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Subscriber Don Childress has just supplied us with this great report from the Yukon drainage of Alaska where he found terrific pike fishing out of the Midnight Sun liveaboard operation; an outfit that will likely catch the interest of anglers who share a love of the toothy predators of the North. Enjoy!
It was a pike trip that lived up to the hype of its hyperbole ridden website. That’s what we encountered when six friends signed up for a “monster pike” fishing trip on the Midnight Sun houseboat set in the rivers, sloughs and lakes that weave in and out of the mighty Yukon River in Alaska.
We chose to fish in late August, early September when the fishing traffic normally is winding down in Alaska and the hunting traffic is just ramping up. Also, in my experience the fish tend to be at their peak weight and fitness at that time of year, and are gorging themselves in preparation for the long winter food drought that is coming.
Our group arrived in and overnighted in Anchorage, as we came from several different locations in the western states. We were able to find a good restaurant near our hotel to eat and reacquaint. The real surprise of the night was buying a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay for $32.00, a feat we were able to score on the return trip as well. They obviously didn’t know what they had. I can’t wait to see if I can duplicate this feat next year.
On the next day, our charter flight took about 2 ½ hours to arrive at our destination in the village of Holly Cross where we met our host for the week, Scott Rowekamp and his covered skiff that took us 1 ½ hours through a maze of tributaries to the houseboat, our lodge for the week. The trip gave us plenty of time to get to know Scott and quiz him about the fish, the fishing and his lodge operation.
The Midnight Sun website states that they provide all the tackle and flies necessary for the trip, but we learned before arrival that the houseboat and all equipment burned totally on June 27 while the guests were in route to a change over. The skeleton crew at the houseboat managed to save the skiffs but little more. After cancelling several weeks of guests, Scott was able to locate and rent another suitable houseboat to finish the season. While the equipment couldn’t be replaced, our group consisted of experienced fishermen who had the necessary gear, even though most of us had not fished for pike before.
The operation was typical with two fishermen to a skiff with an experienced guide. After an early morning breakfast, we would ride between 30 minutes and one and a half hours to a different fishing area each day. The guides worked very hard sharing the cooking, cleaning and guiding duties on the water. They obviously all knew the waters well, and we all felt that they had truly earned their tips. The food, while not the highlight of the trip, was plentiful and adequate. Individual beer and liquor were ordered ahead of the trip so that it could be barged to Holy Cross for guests.
In regards to tackle, most anglers used 9 to 10-weight fly rods, which were necessary in order to cast the 9 and 12-inch flies that were used. The guides provided most of the flies although one is always anxious to try the flies they painstakingly tied in preparation for the adventure, which many anglers did.
And did we ever find fish! The takes were explosive, and while the runs were short, they were powerful. Topwater flies resulted in exuberant, showy takes, and I even had one 36” fish come out of the water and take my rat shaped fly on the way down.
The three boats only fished together one day and the competition between them will be long remembered. While there is some talk about fishing for Sheefish, a large species of freshwater whitefish, it is very seasonal, and in my impression is seldom targeted.
All Pike fishing is catch and release, and mostly from the skiffs. After casting large flies with a 10 wt. rod all day, one’s arm can become quite weary, and on the last day a couple of our group broke out spinning rods since their fly-casting arms were “shot”. The largest fish of the trip, a 52” behemoth pike, was taken on a spinning, wobbling contraption that would scare most rational fish and fishermen.
My personal largest fish was 48 inches long and weighed between 25 to 30 pounds. I think the biggest surprise for most of us was the number and size of fish landed.
My statistics for the week were:
Day 1 – (1/2 day) 12 fish up to 44 inches
Day 2 – 36 fish
Day 3 – 41 fish
Day 4 – 50+ fish
Day 5 – 39 up to 48 inches
Day 6 – 50+ fish
This trip is a must if you want to catch pike on a fly rod. Hopefully Scott will have replaced the houseboat and can continue this fantastic fishing operation. Cost for the fishing portion of the trip was $4700, with transport from Anchorage. More information on Midnight Sun can be found at www.myalaskanfishingtrip.com/midnight-sun-trophy-pike-adventures
At the time of this writing, the availability of fishing with Midnight Sun for the 2020 season is still undecided as they try to procure a vessel to maintain operations. Stay up-to date on availability with Yellow Dog’s Camille Egdorf via email at firstname.lastname@example.org