Go deep, go shallow, go figure, anglers say
People are catching silvers in Valdez, but they are having to do some crazy things to get them according to James Thayer, who fillets fish at the cleaning stations at the small boat harbor.
“They’re getting them just throwing lures,” Thayer said Sunday night at the harbor. “They’re using Vibrax’s and Blue Fox lures and just mooching in shallow water.”
Stopping and casting is a strange phenomenon for a fishery widely known for successful trolling at 20 to 40 feet. It has many a seasoned Valdez angler scratching their head. Not only is the bite sporadic, but the location of the fish seems to be equally mystifying for anglers. During the Women’s Derby, several boats headed out to Goose Island to pick up the elusive silvers but found they had overshot the mark when returning to Port. Most of the big fish were picked up near Gold Creek; one boat would troll successfully right next to another that was having no luck.
An article in Fish Alaska Magazine has become the bible for many anglers trying to outfox the silvers as it outlines strategies for catching finicky salmon. Many of these techniques were used during the Women’s Derby and are continuing this week. One of the techniques is called flat lining, which is the process of trolling in very shallow water. Others are stopping and mooching with plugs which is a technique commonly reserved for pink salmon. Those intent on fishing the old-fashioned way are having to take it deeper than ever, as trolling seems most successful at depths of 70 to 80 feet.
According to Thayer, most of the fish are being caught in the mouth of the harbor and around Gold Creek right now, but they’re also picking them up further out and right in the harbor.
“It’s crazy. People are catching silvers with a pixie off the boat ramp right now,” he said.
When asked whether he thought the run was over or just starting, Thayer said he is holding out hope.
“I think they’re going to be late like they were around seven years ago,” he said. “They came in one week before the derby was over and they came in heavy.”
While a couple of new large silvers hit the leader board in second and third place, Diana Doodchenko of Canada is still leading the derby with the 17.88 pound silver she caught July 25. Tom Parker of Billings, Montana is currently in second place overall with a 16.70 pound silver; Joel Brown of Valdez is currently in third place overall with a 16.10 pounder he caught August 15.
A lot of halibut are being brought to port, but the standings have not changed. Mike Burke of Henderson, Nevada is leading the derby with the 223 pound halibut he caught August 12. Marvin Knapp of Gravois Mills, Missouri is currently in second place and Scott Jumgblom is holding onto third with a 205 pound flatfish. The halibut and silver derbies run through the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.