Tips and Mistakes Spearfishing Whitefish on the Chatanika River near Fairbanks

Spearfishing whitefish on the Chatanika River, September 2023. Photo by Clay Duda.
Spearfishing whitefish on the Chatanika River near Fairbanks, Alaska, September 2023. Photo by Clay Duda.

I didn’t even know what a freshwater “whitefish” was when I applied for a permit to spearfish them. I’ve lived in Alaska for 7 years now and never drawn a tag. I’ve put in for moose and mountain goat and Kodiak elk and a bunch of other things with no luck. So I figured my chances of getting a whitefish tag was slim to none.

Then, in August, I got an email back from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game awarding my first ever Alaska draw tag: to spearfish whitefish in the Chatanika River near Fairbanks. Me and my friend Dan were the only 2 people on the Kenai Peninsula to earn a tag.

That Time We Caught a 100-Pound Halibut Hooked in the Tail

Two very happy anglers holding their catch aboard the Storm Petrel in spring 2020.

A light, icy breeze blew down Cook Inlet at we headed out of Homer, Alaska in the spring of 2020. The cloud ceiling was high, but the air was still filled with a grey morning light. A slight chop rippled the smooth, deep green ocean water as we throttled down in a thicket of kelp blooms north of Homer.

Fishing those areas can often be slow, but the fish are usually plump and healthy, and sometimes there are lunkers cruising the shallows looking for an easy meal.

It was early morning, maybe 7:30 a.m., when I threw anchor over the side of the Storm Petrel in just 30 feet of water. The stern of the boat pointed south with the gentle pull of an outgoing tide. My guys took their rods and dropped bait to the bottom — it didn’t take long to get down.

Rena’s Photos from Fishing on the Diamond Cape — Fall 2022

Biting the 'but aboard the Diamond Cape. Photo by <a href=
Capt. Clay on a rainy day. Fishing on the Diamond Cape, September 2022. Photo by Rena Spears

I won’t lie, when you fish every day, well, the days start to blur together after a while. It’s not that I forget them, it’s just that the waves start to overlap in my memory bank. We catch a lot of fish, and we take a lot of people fishing, and I’m way better remembering faces than I am with names.

When Rena Spears sent me an email this spring saying she had photos from a charter fishing trip she took with us in 2022, I was pretty excited. My memories of that late-season trip on Sept. 15, 2022 were pretty hazy, but once she sent along the photos everything came crisp into view.

Goofing Off and Winning the 2023 Captain’s Invitational Halibut Tournament in Homer, Alaska

2023 Captain's Invitational Halibut Tournament in Homer, Alaska.
Brian and Chuck offload one of the winning fish from the Early Riser. The crew of 6 took first and second place at the 2023 Captain’s Invitational Halibut Tournament in Homer, Alaska.

One of my very first fishing trips when I arrived in Alaska more than 6 years ago was with my friend Jordan, who invited me to join a bunch of guys competing in the annual Captain’s Invitational Halibut Tournament in Homer, Alaska. We did not win the tournament that year, but I started to find my sea legs and understand a little bit about what drew such an eclectic group of guys together with a love for the ocean.