Today is a big day in Southeast Alaska. Sometime after midnight, hundreds of troll fishermen dropped lines across the waters off Takanis Bay, Snipe Bay, Whale Bay, Cross Sound, Steamboat Bay, Cape Addington or Hoktaheen. Inside and outside waters all around Southeast Alaska in areas encompassing the Dixon Entrance to Cape St. Elias opened up to troll fishing for king salmon.
The waters of Southeast Alaska are unique in the fact that fishermen fish them just about year round, but only certain spots are open given the time of year. And kings can only be targeted at certain times. We work hand in hand with biologists from the state of Alaska, the only state with a mandate for sustainable seafood written right into its State Constitution, to reach our king salmon quota of approximately 325,000 fish. Being sustainable means that our grand kids can fish the same way we do.
Waters of Southeast Alaska. Image from NOAA chart 16016.
Now the waters are open to troll fish for king salmon. Like a farmer at harvest time, it’s time for us fishermen to make hay. That’s what we do and we take great pride in it.
Experienced fishermen will use their ingenuity, their knowledge of tides, lures, holes, reefs, boat speeds, and weather to get a bigger piece of that pie. As troll fishermen, our boats are relatively small, so none of us are taking too big of a chunk, but we work hard to position ourselves to catch that beauty of the sea: the king salmon. The summer days up in Alaska are really long and, with the extra light, over the past few weeks we’ve been getting our boats ready, making sure their engines are in tip-top shape, buying supplies, storing groceries, and telling each other stories about how great this season will be. We won’t know until we’re out there.
And today’s the day.
We troll fishermen are covering roughly 420 miles of coastline in search of the regal king salmon, a prize of the plate. The fish are passing through these beautiful waters and could be returning to rivers along a good portion of the West Coast of North America, most likely north of the Columbia River. They could be rivers off Vancouver Island, down in Washington state, or rivers further north in Alaska. Conventional wisdom says salmon swim clockwise in search of food because these currents in the waters off Southeast Alaska go counter-clockwise if you look at them on a map. Salmon swim against the current and we fishermen follow the paths the salmon take, we position our boats to troll lures at approximately the same speed that the salmon are swimming (roughly 1 to 2 knots). We are so excited it’s hard to sit still. Better get out there on the waters.