who remained on the job and made traveling to Sitka possible. The ever-terrific AU staff – land, sea, and dock – deserves a big shout out for going the extra mile to make lodging and fishing with us as safe as possible.
We lost mid-May until June 7 with the 14-day quarantine for entering Alaska. The AU team passed the time in May and early June by going fishing, of course. We found abundant kings with an average size close to the good old days. This proved both exciting and frustrating. Exciting to catch them, frustrating not being able to share the action with our customers.
On June 7, the 14-day quarantine was replaced with a mandate requiring a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding your flight. With this change, we went into scramble mode, and with the help of SEAGO, developed a mail-in testing service with StrataClear. This gave our customers the green light, albeit with the added testing hoop, and the fun began. Our anglers immediately got in on the action – more and bigger kings than we’ve seen in years, plus excellent halibut, rockfish, and lingcod fishing.
July delivered more of the same – lots of kings with excellent average size. Due to a decrease in angler effort, the State of Alaska liberalized king limits for non-resident anglers on July 11 to 2 per day, 6 annually. This proved a real boon because the king numbers were booming until the very end of the month while the silvers arrived late. On July 30, the state increased the non-resident limit to 3 per day and 9 annually, a lofty target offered as the king numbers waned and waxed.
August delivered a wonderful mixed bag of silvers and kings. As the month progressed the silvers became more abundant and larger. The kings kept showing up in catches each day in a sort of random pattern. One boat might get half a dozen while others got a couple or none. The fishing took place almost exclusively on the broad ocean grounds at Cape Edgecumbe.
September delivered spectacular silver, halibut, and rockfish action. Lots of the silvers were over 10 pounds, some over 15. The halibut action went into white-hot territory. Blackcod, lingcod, and the random king or two spiced the late-season action. We finished the main event of our season with 8 boats out on September 10 on a flat calm ocean, bluebird skies, and great fishing.
Given the uncertainties we faced going into the 2020 season, we felt blessed and lucky as the boats came in for their final trip.
Kings: A+ – 2020 was the best king season we’ve seen in a long time. Lots of fish, excellent size, and liberalized regulations. Ed Barnes, a 21-year veteran AU angler, landed the season’s biggest – a 55-pound beauty fishing with Captain Lev on August 16.
Silvers: B – Late timing seemed the rule with most salmon runs in Alaska this season and silvers were no exception. We saw great silver action kick into gear from about August 1 until the end, but the typical July showing didn’t really materialize. You can’t expect an A when you show up late.
Halibut: A+ – We started the season with excellent action for halibut and a 40-inch maximum size. On June 16, the max size went up to 45 inches – thelargest we’ve seen since the inception of the max size limit. We regularly found fish that pushed that 45-inch limit, we found them in relatively shallow water (260 to 300 feet) and remarkably close to where we fished salmon – less than 2 miles. Limits typically came in less than an hour. The closeness to the halibut grounds and the fast action left more time for salmon and other pursuits.
Rockfish: A – Not much to say here – when you want them, you get them. A trip into the shallow, near shore, and 15 minutes of non-stop fish taco catching has become a favorite way to spice up the middle of a day of fishing or end it.
Lingcod: P (pass/fail method): Lings remain abundant but the narrow slot limit of 30 to 35 inches provides a real challenge or disincentive depending on how you look at it. Everyone wants to get their lingcod, it’s just a matter of how much time you want to devote to finding the right size one.
Blackcod: P (pass/fail method): There appears to be a large year class or two of blackcod on the deep halibut grounds, so the numbers were decent but the work is hard. It seems that everyone likes to eat blackcod, but fishing in 700 feet hoping to find them while taking time away from salmon and other pursuits isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. This is especially true when halibut are easy in 280 feet and a short run from the salmon grounds.
Weather: B- – 2020 ended on a sunny note, but clouds, drizzle, and rain were the rule throughout most of the season. Thankfully, the overcast didn’t come with a lot of wind and we were able to fish the ocean most days. We did experience an epic blow on August 9 that kept the ocean out of sorts for two days. We had a second blow less extreme blow on August 30 that kept us off the ocean for two days with a third day that was fishable but big. On all but August 9, we were able to find passable salmon, halibut, and rockfish action on protected waters. All in all, it was anything but the prettiest bluebird summer, but the weather seldom stopped us from fishing in the prime locations.
“[AU is a] fantastic organization that takes care of every detail and provides an excellent experience. We’ve gone with AU for 6 years and will keep coming back”- Christopher party, August 2020
“We had an amazing time with Angling Unlimited — the entire staff was extremely kind and knowledgeable. I would recommend Angling Unlimited to anyone looking for a great Alaskan fishing experience. We brought home more king salmon and halibut than we know what to do with. Definitely hope to return in the future!” – Christenson party, September 2020
We’re hoping for a more “normal” 2021 season. From what we saw this year, king runs appear to be improving, halibut are steady, and silvers solid. People should note that the liberalized regulations of 2020 were due to very low levels of angler participation. If the projected numbers of people coming to SE Alaska increases for 2021, a nearly sure thing, the regulations will look more like 2019. We’ll know a lot more about that in mid-winter.
We are returning to our standard for 2021. Reservation and Cancellation Policy. We collect 50% when you book and the remaining 50% at 90 days prior to the first day of arrival in Sitka. In case of cancellation, your deposit, less 10% will be refunded. No refunds can be given for cancellations within 90 days of your trip unless we are able to fill your canceled dates.
Thank you for the fantastic and one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on. We had our trip cancelled in June but with a good choice we rebooked for September and could not have been happier. I sit everyday wondering when I can come back, if not tomorrow. I am thankful everyday that we chose to experience this adventure with Angling Unlimited. We will be back. Thank you to everyone who made our week one of the best in 2020 – will not be forgotten. Thank you.