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King Fishing in Elfin Cove

In Elfin Cove we have some of the greatest fishing in the world. Huge halibut are iconic, but the King salmon fishing is also off the charts. Elfin Cove is located on the edge of the Gulf of Alaska between Cross Sound and the entrance to the Inside Passage; King salmon headed from the Gulf to Washington state to spawn pass along the outer coast near Elfin Cove. This means we fish hundreds of rivers worth of kings instead of just a run or two heading to a few rivers. This abundance of fish results in good fishing for our fisherman and in 2019 it was good news for Jeremy, Breanna, Kamree, Malinda and me.

2019 was Jeremy and Breanna’s first year in Elfin Cove… 2022 will be number 4 (crazy). Kamree’s second summer and my friend Malinda was visiting for 3 weeks and had been in Alaska for less than 24 hours. Our King Salmon fishing experience was varied: Malinda didn’t know the first thing about fishing for King Salmon, after this trip she knew how to identify a monster king, Jeremy & Breanna have caught hatchery kings outside of Ketchikan and I have caught a few but nothing to write home about. It was the middle of June; we had a day with no guests at the lodge, this meant we could head down the coast to hunt for Trophy Kings. Jeremy is the king master so rightfully he took the job of driving… rigging the fishing equipment… netting…. gutting…. diving us home… and filleting. (Thanks Jeremy… I owe you one). Anywhooo, through the pass we went making our way down the coast. We showed Malinda the big wide ocean in all its glory… and accidentally sprayed her a few times too, welcome to the ocean Malinda.

Now, in my last post I didn’t tell you where we caught the halibut, but I will tell you where we caught the Kings, because it would be rude to keep tantalizing fishing secrets while telling a fish story. Well…we caught her in the water ;). Now, the water we caught her in is located North of the fishing grounds call the pumpkin patch so I guess you can figure out where we were. Anyway, while fishing, presumably at the pumpkin patch we told stories about fishing and wild things we had done and places we wanted to go. Like my Grandpa Kern had taught me we ate snacks that Breanna had packed for us… Breanna is the best snack packer I have ever fished with in my life…Oreos…Cheetos…Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that oozed with gooey goodness...Hi-chews candies…Granola bars…needless to say, our cooler was full!! A cooler full of snacks made happy fisherman no matter what we caught. We trolled around in circles eating our cooler full of snacks. We picked up the occasional rockfish and a silver and kept our eyes on the shore to avoid getting seasick.

Amidst our snacking and story telling the rod on the port side was suddenly slammed by a fish and the reel began to scream, you know the sound... Typically, when salmon fishing you look for the distinctive release of the salmon rod from the downrigger. The pole snapping out of the downrigger clip signals a fish on the line, the hook is set, and then it is time to reel like crazy to bring in the fish. This experience was completely different. This monster took the line and ran… swam… faster than I have ever felt a fish before. The line was screaming out of the reel, and I hurried to the rod, struggling to get it out of the rod holder. When I finally got the rod out of the pole holder, I held on tight and pulled the rod in a futile effort to set the hook… this monster was running so fast I didn’t need to do that — I needed to reel. Realizing my predicament I yelled like Jeremy Wade on River Monsters — “FISH ON!! FISH ON!!” Jeremy slammed the boat into neutral and ran to the downrigger hitting the switch to pull it up out of the water. Breanna grabbed our snacks and began putting them in the cooler, clearing the area for what was coming. Kamree grabbed the other rod and began to reel to get it out of the way for the battle that would ensue. Malinda watched this military like operation in awe, taking notes for future fishing adventures. With the other rod out of the water and the downriggers secured I was now ready for the fight of my life.

While these preparations were being made by my boatmates this King was determined to not be caught and it dove fast and deep.

50 feet —— the line continued to scream out of the reel.

100 feet —— the king continued to dive, and my hand ached as I was hanging on for dear life

150 feet —— no signs of slowing, the fish left me bracing my legs on the edge of the boat and praying for a reprieve

200 feet —— I have begun to see the end of the line on the reel; more praying

250 feet —— out of breath; arms on fire and the fish finally decided to have mercy

The fish had dove 250 feet deep into the ocean and finally had mercy on the poor 15-year-old girl hanging onto the end of the rod…but it was a sneaky trick.

With the flick of her tail, she began to retrace her path, a forward assault headed toward the boat.

200 feet —— *no time for words* *reeling like crazy*

150 feet —— *still reeling*

100 feet —— *screaming*

75 feet —— * more screaming*

at 75 feet she finally relented again… and this time I wasn’t about to let her dive again.

Bit by bit I reeled in the King… I used a smooth constant reeling motion, in an effort to avoid another run and to not spook her…also because that was all my panting breath would allow.

In anticipation of seeing this monster, Jeremy grabbed the net and Kamree grabbed the video camera as I inched the King closer and closer towards the boat. In a last-ditch effort, she dove and swam under the boat and I had to run like a madman across to the other side of the boat… now we were in fish landing positions we were ready. A splash of color under the water filled us with adrenaline and we prepared ourselves to land a monster. I inched the King closer and closer to the surface… being careful not to pull the hook out of her mouth praying the boat would not spook her into a third epic run. Jeremy readied the net a few inches above the water, and I lead her head towards it, slowly, slowly, slowly. BOOM! In a flash Jeremy launched the net into the water and at the same moment, like a practiced dance, I pulled her head another few inches and Jeremy pulled up closing the net around the fish and securing our catch!! Let the celebrations begin!!! The screaming, shouting, and whooping could be heard in Sitka (90 miles away) as we danced around the boat doing the fisherman happy dance. Amidst the victory celebration Jeremy carefully brought the fish in and laid it on the bottom of the boat and Breanna whipped out the measuring tape; She was the only levelheaded one, measuring the fish from tip to tail, before we killed it, as the rest of us screamed!!

38 inches! — now this number is important because Kings must be over 28 inches to be legal and this was it!! I pulled out my handy dandy fishing license and Breanna filled it out because a) I get seasick and b) her hands were dry. We had done it. Hooked. Fought. Landed. Measured. and tagged.

What a fish!!

It had run 250 feet and then like a torpedo, launched itself back at the boat in a mad frenzy. This King was beautiful and anyone who has ever caught a King can attest to how stunning and strong of a fish they are. We cut the gills and put it on ice to cool the meat…. I will confess that we didn’t gut it…I know, I know. Every sportsman knows sometimes you lose your mind in the excitement and heat of the battle. Jeremy and I preach gutting your salmon and it does help make the meat firmer. In a moment of human weakness, we wanted to know the weight with the guts in. So, we didn’t gut it and instead drove home because the excitement of knowing how much it weighed was too much. We arrived at the dock and were greeted by Lance who — although he is a dog — could tell how excited we were by the smiles on our faces and the excited electricity in the air. We tied up and weighed our catch…38 inches and 28 pounds…by far the biggest King I had ever caught…we couldn’t be happier…we had caught a massive fish…made it home safely…taken cool pictures…and ruined Malinda for salmon fishing forever.

When we thought we couldn’t be any more excited, Jeremy started to fillet the King.







Again, we screamed and were excited almost more than our bodies could handle. This development of a white King might not seem that exciting, but a white King is actually very rare, only about 20 percent of wild King salmon have white meat. Does it taste different? Yes, it is awesome, like a steak with a lot of marbling vs a lean cut steak, but King salmon is really good, regardless of the color of the meat.




What a day! King fishing is unlike anything you have ever experienced, and I strongly encourage doing it at least once (or more) while you are fishing out of Elfin Cove. Be patient. King fishing can be time consuming and difficult, but oh is it worth it when you feel a King at the end of your line charging the boat.

Now, I know I didn’t share what tackle we caught the King on…. That’s a secret of the trade. But when you finally decide to come fishing for Kings in Elfin Cove and if you really want to know, you are going to have to ask Jeremy… he isn’t as tight lipped as me and will probably tell you…

- Claire


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