Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alaska Adventure Series - Juneau Salmon Fishing

Almost every angler has a bucket list that includes catching an Alaskan Salmon. Sometimes the distractions in life may get in the way, preventing us from crossing off “Fishing in Alaska”. However, if you are fortunate enough to make your way to the fertile waters of Alaska, you will be telling fishing stories for years to come!

When you arrive in Juneau, there will still be distractions. Along the route to your ultimate catch is Juneau’s most popular, and most easily accessible, Mendenhall Glacier. It is prominent in the landscape (it covers more than 1,500 square miles) and easily viewed as you make your way to the harbor. Seals bask in the sun dotting the waterfront and the vast number of bald eagles perched on the waterway markers will pose for photos. Whales gracefully surface along the route to the destination where your fishing for Salmon begins. All of these distractions are part of the Alaska Salmon fishing experience. Everyone that sets foot on a cruise or whale watching tour wants to see all of those amazing sites of nature. You are no different…with one exception. What you really want to see is your rod taking a bow toward the frigid water signaling the beginning of a battle.

There are five species of salmon native to Alaska. The five finger method, whereby each species represents one the fingers on your hand, is a common method to remember each species. This is how it works…

Thumb – Rhymes with Chum / Dog Salmon
These have an ocean coloration of silvery blue green. Spawning males typically grow an elongated snout and have enlarged teeth. They average 24-28 inches and 10-13lb with the males usually being larger than the females.

Pointer Finger – You can use it to “sock” someone in the eye…Sockeye / Red Salmon
These are a greenish-blue with fine black speckles on their back. Spawning males have pale green heads, dark jaws, pale undersides and bright red bodies. Spawning females look generally the same, except for more subdued coloration. They grow up to 33 inches in length and weigh up to 15 pounds.

Middle Finger – The most prominent (largest)…King / Chinook Salmon
These have blue-green, red or purple on their back and top of the head with silvery sides. Black spots run along the tail and the upper half of its body. Its mouth is often dark purple to black. Adult fish range in size from 24 to 36 in, but may be up to 58 inches in length; they average 10 to 50 pounds, but may reach 130 pounds.

Ring Finger - Your would place a band of silver on it…Coho / Silver Salmon
During their ocean phase, coho salmon display silver sides and dark-blue backs. When in their spawning phase, their jaws and teeth become hooked. After entering fresh water, they develop bright-red sides, bluish-green heads and backs, dark bellies and dark spots on their backs. Mature adults have a pronounced red skin color with darker backs and average 28 inches and 7 to 11 pounds, occasionally reaching up to 36 pounds.

Pinky Finger – Pink / Humpies Salmon
In the ocean, pink salmon are bright silver fish. After returning to their spawning streams, their colors change to pale grey on the back with yellowish-white belly. Some will turn an overall dull green color. During spawning, the males develop a pronounced humped back, hence their nickname "humpies". Pink salmon average 4.8 pounds. The maximum recorded size was 30 inches and 15 pounds.

Capt. Annette & Mate Merideth
In order to see one of these beauties on your line, you will need a boat, tackle and an experienced guide. A favorite local is Captain is Annette with Moore Charters. Her knowledge of the local waters and fishing techniques combined with her down to earth personality is a winning combination. You will feel like you are fishing with a buddy the second you step on board the Eclipse.

Various Hootchies
On this trip, King Salmon were targeted. As you make your way out of the harbor you will be completing and paying for your fishing license in route. In addition to your Alaskan fishing license (price varies from $20 to $80 depending on the number of days), if you land a King, there is an additional $10 stamp that you will need to purchase if you keep the fish. This is similar to the Florida Snook stamp. The Eclipse is equipped with downriggers donning 12 pound weights (cannon balls). This enables the lines to be relatively straight down to compensate for the currents and the trolling speed. Slip knots are used for #5 or #6 hooks along with 40 lb leaders and flashers that are connected to the line with 30lb test and swivels. When fishing for Kings, this is important to use a leader because they like to shake their heads and use their teeth to cut the line. Kings like it low and slow as opposed to Cohos which like it high and fast. You will be fishing deep...60 to 100 feet. The bait of choice is herring and a hootchie. Sometimes putting a strip of herring on the hootchie does the trick if the bite is slow.

Captain Annette and First Mate Merideth worked in tandem to have 4 rods out at different depths to find the bite. Every person (4 max on her boat) on the boat had an opportunity to hook a King. After the Kings were landed (and the photos were taken) the First Mate quickly gilled and gutted the catch with surgical precision. Both ladies were very knowledgeable about salmon and halibut fishing, local hangouts (Tracy’s Crab Shack), best brew (Alaskan Brewing Company) hiking glaciers and pretty much anything relating to the lifestyle in the region.

Four hours goes by very quickly when the fishing is as good as it was. Another reason hiring an experienced Captain will only enhance your once in a lifetime experience. Catching all those fish will probably mean you want to take it home with you. If you arrived in Juneau via cruise ship, your only option is to have the salmon sent to the processor (your Captain will take care of that). There is a fee from the processor associated with having your salmon shipped back to your home or office. The fee will vary based on the number of pounds of fish you are processing and shipping and the destination to where the package is to be delivered. The processor will call you within a few days and provide the specific dollar amounts. If you are staying locally, check with one of the restaurants in town. Sometimes you will find a place that will prepare your catch (for a fee) so you will experience fresh salmon on the same day you pulled it from the water. Finally, there is a third option. Although on the water everyday making sure you catch fish, sometimes the Captains and Mates rarely get to go fishing for themselves. What a nice gesture to give your catch to the Captain and crew. Believe me, it is appreciated.

Whether you are fishing or sight seeing in Juneau, Moore Charters have the staff and the experience to make your visit memorable.

For more information on Moore Charters:
Phone: 907.723.8472 / Email:

Take a kid fishing. It could change their lives…and yours!

Julie McDaniel
Reel Women Stories

1 comment:

  1. Salmon fishing is a hobby that is impossible not to love, especially if you are a lover of the great outdoors. It is fun, it is exciting, it is cheap and not so many hobbies bring you closer to nature the way salmon fishing does.

    Salmon Fishing Tips