The Fish Sniffer - Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan!
Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan!

Written By: Paul J. Kneeland, January 6, 2014
Species: Saltwater Salmon Rockfish Halibut
Location: Kenai Peninsula,

Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan!
Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan! Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan!
Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan! Hot Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan!

Last August the Sacramento area was experiencing an extreme hot spell, temperatures over 100 degrees during the day and only dropping to about 70 overnight. John Brassfield of Auburn and I escaped the heat and traveled to Clover Pass Resort in Ketchikan, Alaska to fish for salmon.

I packed a full set of Grunden’s rain gear, rubber boots and fleece jackets to keep me comfortable in the cool and damp weather of southeast Alaska. What we found was perfect summer weather -- High’s in the mid 80‘s and lows in the high 50’s.

Michael Briggs of Alaska Sportfishing Expeditions greeted us at the Ketchikan airport and drove us 15 miles north to Clover Pass Resort. We were assigned a room on the second floor with a nice view of the marina and the waters of Clover Pass. Lodge Manager Jess Mickelson showed us to the dining room for a hot lunch and then to the marina area and our boat for the afternoon – a 14’ Livingston skiff with a 15 hp Honda 4 stroke outboard. The Livingston dual hull design is renowned for safety and stability in a small boat package. Jess told us to just troll to the south along Rainbow point with a 6 oz. banana weight and a cut herring behind a dodger.

We packed up a couple drinks, snacks and bait and headed out to the calm waters of the Inside Passage. The weather was unbelievable – hot and calm. As we trolled along the beach toward the town of Ketchikan, we saw a most amazing sight – girls in bikini’s sunbathing and swimming in the 55-degree water! Only Alaskan girls could enjoy the frigid waters without shrieking in pain!

The Inside Passage is one of the most beautiful places in the world! Steep, rugged mountains covered with fir and spruce trees, falling thousands of feet to meet the Pacific Ocean. You can see deer, bear and bald eagles on the shore, literally only dozens of feet away from a waterway filled with salmon, halibut, rockfish and whales. I have spotted a black bear on the shore eating berries, and had my view obscured by a whale spout between me and the bear!!

We enjoyed a nice afternoon cruise, soaking up the sun and the scenery. We had both brought our own rods and reels to use on this trip. John had an 8 1/2 foot Kunan rod with a Shimano Triton level wind reel loaded with 25-pound test. I was using my 8-½ foot Lamiglas Certified Pro three-piece steelhead rod. I mounted a Shimano Calcutta 400 with 65-pound P Line braided line.

John caught one nice pink salmon of about 5 pounds on a bare Krocodile spoon. The hot, clear weather had made the salmon go deeper, and we couldn’t get down to them with our gear. Back at the lodge, a couple guide boats had dozens of pink and silver salmon for their clients, with a couple nice halibut thrown in for good measure!

Dinner was served buffet style in the comfortable dining room overlooking the bay. A huge salad bar with dozens of fixing’s was complemented by a selection of salmon with capers, a lamb and rice dish, plus new potatoes, and green beans in a savory sauce. There was an ice cream bar where you could serve yourself all day, as well as a choice of soft drinks, juice and coffee. At the end of the dining room was a cozy bar where you could order your choice of drinks, beer and wine.

Thursday morning we were up at 5 and at breakfast at 5:30. Sausage, eggs, potatoes, French toast and fresh fruit were all available to stoke the fires for a big day of fishing. We also packed a lunch from the sandwich bar. We had our choice of a variety of breads, roast beef, ham, turkey, spiced beef, lots of condiments, cookies, fruit and more.

We jumped in the Livingston and motored out to Survey Point and started trolling. Weather was beautiful, calm, sunny and gorgeous. The fish were deep however, and we had a hard time getting down to them. I rigged up with a Luhr Jensen 8 inch Chrome Dodger, followed by an iridescent green/blue Silver Horde Ace Hi Fly. John used chartreuse green Hot Spot Flasher followed by a pink hootchie. With the 6 oz. banana weights, the dodgers and baits probably went about 20 feet deep. We managed to catch 2 pink salmon and 2 silvers to about 8 pounds on these rigs. We headed back to the lodge for a great meal and drinks overlooking the bay.

Friday we took out a beautiful 20’ Thunderjet aluminum boat with full windshield, side and back curtains, and Canon downriggers. Powered by a 90 hp Yamaha, this was more like the boats we are used to fishing from. We headed out to the southwest to Caamano Point where several boats had done well the day before. The 90 hp Yamaha pushed the boat easily to about 25 knots, and the slight chop on the water was no problem for the deep vee hull on the Thunderjet.

We arrived at the point and saw a couple other boats trolling. We rigged the same baits as yesterday, John’s pink hootchie and my Ace Hi Fly behind dodgers. We set them at 35 feet on the downriggers and started trolling – and the game was on! Within minutes, John’s line popped off the downrigger and he was into our first fish of the day. After a spirited fight I netted a fat 5-pound pink salmon. Before I could place the net in the holder, my rod went off and fish on!

Soon there were about 20 boats trolling off the point, including a few charter boats, and everyone was catching fish. We had 6 in the box and had released a few small pinks when the bite slowed down. I started trolling away from the point toward a bay where we saw lots of birds working. Then we were into the salmon again! The action was non-stop for the next several hours. We caught a mixture of pinks and silvers to about 12 pounds. The action was hot and heavy for a while, and we had 3 double hook ups and managed to land all 6 fish!!

We stayed out all day, enjoying the tremendous fishing and fantastic scenery. The wind came up in the afternoon and made it quite choppy, but we were very comfortable in the roomy 20’ Thunderjet. We fished from about 6 am to 7 pm, and didn’t have enough!

We brought in limits of pink salmon (6 each) to about 6 pounds, and 8 bright silver salmon to about 12 pounds. We had released as many fish as we kept! John exclaimed that this was the best fishing day of his life!!

The next morning dawned calm and overcast, and still unseasonably warm. We took the Thunderjet again toward Caamano point and started trolling the same lures. The action was a little slower today, but we still landed about 12 fish in a couple of hours. We decided to head south across the sound to another set of points and islands to see some new country.

We came across a big group of sea lions lounging on a big rock. There must have been 50 of them draped all over each other, most of them appeared to be sleeping and took no notice of us as we idled the boat up close for some photos. As we neared the rock, we caught the stench of rotting fish – it was the halitosis of a big group of sea lions!

We decided to try some jigging for halibut and rockfish. I found a nice deep hole right off a pile of rocks and dropped down a 12-ounce metal jig. I bounced it about twice when all of a sudden it got “heavy”. I set the hook and was into a very heavy fish. The big Lamiglas rod bent over sharply as I tried to lift the fish off the bottom. It came up about 10 feet before suddenly taking drag and powerfully diving to the bottom. This felt like a big halibut! I tried to lift the fish off the bottom again – and the hook pulled free and the fish was gone! What a depressing, helpless feeling! I dropped the jig back down, but never found the halibut again. We did catch lots of nice rockfish. At one point, I put the jig down 5 times, and brought up 5 different species of rockfish!

We had a great time at Clover Pass Resort in Ketchikan. The lodge was very comfortable, all the crew was very nice and extremely efficient, and the fishing was excellent. And the price of a trip is extremely reasonable! They are offering a Sacramento Show Special for only $225 per day, which includes accommodations, meals, boat, bait and tackle, fish processing and transfers. You can talk to Michael Briggs and learn about Clover Pass Resort at the Sacramento ISE show in booth #L3453. See them on the web at, or call them at (888) 564-4525

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