We arrived in Sitka about 8:30 PM and were met by Joyce and Allen Brackley. The Brackleys, originally from Maine, are friends of Deanna and Larry Philbrick, so when we told Larry we were going to Sitka; he made the connection for us. We expected to meet the Brackleys and perhaps spend a couple of days fishing with them. However, Joyce and Allen took us completely under their wing and entertained us for the entire week we were in their town.
Sitka is actually south west of Juneau. The city sits inside a sheltered harbor that is on the Pacific Ocean, unlike the other ferry stops on the inside passages that are away from the direct ocean. It is larger than we expected and with five separate marinas, you realize that fishing is the main occupation here also.
In addition to the commercial fishing, Sitka has a large sport fishing industry. The marinas have many fast, sleek aluminum boats that cater to fisherman who fly into Sitka for a week of Salmon fishing. Reading the bumper stickers in the parking lot that say, “Sport Fishing is Organized Crime” gives you the idea that the local commercial fishermen are not in favor of this type of commerce
The next day, after Allen had us park our camper next to their house, we headed out to do some fishing. His boat, called “The Office” is a comfortable 24-foot glasply, equipped with all kinds of equipment that was new to me and even to Marlin. Allen assured us we would be fishing with this equipment for much bigger fish than we would ever see in Maine. Over the next few days we worked on advancing our skills with the big rods, the down riggers, and general boat operation.
On our second trip out, I was lucky enough, along with Joyce’s encouragement and direction, to catch a Pink Salmon, a Coho Salmon, and 10-pound King Salmon. Thinking that was quite a trophy fish, I was really amazed, when a couple of days later, Marlin hooked onto a 30-pound King. This fish took up the entire length of the three-foot cooler. Marlin also caught a Coho salmon and a Yellow eye rockfish that day and Joyce claimed this ugly orange fish makes the best fish chowder.
Allen has obviously dressed mountains of fish over the years because he filleted each days catch is short order. The big King, he brought home and cut into Salmon steaks, two of which were cooked over charcoal and sampled for dinner. Nothing tastes as good a really fresh fish and this was the best I had ever eaten. After dinner Joyce and I lined up the steaks, vacuum packed, and froze them for shipping back to Maine. We will have fish to share with everyone we know for the next year.
Salmon steaks ready for vacum packing and freezing
One of the bent wood boxes in Jacksons Collection. In the foreground are two small attached boxes that are made with the same technique.
A Tlingit ceremonial robe made with mountain goat hair and strips of cedar bark
Two perminantly injured bald eagles
"I am smiling"
The last day we went out fishing was a partly cloudy day with no wind. It must have been ideal weather for eagles because we saw dozens of them that day. In the marina, there were four mature and two immature birds roosting on boat masts directly across from the Brackley’s slip. Because the water was so calm, Allen took us out past Bird Island, where hundreds of Horned Puffins nest, then into the open ocean as far as Edgecomb point, where we set our lines and trolled an area called the whale’s tail, named after the shape of the ocean floor.
Bird Island. There were dozens of Horned Puffin in the water that do not show up in the picture
Too soon, our seven days in Sitka with the Brackleys came to an end. We cannot thank Joyce and Allen enough for their hospitality and generosity while we were there. They made the week in Sitka the highlight of our trip so far and we now have good friends in Alaska.