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CONTACT: steve@highlinerlodge.com

Commercial Power Trolling for Salmon

Formerly called "Dude Fishing"...

now called "Deadliest Catching"!

(July & August Only)

Commercial power trolling for salmon has been called the “ Alaska's Gentleman’s Fishery”. It is as much a lifestyle, as a living, for many commercial fishermen. It is at times beautifully serene, and at other times, full of swashbuckling adventure. A cross between gold-mining and cattle rustlin’, salmon trolling is acknowledged as the commercial fishery requiring the highest level of skill & sophistication. It is exactly like sports fishing, except that you are trolling 40 to 60 lures in the water at one time... that is ten lures per guest! As much art as science, locating and catching salmon to earn your livelihood can be an exercise of extreme humility. As in sport fishing, some fishermen seem to have all the “luck”, and these fishermen are called “Highliners”!


A commercial power troller fishes for salmon exactly like a charter boat trolling with down riggers… the difference is just a matter of scale. A typical troller drags four stainless steel wires through the water with 60 pound cannon balls attached to the bottom... think BIG DOWN RIGGERS on steroids! The boat moves through the water at about 3 MPH dragging these cannon balls very close to the ocean floor... in and around structure that holds salmon. These stainless steel lines have stops every few fathoms (fathom = six feet) and at each stop we snap on a 2-3 fathom (12-18 foot) leader. At the end of each leader is attached either a flasher with a tail leader and lure or simply a shiny metal lure. When all four stainless steel lines are deployed, you may have as many as 60 lures trolling through the water at once!

Now, that was the easy part...next you must locate the fish and then... and stay on them... that is the essence of all fishing... locating the fish and staying on the fish.

Imagine having a fish on every line and catching fish as fast as you can pull them aboard!


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Deadliest Catching on the fishing vessel Pelican.

The F/V Pelican is a beautifully finished 50' yacht equipped to power troll for salmon. When “Deadliest Catching” you will start your day at 6am with coffee and a breakfast burrito on the boat as we cruise to the fishing grounds... we return to the lodge each evening at about 5:30pm. This is not the "Deadliest Catch" ...there is No danger, No Drama, but is a real, hands-on adventure in commercial fishing. You get to run the hydraulic gurdy (think BIG, POWERFUL fishing reel) and YOU get to land the fish (club the king salmon in the head and gaff it, then pull it on board...the trick is doing this without the salmon getting off the hook, or getting the gaff pulled out of your hands by the fish! I promise not yell at you if you loose a fish... this is strictly for fun. I will instruct you, you will grow proficient and it will be fun! The blood lust runs high... and people get hooked on this very quickly.

The crew & I do the heavy lifting; run the boat, clean & ice the fish, and you guys get to run the gear and land the fish! Occasionally we can overnight on the boat, tucked safely away in a little cove, or you may be taken back to your suite at the Highliner Lodge on a fast boat, have a fabulous dinner and come back out in the morning. At the end of the day we split the catch and you have the option to buy the boat's share at a wholesale price.
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This fishing has much more action than sports fishing... after all, we are trolling up to 60 lures in the water at the same time! It's not uncommon to have fish biting continuously for hours on end. Very exciting!! A great way to bring a lot of fish home for the freezer!












Hello Prospective Deadliest Catcher,

Thank you for your interest in the Highliner lodge and more specifically "
Deadliest Catching". We have had about 150 of our guests choose to go "Deadliest Catching." rather than sport fish, for at least one day of their trip to the Highliner Lodge over the past few years. I feel vindicated, in that every guest really enjoyed the experience! Most were initially apprehensive about trading a day of their Alaska sport fishing vacation to do something many had never heard of before. But most guests said that, "Deadliest Catching was the best part of our trip!"  

Deadliest Catching requires much more active participation that sports fishing, and most of the time there are fish being landed non-stop! We instruct our guests and oversee their operation of the equipment. The guests run the hydraulic down riggers up and down, pull the fish in by hand and then stun and gaff the fish themselves... pulling fish aboard and dropping them into a fish box. The captain drives the boat. The captain and crew clean and ice the fish. It is safe and not too difficult… after you get the hang of it.

We split the catch as follows: each guest gets to keep a sport fish limit of kings and silvers first... and then the boat gets to keep an equal number of fish. Each guests gets to keep a second limit of salmon... and then the boat gets an equal number of fish. After that the fish are split equally between the guests and the boat (this is based on a minimum of 4 guest on the boat). There is an upward limit of 5 king salmon and 20 cohos for each guest to keep... after that, all other fish go to the boat.

In season, you will be able to catch any size lingcod as well!

We leave the dock in the morning at 6:00am having breakfast onboard and return at 5:30pm.

Some advantages of the dude fish option:
1. Great way to spend a bad weather day... yes, we do occasionally have a rough weather. The boat is stable and heavy, warm and roomy!
2. Great way to spend a "not very many salmon around" day...this happens even in Alaska... even at the Highliner Lodge...even with me as the captain!
3. Great way to develop team work and camaraderie.
4. Great way to fill up your fish box with salmon to take home. While we get our limits of cohos and kings many days while sports fishing , sometimes the fishing can be slow, and this is a very good bet to get a lot more salmon to bring home than you would if you were only sport fishing. 
5. In my opinion (and many of my guests agree...although some don't want to admit it): It really is more fun, interesting and active than sports fishing.
6. There is no other fishing experience in Alaska like this!

If you have a big group (8-12 guests) we could rotate 4-6 guests Deadliest Catching for a day while the others sport fished, then change out the "Deadliest Catchers" and have them sport fish the next day, while taking on a new group. I have had groups who choose 3 days sport fishing and one day of Deadliest Catching, or 4 days sport fishing and 2 days of Deadliest Catching.

We can accommodate up to 6 guests on the boat at one time. This is not over crowded, as the F/V Pelican is uniquely designed to accommodate 6 fishermen actively participating at one time. As with our other boats we do not combine guests to make groups of more than 4 unless the guests know each other and that is what you choose to do.

The following extra fee is required for Deadliest Catching: the fee for a group of 4-6 would be $150 per person. The fee for a group of 3 would be $200 per person. The fee for a group of 2 would be $250 per person. The fee for a single would be $300.

One thing we cannot accommodate on the Deadliest Catching trips is drinking while we are fishing...that is not acceptable as you will be operating powerful hydraulic equipment. You may however, enjoy beer & wine on the way back to town at the end of the fishing day. Also, if a guest cannot (or will not) carefully follow the captain's instructions regarding operating the equipment... I cannot take them out. 

At this time we do not charge extra for Deadliest Catching unless you have a group of less than 4 (see above). We retain, and sometimes sell, the boat's share of the catch to cover the extra cost of this operation. We also supply fish to the Highliner Lodge for your dinners. If you would like to purchase some, or all, of the boat's share of the Deadliest Catch you may do so at the commercial fishing ex-vessel price ~ $2.50/lb for cohos and ~ $6.50/lb for king salmon (based on head on dressed weight, fillet weight is about half of dressed weight)... this is a bargain considering these fillets would sell for $18-$28 per pound in your local fish market!














"Dude Fishing" Slide Show








"DEADLIEST CATCHING" (formerly known as "Dude Fishing" ... think City Slickers meets Deadliest Catch during a Perfect Storm!!) Well, we don't do this unless the weather is really nice. No one has ever been injured on my commercial boats in over 35 years of operation, so there is nothing really deadly about it...but I may have to do a bit of yelling to keep the operation moving smoothly and to keep everyone safe.

Jon's shark longlining Gulf of Alaska

This is NOT the target fish!
My son Jon (on the right) hanging upside down to pose with the imposing shark he has inadvertently caught while long-lining for halibut and black cod.

Sperm whale feeding on long-line black cod in Gulf of Alaska



Sperm whales are almost always next to the boat while we longline for sablefish (black cod). The smart ones eat our target catch. Some sperm whales, the dumb ones (is it politically correct to call a sperm whale "dumb"? Would that constitute harassment of a marine mammal?) haven't yet figured out how to get a free lunch...but they are learning. When the whales take too many fish...it may turn an otherwise reasonable man into a Captain Ahab!




Related Future Topics:
Commercial vs. Charter Halibut Politics
The Deadliest Catch
Steve Daniels: No Friend to Sports Fishing?
Fillet Willy