It’s a Wrap
2022 Retrospective: This year marked the 30th season for Captains Chuck and Tom in Sitka. Plenty has changed since 1993, yet one thing remains the same – Sitka is as good as it gets in the North Pacific. There’s something special about these waters along the outer coast of Southeast Alaska and we feel ever thankful for the opportunity to take all our guests out to enjoy the sportfishing action, the wildlife, and the breathtaking scenery.
Here’s how we graded the season:
Chinook abundance kept our guests happy in 2022. We experienced a wee bit of inconsistency during our earliest trips in May, but things weren’t bleak by any means. By the end of May, king numbers were strong and remained that way throughout the rest of the season. We enjoyed lights-out action at times. We also saw days when you had to be in the exact right spot at the right time. Our guests consistently connected on kings. We fished with a one-king daily limit throughout the season. The annual limit was three in May and June, dropping to two from July 1–15, then to one from July 16 through the end of the season. This regulation appears to be cast in stone for the next three years, with “appears” as the operative term.
The first week of the season was a wee bit spooky for the lack of halibut on the nearer shore spots, but we quickly found them well offshore. These were perfect size halibut with black cod and pacific cod mixed in with the catch. By late in May the nearer shore spots joined the party and for most of the season, we had little trouble producing limit catches. The interesting glitch to it all was that some of the highly productive halibut spots were so thick with Pacific cod and blackcod that catching halibut became the challenge. By the last month of the season, we had two locations that were producing fast limits near or in the same location as we were finding silvers. The halibut size seemed down, partially due to a 40-inch maximum size limit and because we saw an abundance of halibut measuring about 32 inches this year. These fish will grow which bodes well for the coming years.
We began seeing coho in the latter part of June. We experienced the usual fits and starts for a few weeks, but by mid-July, our guest enjoyed consistent silver action for the rest of the summer with the expected fits and starts. The Shark Hole took the form of the good old days in mid-August which is always fun. Plus, it’s protected from strong south and southeast blows. We didn’t find the 30-minute limit kind of silver fishing this season, but the action was solid and the catch added up if you put in the time. The very biggest silvers of the year showed up in late August and early September, though usually, we see the big hook-nose silvers sooner.
Always a crowd pleaser, the stop for a quick rockfish party makes for a wonderful way to end the day or provide a lift in the middle of the day. There’s not much to say here other than they haven’t gone away and haven’t gotten fussy. They continue to produce abundant smiles for the guests and the best fish tacos when you get them home.
We enjoyed a good supply of lingcod in the 30-to-40-inch slot limit this season. Most lings are caught incidentally while fishing for rockfish and halibut. Still, if you want to carve the time out from other pursuits, finding “slot” lings is totally viable.
Blackcod and Pacific Cod: A+
We’re enjoying two exceptionally abundant year classes of blackcod that have moved into waters considered shallow for this species. We’re talking 500 to 700 feet deep. Our guests are catching them in locations that historically only produced halibut. The pacific cod have joined this party as well despite dire predictions for their population back about 5 years. We’ve been fishing these waters for 30 years now and have never seen this kind of abundance for either species. For the time being, these are the good old days for P cod and B cod.
Bonus Salmon: A+
2022 brought an abundance of “other salmon” – pinks, chums, and the odd sockeye. Granted, the pinks don’t light most people’s fire but they generate action. The chums provided the major surprise, at times outnumbering the silvers in locations around Cape Edgecumbe. The chums of July are mint bright, strong, and very good eating. They remain that way in early August but then they begin to get a bit too mature and the food quality diminishes. Thankfully, by the time that happens, the silvers are gathering in big numbers and growing.
The weather for 2022 was mostly clear and dry until the last week of June, then someone flipped a switch to overcast and wet for the rest of the season. We had more fog than normal by a long shot, which didn’t have a negative effect on the fishing but certainly disrupted air travel. Overall, during the sunny half or the cloudy half, we were able to get out on the ocean most days, and on those that we couldn’t we found fish in protected locations like the Shark Hole and farther inland. The cool, cloudy, wet weather seemed to come as a relief to our guests who arrived from the sweltering heat in the lower 48.
AU had another excellent year on the operational side. We continue to be blessed with an excellent and stable line up of captains. Bella ran our office with great precision, the deckhands turned in their usual hard work, and the hostesses provided superb service with a genuine smile. We had very few mechanical issues and those we had were resolvable to the point that our guests lost no fishing time.
It seems our schedule fills up sooner with each passing year – 2023 is no exception. There are still some openings, so give us a call. For those of you who are already booked, it’s never too early to look at flights. Deals come; deals go. As of our last look, flights from Minneapolis to Sitka were attractively priced. We’ll keep an eye on it, but it never hurts to peruse the Alaska Air and Delta flights and prices.