Independent Travelers

Design a Fishing Trip

You know you’re coming to Southeast Alaska and you know you’re going fishing. What’s next? We’ve put together a list of questions you should ask yourself while designing your Alaskan experience. This is a once a year, or even once in a lifetime, trip for many people; figuring out what you want and confirming you’ll get it makes for a truly memorable experience.

Short answer; $225-400 per person, per day, fishing only (no lodging, outside meals, etc.).

As with any industry, there is an average price for the product that Southeast sportfishing guides sell. Also true is the fact that the quality of the product differs from vendor to vendor. Some excellent guides are forced to reduce their rates to be able to compete, while some that are less talented can charge the same rates because that's the industry standard. The only way you're going to know whether you're getting the most bang for your buck or not is by doing your homework. Check the review sites and find out why a particular outfit is enjoyed by its customers and determine whether they can offer you your desired experience. If you're traveling with young children, maybe you want a guide that knows how to teach kids how to fish. If you and three college friends are coming up to kill as many trophy fish as possible, maybe you'd like someone equipped to run farther and fish harder. Do some research, make your expectations known to whomever you speak with at each company, and have a clear idea of how much you're willing to spend for a given experience before committing.

YES. Communication is the key to success in most relationships, including that of client and guide. You're paying for the services your guide offers, and you should make clear your exact skill level and expectations for any activities you plan on attempting. Baranof’s guides will often be there for a client's first time on the water, and are in the habit of teaching the basics to beginners to make sure they catch their first fish. If you're an avid fisherman with a wealth of experience, however, and are in search of a trophy fish, it behooves guide and guest to have that understood so that time can be better spent in search of the prize.

Business experience, while not a definitive indication of a company's product quality, can be a good place to start when selecting your provider. Keep in mind though, there is a definite evolution to many charter captains that should be recognized; they start with an established company or lodge before building/buying their perfect boat and striking out as an owner/operator. When this is the case, you often find an outstanding charter with an enthusiastic, experienced, and energetic captain. The flip-side of that coin would be captains that don't meet certain basic requirements for employment, whose only option is to run their own operation. Somewhere in between you'll find the excellent guides and captains that love what they do, but don't enjoy the hassle and stress of running their own business. This is comparable to the restaurant business where you might have independent chefs, glorified line-cooks, and folks that love to create a perfect experience without worrying about the overhead.


Reviews and Testimonials

Online reviews are perhaps the best way of determining the quality of service you’ll find at a given company. Taken with a grain of salt, the complaints you’ll find can indicate where your expectations may not be met. The positive reviews also answer some questions you may have, or some strengths of the company that set them apart from their competition. While some folks may just enjoy seeing themselves in print and can go a bit overboard, several parties complaining or applauding the same trait in a company should be heeded. Bottom line is, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know; pointing out a particular highpoint of someone else’s excursion to your guide will ensure they’ll do their best to recreate it.

The options on where you lay your head at night while in Alaska are as diverse as the people that make the journey to The Last Frontier. Everything from sleeping in a tent next to a campfire to a five-star hotel complete with WiFi and room service can be had. Establishing a bare minimum in amenities is a good place to start when planning your vacation.


HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ANSWER TO GET THE CONVERSATION STARTED:

Are you comfortable without cell phone service?

A remote lodge will either have cell phone service or a satellite phone. If you need to take an hour every evening after dinner to handle business back home, however, you may want to ensure that you'll be able to do this without frustration by confirming coverage before you book.


Do you require a full menu for your meals?

This covers allergies as well. If you're lactose intolerant or living the gluten free lifestyle, there's no need to feel guilty about what you're eating on your vacation. Make sure you'll be able to stay on the wagon if you're lodging in a rustic location. Most operators will be happy to work with you on special requests, they just need to be made aware of your requirements ahead of time. Whenever it’s not an immediate health concern, however, we recommend indulging your palate with the fresh Alaskan seafood while you’re here. You can find our fish all over the world for a reason; if you’re allowed a cheat day on your diet, we recommend you save a few up.


Does any party member require access to medical facilities?

If anyone in your party has a condition that could require immediate medical attention without warning, a remote location that stands the chance of being inaccessible due to inclement weather may not be an option.


Do you like to get out at night?

If getting away from it all is a group goal, a remote lodge away from other people and services is the right pick. If you want to be able to visit a local bar at night, shop, tour museums, take a car and explore on your own, etc., you'll want to stay in or near a town.


Look around. What do you use every day that you could survive without?

This is sort of like the cell phones. Examine your daily routine and figure out if there is anything you require no matter where you are. Internet access is a biggie for some; so much of what we do requires a web connection. A large part of being on vacation is disconnecting from the distractions of your daily routine, but an honest look at what your minimums are will allow you to enjoy your time here without worry.

Some quick internet searches on the year, make, and model of a boat will give you a clear idea of what to expect, and help answer these four key questions before you commit to a day on the water:


Is it safe?

Every charter boat in the state is required to undergo periodic Coast Guard safety inspections to ensure seaworthiness and confirm that the required safety and survival gear is in good working order. While there is a very small chance of any kind of accident, clients unaccustomed to being at sea in a smaller vessel (i.e. not a cruise ship) can find peace of mind on boats with two-way radios, multiple motors, and GPS.


Is it comfortable?

This is up to you. From open-air skiffs to cabin cruisers with galley and private head, you can find any level of comfort you’re willing to pay for.


Is it affordable?

By and large, the more you pay, the less rustic your Alaskan experience will be. As mentioned in the comfort section, there are any number of different options available to charter clients. Spend enough on creature comforts that your family won’t be wanting to return early, but no more.


Will it give me my best chance of catching fish, and/or is it equipped to provide the experience I am seeking?

Depending on what your perfect day on the water looks like, you’ll need to make sure your boat is outfitted to provide it. Putting in at a beach for a quick nature hike, or call of nature, running out in open water to view whales, or trolling for salmon as opposed to anchoring for halibut all require different gear. Decide what the story you tell your friends about your Alaskan adventure sounds like, then find a boat that can make it a reality.

Baranof operates a fleet of over twenty vessels, with three different sizes and hull designs. Between our open-air skiff, 24 ft., and 30 ft. cabin cruiser options, finding the right vessel to meet your expectations will be a key part of your conversation with Bonnie and her sales staff.

Nobody wants a trip to be cancelled for any reason, but there are circumstances outside a company's control that prevent them from supplying their advertised product. The biggest factor here in Southeast is often the weather. Different areas of the tourist industry are more or less reliant on good weather (i.e. aviation in Ketchikan budgets for a 15% cancellation rate, waterborne operators 5%, but buses don’t cancel no matter the weather). In Ketchikan, tourism-dependent companies only have about 5 months to earn their money for the year, so you can be certain that if a company tells you the weather is too bad, you don't want to be out there. Don’t be surprised, however, if your entire cruise is a sun-filled vacation that leaves you believing we exaggerate our rate of inclement weather; 2017 was our rainiest season on record, but 2018 was the exact opposite.

Depending on the business and/or particular industry, there are other reasons for cancellation that visitors may encounter. Cancellation due to questions of equipment's reliability (i.e. engine is sputtering, a tire has a leak, there's a hole in the boat, etc.) for wilderness excursions is not unheard of.

Overbooking can occur on occasion as well. This is the ugly one because this usually means the company has dropped the ball somewhere along the way and promised the same seat to two different people. It usually results with one party being angry they were bumped, and the other feeling guilty for enjoying themselves. Booking directly through a excursion operator will increase your chance of being double-booked (as opposed to booking through a cruise ship), though the likelihood is still relatively small.

Refunds for cancellation, depending on the company, are handled based on the cause for cancellation. For weather, maintenance, or any other reason outside the control of both the company and client, you can expect a full refund. If you were bumped because the company overbooked, some kind of "I'm Sorry" isn't an unreasonable expectation (paying for a different tour, lunch, etc.). For no-shows or cancellation at departure time, a company may be hesitant to send out an empty seat and provide a refund as well. As stated above, educate yourself on the excursion and book ahead.

Baranof provides full refunds for any customer cancellation over 7 days prior to your scheduled booking. Weather, maintenance, or medical emergency cancellations will result in a full refund at any time.

Sharing a meal is often an intimate gesture or relationship-building exercise we all knowingly, or even unknowingly, take part in. Family dinner, holiday get-togethers, dates, or even coffee with a friend are all instances where we spend quality time with individuals that are important to us. Planning on having memorable dining experiences while on your trip to Alaska can provide a wonderful opportunity to create lasting memories with loved ones. Baranof's specialty is providing gourmet meals with the fresh fish you just caught at unique locations. Whether through a wilderness dining experience, dinner party in our restaurant's private dining room, or assistance in a self-prepared meal when you return home from your vacation, we savor the opportunity to share our passion with you.

Ketchikan is a popular fishing destination for salmon and halibut, which attracts avid and beginner fishermen from all over the world. What makes it a perfect family vacation destination is the scenery, wildlife, history, and a community as passionate about the arts as any you’ll find. Rich in Alaskan Native heritage, theatre and ballet, and world-renowned local artists, our home melds rustic beauty and a passion for culture that is uncommon in larger communities. That isn’t to say that a group of college buddies will have a hard time finding a beer and a game of pool after a day killing fish; you don’t build a town on mining, fishing, and timber without being able to provide distraction for the men coming in from camp. Whether you’re after the lounge atmosphere of the Sourdough, the club scene you’ll find at the 1st City Saloon, outstanding billiards competition at the 49er, or just relaxing with a beer on the waterfront deck of the Arctic, you’ll find a watering hole exactly to your liking. Most Southeast communities offer a unique twist on nightly activity; we recommend asking a local or your guide to find exactly what you're looking for.

What makes for an extraordinary day fishing is a guide that turns a fishing trip into a lifetime experience. Fishing is fishing, and as such, there are days when the bite isn't spectacular. Most guests understand this, and if they don't land a trophy fish they know that is par for the course. However, if their captain isn't empathetic, that's when feelings get hurt. A quick trip through any review site will show that many of the posts focus on what kind of person the guide/captain is, with less emphasis given on the quantity of fish caught. And for good reason; this man or woman is the face of Ketchikan for so many of our clients, with repeat customers coming back year after year to fish with the same captain. All of Baranof’s guides are experts in their craft and know how to put clients on the fish, but a truly outstanding experience requires the strength of character and professionalism we demand of our captains.


Deckhands:

We recommend that you consider the impact a deckhand has on the success of your fishing trip as well. Many charter boat captains bring one of their children aboard to assist with some of the more mundane jobs involved in guiding, which frees them up for the tasks that require the skill and expertise you're paying them for. While your captain is focused on finding the fish, instructing in angling techniques, and running the boat, the deckhand is available to assist with baiting hooks, cleaning and gutting the catch, serving refreshments, and regaling clients with stories of life in Southeast Alaska. At the end of the day, chartering with a captain that utilizes a deckhand will usually result in more fish in the cooler.

You won't find a "you must be this tall" sign around Baranof. Children have always been at the forefront of our mind as we design our excursions, build our facilities, and outfit our boats. Our hands-on training in fishing techniques and light tackle options help children get right into the action alongside their parents. We regularly have three generations of one family on a boat, sometimes even four. Check out a cool family story here from Capt. Kraynik! >>

Every resort, whether in town or rustic, offers a different family experience. If you're looking for a resort geared more towards adult than family clientele, make sure you ask before booking.

If you’ve decided to book a fishing vacation at a lodge, but don’t know how to choose a quality operation, take these pointers into consideration.

Know how rustic an experience you’d like, or would be willing to accept: Southeast Alaska has everything from one-man, camp on the beach, kill a lot of fish and shower next week outfits, all the way to five-star wilderness resorts. Do you want the “true Alaskan experience”, or do you enjoy relaxing and a fancy dinner after a day of fishing?

Once you’ve narrowed the search by amenities, it’s time to decide on your price range. Whether you know how much you want to spend and will take as many days as you can get, or want the best you can get for a certain time period and price range are factors to consider.

With a clear idea of whether you’ll be roughing it or dressing up for dinner, and a ballpark idea of how much you’re willing to spend, you’re ready to start comparing operations. How many years has your prospective lodge been in business? If someone has been around for three decades, they should be able to provide plenty of references and testimonials. Taken with a grain of salt, online review sites can give you a good idea of the standard an operation is setting. While every lodge and resort does do a bit of marketing, the best receive most of their bookings through word of mouth. This actually causes some ambiguity for prospective clients when comparing a lower-end operation with an upper tier outfit. While price between two lodges may be a good indicator of where they rank, your best bet is to look at how early they’re booked to capacity. Generally speaking, you want to plan far in advance to book the most reputable, experienced lodges in order to get the best dates and the time slots that fit your schedule.

Whether you’re traveling on your own solo adventure or you are with family and friends, Baranof is good at loading a boat with like-minded fishermen that will enjoy the day together. We normally fish four to five people per boat. Often, this means that two couples are paired together without having met prior to stepping onto our dock. We take special care when pairing our groups up to ensure, for example, a Red Sox family isn’t spending their day fishing with Yankee fans.

Different areas of Alaska operate under specific regulations. Here in Southeast we are allowed no more than six poles in the water during sportfishing charters. Seward, for example, is in a different section and can accommodate more guests on the same boat, with each guest fishing. If you’d like to have more than six guests fishing off the same boat, it may be worth looking into, though there is no issue with folks in Southeast fishing two boats within talking distance of each other.

It's important to have a clear understanding of exactly what occurs when you drop your fish off at the processor, as well as what the expected yield should be for the fish you caught. The processor will deal directly with FedEx for anyone not carrying their fish boxes home as checked baggage, and simply combine the fee. See here how FedEx handles perishable items.

If you're flying home directly from Alaska, checking your fish may be the best option. There are some things that need to work out to ensure you won't be getting home with thawing product, however. Proper packaging is vital, but is a service most processors are prepared to handle. As a rule, a simple fish box is acceptable if you'll be arriving home with your fish the same day you leave Ketchikan. For an additional cost per box, you can utilize a styro-foam liner for added insulation if you're at all concerned there may be a layover or drive home once you reach your destination.

At Baranof, we use Cedar's Lodge for our processing and shipping needs. Thousands of our guests have utilized their services with very few complaints. All charter operators will have a bulletproof plan for getting your fish home, but if you’d like to know the cost in advance we recommend giving them a call.

The weather, specifically our annual rainfall of 153 inches, is a defining feature of Ketchikan, Alaska. Umbrellas are fairly useless most days due to the wind, but the good news is that the average temperature in the summer is 55 - 70 degrees and quite pleasant. So, if you’re a local, you put on waterproof boots on your way out the door in the morning and have your head-to-toe raingear in hand if you plan on doing anything outside besides running to and from the car. Baranof has been operating with that mentality extended to their guests since its inception. Show up in jeans and a jacket, and we’ll weather-proof you head to toe. Outside of the constant drizzle, we do have some storms. Our captains focus on the quality of the experience above all else, and while it may not be anywhere near a safety concern, we do call off excursions when the weather is too unenjoyable.

Your family will want to decide what activities are hoped for in addition to fishing. It’s our experience that most people want to see the wildlife while in Alaska. It’s also our experience that after a few hours of fishing, you’ll have seen an awful lot of it. Common sights on our trips include: bald eagles, sea lions, seals, humpback whales, gulls, loons, cormorants, Canadian geese, ducks and Sitka black tail deer to name a few. Less common, but always possible sightings include orcas, black bear, and Dall’s porpoise.

Check out our Wildlife Charter page for more information on each of our local species.