Baranof Blog & Fishing News
Happy New Year from Baranof and Company! We hope this letter finds you well and that you and your family enjoy a great New Year!
The 2017 season was another remarkable season for us here at Baranof, with lots of fish caught and many friends made. As I sit here in the middle of winter, I get a get a twinge of excitement whenever I think of the coming spring and the chance to get back on the water doing what I love!
As I think these happy thoughts, I have also become aware of some big changes in the fishing regulations here in Southeast Alaska for the 2018 fishing season. I thought I would share the changes, so you would know what to expect if you decide to book a fishing excursion here in Southeast Alaska for 2018.
The changes mainly affect halibut and king salmon fishing. Rockfish, silvers and pink salmon, lingcod, and yelloweye rockfish are not affected by the changes, so you can expect to catch them with all the enthusiasm of the past fishing season.
The halibut regulations are being changed in a big way in 2018, with the maximum keeping size being about 20 pounds. The king salmon forecast on the entire Pacific Coast is bleak, and the industry is bracing for what could be some very restrictive king salmon regulations coming for 2018. If you are interested in specifics on these two species, I’ve included more details below.
New Halibut Regulations
The International Pacific Halibut Commission uses a reverse slot limit to regulate the catch rate of halibut. A reverse slot means fish of certain sizes cannot be retained. In years past, the slot limit has bounced between 42”-80” and 44”-80.” IPHC has set the 2018 slot to 35”-80.” What does this mean for us? Well, it means that every Halibut between 35” and 80” will need to be released. Worth mentioning is that while sports fishermen will be allowed to keep halibut over 80”, or around 275 lbs., fish this size are extremely rare in the Southeast - you’ll probably end up on the front page of the local newspaper if you catch one. So, for the 2018 fishing season, expect to fish for halibut under 35 inches.
These halibut regulations extend from Ketchikan all the way up to Glacier Bay and include Juneau, Sitka, and Icy Point among other popular fishing destinations. The halibut slot changes every year, and it has been this restrictive in the past, so we are all hoping that the regulations will allow larger halibut to be kept in the future.
Reasons for the Halibut Regulations
The fact that the fishery in Southeast Alaska has been stable, allowing us to take fish out of a sustainable fishery, gives me high hopes that my kids will have the ability to fish for halibut many years from now. These new halibut regulations are in line with this concept of sustainable fishing, and while we may disagree with how the fishery is managed, it is a good thing it is being managed. As a charter captain, I could not do my job with a clear conscience if we were fishing a declining fishery.
The logic behind the halibut slot limit is that females will grow much larger than males, and there is a direct correlation between a female’s size and the number of eggs she lays every year. Protecting these large breeding females allows IPHC to limit the total weight caught, while also protecting the females most vital to the halibuts’ spawning phase in an area. All halibut regulations on the macro scale are done on a weight basis in Alaska.
King Salmon Update
The preliminary sampling of king salmon on the Pacific Coast in 2017 shows the lowest number in years, and biologists are not optimistic about king salmon runs in 2018. This is a complicated issue, as biologists and the IPHC are unable to distinguish between hatchery and wild salmon, and the variables controlling these runs are mindboggling. Still, the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (SSRAA), which releases millions of salmon per year in the Ketchikan area, are expecting a lower than average but stable king salmon return for 2018.
Bear in mind these predictions are often skewed or flat out wrong, and can often affect sport and commercial fishing differently. For example, 2017 was considered such a terrible year for returning king salmon that they closed the commercial trolling season. As a result, our company had the best king salmon year we’ve ever had because the power trollers weren’t out catching kings by the thousands.
Though the king salmon and halibut situation are a bit disheartening, as a fishing guide, I am still optimistic about the upcoming season! Even if the halibut and the kings are limited, there are still plenty of fish in the area: silvers and pink salmon, lingcod, and yelloweye rockfish all make for an excellent day’s fishing, and the other rockfish species in the area ensure that in most any condition my customers are likely to catch fish.
However, if you had your heart set on record kings or monster halibut in 2018, the chances of that happening in Southeast Alaska are extremely low. If that was your goal, I would recommend putting your trip on hold or perhaps look into guided fishing out of Seward or Homer, or self-guided lodges in remote areas like Point Baker or Elfin Cove. Self-guided anglers are not held to the same restrictions as guided anglers, so if you have the knowledge, it is also another option: I would love to help you plan if this is a route you would like to pursue.
If you think that fishing for silver salmon, pink salmon, lingcod, rockfish, halibut under 35” and perhaps limited king salmon sounds great, please book for the 2018 season! However, if you feel that that halibut and king salmon regulations are going to prevent you from having a good time with us, we encourage you to pursue other options. We see no benefit in booking clients we’re unable to make happy. If you have already booked and would like to cancel your trip, please contact Bonnie and she will give you a full refund. If you would like help looking for other options or if you have any other questions about these regulations, please contact me directly.
Thank you very much! I look forward to fishing with many of you in 2018!
Baranof Fishing Excursions was created with the family wilderness experience in mind. Over the last decade and a half, we’ve taken thousands of parent/child, full family, and multi-generational groups out for a day in the Alaskan wilderness. While we are equipped for, and enjoy, sending out boats full of die-hard fishermen looking to deplete the salmon or bottom fish population as much as possible, our true passion is sharing a first-time experience that so many of our young guests find with us. Jeff Kraynik enjoys the opportunity to provide a memorable Ketchikan fishing excursion and does an amazing job exemplifying Baranof’s family values.
The ability to recognize an opportunity to excel, or exceed customer expectations, is a valuable asset that companies look for in their employees. Latoya demonstrates this innate quality on a daily basis.
Our fresh crab is a popular dish at the Alaska Fish House, though it does take a little effort to eat. Occasionally, Latoya has had call to sit with some customers and open their crab for them. One example, however, stands out as an exceptional portrayal of Latoya’s customer service acumen in the way she handled the situation. A customer approached her, explaining that she was having difficulty with her food. As they approached her table, the customer was basically yelling at her because she couldn’t shell her crab, so Latoya, as she had in times past, volunteered to do it for her. Latoya stood there for the guest’s entire meal opening every piece of crab, even though the customer berated her for the duration. Even though the customer was still irate, Latoya offered her guest more crab on the house, despite the knowledge she’d be opening every piece of that as well. Though the customer refused and left the restaurant, Latoya was able to continue her day with a smile, proud that she had done everything she could to please her customer. She was even congratulated by several other patrons that had seen the situation unfold and commended her for doing an amazing job. One couple put it perfectly when they told Latoya, “You did an awesome job, that was the best display of customer service we’ve ever seen”. Examples like these, and there are many, are why we’re proud to have Latoya Thomas as a leader on the Alaska Fish House team.
Anyone familiar with Ketchikan knows that the downtown waterfront is dominated by the cruise ship docks. From berth one, adjacent to the Salmon Landing market and Thomas Basin (where our restaurant is located), and stretching down to berth four, pedestrians can find it a difficult hike getting from one end to the other. Although it is a straight shot, the high foot traffic, busy one lane road, and regularly inclement weather can make the journey seem a bit longer than the mile or so that it actually is. Chatting with an elderly couple during their meal, Latoya found that the husband and wife had hoofed it all the way from berth four just to visit the Alaska Fish House. They were tired and not looking forward to the walk back to their ship, so Latoya had one of her servers hop in the van and get them back to their boat while she covered the server’s duties. While we don’t typically offer logistical support to those desiring a meal with us, Latoya recognized an opportunity to exceed expectations and took it.
Latoya Thomas, like so many of our summer citizens, came to Alaska on a sort of “working vacation”. Whether drawn north for the job itself, or the opportunity to spend a summer in Alaska without going into the red, a lot of Alaskans came for a visit that ended up lasting years. Originally from Louisiana, Latoya arrived in Ketchikan with years of experience in hospitality and customer service with a desire to “experience something different”, eventually taking a seasonal position at the Alaska Fish House. Now working year-round due to her outstanding work ethic and skill set, you’ll find Latoya down in the trenches during the summer season managing the restaurant floor, and overseeing improvement projects during the off-season.
Every summer, over one million visitors, from all different walks of life, arrive in Ketchikan as they travel through Southeast Alaska. With such a diverse array of guests, those in the service industry end up with quite a few stories by the end of the season. Latoya Thomas has had a couple interactions with our customers that we feel exemplifies perfectly the type of team member we value at the Alaska Fish House. Not one to toot her own horn, we though we’d do it for her.
Trips like the one Steve took in 2014 are special. While they are available to anyone with the desire to undertake such a journey, everyone's Alaskan experience is unique. The most common mistake people make when visiting is expecting too little. Alaska is huge, with a world of opportunities for any outdoor enthusiast. Steve wanted to fly fish, so he wore himself out reeling in salmon and trout for a week in the middle of a pristine national park. Identify your own goals, decide what level of comfort is required, and dream big.
Katmai National Park is home to a wonderful cross-section of Alaska wildlife, as well as the sight of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The park was established in 1918 after the Novarupta eruption, and has remained a popular destination for scientists and tourists for the last 100 years. While Steve didn't visit the Valley of 10,000 Smokes on his trip, it is nonetheless worth reading about if you're unfamiliar. Scotty and Steve were there to fish; as were the bears. Katmai National Park is famous for large salmon runs, which in turn provide brown bears with the nutrients needed for winter. Wherever you find salmon in Alaska, it's a safe bet you'll find bear as well. Due to this, Steve was able to check a couple boxes on his bucket list on this trip, as he spotted his first brown bear, and landed his first sockeye while fly fishing. All told, Steve caught and released 33 sockeye on the fly rod, along with rainbow trout and arctic grayling.
In June of 2014, Steve was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He and his fishing buddy Scotty decided to meet for a fly-fishing trip to the Alaska Peninsula. Steve had already been to Alaska, but this was his first trip to Katmai National Park. Hopping on a jet for the 2,700 mile journey from Kansas City to Anchorage, Steve met Scotty to gather supplies and prepare themselves for a week of fly fishing in the Alaska wilderness. After completing any last-minute outfitting they needed, Scotty and Steve boarded a DeHavilland Beaver seaplane for a flight out to Nonvianuk Lake.
Although the location and motivation change, Scott and Steve lived a vacation common for visitors to Alaska. Over six days, they were dropped off at one location, fished, hiked, and boated to another, and were picked up again by seaplane. For this particular journey, Steve and Scotty were dropped off at Nonvianuk lake, floated and fly fished their way down the Nonvianuk river, through the confluence of the Nonvianuk and Alagnak, and were later picked up via seaplane prior to the Alagnak terminus. Boats and seaplanes are the main modes of transportation in coastal Alaska, and until you head farther north, you're going to have a hard time getting anywhere that doesn't involve one or both of the two.
Steve grew up as one of seven children, and inherited the fishing bug from his father while casting lines for large mouth bass, crappie, and perch in the ponds of Laurel, Mississippi. But the ponds ultimately weren’t quite enough for Steve: by the time he turned seventeen, he’d fallen full-bore in love with fly fishing. He would get in his car nearly every weekend and drive to Arkansas to fish in the White River for both rainbow and brown trout. If you want to see passion show clearly on a man’s face, just bring up the art of fly fishing, and Steve will deliver. During the twenty years Steve served our country in both the army and the air force, he could be found during his leave fishing in locations as distant as the Philippines and Japan. He still travels 20-30 times a year to satiate his love for fly fishing. When Steve’s not fishing, he’s also a white tail deer hunter, an accomplished sailor, and a professional wildlife photographer who donates all profits from his photography to St. Jude Hospital.
With another successful, season in the books, it's time to kick back and have fun.
Diane Fast will be performing on the piano with special guests. Come enjoy an evening of reflection and relaxation with your friends and coworkers at the Fish House.
The Fish House will be CLOSED THIS WINTER for remodeling
Dinner, drinks, and the dulcet sounds of Diane Fast, ukuleles, and blues. Swing by the Fish House for an evening of music; this week's schedule is up.
The Fish House is proud to feature Diane Fast one of the most entertaining piano players on the west coast. Thursdays and Fridays!
Diane Fast- A musician and entertainer who lives and works primarily in Ketchikan and Seattle, and has gigged in a variety of ensembles and events on land and at sea all over the world... cabaret shows, big bands, dueling pianos, musical theater, and every type of corporate and private event you can imagine in every style and genre, except, perhaps, German death metal...
The Fish House will now be open Friday and Saturday nights until 9 pm. Come join us this Friday for dinner. Or on Saturday for dinner and a beer while listening to LIVE music featuring Andy Koch and the Badd Dog Blues Society starting at 6 pm. We hope to see you all!!
Meet Teague Whalen. This man's passion is to put his boots where most haven't. In this section, you'll find a comprehensive look at Alaskan hiking in general, as well as insightful guides to his favorite trails and mountains. A day spent exploring our temperate rainforest is a rewarding experience than many locals take for granted, but should be given special consideration for anyone that wants to "lose themselves" in Alaska without actually getting lost. Mr. Whalen's love for the area comes through as he explains how best to make that happen.
Check back often as we are adding more hikes daily.
Take-a-look at the commercial fishing methods most commonly used in the Ketchikan area. Of particular interest are our video renderings of some local legends doing what they love. Climb aboard with Russell Cockrum while he and his crew purse seine for salmon. Gillnet with Ole and LaDonnaGundersen aboard their vessel the LaDonna Rose. See hand trolling as it was accomplished years ago with Sean Hovik, as well as the more modern method of power trolling with Rory and Marion Bifoss. You even get a taste of solo longlining with Mike Jewett as he tells of his lifelong obsession with halibut fishing in the Southeast. View More.
The Alaska Fish House offers Ketchikan's highest-quality seafood dining experience. Visit us for hours of operation, location and our menu offerings. You'll also find our featured recipes and cookbook, along with cookbooks created by local commercial fisherwomen LaDonna Gundersen, Kiyo Marsh, and Laura Cooper. Whether looking to expand your culinary library, seeking inspiration for tonight's dinner, or looking to get down to the Fish House for a meal, you'll find what you need here.
Most of us want to find something we love, then find a way to make a living doing it. Get to know the men and women that have found a way to do that before they take you fishing. Born-Alaskan or a guide fulfilling a dream, our professional anglers love to share their passion for Alaska with their clients. An intimate knowledge of your personal guide will make the telling of your Alaskan adventure tale that much more special.
Chartering your own boat is one of our most recommended fishing options. Chartering allows you and your family the most freedom in creating a memorable fishing experience as well as add on complementary features allowing Baranof to completely customize your experience. We can easily add on fishing experiences such as crabbing and shrimping. We depart the dock and head back to our marina completely on your schedule. We love to incorporate cooking your catch in a family meal which is included in the price of all charters. On groups of 5 and 6, you end up saving a bit of money.
Welcome To Southeast Alaska! Ask Any Newcomer To Ketchikan: One Of The Top Ways Locals Will Welcome You To Our Community Is In Inviting You To Their Home To Enjoy Lively Conversation, A Cold Brew, And A Home-Cooked Meal Featuring Their Latest Catch.