Californian’s Dreaming: Experiencing An Alaska Fishing Adventure

The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Northern Californian Ian Rigler had always dreamed of catching big fish in Alaska, and earlier this year, he was able to do so while staying at a Petersburg-area lodge offering self-guided fishing opportunities for halibut, salmon and more. (IAN RIGLER)


As fishermen, I think we all have these bucket list trips we would like to make, those exotic fish we would like to pursue, and faraway places we would like to visit.

For many anglers in the Lower 48, that special place is often Alaska and for avid angler and Northern California resident Ian Rigler, this is his story of an Alaskan fishing adventure.

“I had always wanted to go to Alaska,” says Rigler. “I never thought I would actually go; I used to think to myself that if I ever got the chance, I would be there in a second. Earlier this year, when my cousin Gary Cook invited me to join a friend and his father, I knew that this was an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down.”

After multiple plane flights starting in Sacramento, California, cousins Gary Cook (left) and Rigler eventually reached their final destination of Petersburg in Southeast Alaska. (IAN RIGLER)
You’re always bound to see some iconic Alaska wildlife on these trips. (IAN RIGLER)

AT THE END OF May, Rigler and his party started their flying journey from Sacramento to Seattle before catching connecting flights to Southeast Alaska – first to Juneau, and then to Petersburg. At their final stop, they were greeted by staff from Island Point Lodge (800- 352-4522;, who took them into town to get last-minute supplies and their Alaskan fishing licenses. From there it was a short drive to a dock, where they boarded a small skiff that took them across the water to their lodge.

Island Point Lodge, located on Kupreanof Island, specializes in self- guided fishing for both fresh- and saltwater species, including five varieties of Pacific salmon, as well as halibut.

“During our visit we spent the majority of our time fishing for halibut, as the salmon season opened only on the final fishing day of our stay,” recalls Rigler, who lives in the Sacramento area of California.

“The lodge provided our rods, reels and bait,” he adds. “I brought some tackle from home and bought a few things I needed as well. We decided to upgrade to a larger boat with a cover; that was a great decision, as the weather wasn’t always the best. They gave us maps of areas to fish and there were people at the lodge who recommended spots and provided some tips and instruction as well.”

Sunrise over Petersburg’s Island Point Lodge.

EACH MORNING, RIGLER’S GROUP would head down to the dining area for breakfast, make up their lunch and then it was straight onto the boat for the day.

“Breakfast was at 6 a.m. sharp; we were on the boat by 6:30 and by 7 we were fishing. And that’s pretty much how it went each day,” Rigler says.

Using the maps provided by the lodge, they would make a game plan for the day. Rigler is no stranger to the ways of halibut fishing, having spent many days pursuing California halibut in the waters in and around San Francisco Bay. In fact, he prepared the terminal tackle and leaders prior to the trip.

“I tied the braid from the reel straight to the splitter; in Alaska they call them booms,” Rigler notes. “I used an 8-inch boom and on the bottom I clipped on a cannonball lead weight. Depending on the depth and the current, I used anywhere from 24 to 36 ounces. On the other end of the boom, I attached a 3-foot, 50-pound mono leader with double-snelled hooks for the herring and I used bait thread to keep the bait on the hook better.”

Most of the fishing was done on anchor, but on occasion Rigler would allow the boat to drift to cover more ground.

“My first halibut came in an area where we were anchored on the edge of a channel,” he recalls.

“We were fishing there for a couple of hours before I got my first bite. My rod was in the holder and I noticed I was getting a bite. I just let it take it and when it was really jerking, I just wound down on it and it was hooked up. It turned out that the halibut sucked the bait really deep and it wasn’t going to get away. I was really excited and the fish fought pretty well; it ended up being around 20 pounds. I ended up catching one more fish about the same size later in the day, so I had my limit. One other person caught one, so we had three fish in the boat for our first day of fishing,” Rigler says.

The chance to finally fish Alaska was quite cherished by this Californian. (IAN RIGLER)

ON THE FOURTH DAY, Rigler hooked up with his biggest halibut of the trip. “We anchored up on this spot – it was a good spot – in a cove, and when the tide comes up, the water swirls around, so I thought that’s a good place to have one,” he says. “So I dropped it down and 10 minutes later the rod started pumping hard and I just wound down on it. It initially fought really hard; I could tell it was a better fish and I could feel the weight on it. It made a few good runs, but it eventually wore down and I was able to get it in the boat. That fish weighed 40 pounds.”

With salmon season opening on their final day in Alaska, Rigler and Cook focused on halibut and managed to land some nice ones. (IAN RIGLER)

Overall, the fishing was pretty tough but fun nonetheless. The group all had varying levels of success, and everyone came home with a bunch of fish. Aside from the fishing, to experience Alaska in all its grandeur and majesty was something special in itself.

“When you see the pictures of the mountains and the trees, it doesn’t look real,” Rigler says. “But when you get there and see it firsthand, it is amazingly beautiful. The pictures just don’t do it justice. Alaska is just so vast – the immensity, the trees and the mountains – it just seems to go on forever and ever. The air is so clean and fresh and the water is so blue, just so unspoiled. It’s like being in a different world. It was worth going just to see the beauty, and now I can’t wait to come back again.” ASJ

Editor’s note: Mark Fong is a freelance writer and fishing fanatic based around Sacramento, California, and is a regular contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal’s sister publication California Sportsman.