Each season presents unique challenges and opportunities, yet we also see a consistent year-to-year rhythm, a pattern, which revolves around salmon run timing: kings in May and June, a mix of kings and silvers in July thru mid-August, big silvers in late August and early September. Halibut, lingcod, rockfish, and blackcod provide the bottomfish action throughout the season. Our 2021 season began in mid-May with Hook It and Cook It and concluded on September 9.
Here’s how we graded the season:
Kings – B
We found excellent numbers of kings from the get-go in May which continued throughout the season. So, why the B? The size of the kings, at times, fell on the small side of average. We did have stretches where the size seemed decent, but big fish were very rare. The regulations provided the second reason for the lower grade. We opened with a nice one per day and a four annual limit. The annual limit dropped to two on July 1st, one on July 10th, and zero for the month of August. We did experience excellent king fishing all summer, but the restraint on keeping them knocks the grade down a notch.
Halibut – B+
We had very good times for halibut and some slightly scratchy times. They moved in closer to shore in August but seemed to vacate their offshore spots from time to time. For the most part, we got limits each day, but not with the blazing speed and consistency of recent years. The grade for halibut gets a push up from the very generous 50 maximum size limit. This allowed our guests to keep flatties up to 60 pounds – which added to fun on the grounds and take home in the box.
Silvers – C
Yes, we had times of excellent silver fishing, but they arrived a bit late and never became fully established. Silver fishing vacillated from red hot one day to scratchy the next. A boat in the right place at the right time could rack up a good score, but the action was seldom widespread. Our guest enjoyed good size silvers in the late season. Also, bear in mind the lofty goal is a six silvers per person limit. Scratchy fishing means 12 or 15 nice salmon in the boat by the end of the day rather than 24 quick ones. That’s a decent scratch in our book.
Chums – A
We had a blitz of bright big chum salmon in July and early August that provided exciting action. These fish fight hard and the bright chums, despite bias to the contrary, are a fine eating fish. They helped fill the gap left by the sporadic silvers. On a yearly basis, there’s no predicting chum fishing – some seasons we catch many, most years they are an occasional bonus fish. This was a banner chum season.
Blackcod – A
There are at least two strong year classes of blackcod (sablefish) coming of age in our waters. That translates to bigger catches of these highly prized (for food) fish and we’re finding them in relatively shallow water (450 feet rather than 700 plus). We saw more limits of blackcod hit the dock this year than ever. The size ranged from the kind of small 3 to 5-pound fish all the way up to much bigger ones in the mid-teens.
Rockfish – A+
What can we say, when the moment calls for some fast and fun action, the rockfish seldom let you down. We always find them, and the bite is fast. They are great eating and an excellent way to end the day on a fun note.
Lingcod – B
The season for lings started strong, helped by the expanded slot limit. We went from being restricted to lingcod between 30 to 35 inches long up to 30 to 40 inches. This opened more opportunities to find a keeper and we got a lot of them in May and June. As the season progressed, we had to work a bit harder to find keepers. The grade is A in May and June and C for the rest of the season. That averages out to a B.
Blue Sharks – F
Blue sharks arrived on the scene early in July. By mid-August, they became so abundant as to present serious challenges to halibut and blackcod as well as a nuisance to salmon fishing. Blue sharks take our gear on the way down and chew on our target species on the way up. Why so many? We don’t know and have yet to learn an answer. The water was not particularly warm, so the best guess is the population is increasing or something was happening in our area to attract a major infestation. We know each species has its place in the ecosystem, we just hope that isn’t near Sitka again next year.
Weather – B
May thru mid-June delivered decent weather wind-wise, but it was a bit colder than normal. Next came some rough weather in mid to late June after which we enjoyed an extended period of calm that stretched into mid-July. The rest of the season was mostly a cycle that included wind and rain for a day or two, then calm for a day or two. Generally, the ocean was “fishable” and when it wasn’t we found some good silver fishing in protected waters. We were especially thankful for a resurgence of action in the Shark Hole, the likes of which we haven’t seen for years.
Very Few Spots Left for 2022!
AU continues to book up earlier and earlier each year. We have a policy of giving our guests from the current season the right of first refusal on their dates for the next season. An extremely high percentage exercise that option. Still, we have a few early-season openings in May and the occasional cancellation. Give us a call or send us an email. Let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll do our best to make it happen.