Notes From the Fishing Grounds

Learn more about the particularly formidable waters from which our lingcod hails

Notes From the Fishing Grounds

Much of the lingcod in the June 2016 deliveries was caught in a legendary place known as the Fairweather Grounds, one of the most celebrated, storied, and feared fishing grounds in the North Pacific. (Read Salmon Shares fisherman-owner Joe Daniel’s story from the fishing trip here !)

Located approximately 150 miles northwest of Sitka, the Grounds is a giant shallow-water plateau—punctuated by a series of reefs—that is surrounded by deep water and open ocean. From here, the glacier-covered Fairwater Range is visible in the distance on clear days, but more often concealed by mist. Indeed, this fabled stretch of sea that is home to this fishing grounds has been referred to as “The Land of the Ocean Mists.”

The exposed plateau of the Fairweather Grounds serves as a prime nursery ground for juvenile and bait fish, making the location rich in salmon, lingcod, halibut, and rockfish. Fishermen know these remote waters as a place of unrivaled abundance: few places around Sitka offer such opportunities for commercial fishermen. At the same time, the Grounds is an extremely risky place to fish. Weather conditions there are often unpredictable and formidable, hence the somewhat ominous name. Still, the promise of this stark place has sparked the imaginations of countless fishermen willing to risk its uncertain, unforgiving waters (even inspiring poetry!)

The nearest shelter from storms is a six-hour boat ride to Lituya Bay. While this bay, or inlet, provides fishermen a safe place to set anchor at times, sheltered from the open sea, this mysterious place is not always so benign. A very dangerous phenomenon known as “standing waves,” (strong, continuously breaking waves that appear stationary; the result of the current from the inlet meeting the sea) often occurs at its entrance, blocking safe entry by vessels seeking protection from the open sea.

In fact, the world’s tallest tsunami—a mega-tsunami—occurred there in 1958, caused by an earthquake along the Fairweather Fault and the resulting rockfall from the cliffs of Gilbert Inlet. The 98-foot wave crashed against the entire length of the bay and into the Gulf of Alaska, removing soil and trees in its path on the shoreline up to 1,720 feet above the height of the bay. Three fishing vessels were reportedly present in the bay at the time of the great wave, and according to fisherman-owner John Skeele, tales from the survivors are bone-chilling. He said one captain peered down from the cabin of his ship to see the tops of trees far below. Almost sixty years later, the damage, illustrated below, is still evident.