Monday, June 29, 2015

2015-07 Fishing Sitka and Whale Bay with College Buddies

We've just returned from four days fishing around Sitka, Alaska.  From Tuesday, June 23 through Saturday, July 4, Alex will be fishing with his college chums Willie, Joe and Mike.  Some 45+ years ago these guys were students at Cal Poly College, San Luis Obispo.  This group has crewed on the Wild Blue many years now, especially fishing the Sitka area.

Mike the CPA, Willie the turkey rancher
and Joe the chicken rancher
June 23, 2015
The boys arrived complete with a large wheeled cooler stuffed with food: chickens, turkey breast, prawns, sausages, lamb and all the ingredients for gumbo, seafood soups, etc.  Willie is our Chef de Jour this week and he has a menu prepared.

June 24, 2015
The weather forecast is for 30-knot winds so we stay tied to the docks.  We cruise the town and enjoy dinner at Ludwigs Bistro.  Then we provision the few items needed that Willie didn't bring in his giant cooler.

June 25 through 28, 2015
We're off by 5:30AM and the wind and waves are southerly so we fished the protected side of Biorka Island at 7:30.  We landed a big king salmon within 30 minutes but after fishing a couple hours pushed on towards Whale Bay, a 3 hour motor. The ocean cooperated with just 4-foot swells, well spaced.

We arrived around 1PM and began fishing in the rocky swells on the south shore of Whale Bay.  The Bay yielded 5 kings last week, but sucked today.  We took a break for dinner then returned to fishing at 7PM.  Then the fun began.

Over the next four days we caught a bunch of Kings, Coho and even a halibut on the troll when the down-rigger ball bounced off the bottom!  A total of 39 fish!

Check out our Fish Report through July 1st at the end of the next post.

A mess of fish.
Mike landed what he thought
was a big piece of kelp.
Joe and Willie have lots of cleaning work.
Willie severed  a small part of his toe while showing off
with the knife.  His comment: "I still have nine other good ones!"
When not knifing around, Willie dazzled our taste buds.
Sunset over our anchorage in Kristoi Basin, Whale Bay. 
The Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife
asked to see our catch.  This officer was a
biologist looking for tagged salmon.  She
found one and took its head for study. We
eventually will get an email as to where
this hatchery fish was raised.
The Wild Blue Blog is getting so popular, we're planning on
marketing our own beer brand.  Here's some samples fresh
from the brewery.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015-06 Fishing Lituya Bay, Whale Bay and Sitka Sound with the Cowboys and the Judge

June 11 - 21: Fishing Lituya Bay, Whale Bay and Sitka Sound

Wild Blue anchored in Lituya Bay
Since June 11th Alex has been fishing with San Luis Obispo Caballeros Roger Larson and Bob Daniels and Judge Sid Findley.  There's lots of stories to tell and photos to view.  But first the all important fish report:

Nbr    Date Type Species Ln Bait Depth Location Lat-Lon  
          Time Slack Comments
Farmed 13-Jun Bottom halibut 60 Herring 150 Lituya Bay N 58 37.15, W 137 38.96 3PM N/A Netter error
1 14-Jun Bottom halibut 58 Herring 150 Lituya Bay N 58 37.15, W 137 38.96 10AM +180 min Speared on surface
2 14-Jun Bottom halibut 32 Herring 150 Lituya Bay N 58 37.15, W 137 38.96 10AM +240 min
3 17-Jun Troll king 32 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.2, W 135 01.5 9PM   +60 min No bait showing
Farmed 17-Jun Troll king ? Herring 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.2, W 135 01.5 9:30PM +90 min Off hook
4 18-Jun Troll king 32 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.1, W 135 01.7 9:10AM +10 min
5 18-Jun Troll king 32 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.05, W 135 01.5 9:25AM +25 min
6 18-Jun Troll king 29 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.05, W 135 01.5 9:25AM +25 min Double Hookup
7 18-Jun Troll king 34 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.2, W 135 01.6 10:40AM +100 min Bait at 140 feet
8 19-Jun Troll king 31 Hootchy 120 Whale Bay N 56 36.2, W 135 01.5 9:15AM   -20 min No bait showing
9 20-Jun Troll king 34 Hootchy 140 Biorka Isl N 56 52.7, W 135 32.88 11:20AM +120 min
10 20-Jun Troll king 28 Hootchy 120 Legma Isl N 56 49.9, W 135 26.26 5:30PM +60 min No bait showing
Farmed 20-Jun Troll king ? Herring 150 Legma Isl N 56 49.9, W 135 26.26 6PM +90 min Off hook
11 21-Jun Troll king 37 Hootchy 120 Biorka Isl N 56 52.63, W 135 31.54 10:30AM +0 min
Farmed 21-Jun Troll king ? Herring 140 Biorka Isl N 56 52.63, W 135 31.54 10:40AM +10 min Leader broke
Rlease 21-Jun Troll king 27 Herring 140 Biorka Isl N 56 52.78, W 135 31.88 11:20AM +50 min Short
12 21-Jun Troll king 36 Hootchy 120 Biorka Isl N 56 52.64, W 135 31.46 12PM +90 min

From the fish report, a couple things pop out:  Almost all the salmon were caught at 120 feet on a hootchy.  The hootchy rig we fished on Wild Blue was a lime green version with a shiny skirt.  We assembled it as follows:

Hootchy components: 5/0 6/0 slip leader, shiny skirt,
lime green glow hootchy and the swivel.
Thread skirt first over leader, then green glow hootchy, and
attach swivel.
Finished hootchy was highly desired by the King salmon
at 120 feet deep wherever we fished.
How did we decide to use this rig?  Simple: Caballero Bob asked a commercial fisherman he bumped into at the Murray Pacific marine store.  From the mass of 100's of hootchies, the fisherman handed Bob lime green glow and shiny skirt and even recommended coating the skirt tie threads with super glue so they last longer.  All you have to do is ask!

June 11, 2015
Alex flew back to Sitka with the Caballeros and the Judge.  John Little met us at the airport and hauled us and 4 others to our boats.  Once aboard, we spent most of the first day servicing the engines and setting up the fishing gear.  The fish table, down-riggers, harpoon, nets, polls, fishing leaders, and fishing tools were all installed and made ready for action.  Then several trips to the marine gear store and market completed the provisioning.

The weather looked good for the next 5 days so we planned a cruise up to Lituya By for halibut fishing.  We last visited in July 2009 so looked forward to again to viewing the site where the largest wave in recorded history occurred in 1958.  See our 2009 Blog on Lituya Bay for more information.

June 12, 2015
It's a 16-hour motor at our cruise speed from Sitka to Lituya.  We chose the inside route up the west coast of Chigagof Island.  By 10AM, our chores completed, we exited Sitka northwest bound.  Above Kruzof Island we got our first taste of the Alaskan Gulf open ocean.  It was just a bit bumpy but soon we entered calm Piehle Passage. About 7PM we set our anchor in Takanis Bay and settled for an early start to Lituya.

June 13, 2015
Alex read the slack current at Lituya entrance at 1:37PM and planned the early morning departure accordingly.  The entrance to Lituya Bay has a notarious reputation for tradgey.  Starting with French explorer La Perouse lost of 12 seaman, some 150 persons have perished here, the result of high current meeting Alaskan Gulf seas.  Being late to class at Lituya can mean a lot more than just detention!

While underway in 3-4 Gulf seas, Alex realizes the navigation computer is set to Pacific Daylight Time, not Alaskan Time.  The correct slack at Lituya turns out to be around noon local time.  We're already late!  Alex adds 100 rpm and eventually Wild Blue arrives some 60 minutes after slack.  Fortunately the Gulf has calmed, the winds are light, and Lituya's ebb current is only 4 knots.  We push our way into the Bay with just some moderate rock and roll.  WHEW!

Soon we anchor in 150 feet about 1/4 mile inside the entrance. Within the hour Roger hooks up a big halibut.  He has it at the surface.  It is netable, but what we didn't notice at the time was the poor hook set.  As insurance Roger recommends the harpoon.  We should have listened.  The big fish was in the net, then he shakes off the hook and backs out of the net before we can pull it aboard! Our e estimated loss: about a 60-inch 70 lb halibut.

Soon Roger has another at the boat.  Yes, the harpoon is out and rigged.  Alex spears it and we let the fish pull the 85,000 lb Wild Blue, at least a couple feet before pooping out.  Later Roger lands a 32-inch flatty, our dinner for tonight.  We cut the fish into small chunks, egged, floured, Panko'd, and seasoned these morsels, then lightly sauteed in olive oil with fresh garlic.  Amazingly awesome!

La Perouse Glacier is quite visible on the southern approach
 to Lituya.
Just short of Lituya Bay, Harbor point and the Paps hills
form the southern edge of the Bay.

Cenotaph Island inside the Bay as viewed from the entrance.
Within an hour Roger hooks up a big halibut.  He has it at the
surface.  It is netable, but what we didn't notice at the time
was the poor hook set.  You can see the hook barely holding.
Taking no chances, Alex harpoons this 49-inch 58 lb flatty.  
With hook and 1/4 inch harpoon line attached, this guy is not
getting away. 
Roger goes to work on dinner!
June 14, 2015
Last night we we dropped two prawn traps just off the south west edge of Cenotaph island in 300 feet then anchored on the south side of the Bay under the Paps hills.  It was quite calm.  Soon after breakfast we checked for prawns filling about 1/3 of a 5-gallon bucket.  Then we moved to 150 feet of depth inside the entrance and again anchored for the halibut hunt.  The fishing was slow so in the early afternoon we cruised deep into the Bay for the sights.

The signs of the giant wave of 1958 are still visible.  A Glacier Bay earthquake triggered a landslide that filled the northeast corner of Lituya, displacing water than created a 1700 foot high wave.  The new growth tree line to 1700 feet is quite visible and easily contrasted by the dark green, taller old growth.  The rock material that slid down the mountain is piled high, filling what was once Gilbert Inlet.

Before we left the area, the boys wanted ice, glacier ice.  Something about 15-year whiskey over 15,000 year old ice.  Roger netted a couple cubes.

Roger and Alex go prawn harvesting.
Prawn expert Judge Sid carefully examines this pretty prawn,
then promptly twists off his head!
A bowl of tasty, fresh Lituya Bay prawns.  Just peel and savor!
View to the northeast, Gilbert Inlet, approaching end of Lituya.
Gilbert Inlet is filled with material.  The marine charts haven't
updated to reflect this change.
More of what was previously Gilbert Inlet.  We suggest a
rename to Gilbert Mound. 
Cascade Glacier at the center at the east end of the Bay.
Roger saw movement ashore and noticed this lone wolf
looking towards the Wild Blue.
The ice man cometh!

June 15, 2015
We planned our departure for slack current Monday morning.  Slack was predicted to be about 7:30 so this meant an early rise day to pull the traps, harvest the prawns, then load the tender back onto Wild Blue's boat deck.  Some of us arose at 5AM or so, the sun already bright in the sky this far north.  we completed our preparations and started to tranist the entrance 30 minutes early.

The Bay was glassy flat.  Even the Alaskan Gulf just outside looked near flat.  But the current was running and the seas at the bar were 3-feet, and close spaced.  The bumps lasted for 3 minutes then all was calm on the Gulf.

We worked our way through Cross Sound, encountering a pod of Orca whales, then entered the inside route on Chigagof's west coast at Kukkan Passage.  We dropped the hook for the night on Piehle Passage at Kahz Head.

Leaving this pretty Lituya Bay.
Mirror like water inside Lituya Bay looking towards the Gulf.
The dark line in the distance is the waves at the bar.  
Flat inside and outside, but 4 knots of current creates
breaking waves across the bar.  Image this ebb current
against a moderate 4 foot sea..... nasty!
Every power boater favorite sight:  calm winds, flat seas, and
stunning scenery.
An Orca pod was fishing off Cross Sound, just outside icy Strait.
Orca male blowing spray.
Entering Kukkan Passage, a short cut to the inside on a calm day.
June 16, 2015
This morning we got another early start towards Kruzof Island's Shark Hole fishing spot.  By 8AM we were trolling in circles at the Hole.  It was our first salmon troll of the season and we had a hookup but lost the fish (or kelp, or rock) early in the battle.  We headed back to Sitka to complete our day.

June 17, 2015
Today we headed south to Whale bay for salmon.  After a late start we arrived at 8PM and fished the south side of the Bay at evening slack.  Bob landed our first King of the year on a hootchie at 120 feet after 9PM.  We anchored for the night in the Port Banks anchorage area.

Whale Bay Port Banks anchorage is scenic.

June 18, 2015
We continued to fish Whale Bay.  No fish at King City but the south side yielded 4 more kings. We anchored at the bitter end of Small Arm also a pretty area.  The crab traps turned out to be empty this year.  Apparently those pretty little sea otters have cleaned out crabs on the west coast of Baronof Island.

Hooked Salmon.

June 19, 2015
Again we fished the south side of the Bay.  It was slow so we decided to try our luck on Halibut about 10 miles down the coast in Sandy Bay.  We arrived and toured the Bay, setting our crab traps one more time in the outfall of the river that feeds the northern inlet in the southern arm.  There we ran across the Nordhavn Seabird from Santa Barbara.  Of course we exchanged pleasantries about Alaska, our home state, and the central coast.

We drift fished the ocean entrance to Sandy Bay, quickly landing a small halibut.  Easily dinner size, but returned it to grow up.  After an hour without bits, we began second guessing our decision.  Finally we headed northward towards Sitka, eventually fishing Legma Island landing one fish then retiring into Herring bay for the night.

June 20, 2015
Out early for the 9AM low slack tide, we fished Legma first.  No joy.  Then it was over to Biorka Island for most of the day.  Finally we re-fished Legma landing two more Kings.  We anchored a second night in Herring Bay.

June 21, 2015
Biorka was just fine this morning as we landed two BIG Kings in two hours quitting at noon.  We headed back to Sitka to clean up and get our fish ready for travel.

Sid, Roger and Bob were great crew.  We seem to learn a lot more each year and we hope to have them aboard again.

Caballero Bob admires his big catch.
Bob and Sid wrestle for control of the Vacu-Seal machine.
Pan-sauteed salmon steak.  Now this is what a steak is all about!

Halibut to go.
Salmon to go.
For sale: Lighthouse home with dock 1 mile from Sitka. $700,000.
Homemade ice cream with shaved chocolate.