Fishing has been in my blood ever since I was a little girl. Living on the Texas coast, an early morning fishing excursion is a typical weekend activity. As a child, my family would spend summers at the bay gigging for Flounder, catching crabs or the notorious “hardhead” (in the catfish family). The saltwater smells, and the thrill of the catch is why I still enjoy fishing today.
On our trip to Alaska to visit friends in Anchorage, I knew I wanted to book a fishing excursion. The three-hour route from Anchorage, crossing 127 miles through the Kenai Peninsula, to Seward, the harbor town on Resurrection Bay, is known as the All-American Road. The breathtaking views of the snow-cap mountains, glass-topped lakes, blooming flowers, and green treetops felt like I was reading a passage in the National Geographic magazine. On our journey, we witnessed moose drinking from a pond, and a bald eagle building its nest will forever be the image of Alaska in my mind.
Seward is the gateway to nearby Kenai Fjords National Park, surrounded by majestic mountains. It is one of Alaska’s only deep-water, ice-free ports with rail, highway, and air transportation readily available for its visitors. Seward population within the city limits is about 2,600, with average temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. These conditions make it ideal for sports fishing trips, kayak excursions, day cruises, and other unparalleled recreation opportunities.
Seward has produced some of the largest halibut catches on record and offers a myriad of productive spots for halibut fishing. The best time to halibut fish is from June through August, which worked perfectly for us. We booked our charter out of Resurrection Bay with a charter called J Dock Company.
Resurrection Bay waters are often much calmer than other fishing areas near Seward. The average weight of halibut caught in this bay is between 20 and 35 pounds but can be as heavy as 350 pounds. In addition, this area is one of the few fishing destinations where fishermen can fish for halibut from a kayak.
Halibut is one of the most caught fish in Alaska waters. There’s no place on the planet where these “flatfish” are as big as they are in Alaska (as big as over 400 pounds). Halibut are members of the Flounder family.
When they first hatch, they swim upright and have one eye on each side of their head like other fish. Within five weeks of age, one of the eyes “migrates “over the top of the head so that both eyes are on the same side. When they become juveniles, they begin to lie over onto one side with both eyes on the upward or top side of the head. As they grow, the underside becomes white, and the top side becomes a mottled darker variation of colors resembling the sea bottom, and their body flattens into an oval shape, thus earning the name “flatfish.”
Once we arrived at the docks, we went to the J Dock Company office to pay for fishing licenses and charter. We met our deckhand, a 5’4″ young lady named Bonnie. Even though Bonnie’s appearance may have fooled us, she could handle fishing gear like a grown man.
I watched Bonnie prepare our gear by assembling the halibut hooks, tied to the bottom of the line with about three feet line leader, that goes to the lead ball weight, weighing about two pounds. The fishing rod is about six feet long and needs to be sturdy and lightweight, as you will spend a lot of time holding it while you reel in your big fish. Then, after a quick review, we boarded the boat cruising out into the bay.
When fishing for halibut, we used a variety of bait such as herring, salmon heads and guts, octopus, cod, and crabs. Once we baited our hook, we dropped a line over the boat’s edge and let the weight fall to the ocean floor. Once the weight hits bottom, we close the bail (which keeps the rod from continuing to spin out the line) and wait!!! Occasionally you pull up on the weight and let it fall back down again. The scent and bounce of the bait attract halibut. When I dropped my fishing line in the water, I didn’t realize how far down it was to the bottom.
Halibut are like Flounder; they are bottom feeders and love deep water. So, to get the bait near where the halibut are feeding, we dropped our line 250-300 feet deep!
Bonnie instructed us to keep an eye on the tip of rods, and when the rod started to move up and down, that meant you probably had halibut on your line. I kept waiting and waiting until suddenly, my rod started bobbing, and Bonnie yelled, “You have a fish!” So I reeled and reeled; it seemed like for days. Although I have reeled in big fish before, I was surprised at how hard it was spinning in halibut due to the distance with an additional two-pound weight on your line.
Finally, after reeling miles of fishing line, a beautiful white-bellied halibut reached the surface. Bonnie scooped up the fish with her net and laid him on the deck. Everyone clapped and congratulated me on my big catch of the day.
As the day ended, we returned to the marina for our travels home. Halibut fishing can be physically exhausting but well worth it! The J Dock team made this fishing excursion a wonderful experience while visiting Alaska.
Upon arriving in Anchorage, we stopped at a meat packing service and had them fillet and vacuum-pack fish on dry ice for our flight home. Then, we contacted our airline and arranged to have it checked in with our luggage.
Once we returned home, we stored our fish in the freezer and had friends over for a fish dinner. Everything was delicious!
J DOCK COMPANY
Selecting the best charter was easy as we found many great reviews about J Dock Company. They are a world-class sports fishing and fresh seafood company. J-Dock, a family-owned business with over 40 years of experience, knew the waters of Resurrection Bay and had an excellent reputation for providing impeccable customer service to their eager anglers. We knew they would take good care of us. In the office is a display of previous angler fishing trips.
I highly recommend booking a charter fishing trip in Alaska, even if you have never fished before, because the deckhand and boat captain will assist you in the process, and it is a great way to be out on the water. In addition, the experience of being in the bay, seeing the panoramic view of the mountains, and catching a halibut is a fantastic feeling and an adventure you can only get in Alaska.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.