Updated: Mar 3
The pure size of the salmon and halibut we catch while fishing in Sitka, Alaska is what amazes most people. While salmon & halibut will always remain the main fishing targets for most people, we catch a wide variety of other species. For example, while fishing for halibut you may end up catching a lingcod, black cod, or yelloweye rockfish. Who knows? We may end up catching a shark! On the ride out to the fishing grounds we may see humpback whales, sea otters, and orcas. We may stop at a national wildlife refuge to check out an island (St Lazaria) that has more than 200 species of birds on it. On a clear day, we may see the Fairweather mountain range to the North (the second largest mountain range in North America). All of these experiences add up to Sitka, AK being an angler's paradise! Learn more about the most popular fish we catch below.
Salmon is the most abundant and valuable species to Sitka fishermen, with total landings of 27.4 million pounds worth in one year. When fishing for salmon in Sitka during the summer, we catch them in the part of their life cycle when they are ocean feeding, bright, and healthy. Salmon undertake extensive ocean migrations of over 3000 miles, and many come to Sitka because of plethora of bait fish to store up on fat before their trip back to their freshwater river to spawn. Learn more about the best month to fish for salmon in Sitka!
Salmon find their way back to the same fresh water river where they hatched by their ability to use the earth's magnetic fields like a compass. Dependent on their amazing sense of smell, salmon can detect one drop of water from its home stream mixed up in 250 gallons of sea water! During their lifecycle salmon might provide more nutrition for organisms than any other species.
The name Halibut is derived from "holy flatfish" - "hali" for "holy" and "but" for "flat" - named for its status as a special fish served on Catholic holidays in Medieval England.
The big halibut caught are a lot of times referred to as a “Barn Door”. The male halibut do not get any bigger than 60 lbs, with all the large halibut being female. The official sport caught Alaska record for halibut is a whopping 459 lbs.
Halibut are known for having both of their eyes on one side, but actually they are born with an eye on each side of the head. When the halibut larvae are about one inch long, the eye moves over the snout to the right side of the head.
There are 35 different species of rockfish, deep dwellers can wear brighter colors because the characteristics of light in water allow them to remain inconspicuous, because red and orange are long waves located at the end of water so they don’t penetrate very deep. Thus a red or orange rockfish residing below this range of wavelength penetration can’t reflect light and appears black to its potential enemies.
Two deep sea-rockfish that are red and orange are yellow-eye (red-snapper) rockfish, and shortraker rockfish. Yellow eye rockfish are a highly prized commercial species due to their large size and fillet quality. Recently a 39 pound shortraker rockfish was caught in Sitka and was estimated to be 200 years old.
One study in Southeast Alaska showed some populations spent their entire lives near an underwater shipwreck. When biologists caught the fish and moved them to another site, like homing pigeons they came back.