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FRED HALL SHOW - Long Beach

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016
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SOUTHEAST SLAM, ALASKA-STYLE
It’s Fred Hall show time; book your dates at the premier lodge in Sitka, with Kingfisher Charters; Join WON on its annual trip to the their lodge and premier fishing grounds for salmon, halibut and rockfish

BY PAT McDONELL

Special to Western Outdoor News


SITKA, AK — For the 27th consecutive year, Sitka’s Kingfisher Charters will have a booth at the Fred Hall show in Long Beach. Owner Seth Bone, manager Robert Suarez will be on hand to answer questions and book trips.


“The fishing forecast for the 2018 season looks good for both salmon and halibut,” said Bone. “ The middle of May through late June is the peak of the king salmon run, and you can count on catching plenty of kings during that time. The peak time for silvers is mid-July through early September. July is a good cross-over month, when you can usually do well on both king and silver salmon, and of course halibut. The halibut fishing is strong throughout the season, and both the lingcod and yelloweye rockfish action is good all summer long.”


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VALERIE AND TOM HANDZUS, left, WON’s Pat McDonell and Chris Wheaton, right, with limits of silvers and four halibut caught on the Chilkat with last year’s WON trip.


Kingfisher Charters offers a first class all-inclusive Alaska fishing trip for a reasonable price, and they are currently offering a show special on certain prime dates. For more information, including the scoop on their Fred Hall Show Special, stop by the Kingfisher Charters booth, call (800) 727-6136, or go to kingfishercharters.com.


Only a few spots remain on the annual WON Charter to the lodge, this year slated for Aug. 28-Sept. 1, for up to 12 anglers. Contact Kevin at kevin@wonews.com for details. The trip cost of $2,895 includes three days of fishing, four anglers to a boat, ground transportation in Sitka, lodging, processing and boxing your catch, and all meals.


At last year’s five-day trip I hosted at the end of the season, the primary targets were silver salmon, and halibut, with a mix of rockfish and lingcod. Kings were around, but last year was the first year there had been a late-season no-take period. Naturally we caught quite a few of the kings while downrigging hoochies for silvers.


In the early part of the season, kings are, well, king. And the fishing is fast and furious on the downriggers and surface hoochies and cut plug herring. If you want to get as much fishing time as possible, help the captain where you can, netting the fish, washing down the deck and setting up the baits on the downrigger. A few quick lessons and you will be an expert at it, and it’s a lot more fun to help run the boat.


If you come later in the season, which I prefer because there is more action on the silvers, you will be busy all morning. Now, silver salmon in many Alaska and BC areas are much smaller fish, but not in Sitka where they are bigger on average, 10 to 15 pounds, than anywhere else I have fished in Alaska. They quickly fill wax boxes, and you can keep six fish a day, so it’s good action and eating.


The days are all pretty typical at Seth Bone’s lodge, the first and biggest fishing operation in Sitka, one Bone he started over two decades ago, just out of college, with he and his brother Heath chartering their own boats and anglers staying at the Westmark Hotel in town. His mother, a local school educator, made lunches for the anglers and her two sons.


Now, 30 years later, 90 percent of the anglers stay at the Kingfisher Lodge, while some opt to stay in town at the well-appointed hotel which is close to the marina and curios and art shops. In many cases, the lodge is at capacity most of the summer and has been that way for the past several years. So the Westmark is available, or you can split your stay.


One thing is for sure, the operation Seth Bone has created is smooth. Expectations of food and fishing are high. He delivers the goods, year after year.


“It was awesome, just like it is every year,” said Ron Nelson, a longtime WON traveler to Alaska. “I’ve been coming on this trip for seven years, and we always have limits. “I never leave this place without two boxes of fish.”


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ANTHONY BOYD WAS on his first trip to Kingfisher. The North Hills resident scored limits of salmon and this solid halibut the first day. He is also pictured next to Johnny Bass of Los Angeles as they sport the clothes of Kingfisher for their ride home to California.


On our 2017 trip, the weather was perfect the first day, then it was turned a little rougher but boats could still get to the halibut grounds just offshore after limiting out on big silvers of 8 to 14 pounds. The third and final day’s rough weather kept boats closer, inside calmer waters of Sitka Sound, for limits of salmon. By the next day, wind and rain stopped and seas were flat through Monday as my buddy Chris Wheaton and this reporter stayed on two more days and fished for silvers with Seth Bone in the inner waters of the Sound where lakes dumped in freshwater. Silver salmon rushed past our waders to make their way up into the lakes and streams beyond.


I’ve been coming to Kingfisher for two decades and wrote the first feature on Seth and Heath, so there is a kinship and friendship with the Seth and his staff. If there is room, I am allowed to bring a friend or relative. Last year I brought my sister Susie. This year, I asked Chris to come again. We always try to come early or stay later to try some other unique Alaskan adventure. I recommend it.


Over the years we’ve hiked Mt. Edgcume, flyfished lakes on float plane drop-offs, and fished the bays at river, lake and stream outlets for silvers with spinning tackle. The lodge does not offer these trips, though. Through Seth, we found a small shop sitkaalaskaoutfitters.com in town to be friendly and professional, and have rental wader and outdoor-related equipment and various tours.


Most of our group were like most Kingfisher guests, happy with three days of fishing and walking around town to see the small shops and view the area’s incredible history. With the weather bumpy, and our legs weary, this year there were no pre-dinner runs to Baranoff Brewery, a great spot for local hoppy beer and recounting the day’s action. There’s usually only time for one or two brews because you have dinner at the lodge at 6, and believe me, you are asleep by 8:30. It’s a long, active day.


A word about the accommodations. There are four main buildings on a hill above a very scenic Sitka Sound with Mt. Edcumbe in the distance. There are several “condos” that take up an entire floor, and each bedroom in the condo has it’s own full bathroom. The rooms all share a large kitchen and family room. Very comfortable. And on each floor there is a large outside patio for sitting and smoking and having a beer or Scotch.


All of the condos or floors of each building also offer a washer and dryer, so there is NO need to bring a lot of clothes, especially raingear and boots, all provided by the lodge when you arrive. I picked a pair of new white boots and was ribbed all trip by others at the lodge for being the guy with the “fancy boots.” All in a day’s work. Seriously, though, a pair of jeans, a light jacket and sweater is all that’s really needed. You should bring one full rolling or duffle carry-on, and use your luggage for carrying fish home. You get one piece of luggage free on Alaska Airlines, so it’s just a suggestion.


Sitka, once called the “Paris of the Pacific” is a treat to visit. There is a great deal of Alaskan history, great hikes, flyfishing options through local guides, and for those wanting more civilization, there’s shopping and coffee shops, and a local museum. One of several questions people typically have is, “Is it rough?” Usually not. Sitka Sound’s calm island-dotted waters offer protection for the 30-minute run to the fishing grounds a few miles from shore, and when it blows, the bays and points of the Sound provide calmer waters for trolling. I’ve fished the area 20 times (yes, 20 visits) and 75 percent of the time the weather is excellent and always fishable.


mikemorganchecks
MIKE MORGAN CHECKS out the final steps of fish processing, boxing up his salmon and halibut steaks, all vacuum-packed and brought to the airport by lodge staff.


A second question revolve abound the meals. Do not worry about the cuisine. It’s fabulous, with a buffet breakfast with other morning options, lunch is on the boat (sandwiches and cookies, chips and apple and drinks; and you can grab breakfast items like yogurt as well from the buffet) and dinner is a choice of three entrees plus the salad and soup bar. You will appreciate the friendly, young seasonal staff and the captains are handpicked. Best of the best.


The most important question for this reporter and host of the annual trip is always, “Did the anglers have a good time?” In 2017 most were returnees and all said it met all expectations. Anthony Boyd of Palmdale, however, was on his first trip to Sitka, and extolled the excellent food and fishing, plus all the service by the lodge staff and boat captains.


“I thought I might lose some weight on this trip pulling on fish all day, but no way, not with pork ribs, filet mignon, New York steak and prime rib for dinners,” said Boyd. “I’m going to have to go back to salad and fish when I go home!” That said, there was plenty of salad and fish served, but Boyd was a meat eater all the way.


Meeting Boyd was certainly an honor. An Iraq vet, he has been working at the local VA hospital for about eight years.


“My work consists of me helping veterans get off the street of Los Angeles through the HUD/VASH program,” said Boyd. “That’s to insure that they have everything they need to maintain housing. I also do home visits, job developing, and sometime one-on-one counseling.”


In addition to enjoying the food, Boyd did well fishing on his first Alaska trip. While the third day on the water saw rough conditions for he and buddy Johnny Bass of L.A. and boatmates Craig and his mother Jean Kojima of Rancho Palos Verdes, they had full limits of silvers and halibut the first two days, and picked away the third day. But they all went home on Alaska Airlines with two boxes of fish. As always, the fish processing is fantastic, and part of the price. Plan on two boxes each.


Jean Kojima was on her third straight WON trip with her son Craig last year. They are great people, and fish together often, and their love of fishing is most intensely directed at brown trout. It is almost an obsession. Craig had just returned from New Zealand where he rented a motorhome for three weeks by himself in search of big brown trout (his biggest was 10 pounds), rainbows (he got a 26 pounder!!) and great skiing. He found all three. He’s going back this summer to find a 20-pound class brown trout.



One of the highlights of the trip was that the lodge offers the WON group something unique that no other group gets: A $100 gift certificate for anything in the lodge office. Hats, embroidered jackets, shirts, socks, beanies. Everyone was decked out for the ride home in Kingfisher garb. If you didn’t bring enough clothes, grab a high quality embroidered jacket or sweatshirt and beanie.

“I got my wife a jacket,” said Johnny Bass, who also won a pair of Costa sunglasses in a drawing. “We’ll be matching!”


Anglers on the WON trip were, Anthony Boyd, Chris Wheaton, Mike Morgan, Johnny Bass, Jean Kojima, Craig Kojima, Valerie and Tom Handzus, Michael Obst, Ron Nelson and host Pat McDonell.


Next year’s trip will be about the same time in 2018. Contact Kevin Thomann at WON headquarters for details at kevin@wonews.com


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IF IT'S GREAT FISHING, a fantastic lodge, sumptuous food then Kingfisher Charters is the place for your next Alaskan trip. The lodge’s key staffers will be on site the Hall show in Long Beach and are offering special prices for certain dates in 2018. Ask about them. PHOTOS COURTESY KINGFISHER CHARTERS

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