Elfin Cove to Dundas Bay

It is only 19 miles today over to Dundas Bay. Nevertheless, we were up and ready to go after a couple of days in harbor.   Before we could make the to walk up to Fisherman’s Inn to pick up our fish from yesterday, Mike and Gary were knocking on our hull with a box containing 35 pounds of fish, vacuumed bagged and frozen. Our neighbors who rafted to us last night had departed an hour earlier, so we were good to cast off. The weather was low, but with good visibility below. As we made the turn into North Inian Pass, we found the waters disturbed and confused. There would be areas that appeared to bubble as if they were about to boil. Right next to them, the seas were mill pond flat. Our speed over ground would go from 7.5 knots to 13.5 and back. Nothing dangerous, just interesting and a little more work for the helmsman.

From the entrance to Dundas Bay to our anchorage at the southwest bay is a very interesting run with a mix of little islands, massive mud flats and wide, then narrowing channels. The visibility was down a bit, and we passed three boats outbound as we entered deeper into Dundas. We contacted the first vessel, Nordic Star, a North Pacific 52, and exchanged weather reports. They wanted to know what the pass was like and we inquired about the inner bay at Dundas.

I love how the  fog plays with the islands

We eventually negotiated our way to our anchorage. It is a large bay, but most of it is too shallow to anchor. We made a circle to define our anchor area with at least 20 feet of water at the current tide stage. That would leave us at least 10 feet at low tide which was scheduled to be at minus 2.5 feet this evening.

The anchor set well, but with the winds freshening, we added the bridle and dumped another 50 feet of chain over the side. We held our ground, but made a lot of noise during the change from ebb to flood as the rode moved across the bottom. A small price to pay for knowing your boat was not going to travel outside your planned swing area.

The wind and rain was not conducive to dinghy or kayak exploration, so I set about to make bread and a large pot of chowder. I added Dungeness crab and our fresh caught halibut to the concoction. It will make dinner tonight along with some fresh baked cornbread, and will also provide multiple warm and hearty lunches on those cold days.

As I was preparing dinner, Karen called out that she spotted either a big brown bear or a Bison. Given our latitude and longitude, I concluded that a brown bear was the likely species she was seeing. The added bonus was the bear was a sow with two cubs close on her heels. We watched for an hour as they made their way along the beach with sojourns back and forth into woods. Eventually, they grazed their way to the beach nearest our boat-- what a treat; especially when the bear cubs played with each other.

Mom calls her cubs down to the beach

"Where did they go?"

Bears spend a lot of time with their heads down grazing

Halibut, crab and corn chowder with fresh-baked cornbread

Elfin Cove

(Karen writes)  We spent a pleasant rest of the night on the docks at Elfin. The naked man did not reappear, and it did take us a while to go back to sleep. We were up about 6:30 to be ready to meet Captain Gary from Fishmasters at the inn. It was a lovely morning – we could see the mountains in the distance that had been enshrouded with fog the previous day. They were snow covered, but only visible up to a certain height, where clouds hugged them and covered up their craggy tops.

Fishmasters is a nice lodge. The kitchen and living area has a fabulous view and the décor is really nice. The comfy couches were tempting, but fish were waiting for us.


Leaving Elfin Cove in hunt of halibut

These dedicated fishing boats get to the hot spots fast and make a great, open, stable platform from which to fish

Captain Gary is from Petersburg, but certainly knew where to take us for halibut near Elfin Cove! It was a glassy, calm morning and we first headed for Earl Cove, past “million dollar rock” that clearly claims expensive boats at anything other than low water. Unlike yesterday, the currents were fairly tame, and Earl Cove was quiet. We saw sea lions fishing and a whale breaching and swimming about as we jigged for halibut.

A beautiful morning for fishing

Bob had a strong desire to go halibut fishing. We’venever done it before, so it was a new experience. Compared to salmon fishing, it’s a lot of work!  You anchor in about 150 feet of water (give or take) and use a rod with a long line and a weight at the bottom. Baited with grayling and herring, you drop the line until it hits bottom and then “jig” it off the bottom to capture the attention of the halibut. Oh yes – there’s also a chum bag dropped off the boat to stink up the bottom and attract the fish.

The jigging is definitely an upper body workout, at least for me!  We had some nibbles, but not too much action. However, it was so pretty out and there was so much to watch (whales, porpoise, etc) that we didn’t mind too much. Still, after about 2 hours, we decided to move onto greener pastures.

Karen and Captain Gary discuss fishing strategies

We can’t tell you where we went next or we’d have to kill you (or Captain Gary would). Needless to say, we headed out to lumpier waters and found a sweet spot where Bob hooked a 60lb (54”) halibut. Watching him fight to pull that fish in was amazing. He was whipped when it was done. Once Bob got it close to the boat, Captain Gary harpooned the halibut to make certain it did not escape as he worked it in to the boat.  It was quite an undertaking.

Captain Gary was having a much fun as Bob

We kept fishing and caught 5 quillback (we released one as we had reached our limit of 2 each) and I caught a China rockfish (yellow and black). I also caught a 10lb halibut, and it was enough of a workout to reel that one in that I needed help from Bob. We also just got the fish in the boat before the sea lion made an appearance in hopes of snagging my fish. This sea lion was really brave, he clearly associates small boats with yummy halibut or salmon, and he was circling us like a shark, waiting to snag his lunch. Luckily, he was skunked, or we’d have been really disappointed!

Bob tries out the lazy man's way to jig after his workout  with the 60 lb'er

Look at my fish!

We also saw a small group of Orca while we were at the undisclosed halibut hole. This was the first time we’d seen Orca in Alaska, so that was a nice and unexpected bonus of our trip.

Back at Elfin Cove, Mark and Gary took good care of us. The fish were filleted by the red-headed twin boys working at Fishmasters for the summer. They gave me the ear bones from Bob’s halibut and one of the Rockfish – people make earrings out of them and I know just the right person in Philadelphia to do that for me! They are small, white, irregular shaped bones, about the size of your small fingernail.

Big Fish

Bigger Fish

The staff at Fishermaster's Inn make quick work of turning our catch into fillets

Fishmasters brought over halibut filets for our dinner – with one fillet from Bob’s big fish and one from my small one, so we could do a taste test and see which we preferred. The rest was portioned out nicely and put into vacuum bags and frozen for us, along with some Rockfish fillets. Even after eating a big chunk for dinner and giving Captain Gary some, we ended up with 35 pounds of FISH to eat!

We went into town and did a little provisioning at the cute general store, and then walked back to the boat and ran into Gary, who made us a CD with pictures from our fishing trip and also some he has taken so far this season of the area. What a great thing to do! We had beer aboard Arctic Starand chatted for a while before he headed back to Fishermans. We also watched several float planes come and go as well as the pilot boat, Endeavor. Apparently ships not of US registry have to have these pilots aboard to “guide” them out, and they get to the cruise ships and back using the “pilot boat”. Seems like a sweet deal – the pilot boat drops them on the Elfin Cove dock and then a float plane picks them up and takes them back to their base in Juneau? Oh yes…the dock was full of fishing vessels, we were the only pleasure boat today, and then Go Fish, a Uniflite pleasure boat from Juneau owned by some really nice Texans rafted alongside for the evening.

All in all, a great day—and the halibut was superb. Personally, I liked my little fish best, but maybe that was pride of ownership?