halibut fishing in Alaska's Dutch Harbor.

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© by John L. Beath

            Few places on Earth, if any compare to Alaska’s wealth of outdoor opportunities.   Look on a map and you’ll see thousands of rivers and creeks zig-zagging across the expansive 49th state.  Take a closer look, and take notice of two tiny, remote areas in western Alaska.  King Salmon inside Bristol Bay and Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.  These two locales stand out not because of their small size, rather, because of their close proximity to two major bodies of water, the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

            Huge king salmon, countless crazed coho and mega monster trophy halibut weighing to 400-plus pounds call the area home for good reason – an endless supply of food and wilderness waterways.  And let’s not forget that Bristol Bay holds approximately 60 percent of the world’s population of sockeye salmon.

Move inland on any one of a few hundred rivers and streams and you could hook untold numbers of trophy rainbow, Arctic char, grayling pike, or any of the five salmon species.   With all of these great angling opportunities how do you decide where to go and what to fish for?

Two of Alaska’s premier sport fishing providers, King Salmon Guides located on the edge of Bristol Bay and The Grand Aleutian Hotel located in Dutch Harbor, have teamed up to provide anglers with combo trips described as “the complete Alaskan adventure.”   Now anglers don’t have to sacrifice one species of fish in favor of another, they simply begin their combo trip with King Salmon Guides and end with a trip to “Halibut Heaven” at the Grand Aleutian Hotel.

With a name like King Salmon Guides, you can expect to find plenty of chinook salmon.  The hardest choice will be deciding whether to catch king salmon on the fly, plug, spinner, spoons or simply drift fishing your favorite lure.

“We don’t have the biggest kings in the world, but we have the most!” boasts Aaron Ratkovich, from King Salmon Guides.  “And if you’re into sockeye salmon, we fish rivers where 5 to 10,000 sockeye swim past your feet every hour.”

Anglers may choose a weekend or full week adventure.  All-inclusive adventures originating from their lodge or less expensive do-it-yourself unguided float trips on a remote river round out the possibilities.  Some packages include fly out fishing to remote rivers for rainbows, kings, coho, pike, grayling or char.  You decide what to fish for and the guides choose the best river based on your ability and the condition of the river.  Anglers also fish for chinook, coho, sockeye or big ‘bows in King Salmon Guide’s home rivers, the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers.   And lets not overlook one of the most popular options, a fly out trip to Katmi Park, where anglers fish with the bears.

“The Naknek and Kvichak Rivers have the biggest native rainbows in Alaska.  During September it’s normal to catch ‘bows ranging from 15 to 37 inches,” Ratkovich. Advises.

Halibut Heaven

Some anglers fish all their life without ever feeling the surge and strength of a 100-pound halibut.  Most halibut in the Pacific Ocean weigh only 15 to 30 pounds.  Now imagine a place where halibut are so thick, in numbers and girth, you don’t dare use bait because it just wastes time and energy!

            Ever since the Grand Aleutian Hotel first provided sport fishing trips from Dutch Harbor, the world of halibut fishing hasn’t been the same. The first notable catch out of Dutch Harbor by a sports angler was a 395 pounder that went into the record books.  The following season a whopper weighing 459 pounds nearly broke the scale and rewrote the all-tackle IGFA record.

If that wasn’t enough to send hardcore hali hunters heading to Dutch Harbor, last year’s amazing story will.  Babe Winkelman, host of TV’s “Good Fishing with Babe Winkelman” visited the Grand Aleutian Hotel with the hopes of experiencing “Halibut Heaven” with his cameras recording the action.  Without warning, he hooked into a 411-pound Boeing-sized barndoor, later declared the largest halibut taken in Alaska during 1997.  If that wasn’t enough, on the way back to port, with cameras still rolling he caught and released another trophy estimated between 350 and 380 pounds, proving that the area deserves its nickname “Halibut Heaven.”

The Aleutian Islands in Alaska is the heart of hali’ country.  And like the heart, the area pulses on the seafloor with these fish like blood rushing through an oversized vein.  This main artery of the Pacific Ocean provides the best opportunity for halibut to gorge themselves on easy meals and sport anglers to hook up with truly trophy-sized ‘butts almost every time.

                 “If we take you out of the inner harbor you’re almost guaranteed to limit on 50-plus pound halibut.  Nobody keeps fish under 50 pounds because we know you can get larger fish,” boasts Chris Hamill, director of guest services for the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Dutch Harbor.  He adds, “Some anglers tell me they quit fishing half way through the day because they get to tired to catch anymore halibut.”

             “You can catch halibut most anywhere in Alaska.  But if I had to choose just one place, my favorite for big fish and numbers of fish would have to be Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians.  If there’s anything like a guaranteed fishery, that’s it,” explains Chris Batin, author of “How To Catch Trophy Halibut.”

            Guests of the Grand Aleutian Hotel enjoy first class accommodations and meals and fish aboard a fleet of six 30 to 32 foot boats with skippers who know how and where to find big ‘butts.  Technique is so easy anyone can do it.  Lead head jigs hosting plastic scampi tails are lowered to depths ranging from 125 to 200 feet.  Once on the bottom a gentle upward jigging action is soon followed by violent, hard-hitting strikes – it’s that easy.


            Alaskan limits are very generous.  Anglers need to plan ahead and make plenty of freezer space.  While fishing with King Salmon Guides you’ll likely bring home a box filled with 70 pounds of salmon fillets.  And if you plan on fishing three days for halibut in the Aleutians, you very easily could return home with 200 to 250 pounds of vacuum packed hali fillets.

            “Most people don’t realize how much fish they’re going home with.  But it does make great Christmas presents,” Hamill reminds.  


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Copyright John L. Beath 2000 halibut.net a division of Pacific Lure Communications


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