Adrian E. Gray

An Alaska Kayak-Fishing Adventure

Four kayak anglers in Alaska battle big halibut and find fast fishing for silver salmon in outer Prince William Sound

D

uring the waning days of reliable summer weather — well, as reliable as central Alaska gets — a quad of kayak enthusiasts took the opportunity to join a brief expedition to the outermost fringes of Prince William Sound. The August event marked the inaugural trip for Capt. Andy Mezirow’s new kayak-fishing option with Gray Light charters, based in Seward. It also marked the first time this angler has ever had the chance to really fish the North Pacific from one of those little plastic boats so popular with fishermen in warmer climes. The experience proved to be unforgettable. But since a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s the equivalent of about 24,000 words to share the adventure.

Map showing kayak-fishing-adventure area
From Seward (upper left corner of the blue box), we traveled south and east to Montague Island and adjacent waters.Courtesy Google Earth

For two nights in Seward, we were lucky enough to have this cottage on Bear Lake for our accommodations. Within a stone's throw sits the lake; it was filled with salmon (and, yes, bears abound).

Beautiful cottage on Bear Lake near Seward, Alaska
The cottage at Bear LakeAdrian E. Gray

Capt. Andy Mezirow (center), in his big quonset-hut workshop, discusses plans for the multi-day Prince William Sound adventure with Keeton Eoff (left) and Morgan Promnitz, both with Hobie Kayaks. At right are visible some of Mezirow's new fleet of five Hobie Outbacks with Mirage Pedal Drives, fully rigged for fishing (including Lowrance GPS/sounders).

Discussing plans for Alaska kayak adventure
Andy's workshopAdrian E. Gray

On a quiet morning, anglers and crew in Seward's harbor load four Outbacks onto Mezirow's Gray Light, a new, custom-built DR Radon 32-foot fiberglass boat, purpose-designed and built for Mezirow.

Loading kayaks in the Seward, Alaska, harbor
Loading upAdrian E. Gray

With calming winds, an overcast sky was no concern as Mezirow stopped in outer Resurrection Bay to offload kayaks and anglers in a silver-salmon-rich spot for a couple hours of hot/heavy salmon action.

Offloading kayaks to fish for salmon in Resurrection Bay, Alaska
First stopDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Two silver salmon bend rods just after we start fishing. I've hooked one (left foreground) large enough to pull the kayak along. The cool rain made all of us glad for the Kokatat foul-weather jackets and bibs that kept us warm and dry.

The bite is on for silver salmon as three kayak anglers fish in the rain.
Resurrection Bay silver salmon in short orderAdrian E. Gray

Fat silver (coho) salmon proved hungry and aggressive, grabbing cut pieces of herring nearly as fast as we could get them down on our light gear, using long-leadered mooching rigs.

Kayak anglers score double on coho salmon
Coho doubleAdrian E. Gray

With a pair of bait shears, Mezirow cuts herring into chunks, which is all it takes to connect with the hordes of coho salmon in Resurrection Bay in early August.

Capt. Andy Mezirow cuts herring for silver salmon bait
Time to fish — and cut baitAdrian E. Gray

Fishing near Montague Island, this halibut snapped up a white soft-plastic tail before a salmon could do so. On a light baitcast reel, I had quite a fight on my hands.

Kayak angler lands large halibut in Prince William Sound, Alaska
Surprise halibut on bass tackleAdrian E. Gray

A triumphant Eoff lifts one of the morning's larger silver salmon.

Kayak angler holds an oversized silver salmon

Gorgeous silver salmon

Alaska silvers grow fat in AugustDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Bright-red yelloweye rockfish hit a leadhead jig and plastic tail dropped to bottom with halibut in mind. Penn Slammer spinning reels proved perfect for jigging deeper waters from the kayaks.

Large yelloweye rockfish caught on Penn spinning reel in Alaska
Surprise: A yelloweye rockfishAdrian E. Gray

Gulp! Swimming Mullet proved the ticket for silver salmon, but halibut also got in on that action.

Gulp! soft tails were deadly on salmon
Secret weapon for salmonAdrian E. Gray

The Outback's pedal-drive unit is perfect for hands-free, slow trolling, which generally led to a salmon strike in short order. Here, note the Gray Light mothership at anchor off Montague Island, in the background.

kayak angler trolls for coho.
Kayak angler on the trollAdrian E. Gray

Coho salmon are dogged fighters whose erratic and unpredictable runs when hooked make them oustanding light-tackle opponents.

Hard-fighting coho salmon makes another run
Top light-tackle targetAdrian E. Gray

In the calm waters off Montague Island, Eoff eases a silver to the kayak. Landing nets would have made the task easier, but the abundance of salmon minimized concerns about the ones that got away.

Kayak anglers lands a salmon
Landing a silver salmonDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Success: Eoff holds up his prize.

success -- angler lands large silver salmon in kayak
Success!Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

By nearly mid-August, the silver salmon have fattened up and a large one can pull a kayak along behind it, as Promnitz is noticing, here, off Montague Island.

A hooked salmon pulls a kayak along behind it.
Towed in the kayak by a salmonDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

The Gray Light approaches Port Ashton Lodge on Chenega Island in the early evening.

The *Gray Light* approaches Jumping Salmon Lodge.
Gray Light on approach to Port Ashton LodgeAdrian E. Gray

A basic but functional guest cabin at Port Ashton Lodge provided welcome accommodations for us overnight at Chenega Island.As the photos shows, the tide had gone out by 10 p.m. when this photo was taken.

Outbuilding at Jumping Salmon Lodge, Alaska
Port Ashton Lodge guest cabinAdrian E. Gray

Mezirow finds bait and salmon in abundance showing up on his sounder in outer Resurrection Bay and advises his kayakeros to be ready to fish.

Capt. Andy Mezirow at the helm
Marking his territoryAdrian E. Gray

Promnitz has his hands full trying to power a trophy-size halibut up from deep water near Port Bainbridge passage

Kayak angler hooks a monster in Alaska
The struggle to bring a beast to the surfaceDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Promnitz, having no death wish, does not try to bring a barndoor halibut onto the kayak with him; rather, he tows it back to the Gray Light for its flying-head harpoon. Of course this would be possible in a conventional kayak only for an angler blessed with four arms (two to hold the rod and two to paddle).

Kayak angler tows a huge halibut
Towing a trophyDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Proving that halibut aren't the only game in town, I land another salmon for a quick GoPro 6 selfie.

The author catches another salmon
GoPro salmon selfieDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Though still a handful, this 55-pound halibut was just small enough to allow me to hand it off to the Gray LIght crew.

Kayak angler lands a big halibut
Hurry up and take this thing!Adrian E. Gray

Surprise of the day: Eoff's "halibut" proved to be another flat, brown critter, and similarly difficult to bring to the kayak: a big skate.

Surprise of the day: A big skate from the kayak
Surprise catchDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Author's note: I can and do recommend this kayak-fishing adventure to any experienced enthusiast. However, even on nice days, the water is very cold and the currents can be quite strong. I would not, suggest that a novice first try kayak fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. — Doug Olander