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What are the current catch limits for halibut?

We are not limited to one halibut per day like almost all other lodges in Southeast Alaska. Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Petersburg, and Craig lodges are located in Area 2C, where they are restricted to one halibut per day.

We have licenses to fish in Area 3A, where you may keep two halibut per day—one halibut of any size and the second catch needs to be under 32 inches (2021). We also have the option to fish in Area 2C with its restrictions if the weather prevents us from fishing in Area 3A.

We still fish in Area 2C. Where we fish in Area 2C, the fishing is still excellent and you can catch fish all day long. However, we can keep one halibut under 50 inches or over 72 inches per guest in a day (2021). Most guests catch and keep a halibut and a king salmon, some coho and rock fish every day at Highliner Lodge and Charters Inc.

At the end of a four- or five-day trip, most of our guests go home with 100 to 150 pounds of fillets. That is a lot of fish!

While you may go to other destinations like Homer and Seward, AK and keep two halibut per day, they are also usually smaller. You will also not be catching any salmon on the same day. I have the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) statistics to prove this. See below.

To clarify, we can fish in either Area 2C or Area 3A, but not both in the same day. If you want to keep halibut over 50 inches and under 72 inches and keep two halibut per day, you must fish in Area 3A. This entails an additional 30-90 minutes of travel time per day.

Some days, the weather prevents us from fishing in this area. If the weather is unsettled, we will fish in the more protected waters of Area 2C.

You might say that we have the best of both worlds/areas. But wait! We are the first, and perhaps the only, fishing lodge in Alaska that has acquired commercial halibut quota to use in the charter halibut fishery.

We have purchased the right to convert commercial allocated halibut to charter halibut so that our guests will have a choice of whether or not they would like to keep two halibut of any size every day in Area 3A and a second halibut (regardless of size) in Area 2C.

This choice will come at a price—a choice that you make when that great big halibut is at the side of the boat. You will determine its value and decide whether or not to take that fish. A halibut that at other lodges you would be forced to release.

Why does your area have the highest average weight of landed halibut in Alaska?

We are located next to an area that is 400 miles long and 50 miles wide that has almost zero sportfishing effort. That is 20,000 square miles of halibut and salmon habitat!

As the halibut and salmon migrate to the Southeast, we are first in line to catch them. We are not overwhelmed by tens of thousands of fishermen. We are not located, like most lodges in Southeast Alaska, a hundred miles away from the gulf of Alaska, where the fish are! Other areas, namely Haines and Skagway, in Alaska are too far away from the ocean to have anything but little halibut.

How does ADF&G define the different areas when they present these statistics?

The map below shows the statistical areas that ADF&G use to track the catch per rod hour for salmon and halibut and the average weight of halibut. Elfin Cove, Gustavus, Glacier, and Pelican are all in the same statistical area.

Pelican has so few fishermen that it isn't even shown on the map! Pelican and Highliner Lodge and Charters Inc. are located about 20 miles south of Elfin Cove.

The table below (from Alaska Department of Fish and Game) shows that the “Glacier Bay” Area has a mean weight of 45.3 lb, in comparison Homer, “The Halibut Capital of the World,” has an average weight of 15.4, the reason our average halibut weight is three times the average in homer is simply because we don't have the intense fishing pressure that Homer, Seward, Sitka, and others have.

Homer had 58,222 angler days in 2006. Sitka had 42,681 angler days. If you combine Pelican 569 angler days, Elfin Cove 5471 angler days, and Gustavus 4420 angler days (The Glacier Bay Area), we had only 10,460 angler days. When you have too many fishermen catching too many halibut the average size has to go down.

Why are your prices so high?

Our costs are much higher than a lodge doing business out of Sitka, Homer, Seward, and the like. Electric rates are three to four times higher ($.60/kwh) in Pelican than Sitka. Gasoline costs $1.25 more per gallon.

“Closest to the Fish” means farthest from the customer, Costco, Home Depot, and a reliable supply of labor. That means that we have to transport you and your fish (additional expense ~$500) and all of our food on a seaplane (add $1.10 for every pound).

We have invested over $300,000 to purchase charter halibut permits that allow our guests to fish in an area where they can keep two halibut per day! When comparing prices, please make sure you are comparing "apples to apples."

When comparing prices, be sure to look at the fine print of other lodges. Does their advertised price include the cost of the float plane, freight, professional fish processing, lodging and meals on travel days? Will you have to get a hotel and figure out your own meals on the first and/or last day? Are you getting FULL days on the water or is their best-case scenario (weather-dependent), to get you on the water by 10AM on the first "day" of fishing? 

Why are your prices so low? What aren't your prices as high as the other "high-end" lodges?

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that we are in any way inferior to other “high-end” lodges because our package price is sometimes hundreds of dollars less their rates.

Well, we don’t have Calvin Klein bedroom furniture, and we don’t have gourmet cooking lessons or water color painting lessons by nearly famous chefs and artists. I suppose some lodges want to appeal to some clients who judge a service by its price and not its performance.

If it costs more, it must be better! Right? This is a marketing strategy for them. Our business grew 80% in 2010, 22% in 2011, and 98% in 2012. This was during the “Great Recession” when most fishing lodges in Alaska were down 30%-50% in each of those years (and they were discounting very heavily to fill their calendar).

Hmm, maybe I just don’t charge enough? My accountant used to wonder what the heck I am doing, but now my accountant says we "must be doing something right!" He has other clients in the Alaska lodge business who have lost a lot of business these past few years. I think we are simply the best service, at the best price. We are striving to be highliners!

Why can’t I catch a halibut and king salmon on the same day if i go to Seward or Homer (“The Halibut Capital of the World”)?

It’s legal, but not likely. In 2006, there were 2,162 king salmon fishes that landed in Homer, but it took 58,222 “angler days” to catch those fish. That works out to one king salmon for every 27 days of fishing effort. (58,222 / 2,162 = 26.9)

In 2006, there were 1,057 king salmon landed in Seward. It took 42,681 “angler days” to catch those fish. That works out to one king salmon for every 40 days of fishing effort.

In 2006, there were 367 king salmon landed in pelican. It took 569 “angler days” to catch those fish. That works out to one king salmon for every 1.5 days of fishing effort. Obviously, Seward and Homer are not on the migratory path of king salmon!

Where do you get your information? How do I know that it is reliable?

All of my data is taken from The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Will you guarantee me a 100 lb halibut?

No, but I can refer you to someone at a competing lodge who will tell you anything you want to hear. His guarantee works like this:

  1. He tells you anything to get you to book a trip.
  2. You fall for his bison excrement.
  3. You don't catch a one-hundred pounder.
  4. Either you forget the guarantee, or he says "sorry" if you remember.

Even if you do catch a one hundred pound halibut, you will probably be disappointed. I suspect that wasn't the only guarantee he made, and that you will probably still be disappointed because he misrepresented many things to go to his lodge.

Please don't choose based on empty promises. I don't expect anyone to take my word for anything so I back up my statements with evidence from ADF&G. Additionally, I can put you in touch with satisfied guests who will vouch for my veracity. Please see charts and tables on our Catch Rates page.

Where do we fly into from the “Lower 48?”

You will fly into Juneau on Alaska Airlines. They have a monopoly!

What is included and what is not included? Are you being transported by a float plane to your destination? Is the price included in the package? How many fishermen per boat?

It would be a lot cheaper for us if we put five, six, or more fishermen on a boat. To give you the best opportunity to catch fish we limit our boats to four.

Compare boats too. Our boats are 30 plus feet in length and are relatively new—costing ~ $250,000 each—compared to much smaller and older boats that cost less than $75,000.

Some “lodges” do not really own a lodge, but really house you in a hotel, give you a voucher for a meal at a restaurant, and many times don’t even own the boat you are fishing on. They subcontract virtually every part of their “service” to a third party. When you don’t have the cost of owning anything you can price your trips rather cheaply.

More often than not, a “bargain” price means a vastly inferior experience all the way around. Be very careful when it comes to $100-500 a day for your trip of a lifetime or your annual Alaskan fishing trip. You may end up very disappointed.

What is a “highliner?”

Simply put, a “highliner” is the very best fisherman. The term is used in the charter and commercial fishing industry widely but is not so well-known in the sports fishing industry. Bill Poole of San Diego was a highliner in the Southern California sports fishing industry.

Do you ever give discounts?

We very rarely give discounts beyond our group discount rates. If other companies deeply discount, it is because their price is too high in the first place or they are desperate to fill in their schedule. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Please see our rates and policies page.

When is the best time to fish?

Unlike many other destinations, our “window of opportunity” to catch king salmon is four months long. Most other fishing lodges have a window of two to three weeks because they are fishing only on local stocks of fish returning to their native stream near that particular lodge. We fish on mixed stocks returning to every stream from the Taku River in Northern Southeast Alaska and the Sacramento River in California.

Unlike many other destinations, our “window of opportunity” to catch halibut is 4 months long. Most other fishing lodges face diminishing returns as the season progresses because there are too many fishermen taking fish out of their local waters. That is why the average weight of halibut is so low at some of those destinations. That is why you must endure a sometimes grueling boat ride far off shore to fish in 400 to 600 feet of water using up to 6-7 pounds of lead to reach the bottom.

Please Google “local depletion halibut.” Also, refer to my answer in “What is the catch limit for halibut this year?”

How many people on a boat?

We don’t put more than four guests on our four boats 30 to 37 feet long boats unless you have a group of five or six and you’d like to fish together. We do have a new 50 foot delta charter boat that we may put up to six guests on.

Do you troll or mooch for salmon?

Both or whatever you like! We make recommendations, so you have the most productive fishing, but we don’t dictate to you how you are going to fish.

Do you drift or anchor for bottom fish?

We mostly anchor but drift when the conditions are favorable.

Do you jig or use bait for halibut?

Mostly, we use bait, but sometimes we jig. It is a matter of personal preference, and we like to let you do what you like to do.

What happens if i can't make my trip to the lodge?

If you must cancel your trip, half of the deposit is refundable IF we are able to re-book your time at the lodge. If for some reason you must cancel after the final payment is made, you may transfer your booking to another person, or we will credit one half of your full payment towards a future trip.

Why does it always have to be about you?

Because it’s my lodge and I built the website! When you are at Highliner Lodge and Charters Inc., it will be all about you, I promise!

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