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Alaska Fishing Report

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Sitka 2016

 

Season Beginning 2016

Let the Adventure Begin

And so another year begins. Actually, the 2016 season started for Peggy and I even before the 2015 season was over. WE start planning that far ahead to try to anticipate what our next year will look like and try to be ready for it. And at this point, we’re ready so let’er rip.

 There was a lot of changes in the off season, new paint jobs, new boat, new regulations, change of Captains, and more sag and wrinkle, (me, not Peggy). To start With, we sold one of our boats, Ocean Legacy, and ordered a new Coldwater. This was a new design for Coldwater, a 29’, a little smaller, deeper entry for a smoother ride. We ran into one snag though, in that I sold the boat at the Seattle Boat show, which created another problem. Coldwater couldn’t build me another one in time for the season. The answer to the problem came in the form of a 34’ new boat that was ½ finished and needed a new home. It is the same new design, but just bigger and Capt. James Hollingshead will be operating it this year. The name of the new Boat is “Ruckus”, with no Ocean moniker attached.

 Other changes were the new paint job for “Ocean Storm” which turned out awesome. Don’t expect to see our signature “candy cane” look on the new boat or Storm. Ruckus will be bare aluminum with a red strip, and for Ocean Storm, well let’s just say if you’re a Washington Husky fan, you’re probably not going to like the color.

 Other changes this year will be in the personnel department, with yours truly captaining the “Huntress” with Joey Zimmerman and Mason Christopher as my cook and first mates. I’m really looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to explore new waters. With me being gone a little more, the boss, Peggy, will be in charge more and picking up my slack. I’ve heard it said that this is really no difference at all, “ow”. With me on the water more, my weekly fish blog may resemble my old school attendance record, tardy, but I’ll do my best to keep up with it.

Besides the changes on the “Huntress”, and a couple of new lodge girls and deckhands, I feel fortunate to have all my captains returning, and you can expect to see the smiling faces of captain Ben Weiland, James Hollingshead, Mark Diaz, Eric Linde, and last but not least Kyle Parks gracing our dock again.

 I always get lots of inquiries about what the regulations are going to be for the upcoming season and we finally know what we’re looking at. We gained in some areas and lost in others. Here they are:

Salmon: Kings, big forecast again resulting in a 2 per day, 6 annual in June, and 1/6 in July and August. Silvers are the same at 6 per day and as usual no predictions on what to expect for abundance.

Halibut: We gained an inch on this one going to Under 43” instead of 42” with the upper end still at 80”.

Lingcod: the same, 1 per day, 2 per year either 30-35” or over 55”.

Yellow Eye: the same at 1 annual.

Sea bass: we lost ground on this one, 3 per day now instead of 5. Apparently, we’re not the only ones who have figured out how good they are to eat.

The king catches so far this early season have been good, but size has been just average. The Halibut catches though, have been really good and there seems to be lots of tasty flatties out there. As always, weather will always make the difference on our catches and hopefully we won’t see the El-Niño side effects from last year that seemed to suck all the bait out of the ocean. All indicators are pointing to a really good season.

So, the stage is set, new coat of paint on the lodge and boats, everything polished and ready to go. The only thing missing is YOU. Get your butts up hear and let’s go fishing. I’m not going to live forever ya know. Don’t wait, act NOW, limited time offer. Not already booked with us? No problem, we’ve had a few cancelations that might just work for you.

They are: Lodge and day boats

June 5/6/7, full boat, 25/26/27- 2people, 28/29/30 – full boat

July 16/17/18 – for 2 people, July 23/24/25- for 2 people

August 10/11/12 – full boat, 30/31/ Sept 1 – 2 people

On the “Huntress”, we have the 1st and the 3rd week of August available, both of which are really prime weeks. In addition the 29th of august thru the 2nd of Sept which could also include river fishing for silvers, is also available.

If you find something here that suites your fancy, give us a call, 907-747-7976.

That’s it for now but stay tuned to the website for future blogs starting around the first week in June. Hope to see you soon.

Quite wishin’, go fishin’

Just a note – When the big ships are in at our end of town email slows down and we may not get it till evening. If you do not hear back from us be sure to call.


 

 

                       2016 end of May blog

Well, we’ve been working hard getting things ready but we have run a few trips and fishing has been really good so far. The king fishing has been very consistent and we’re having no problems finding Kings. While the number of fish has been good, the sizes have only been average with 16-18lb Chinook making up the bulk of the catch. The one exception to that was caught by Darold Davies of the Don Rhyne Painting group, aboard the “Ocean Storm”, and weighed 38lbs. We were fishing off Biorka Is and after going thru a patch of kelp, I told Darold to reel in and check his bait. When his line was about 30’ from the surface, the big king decided that we weren’t going to take that Herring from him and hammered it.

Along with catching good numbers of Kings, there’s also been some early Coho, Chums, and tasty Halibut bait called “Pinks” in the mix also. I’m not sure what that means seeing these fish so early in the season and whether it’s related to ocean conditions or a big run is headed this way. Time will tell.

 Halibut also has continued to be on the bite, with some fish over 100lbs but the majority of the catch in that perfect 20-30lb range. There’s been plenty of Yellow eye and Lingcod also but the Sea Bass have been a little more finicky and have had to work for them a little more. One reason for that is that most of our fishing so far has centered off Cape Edgecombe, which gets a lot of local pressure on the herds, but I think as soon as we start moving north, things will pick up.

There you have it for now. The season is shaping up and we are looking for good things to come. Hope to see you soon.

Bruce

 

            Mid June Fish Blog, 2016

This report is a tale of 2 different weeks and can best be described by the weather. Why is it always about the weather? The first week of June, came with a vengeance, with nasty storms rolling in one after another, which of course makes fishing tough. Mind you, fishing was good though if you could tough it out and stand up on deck. We had lots of limits come in that week, and everyone that got out found plenty of fish. In the second week, the sun came out, the winds were reduced to a whisper, and the ocean, she did, lay down. And as good as the fishing was the week before, they really smoked them this week. The boats limited on Kings consistently every day. I can’t say a lot about the size of the salmon, with most hitting in that 16 – 18 lb. bracket and I haven’t seen one in the 30’s since May. That’s the way it usually is, when you’ve got lots of fish, they have to compete for their food and are usually smaller, and with fewer fish that get more food they of coarse get bigger, it didn’t take Einstein to figure that one out.

 Other bright spots continues to be in the bottom fish sector, and specifically in Halibut. There are lots and lots of flatties in that catchable range just under 43”, and limits usually don’t take long. There’s also been plenty of oversize to exercise and release also. The Sea Bass has been a mixed bag. On the south end of Kruzof Is, where the heaviest concentration of Charter activity has been, there getting a little harder to find and the average size has dropped some, but head north from about mid-island up, and there’s still plenty of nice big Donkey bass (guide term for big honker Sea Bass). As for the rest of the Bottom dwellers, Yellow Eye numbers seem to be holding strong, but Lingcod might be down a bit, with a 40% success ratio being average so far this year as opposed to a 50-60% average last year. You know, every year is different and so is every week. I hope when your week comes, that you’ll be on the upper side of the average.

 Well, that’s about all for now. Hope everyone is in good health and enjoying life. I know you’d be enjoying it more if you were up here, so I hope you have a date marked on your calendar to quite wishin’ and go fishin’.

See ya

Bruce

 

 

         Fish Blog, 3rd week of June 2016

It’s really nice when a plan comes together, and this week followed that theme almost perfectly. The weather was spectacular, with most day’s being calm or very doable, (which is a guide term for we’re going to get our asses kicked but there’s so many fish in the ocean that we just  have to go). Some of the days were also sunny, which gives you a sunburn instead of a rain burn. And with all that good weather there came an abundance of nice, Shiny Chinook salmon. King fishing this past week has been really, really good with multiple hookups, sometimes having 5 kings on at once. When that happens, mayhem prevails, but that’s a good thing. The size of the kings has improved a little, with the average fish still in the 16-18lb range, but a few more 20+lb critters starting to show in the catches. The big fish for the week was caught on our new boat, the “Ruckus” with Captain James Hollingshead, by a Jessie Alfaro and was, I believe, either 32 or 34lbs (I’m pulling the forgetful old man card on this one). Anyway, Jessie is not a very big girl and this fish gave her quite a battle, but girl power overcame, and after a long battle, she brought it to the net.

Along with a great King bite, The Coho’s are showing more consistently, with 6-8 fish a day per boat being about average last week, and for third time of year, the size wasn’t bad either. Overall, I think the best news of this report is that the ocean is looking more normal, with goodly amounts of bait, both Herring and Candlefish, and whales everywhere. It’s looking more and more like Elnino and the after effects of Elnino are on their way out, and things are getting back to normal, thank god.

Oh, and Halibut and the rest of the bottom dwellers are still doing well with easy limits being the norm.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be out on the “Huntress” for the next 2 weeks, Exploring the countryside and every nook and cranny I can find. So, it may be a few weeks before I get back to you. Until then, “Keep wishin’ to go fishin’.

See Ya!

Bruce

 

         End of June 2016 Fish Blog

For those of you that have fished with Horizon West a lot over the years, you know how it is. You have your date picked out based on you best guess on when the fish gods, and the weather gods, and when the guide gods (we call them Captains among other things, but you can call them what you want), will all line up to give you the best shot a catching fish. And after many years, you know that sometimes you hit it bad, sometimes things go good, and if you’re lucky and the fish gods are smiling on you, fishing is absolutely awesome. Well, this week, our fellow fishers hit the jackpot.

 Things lined up perfectly with mostly calm winds and pretty flat ocean, a fair amount of sunny days by Sitka standards, which can be anything from, “I saw a blue spot between the raindrops”, to “what’s that scary bright orb in the sky”. On top of that, the Cape was absolutely of fire with Salmon, Kings, Coho, Chums, and even an occasional Sockeye. Early in the week, The Huntress, Ocean Shadow, and our new boat, Ruckus, all caught Salmon grand slams. That is catching all 5 sub-species of salmon on the same day! There are few places in the world or for that matter, even in Alaska where that is possible. Fishing was that smoking hot last week.

 All the boats were able to catch and release lots of kings, looking to fill in more Coho, and the Silver bight was pretty damn good as well, with a few limits, but mostly averaging 12-20 Coho per boat a day. The size of our Silvers was good for this early in the season with 8lbs being the norm.

But the best story of the week if not the year, had to come off the Ruckus, with Captain James Hollingshead, and deck officer Ben Rudolph. They were fishing off the Cape with Long time client/ friend Beverly McConaghy , who can be very deceiving. When you meet this 82 year old woman, all you can see is a petite and demure grandmotherly type who just wants to bake pies and hug and steel every grandchild that she passes on the street. But don’t be fooled. If the smell of a King Salmon is in the air or if she’s in the 20 mile perimeter of anything that swims and has fins, she’s a Pitbull with lipstick (It’s a nice color of lipstick though. Kind of a Salmon orange with a tinge of blood I mean red). This terrorist, I mean woman (did I say that outloud), loves to fish and she is damn good at it. When the boat stops on the grounds, she’s the first one in the water, and won’t come out until the boats on a full plane, and even then she may leave it out so she can be the first one in the next hole. She calls it high speed trolling. Anyway, they had been fishing off the Cape and had already limited on kings, and were catch and releasing lots of Chinooks looking for more Coho, when the fish of a lifetime decided to take on “the Pitbull”. Now you would think there’s no way this little 82 year old woman could subdue a king of this size, but you’d be wrong. I’m pretty sure the King was down there looking up at her thinking, “buckle up buttercup, we’re going for a ride”. But he, like others before him, under estimated her bark as well as her bite. Now, I know for me, it would have been a tough fight. I cannot imagine trying to tackle it at 82 (or was that 59). Anyway after a long epic battle, James was able to slip the net under the biggest fish to hit the decks in his time on the water. After looking at the pictures and with his best guestimation, this king easily went 55-60lbs and possibly bigger. WOW. Now they already had all there kings and couldn’t keep it, so after a few quick photos and a couple of tears (from James and Ben), they released it safely back to the briny deep. I have to say that I’m impressed. Knowing her bloodlust for fish, I would have expected some major sniveling and whining but oh contraire Kimo Sabe. My little pit bull was more than happy to watch that massive Salmon swim back into the gene pool. A BIG congratulation goes out to Beverly for a Job well done. It is well deserved. Take that all you manly men.

 Well that’s it for now. I need a cigarette after writing this report. Oh yea, I don’t smoke. Until next time, “quit wishin, go fishin”. Hope to see you soon

Bruce

 

 

Fish Blog for the first half of July 2016

Yea, I know. I’m late and missed last week.

 I was going to do it, then I got busy fixing stuff and the next thing you know, it’s Monday morning and I’m heading out on the Huntress, and then it’s like aw poop, I forgot my blog. I’m pulling the old man card on this one. I forgot my blog, but I can still remember my name, so it’s all good.

Well, the first half of July was totally different then the end of June. However the weather has stayed the same with lots of calm flat seas and very little rain. It’s been so dry around here that we had to water our plants. Almost forgot how that works. I caught myself thinking the other day,” you know, a little rain might feel real good” but then I slapped myself and that crazy thought was gone. Anyway, up until the last couple of days, the weather has been beautiful, but the groups that are here now have not had the same luck weather wise. Very snotty right now, yuck.

 The Salmon fishing has been really amazing in a totally different way than in June. As you remember from my last report, Lots of Kings, plenty of Silvers thrown in, and one really big King released back to the briney,( we may have seen that one again. More to come). This time though, the Kings have disappeared somewhat to where we are only seeing 1 or 2 a day average per boat in our catches. But the Coho fishing has been off the charts in numbers and size. Lots of multiple hookups and limits are the rule. But the average size of the fish for this time of year almost matches what we expect by the end of August with a 9 or 10lb average. And for the first week of July it was almost all Silvers in the catches, but by the second week, the Humpies have shown up with a vengeance. Sometimes we have to get 6 Pinks to get one Coho. Lots of action.

Now back to that big King that we released in June. One of the charter boats from Angling Unlimited with Captain DJ, caught a monster King last week. The Salmon weight in at 64lbs and when looking at the picture of the fish we released a week earlier, could be the same one. Guess we will never know for sure, but still….

As for the Huntress, this past week, we had the Gladow family, 3 couples and a lot of fun. We caught lots of salmon and sea Bass the first couple of days and first mate Joey introduced them to what good table fare the Codlies can be. We also got 3 big buckets of shrimp, but for them the highlight of the trip was the Dolphins. After setting our shrimp pots, a group of 6 Dolphins picked us up and surfed off our bow for 5 miles, all the way to the back of Hoonah sound. There, we set anchor for the night, and for 3 hours, they entertained us, jumping and porpusing (no pun intended) all around the boat. Sometimes, you’d see 5 at a time in the air. We finally went to bed, but when we got up in the morning, they were still there. They waited for us all night and escorted us back out of the bay. It was awesome interacting that much with something that swims in the ocean. I mean I usually do it all the time, but that’s at the dinner table.

 Well, that’s about all for now. As usual, I hope this blog finds you all well, healthy, happy, and eating lots of good fish, my fish.

Till I see you again, quite wishin, go fishin.

Bruce

PS: We are signing up for Fall kings on the Columbia/Cowlitz, lots of fish and you get a chance to catch the Kings you missed up here, and Steelhead in Hells Canyon. Give me a call 907-747-7976

 

            Official Horizon West Fish Blog for

The Third Week of July 2016

 

This season, up thru the second week of July, has been like one of those really good dreams you have, where you book one of those really awesome exotic fishing trips, and you get there at just the perfect time. The fish are in, and there all monsters and biting like crazy, and the weather is sunny and the ocean is like a mill pond, and there’s beautiful girls on sandy tropical beach, and there all giving you the eye. Wait a minute, forget that last part. That was a different dream, but I’m sure it was somebody else’s, not mine. Anyway, back to my point. So that’s what our season has been like up until this week, and the wheels fell off our wagon, and rolled away.

 Our weather, which for the most part, has been gorgeous, decided to go on a rampage and take our fish with it. I bet you that up until this week, we have had less rain this year than Washington, and we are in a rain forest. We’re making up that difference now. As of this writing, it’s been pouring cats and German shorthair puppies, (another one of my dreams), non- stop for 2 days and the forecast is for more of the same for the next week. It blew 35 knots winds last night, and the seas are at 13’ right now. The only plus is that I’m sitting here, warm and cozy tapping this out with my one educated finger, which won’t last for long.

 Since this is a fishing report, I guess I should talk about the fishing. Well, it’s still not bad, but not what it has been. We’re still catching lots of big ol’ honkin Silvers, but the problem now is the Pinks have showed up in mass making it almost impossible to get thru them. At times, it’s been like catching 15 pinks, to get 1 Silver or kings. And we’re still only averaging 2 Chinook per boat a day, but there has been some big boy’s making an appearance recently. Like the 43lb bruiser that Linda Hunter caught in Hoonah sound aboard our new boat, “Ruckus”, with Capt. James Hollingshead. Or the 47lb Donkey that Dominic Ruybal caught while fishing aboard “Ocean Shadow” with Capt. Mark Diaz. Congrats to both for doing an awesome job.

 This last week on The “Huntress”, we had a fun group from Wisconsin, hosted by Scott Kennen. We also found fishing in the ocean a bit more challenging than we are use too, but found plenty to keep us busy. We also stumbled ( this is what I call guides intuition),on to a river that had some early returning Silvers, which we put a hurt on and in another unnamed bay which was plugged with tons of Sockeye Salmon which we proceeded to kick ass on. We topped it off with a soak in a natural hot springs on their last night out, and sent them on their way. Unfortunately, they now think this is what all Alaska trips are like.

  One bad thing that happened to me was that my cell phone, with all my pictures and contact numbers and emails decided to go for a swim and drowned in 200’ of water. And, stupid me didn’t have it all backed up. I thought I had, but, for not the first time in my life, I was wrong. So if I don’t call you, it may not be because I’m ignoring you, but of course, there is that possibility.

 So even though the fishing has been challenging, we still managed to send everybody home with lots of fish. That’s the nice thing about Sitka. Even when were not at our best, were still better than most other places on the west coast. So, until next week, keep wishin to go fishin.Bye for now

Bruce

 

 

Fish Blog for Last Week of July 2016.

For this week’s report, I don’t have anything that’s earth shattering or ground breaking, but on the other hand it ain’t all that bad either.

The main attraction is still big ol’ honk in Coho’s and catches are still holding strong with limits 85% of the time. There has even been what we refer to as a “white hot bite” on a few of the days this week. But the size of these fish is what’s so impressive, with a solid 10lb average and 14-16 pounders not that uncommon. We don’t normally expect to see fish of that size range until the end of August, I can’t wait to see what they’re going to look like by then. The king salmon bite also seemed to pick up some steam this week, with limit happening about 50% of the time. I think the big fish this week was caught by Jim Gore, if I have my facts right, of the Pete Ritmueller party and weighed 37 lbs., so there’s still a few big bruisers around just to keep things interesting.

You know, I haven’t given them a lot of press this year, but the Halibut fishing is as good as I’ve seen it for a long time. How good is it you ask? It’s so good that a lot of the time we are only putting one rod down for butts while fishing 3 rods for salmon and having no problem limiting out in short order.

The weather continues to play havoc with our ocean, not bad enough that we can’t go out, but  tiring on us older duffe’rs bones.

 On the Huntress last week we had the Castros (no relation), and the Haugens which were both celebrating their 50th and 26th wedding anniversary respectfully. We had a great time catching fish, shrimping, and stream fishing for Pinks and Chums. Nothing say’s “I love you”, quite like a plate full of spot prawns. We fished in Hoonah sound quite a bit to stay in calm water, and one of the highlights was a herd of Humpback whales bubble feeding, which we followed for well over an hour and got some great photos. I love fishing the families and couples on the boat. It’s always a fun time.

Well, that’s all for now. As we head into the home stretch of August, fishing just seems to be getting better and better and I can’t wait to see what next week will bring. But until then, keep wishin’ to go fishin’. Stay safe

Bruce

 

 

                Fish Blog for the First Week of August 2016

I think the best way to describe this week’s report would be if you took an old man, (I use old men because Peggy say’s we are slow and easy to pick on) put him in front of a dart board and play a game of darts with him, but to make it interesting, you take his glasses away. The results would be what the fishing was like this week. All over the place. Limits of big fat Coho one day and scratching hard to put 10 in the boat the next. We found good numbers of fish on the north end of Kruzof Island earlier his week but by Saturday they had all but disappeared, not only up North but off the Cape as well. Now I don’t think that the end of the run is upon us, its way too early for that, plus the Silvers we’re catching are nowhere close to being mature and ready to spawn. Instead, I believe we have hit a momentary pause and I think all indicators point towards a late return. Even the Pink salmon, which have been a pain in our ass in the ocean and should be in there stream beds by now, are running late. Most of the rivers have only a few fish in them and the seiners who rely on the humpy run, are barely making fuel so far.                                                                                                                                       So fear not, there’s a white hot bite coming just around the corner.

 The weather also has been a factor in our catching ability. From millpond like conditions, to lumpy, bumpy, and what best be describe as “poopy”. It hasn’t been bad enough to keep us off the ocean, but not very comfortable either. This too has had an effect on our catch results. All in all, for this time of year, you would expect a little more consistent numbers, but then again it is fishing.

 That’s all for now. We are off on another remote SE Alaska adventure on the “Huntress” this week, so stay tuned for the next episode in,” Buwana Bruce and the floating circus”. I can’t wait.

 See you then.

Bruce

 

      Fish Blog for 2nd week of August 2016

 

Yep. It’s about the weather. That’s it in a nutshell for this week.

This year, for May, June, and July, we had one of those seasons you dream about, with lots of sunshine and for the most part, hardly any wind. And it was day after day of it. I had to water my plants. I think I saw a palm tree growing in somebody’s yard while driving to town. I was sure I heard them playing Hawaiian music on the local radio, (I could feel my brain cells fermenting listening to it). But then reality set in and then we hit AUGUST. I believe it has rained everyday so far this August and a good day on the ocean is considered anything under 20 knot winds and 7’ seas.

 Needless to say, it has affected the fishing or our ability to fish and get to the fish. At this time last year, all the salmon fishing was on the inside waters in Hoonah Sound because of lack of bait in the ocean, thank you El Nino. This year, right now, it’s all about the Ocean. The fish are in very specific areas. So if you want to catch Coho’s, you need to be off shore 4 or 5 miles because so far except for Cape Edgecomb, that’s where there hanging. And it’s not a slam dunk either. Limits are only hitting the dock about 60% of the time. Of course that’s due in part to the weather and also they still seem to be running late with maturity levels 2 weeks behind what they should be. Captain Ben on the Ocean Storm also made the observation that he’s not seeing a lot of candle fish in the Nearshore Ocean. Herring yes but not the Candlefish which is an important part of their normal diet. Not sure quite what that means but it does have me scratching my bald head. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Silvers that were really nice earlier are only getting bigger. When we do catch a King now, which isn’t very often any more, usually the Coho are bigger than Kings.

 The bottom fish are still doing quite well. No problems finding lots of Halibut and Black Rockfish.

 Well, there’s not much more that I can add to this report, we’ve pretty well covered it. So until next week, “keep wishin’ for good weather and to go fishin’.

See Ya,

Bruce