Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Fishing our way down to Wrangell

Day 19:  Thomas Bay to Wrangell, back via the Narrows.  62-miles

Center Islet viewed from Ruth Island Cove.  First light.

Steve working the down riggers for salmon in Thomas Bay, morning slack water.

Now heading south we slid into the Wrangell Narrows and past Petersburg, with current pushing us an extra 2.5-knots!  I timed the passage to arrive at the tidal convergence an hour early, as I wanted to anchor near Pepkes Landing and mooch for a salmon.  This was interesting as all the large north and south bound boats ride the flood in the channel and converge at roughly the same time and place, then each gets to ride the ebb for the second half of the trip.  We saw many cool boats including the Sumdum, a Ketchikan local that knows these currents. The Sumdum was built by Tom Nelson back in the eighties, Tom later founded American Tug. 

The Sumdum, a local cruiser moving up Wrangell Narrows.

The area around Blind Slough and Pepkes Landing has several fishing resorts.  All the resort boats were tied to their docks, apparently they have not been getting fish here yet this year.

We rode the current to Point Alexander, eventually getting 2.5-knots of push which makes for a fast trip.  We trolled at Point Alexander with the down riggers, but this was now an ebbing tide.  We saw a lack of fish and other fisherman at this popular spot.  If you are keeping track of our fish count, still zero.  If I gave you the crab count you would have absolutely no sympathy for me on the fish, so we will leave it at that.

One of the 5-ranges along Wrangell Narrows.  Very well marked channel.

The new Heritage Marina in Wrangell is nearly complete.  It is Alaska sized with big nice docks, a huge rock breakwater and will soon have other amenities.  The harbor master told us to grab anyplace on the large transient docks, very friendly.  Heritage Marina is a half-mile walk from town and I must admit the walk felt good.  This will be great facility; soon the parking area will be done and the uplands developed.

Wrangell is a town of 1,700 residents.  It is a smaller town than Ketchikan or Petersburg, with its economy based on the Stikine River.  It has gone boom & bust a few times; three gold rushes in the Stikine area, fires that burned their downtown in 1906 & 1952 and the ebb & flow of fishing.  Wrangell has a commercial fishing fleet with more small trollers and local crabbers, not the mega net boats of Petersburg.  The downtown is two-blocks long, with a large wharf at the north end.  Smaller cruise ships (125-600 feet) call here weekly.  The cruise ship terminal has none of the tacky tourist traps of Ketchikan, just a gravel driveway and a coffee stand.  Definitely a more authentic Alaska experience and more what I was hoping to find.  This is a boater friendly town and I am very glad that we came.

This may be the small aluminum fish boat capital of the world, they are everywhere.  Sport Fishing is a huge here.  Jet boats, river boats, charter boats, and all in aluminum for the mighty Stikine River.  I counted 42- aluminum boats in yards and on the street during my walk back to Heritage Marina.

Discarded outboard power heads torn up by jet pumps & an aluminum boat dumpster?  Only in Wrangell.

Sport fishing is why Cinnamon Girl is here; it is time to put some meat in the freezer.  Cindy wants to catch a halibut and I want to land a king salmon.  We have the boat, the gear, those "top secret" NOAA fish charts, and are in the right area.  Time to get the fish count where it belongs!  Wish us luck...
Steve & Cindy Scruggs, aboard the Cinnamon Girl American Tug 41.