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  • Writer's pictureBear River Tackle

Ghost Fish & Pirate Treasure

Bear River Tackle – October 2021

The Kenai peninsula offers excellent fishing for King, Coho, and Sockeye Salmon as well as saltwater fishing for Halibut, Rockfish and Ling Cod.

However, like all Alaska fishing you must understand the timing of the annual fish migrations if you want to catch fish. This applies to both fresh and salt water. Schedule your trip at the wrong time and there may be very few fish or none at all. Even when you target the peak of the run there are no guarantees. The fish can be late or the return less than expected.

With this in mind it is always best to put together a trip with multiple fishing options including both freshwater and saltwater. Also carefully confirm the credibility of the lodge and fishing guides you plan to use; the trip is only as good as their capability and knowledge.

This year I wanted to test a custom Bear River Tackle Sockeye fly but also knew it would be wise to include other fishing options for the reasons discussed above.

After carefully considering the alternatives, we chose Deep Creek Fishing Club in Ninilchik, Alaska because of the following advantages:

· Saltwater fishing is their specialty with two boats under their command

· Freshwater salmon fishing is available using a drift boat on local rivers or with

helicopter fly out trips to remote locations

· Boat captains are knowledgeable, experienced and will go the extra mile to put you

on fish

· Guides are willing to teach and will do everything in their power to ensure you

have a great trip

· Guests are limited to twelve at a time which ensures personalized attention and

focused fishing opportunities

· Accommodations are five star which is unusual for Alaska lodges. Highlights include

coffee delivered to your room in the morning, shore lunches, chef prepared meals, and

a themed dinner every evening

This is a location where you can feel comfortable bringing your most important business clients, a special occasion for your spouse or the trip of a lifetime with your best fishing buddy.

We decided to start fishing for Sockeye and Coho salmon with helicopter fly out trips to remote locations that see very little fishing pressure.

The transport of choice was a R66 helicopter which can carry a pilot, guide and two fishermen.

As often happens in Alaska a weather system moved into the area shortly after we arrived, but we took off as soon as the ceiling lifted enough for safe flying.

The first trip was fly fishing for sockeye salmon where the tailwaters of a lake emptied into a river. There were plenty of sockeye in the water.

However, we were arrived about three week after the peak of the run and the fish had already started to turn red in preparation for spawning.

When this happens, it is nearly impossible to get them to hit a fly, but I came to test new patterns, so we rigged up our flyrods. As expected, the bite was slow, but before long a male Sockeye took the test fly.

We didn’t have much time to fish because the ceiling was started to drop (you can see the low clouds in the background) but there was time for a great shore lunch before we headed back.

Because the sockeye run was already winding down the next two days were focused on trying to locate early run Coho salmon.

The rain and low cloud cover made flying a challenge, but we managed to look at all of the remote locations where early run silvers had been caught in previous years.

This is a view from the helicopter as we were approaching the lodge after the second day of fishing.

During these trips we saw some amazing country, lots of eagles and about 30 grizzly bears, but caught very few Coho salmon.

As luck would have it the Coho run was late. Everyone was missing the salmon, even the bears who were out in the tidal flats waiting for the fish to come and digging for clams in the meantime.

Remember what I said about having multiple fishing options on your trip? Sockeye and Coho turned out to be ghost fish because of the timing of the runs.

It was time for Plan B, saltwater fishing.

For the first day of saltwater fishing, we chose to go after Halibut with Captain Josh. The weather was still terrible, and the seas were rough, but the fishing reports were excellent.

Captain Josh’s boat is named the Kraken, and we needed every bit of that toughness to handle the rough water during the 2.5 hour outbound boat ride.

Once we reached the chosen spot on the Captain’s map and lowered our jigs to the bottom the bite was on.

Many medium sized Halibut were caught and released while we waited for bigger fish and eventually landed a 60 and 75 pound Halibut, which are very respectable.

If the weather permitted on the second day, we decided to go with Captain Crusty to one of his secret spots.

His boat is named the Mandalorian and is outfitted with three outboard motors and the latest electronics which is wise because the outbound trip was over 3.5 hours to a very remote area.

The storm passed during the night and the day dawned clear. The Captain wasn’t sure if we could make it but decided to give it a try anyway. Our luck had turned; there were still large swells in the ocean left over from the prior storm but nothing the Captain and the Mandalorian couldn’t handle.

We hit three different spots, each for a different type of fish. Many times, the Black Rockfish grabbed your lure before it ever reached the bottom. Didn’t take long to catch a limit of those. Yellow Eye were next and more challenging because they were located in a smaller area.

But the highlight of the day were the 60 pound Ling Cod. The bite was strong, but you had to set the hook with a lot of backbone to make it stick, then the fight was on.

This is a very strong fish which looks like a dragon in the water, has a mouth full of teeth, comes to the boat grudgingly and runs line off the reel all through the fight.

Once again, the Captain’s map proved to be absolutely invaluable.

When we got back to the Lodge, the staff met us with the drink of our choice to celebrate a great day of fishing!

The Captain quickly switched over from master of the sea to champion of the table and began carving large cuts of meat the chef would prepare while the fishermen got cleaned up for dinner. The food on this trip was beyond excellent and each evening had a theme. This final evening was Pirate Night.

We were very happy Pirates after the day’s fishing, telling stories about overcoming wicked winds, mastering fearsome seas, outwitting the captains from the other lodges, and finding the Pirate Treasure marked on the Captain’s maps - Halibut, Yellow Eye, Black Rockfish and Lingcod!

This is a great experience that I recommend to everyone who enjoys excellent fishing and first class accommodations!

Glenn Personey

President - Bear River Tackle

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