July 2024

Sitka - The Paris of the Pacific

All of Alaska is beautiful. My favorite part is the Southeast which is sometimes called the Alaskan Panhandle. The Inside Passage runs right through the middle of it and that means the water is almost always calm. In the passage are the towns of Skagway, Haines, Juneau (Alaska’s capital), Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Sitka. Of these Sitka is our favorite and is the one we keep going back to.

Sitka sits on the Gulf of Alaska side of Baranof Island. It is the home to the Tlinglit native group who have been there for about 10,000 years. The Russians showed up in 1799 to start a trading post for Russian-American company. This did not go well for them at first. The Tlinglits destroyed their settlement and killed most of them. This won the Tlingits the battle but not the war. The Russians came back in greater numbers in 1804.

The United States bought Sitka, and the rest of the state, in the Alaska purchase of 1867. Today you can still see the history of the Russian era in many of it’s buildings. The Cathedral of Saint Michael was built in 1848 and is the very center of Sitka. The interior of the church is one of the most beautiful I have seen and well worth a visit. It is full of Russian art and golden icons.

From the church it is about a half mile hike back to Sitka National Historical Park. The park is home to about 20 totem poles that are scattered on trails through the woods and by the sea. An odd fact about Sitka is that it is the largest city in the United States. The municipal boundaries cover 2,870 square miles yet Sitka has a population of only 8,900.

We  go to Sitka for the fishing and it has never failed us. If you come in on a cruise ship they can set it up for you.

The place we keep going back to though is the Talon Lodge and Spa. It is on a private island in the Sitka Sound, about a 15 minute boat ride from the town. It is consistently ranked the number 1 lodge in Sitka and maybe in the whole state. The location is definitely a plus. With all the waterways and islands around they can always fine a calm place to fish if needed. In 15 years they have been open they have never had to cancel a day of fishing. The lodge also offers fly fishing by floatplane from their dock to remote lakes and streams.  Another option, if you do not want to fish, are 4 wheel tours of Kruzof Island with it bears and long beaches. The lodge takes in 18-24 guests in various sized wooden cabins and a 3 bedroom waterfront house. The spa overhangs the water.

Our last trip was this past August. The first day we each hit the limit of 6 silver salmon. Early summer is better for king salmon and silvers show up more in late summer.  The limits for each can change from year to year. The second and third days we targeted halibut, caught this years limit of 1 each day and then picked up some more salmon and rockfish.  That is pretty typical of our fishing trips there, lots of fish, fantastic food, and a beautiful place to stay. Talon Lodge and Spa,

If you are looking to go to Southeast Alaska, and it is you first time, a cruise ship is probably the best way to see it. If you are looking to go fishing, or an Alaska adventure, I believe Sitka is the place.