Former WON Saltwater Editor enjoys another great trip with Mac Huffman’s operation, which will be exhibiting at this year’s Long Beach fishing show
SITKA, AK — When the chance came to fish with Mac Huffman's Frontier Charters last summer, it was easy to realize his beautiful lodge perched on the hills overlooking Alaska's Sitka Sound would be the perfect place to share with family and friends.
BIGGEST YET — Frontier Charters skipper Justin Guzman hefts Ben Holland's big Pacific halibut caught last summer. The fish is the biggest ever caught by Ben — so far.
Many of us remember the first time we went to a lodge dedicated to fishing or hunting. Those memories are filled with laughter, snug fireplaces, epic vistas, family-style meals, new experiences, excitement, adventures and stories of chances missed and opportunities seized.
The best way to relive those moments is to travel with those who have either never been on a destination fishing trip or friends who are new to an amazing part of the world. You get to see it all fresh once again through their eyes — and that can be both the good and the bad.
So the first names on the group text didn't just include longtime fishing, hunting and golfing buddies. Up front and prominent were my sister Patricia and my cousin Mary Jean Rumer.
"Are you sure you wanted to include me on this text?" was the reply from Mary Jean.
Assured there was no mistake, she enthusiastically signed on and seemed not bothered at all that her husband Bob couldn't get time off work to go. Her only stipulation was that she wouldn't have to fish with her brother Paul Freese, who was quick to say he was going. Also replying immediately was an excited Patricia. Our brother Steve Holland asked if his son Ben could join him.
IRISH LUCK — Born in Ireland, Patrick Bird of Los Angeles brought his luck with him to Alaska, consistently scoring his limit of keeper halibut.
When Paul's wife Denise heard Mary Jean was going, she was up for the trip too, yet was iffy about going fishing, since she is highly susceptible to seasickness. Paul asked if friend Patrick Bird could join the group.
We were all set for four nights at the lodge and three days of fishing on two of Mac's boats, with fly out trips with Mac on his floatplane also scheduled for those who wanted. Almost all set, anyway.
Paul and Denise wanted to fly into Sitka a couple days early and explore the town, then only stay three nights at the lodge. Denise didn't know if she would fish and if she did it would only be one day. Mary Jean would fly in on time, but had to leave a day early and wanted to hike with Denise one day. Patrick wanted to be on the same schedule as Paul. Patricia, Steve and Ben were in for the full package, yet they were also going to fly in a day early and enjoy the town.
Enough to drive a charter master crazy? No problem.
Mac's mom Sherry Sanchez is running the Frontier Charters lodge these days and always has her cell phone handy. She was available anytime anyone needed a ride from or to the airport, bed and breakfast, motel, supermarket or lodge. It took a little arithmetic to get the fishing figured out, especially when the weather hit, but Mac and Sherry and crew are the epitome of friendly and accommodating. Plus, with the exception of perhaps the author, our group was made up of the nicest easygoing folks in the world.
GRABBING SILVER — Patricia Holland and Denise Freese mooched up these silver salmon from the outer waters of Sitka Sound while fishing with Frontier Charters.
The gang was on the road up to the lodge after a walk along the Sound when Sherry drove a couple of us in from the airport. The front edge of a series of fronts threatened yet only spit a little rain as we all grabbed our rain gear and boots from beneath the overhanging lodge deck.
By the time everyone was settled back with a drink in the high-windowed living room, Chef Damian announced the first of an array of great dinners was ready. I think it was salmon or halibut cheeks, it's hard to recall. I do know you can get a corned beef dinner or a fish fry if your party asks.
In the morning, very early in the morning, you put together your cold cut sandwiches, chips and cookies and put them in a brown bag and then enjoy a hot breakfast. Then there's time to let things settle and gear up in slickers.
At the docks about 8 a.m., the group split into two groups of four and yours truly opted to fish with the ladies. Yes, Denise had decided to fish. A doctor, she was armed with every seasick and anti-nausea remedy known to pharma. We had consulted heavily before the trip and I offered only that its not so much how much or what you use, the key is when you use it. And that means putting on the patch or taking the pill the night before you go fishing. All in the party followed that advice. No one puked.
BOMBSHELL BEAUTIES —The bomber black rockfish stood no chance against the jigging skills of Mary Jean Rumer, Patricia Holland and Denise Freese.
Because you might have. The weather wasn't out of control, but it was bumpy on the way out and it rose all day. Luckily the first stop was in the lee of a finger of land and the halibut and silvers were on a decent bite. Although both had a tendency to shake the hook, the ladies were diligent. Women fish hard and take the advice of the skipper to heart, especially when the skipper is as mellow as Justin Guzman. And the gals loved every aspect of the fishing, from the rod tip jerking bites to the bag of Fritos for a snack. Especially, they loved being on the water.
"This is so great!" "I just want to fish every day!"
With the halibut limits done and enough silvers aboard, Justin made a bold move outside in search of "bomber" black rockfish, stopping on the way to give the group a close look at a colorful puffin. Even though the spot Justin chose was a washing machine of crossed up swells, the girls were ready. They knew by now what "colors" meant on a reel and when Justin said drop two colors they did just that and were rewarded with the bomber blacks. The wind and current made it a one-drop drift. Denise went inside to sit down as Justin repositioned. Mary Jean and Patricia clutched the handholds on the deck.
"Two colors!" shouted Denise as she maneuvered onto the deck and grabbed her jigging rig. Another round of bombers came aboard. One more drift finished off the limits.
The boys also had great success on the boat skippered by Justin Goodman. While everyone caught halibut limits, rockfish limits and a bunch of silvers, young Ben and old Paul proved the hot hands at silvers and big bottom fish like lingcod and yelloweye rockfish, a trend that would continue with Ben catching the biggest halibut and Paul a monster ling.
There are so many more stories from the trip, so many more fish caught, and flight-seeing trips when the ceiling lifted in the evening — so many memories.
Go ahead, make yours.
For more information about Frontier Charters, go to www.frontiercharters.com, call (800) 388-1218 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
MONSTER LING —This giant lingcod put up a heck of a fight for Paul Freese, who hooked it on a large curl tail on a heavy leadhead. Captain Justin Guzman does the heavy lifting.
WON Trip is coming up, May 29 - June 2
With a complete Alaska fishing experience that includes all the comforts of home it’s no wonder anglers come back time and again to experience the scenic beauty and unbelievable fishing of Sitka, and the pleasure of doing it from a first class spot like Frontier Charters and Lodge.
This year’s WON Charter at Sitka, Alaska with Frontier Charters and hosted by Bob Semerau is scheduled May 29-June 2. To get in on the three days of fishing action contact chartermaster Cy Bodden at Western Outdoor News by e-mail at cy@wonewscom or (949) 366-0921.