By Raymon Kemper
As the plane dropped in altitude and the clouds parted, we could see Sitka, Alaska, and what seemed to be about 50 islands around the mainland. I never imagined that it would be so breathtaking. I realized that the Sportsman’s News Pro-Membership Sweepstakes Winners of the Dove Island Lodge trip were about to experience something that would be burnt into their memories for the rest of their lives.
As the plane banked to the right, I noticed that the airport was on an island with a beautiful bridge connecting it to the mainland. We landed on what seemed to be a very narrow runway, right beside the water. When I walked out of the airport, the smell of saltwater was in the air. The shuttle was there to pick us up and take us to the hotel in Sitka for the night.
That evening I met up with the Sportsman’s New Sweepstakes winner Dennis Alger and his son Scott and walked around Sitka. I did not realize that Sitka was so rich in history and how it played a pivotal role in making Alaska our 49th state. I walked down to the dock, the water was as blue as the sky, a light breeze blowing off the ocean. I looked up and saw about 10 Bald Eagles flying overhead. I had to stop and take in the moment. As I walked back to the hotel, I thought to myself, am I really here?
That night I was so excited for Dennis and Scott to experience Dove Island Lodge. In the morning, we had breakfast together in downtown Sitka and went over the schedule. We had five days of fishing in one of the world’s best fisheries, while staying at the most prestige lodge in Sitka. The shuttle picked us up at 3 p.m. and took us to the dock. Before we knew it, we were going across the bay and pulling up to the dock on the island.
The lodge manager, Nicole Bilinski, was there to meet us and welcome us to Dove Island Lodge. While Nicole was briefing us, the staff quickly unloaded our bags and took them straight to our rooms. We then walked up a wooden walkway to the bar and activity room. We filled out our paperwork for our fishing license then we walked up the path to the lodge. Nicole then led us to the sauna area. It was very unique, as its shape is in an oval. She also informed us that they had a massage therapist available. From there, we worked our way up to the main lodge. The only way to express our thoughts was “shock and awe”! We were standing in one of the most beautiful lodges that I had ever seen.
The dining room table set below wooden beams running the length of the room. At one end, a very nice bar area and beside that a cobblestone fireplace with a huge steelhead, a true world record. To the left, a wooden staircase. We went upstairs to our luxurious rooms with huge beds, a lounge area and did I mention the hot tub on the deck! At 6 p.m., we went downstairs for dinner. A five-course meal, prepared by two of the most talented chefs that I have ever seen. If you love food, you will love Dove Island Lodge.
After dinner, Duane Lambeth, the owner, showed me his wine cellar. It had to be one of the biggest in Alaska. It was mind blowing! I then walked down to the bar and entertainment building, had a night cap then turned in for the evening. Early the next morning, we went down to the dock to meet our captain. Captain Eric gave us a quick rundown of the boat and what to expect for the day. We shoved off and headed towards the open water. After about a two- hour ride, we were in fishing waters. They put out the rods and within five minutes, the first rod bent over “FISH ON!” A big king salmon on the end of the line! Dennis grabbed the rod with a smile on his face with the big king streaking the starboard side. Dennis moved quickly to stay with the fish. They quickly netted the fish and had it in the boat within a blink of an eye. A few minutes later, his son was fighting another king. You could feel the excitement in the air. Two big kings in the boat in 20 minutes. We then went a little farther and started picking up some nice silvers, then we were off to the halibut area where we limited out. An amazing first day! The next day, the owner Duane, flew us out in his plane to the backcountry. I was very impressed with the way that he handled the float plane. You could tell that he was a true, seasoned pilot. When we docked on the island, we unloaded the plane and had a quick safety briefing by the Head Freshwater Guide, Patrick. He then took us to an area where they had some OHVs stored. We loaded them up and 20 minutes later, we were at a nice size river. Stopping on the bridge, you could see fish holding in deep pools. All I could think was, “here we go!”, with a smile on my face.
As we grabbed the rods and walked down to the river, I knew right away it was going to be a good day. On the second cast, Dennis hollered “FISH ON!” A big Dolly! Then another and another! We moved up river and even picked up some cutthroats. It was another great day! By the time we flew back to Dove Island Lodge, it was dinnertime. It was an amazing meal, some of the best food that I have ever had.
The next few days played out just like the first two. The fishing, food and Dove Island Lodge are truly world class. This is a place that everyone should experience once in their lifetime.