By Mike Willis
For those seeking their next deep-sea fishing adventure, look no further than Valdez, Alaska. This fisherman’s paradise is sure not to disappoint even the most seasoned angler.
It’s hard to imagine that in 1989, this area had one of the most horrific oil spills in history. The pristine beauty shows no evidence of this unfortunate past, and all one can do is be captivated by the moment they are in. The breathtaking glacial ice is a blue-green color that is confusing to the mind as it tries to decode the high definition beauty that you are gazing upon.
Within the depths of these colorful seas, lives the halibut. These fish have become popular to catch because of their incredible taste and impressive fight. Chefs often refer to halibut as the blank canvas of fish. Even the most novice culinary skills can go a long way as this fish absorbs any flavor added to it.
One year, while visiting my brother in Fairbanks, Alaska, we decided to journey down to Valdez in search of another angling adventure. The Richardson Highway lived up to its reputation as it displayed the abundance of wildlife that can be found throughout the Alaskan interior.
I remember thinking that we were going to be late for our chartered trip as we couldn’t stop taking in all of the sights surrounding us. I was thinking that nothing could be better than watching those grizzly bears eat fish along the shoreline of Valdez. With great reluctance, I set down the binoculars, and we continued towards the docks to meet our Captain.
Not long after we departed the harbor, we began navigating the glacial ice and gazing upon the abundant sea life. There were whales, porpoises, sea lions, and seals.
If you decide to take a trip to Valdez to go halibut fishing, you really should consider also taking a boat tour of the glaciers. This experience in itself could prove to be worth the journey to Alaska.
When booking expeditions for deep-sea adventures, ALWAYS research the Captain’s boat that he or she intends to use. This information could make or break the deal as a slow-moving boat can rob you of hours of opportunity.
Fortunately, our vessel was well-equipped for the job, and the journey out to the Gulf of Alaska was a pleasant one. Pleasant as it was, I felt as though we were never going to arrive. I remember being about an hour into full-throttle wave jumping when I saw one of the infamous crab fishing vessels from the TV show The Deadliest Catch.
When we finally arrived, the Captain and crew worked diligently to start rigging poles to jig for halibut. It didn’t take long for the action to start. The symphony of screaming reels began sounding off.
Deep sea fishing for bottom dwellers proves to be a challenge when you find yourself with a halibut on the end of the line. Reeling in a halibut is the equivalent of attempting to reel a sheet of plywood off the ocean floor. Their flat bodies drag through the current and make your efforts to reel seem futile.
It is not uncommon to set the hook on a 100-pound halibut on these trips. When this happens, a little teamwork goes a long way to ensure everyone goes home with full coolers and both arms.
These fish are so massive that as you get them to the side of the boat, they are dispatched using a .22 Magnum bang stick. Movement ceases before anyone attempts to pull them aboard.
This is no game of catch and release!
In addition to halibut, there is ample opportunity to catch lingcod and rockfish throughout the day. There’s no doubt that on this trip, you will get your fill of fish and photo opportunities for your efforts. Fish on!