Chris Paparo shows off the 190-lb. halibut he caught at...

Chris Paparo shows off the 190-lb. halibut he caught at Alaska’s Tanaku Lodge in 2019. Credit: @fishguyphotos

Chris Paparo knew the fish on the end of his line was big. But looking down through the crystal-clear depths, he spied a flash of brown that revealed the unmistakable silhouette of the fish of a lifetime — a 190-pound halibut that would require two crew members to haul over the stern and its own wheelbarrow for transport to the fillet station.

Paparo, manager of Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Center and a nature photographer, wasn’t on Long Island, where a 10-pound fluke is considered a prize catch. No, he was in Alaska on a fishing trip in 2019 — the kind of trip many Long Island anglers aspire to.

“The adventure of getting there, the fishing, the nature — it’s all so amazing. On Long Island, we worry about seagulls stealing our bait, but in Alaska you play keep-away with bald eagles,” said Paparo, 47, of Calverton. “At some fishing lodges, there are whales, glaciers, orcas, sea otters and grizzly bears to see just minutes from the dock. Heading to Alaska is so much more than a fishing excursion.”

Paparo has visited Tanaku Lodge in Elfin Cove three times and is planning his fourth trip this August. It’s in the southeastern part of the state, and fishing enthusiasts will find halibut that can top 300 pounds as well as lingcod, keg-shaped orange shortrakers and king salmon.

Other popular fishing destinations are the Kenai Peninsula, home to excellent halibut and salmon action; Homer; and Sitka.

“Anglers love fishing here because they can easily target salmon and halibut on the same trip — and our king salmon catch rate is the best around,” said Tyler Kraft, owner of Cascade Creek Lodge in Sitka.

For Paparo, catching that 190-pound halibut certainly was a thrill. Still, top honors for excitement actually went to the 50-pound giant Pacific octopus that attempted to wrestle a camera from his hand. “It was swimming in the shallows near the lodge,” Paparo recalled. “I rushed over with my GoPro on a stick to get some footage. As it came closer, the octopus reached out and grabbed my camera! Fortunately, after a brief tussle, I managed to pull it back. Crazy stuff!”

BEFORE YOU GO

With 6,640 miles of coastline, fishing possibilities in the “Frontier State” are endless. Alaska's official travel website, travelalaska.com, offers information on flights, vacation packages and tours and a comprehensive guide on fishing in Alaska.

VISIT

Ready to book your trip? Here a few options to consider:

  • Tanaku Lodge, 1 Tanaku Dr., Elfin Cove; 907-290-5602; tanakulodge.com
  • Homer Ocean Charters, 4287 Homer Spit Rd., Homer; 907-235-6212; homerocean.com
  • Cascade Creek Lodge, 2035 Halibut Point Rd., Sitka; 907-519-7800; fishsitka.com

COST

Fishing packages can run from about $1,200 to $1,500 per day at Homer Ocean Charters and Cascade Creek Lodge, which includes fishing, meals, lodging, equipment and fish processing. At Tanaku Lodge, a 3-day trip, all-inclusive will cost $5,995, while a 5-day trip will cost $6,495.

WHAT TO BRING

Anglers are advised to pack several changes of clothes, a medium-weight jacket, a warm sweater, a camera, sunscreen and binoculars. Flycasters hoping for salmon should bring their own rods, reels and flies. For easy storage, pack belongings in a duffel bag. Additional float plane charges may apply for exceeding 50 pounds of luggage.

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