Salmon Fishing in Alaska

A fishing trip that turned into the catch of the year!

Ketchikan_Alaska_USA_Jemma Watts Photography

Last June, a unique opportunity of the travel variety presented itself to me, one that I couldn't pass up. My cousin was due to get married in sunny California and was at the time working as an environmental lawyer up in Alaska. I had already decided to go over for the wedding and, after a brief nanosecond of deliberation, reasoned that my trip needed to extend to visiting her in this excitingly unfamiliar corner of the world, prior to the main event. So I packed up my trusty camera and set off to Ketchikan, otherwise known as ‘The Salmon Capital of the World’.

As well as carrying this prestigious title, Alaska’s ‘First City’ should also be recognised for a number of things, not least the breathtakingly beautiful setting in which it is positioned.

At the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage (a network of waterways set against a stunning backdrop of wilderness), this unassuming town has a rich Alaska Native culture, as well as some feisty salmon and an awful lot of rain.

Founded in 1885 initially as a salmon cannery, Ketchikan has retained its strong fishing culture and is a popular port of call for cruise ships, keen anglers and people (like me) looking to explore the natural environment, camera in hand. Despite this part of Alaska being prone to heavy rainfall, we were lucky enough to only have one day of what the locals fondly refer to as the ‘liquid sunshine’.

Ketchikan_fjords_Alaska_USA_Jemma Watts Photography

One of the highlights of the trip was, of course, being taken salmon fishing off the coast. We were placed in the capable hands of Ralph, a local seaman, who took us out on his boat on a clear, crisp (and rain-free) day. Ralph got to work quickly, positioning the rods around the sides of the boat and giving us an overview of what we might expect on our first outing.  

Fisherman, Ketchikan, Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Bait, Salmon fishing, Alaska, by Jemma Watts Photography

Bait for Salmon fishing in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Eagle circling for prey, salmon fishing in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Eagle circling for its prey, watching us carefully for any spare fish.

Eagle catching fish in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Bait for catchining Salmon in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Setting bait for salmon fishing in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Depth monitor, fishing in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Looking for a bite on the fishing line, salmon fishing in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

After a short time, Ralph’s sixth sense kicked in and he noticed one of the rods move, barely visible to us novices.  He leapt up and started to do what one does with a rod (precise terminology eludes me here), manoeuvring it in a skilful and controlled way. It was my Dad’s turn to get the next fish, so he took over, determined to secure a catch.  Almost immediately, the line zoomed into the water and for a tumultuous fifteen minutes, Dad bravely fought a seemingly huge sea creature which zig zagged under the boat, causing Ralph to struggle to keep the boat steady. Soon all the other small fishing boats in the area were focusing their gaze on us; I could see them standing with their binoculars to their eyes, sailing slowly closer to get a better view of the spectacle.

 

Catching salmon in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

After the longest fifteen minutes known to man (and to fish), when Dad and Ralph were almost too exhausted to carry on, the great fish gave up too. They landed it onto the deck and it was indeed a monster!  Ralph had not had a catch this big all season so it was an exciting moment for us all.... apparently we had caught a Queen Salmon, the biggest of its kind in the ocean, totalling 40 lbs. Our catch was only 2lbs off the season’s record, quite a result for a couple of novices!

Ralph then filleted our unlucky fishy friend and cut it up into rather tasty looking fillets. The succulent flesh was white, which apparently is a rarity.  We packaged it all up and took it back to California with us, where it was consumed and enjoyed at the pre-wedding party, the night before the big day.  We were, of course, very popular and Dad basked in telling his fishing tale of glory - the day he caught the Great Alaskan Queen Salmon!

Queen Salmon in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Two VERY happy, and exhausted, fishermen!

Alaska , Alaska, USA, June 2008

She weighed in at 40.6lbs!

Fileting Queen Salmon in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

White flesh Queen Salmon in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Queen Salmon Filets in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Queen salmon filet and fisherman by Jemma Watts Photography

Fishing boat in Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Orange Starfish on the Quay in Ketchikan Alaska by Jemma Watts Photography

Alaskan fjords around Ketchikan by Jemma Watts Photography