During 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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A triumphant Eoff lifts one of the morning’s larger silver salmon.
Gorgeous silver salmon
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.
Gulp! Swimming Mullet proved the ticket for silver salmon, but halibut also got in on that action.
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.
Coho salmon are dogged fighters whose erratic and unpredictable runs when hooked make them oustanding light-tackle opponents.
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.
Success: Eoff holds up his prize.
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.
The Gray Light approaches Port Ashton Lodge on Chenega Island in the early evening.
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.
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.
Promnitz has his hands full trying to power a trophy-size halibut up from deep water near Port Bainbridge passage
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).
Proving that halibut aren’t the only game in town, I land another salmon for a quick GoPro 6 selfie.
Though still a handful, this 55-pound halibut was just small enough to allow me to hand it off to the Gray LIght crew.
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.
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