April in Sitka
Our guests often ask why the AU season begins in mid-May and ends by mid-September. Is there an opening day and closing day by regulation? Is it business-based like you can’t find the customers? We’d say it’s latitude based. We basically have two weather seasons at 57 degrees north on the edge off the big Pacific. We experience persistently unsettled weather with good chances of stormy outbreaks beginning by early to mid-September and lasting until early May. Then we have 4 months of usually (no guarantees) softer weather with less wind and rain along with chances for long stretches of calm. We begin to enjoy migratory schools of salmon beginning with kings in early May then gaining momentum with coho, chums, and pinks as early as mid-June at the earliest and usually arriving around the first or second week of July.
This April in Sitka did nothing to persuade a change in our schedule. We saw a few lovely clear but cold days, some rain, some snow. The precipitation, pushed by squally winds, occasionally fell in the sideways fashion. We’ve tried and, rest assured, you wouldn’t want to fish in it. Some kings can always be found feeding in local waters, but the big migratory push had yet to get underway. Instead, we worked on the boats, installed electronics, then turned up the heat inside to chase the chill out of our bones and watched hockey as that season edged toward the playoffs. We launch our season on May 18 with Hook and Cook. We’re beginning to see a few more kings around in the past week. We expect those numbers to continuously build, the weather to improve, and the fun to begin.
I asked my source at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to read the tea leaves on the king run for 2023. Although predictions of this nature are inherently iffy, based on the winter commercial trolling data, which provides a good indicator, we’re feeling positive. The winter trollers experienced strong fishing right up until the April 15 closure and my source expects this to continue through spring and summer. We saw a lot of shaker kings and barely legal kings last year, which are mostly ocean-age 2 fish. The hope is this translates to an abundance of larger ocean-age 3 fish for the 2023 season. We’re looking forward to confirming the outlook. Fingers crossed.
Regulatory Changes in Rockfish & Lingcod
With continued increases in our catch of rockfish and lingcod, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sees it fit to cut the limits on pelagic rockers (aka seabass) from 3 per person per day to 2 per person per day. Also, to get our lingcod catch closer to target we are returning to a slot limit of 30 to 35 inches. For the past two seasons that slot was 30 to 40 inches. As much as we wish these relatively minor tweaks weren’t issued, AU supports sustainable management of the resource.
The 2023 Crew
AU works all winter to assemble the hardest working, skilled, and friendly team anywhere in the fishing travel world. Our captain lineup includes the same list of stalwarts plus the addition of Jack McNamee who hardly needs an introduction given his lifelong presence on the dock, as a deckhand, and now as a captain. The deckhand and hostess lineup is a mix of returnees from recent seasons and an infusion of new workers. This works well every year as the experienced crew passes the skills and AU culture to the incoming. For a look at the 2023 roster, click the link below.