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For visitors angling for a longer stay, Ketchikan has a lot to offer

  • Author: Scott McMurren
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published September 10, 2015

When you're traveling around the state, don't miss the chance for an "Alaska moment."

Sometimes it's a special meal with friends. Maybe a bear walks in front of you on the road and you happen to have your camera.

In Southeast Alaska, those "moments" often include an adventure on the sea. I've visited Ketchikan many times. Since Ketchikan is a cruise port, I'm more familiar with the popular activities for cruisers: flightseeing, zipline tours, kayaking and downtown shopping .

But it's just a 15-minute drive north of Ketchikan to Clover Pass. There are several lodges that cater to a different sort of traveler. They don't arrive on a cruise ship. And they have one thing on their minds: fish.

During a recent visit, I stayed with friends at Chinook Shores Lodge after doing business all day in downtown Ketchikan. Jeff Wedekind and his wife, Nadra, wanted to go fishing early on the same day as my return flight. While the weather was rainy and windy when I arrived, it was calm and partly sunny the next morning.

"Ketchikan is one of the few places where anglers can rent a boat and go fishing on their own," said Wedekind, who built the lodge on his family's land in 2006. "Plus, in early September the silver salmon come in close to shore, so you can catch them less than a mile from the dock."

Nearby Clover Pass Resort rents 14-foot Livingston skiffs for $90 per day, or covered aluminum boats for as little as $225 per day. Knudson Cove Marina, which is next to Chinook Shores, also rents open skiffs and covered aluminum boats. There's a hamburger stand in the parking lot with some of the best hamburgers in town. I opted for the bacon mushroom cheeseburger.

Chinook Shores rents a variety of covered aluminum boats but reserves them for guests at their two-bedroom beachfront condos. They are self-catering units, so anglers typically stop at the grocery store on their way from the airport to pick up groceries and supplies for their stay. While anglers are responsible for their meals, the Chinook Shores staff takes care of the fish: cleaning, vacuum-packing and flash-freezing is part of the package. There is a three-night minimum.

Anglers are early risers -- and I saw the boats pull out starting at 5:45 a.m. We left a little later but had lines in the water about 500 yards off the dock.

Sure enough, the fish were swimming all over and we managed to get a couple in the boat before 9 a.m.

But we were not the only ones fishing the waters around Clover Pass. After tying up the boat, Nadra ?Wedekind got out some special fishing kayaks to paddle around the protected waters. The kayaks, built by Hobie, have StairMaster-style foot pedals so you have your hands free to work a rod and reel.

As soon as we got out of the harbor, Nadra pointed to a group of humpback whales that were bubble-feeding about 500 yards away. And right behind us were three sea lions. Eagles, seals and some jellyfish rounded out the wildlife we saw while paddling. Honestly, the big critters were a little close, since we did not have a motor to get out of the way.

The clouds continued to burn off as the morning wore on. Pretty soon the September sun was beating down on us.

Cruise travelers often book fishing trips in Ketchikan, but they're usually limited to four hours. Anglers who visit Clover Pass typically stay for four days or longer and take home boxes of delicious salmon.

The cruise ship traffic enables Ketchikan to offer lots of fun day trips. But the town is well-situated for the do-it-yourself angler who wants to harvest some delicious salmon -- even in September. Of course, the wildlife and the spectacular setting are added bonuses.

Fares from Seattle to Ketchikan can be half the price of previous years due to new, competitive service from Delta (the seasonal service from Seattle ended this week for the winter). From Anchorage, the best deal is to use 15,000 Alaska Airlines frequent-flier miles for a round-trip ticket. The 15,000-mile award is valid between any two Alaska points, including Fairbanks, Kodiak and Bethel.

Autumn fare deals

The leaves are falling -- and so are airfares. Between Anchorage and Seattle, Delta has dropped fares to as low as $78 each way for travel from Oct. 2 to May 22. Fares during Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break are a little higher, but not too much.

The fare war doesn't stop there, though. From Fairbanks and Juneau, fares to Seattle dip to $191 round trip through next May.

Do you fly Alaska Airlines? The state's namesake airline has dropped some fares in response to Delta's move, but not to the same low level. That will change, though. Keep watching as the two airlines fight for Alaska travelers going into the fall and winter.

Here are some great rates that are available for travel starting in October (there's a three-week advance purchase required):

Anchorage-Los Angeles, $238 round-trip on Delta (Alaska Air offers a nonstop for just $267 round-trip)

Anchorage-Bozeman, Montana, $290 round-trip on Delta

Anchorage-Boston, $370 round-trip on Delta

Anchorage-San Francisco, $296 round-trip on Delta

Anchorage-San Diego, $298 round-trip on Delta

Fairbanks-Los Angeles, $239 round-trip on Delta

Fairbanks-San Diego, $299 round-trip on Delta

Fairbanks-Las Vegas, $281 round-trip on Delta

Juneau-Los Angeles, $240 round-trip on Delta

Juneau-San Francisco, $282 round-trip on Delta

All fares are subject to change without notice. I checked these fares using alaskaair.com and Google's ITA search tool at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 10.

Be wary of free airline ticket offers

Have you received an offer in the mail for two free airline tickets? I have received two of them -- and threw them out.

To receive the tickets, you have to attend a sales seminar, but the details are not clear. Similar offers in the past directed people to a 90-minute hard-sell vacation sales presentation. The offers I received included instructions to call a toll-free number for an appointment, but failed to disclose which airline, the destinations or the nature of the sales presentation. Do your homework before you divulge your credit card number or commit any money to these types of marketers.

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty-destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

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