Hooked on Adventure: Why You Should Fish During Your Alaska Vacation
We asked Steve Zernia, founder and owner of ProFish-N-Sea Charters about snagging huge halibut, his love of fishing, and his zeal for Alaska.
Steve runs ProFish-N-Sea charters, which has been operating salmon and halibut fishing charters out of Seward since 1994. We caught up with him to ask some questions.
Alaska.org: How does fishing complete an Alaska vacation?
Steve: The sport of fishing is such a thrill by itself, but in Alaska you also get to enjoy the scenery and wildlife like whales, otters, seals, sea lions, and sea birds while you’re angling. Fishing helps get you out of your comfort zone, especially fishing for huge halibut! It’s always empowering to try something new, especially something new in a new place. Or even if you're not new to fishing, it's still a fun, challenging experience that adds a layer of accomplishment to a vacation. It's an active experience. You DID something.
What is it you love about fishing?
Just being out on the water, in nature, catching fish. The excitement of fishing comes from never knowing what you’re going to catch. Salmon fishing is fun, and with halibut you don’t know how big it’s going to be. Also love finding other creatures on your line, like octopus, wolf eels, various types of rockfish, lingcod, and skates.
What’s the biggest fish you’ve ever guided a customer to catch?
A massive, 333-pound halibut! Actually, you never would have guessed it was as big as it was, since it didn’t fight that hard. When it came up it blew us away. But sometimes it’s less about the weight: I also guided a customer to a 290-pound halibut that fought super hard, getting back to the bottom of the ocean multiple times. It was an hour-long fight to land it. We don’t always keep these big fish; some we release—after getting some good pictures, of course!—which is just as rewarding.
What else gives you a thrill while fishing?
Seeing someone catch a fish for the first time! In addition to savvy anglers, we also get lots of rookies, and witnessing their excitement when they catch a fish for the first time, it really brings us back to why we do what we do.
When did you start fishing, and the guiding?
I grew up in Anchorage. My parents had a boat in Seward and my uncle had a charter boat there as well, so fishing there during the summertime was my passion, my whole life. I started chartering in 1994 when I was 21 years old. Over the years I’ve met so many wonderful people.
What’s a typical day like out on the water?
We mostly do full-day trips. Everyone brings their own food and beverages and we provide expertise and high-quality gear. You’ll motor 1 to 2.5 hours from Seward out to the Gulf of Alaska aboard a 10-passenger or 6-passenger boat that’s custom-built for Alaskan halibut and salmon fishing. There are enclosed, heated cabins, bathrooms, and walk-around decks, so you can easily chase your fish around the boat. It’s not all hard-core fishing: on our Fish & Fjords trip you also focus on the glaciers and wildlife around Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s great for someone who may be short on time but still wants to see the scenery and catch some fish.
What sets your business apart?
We’re very detail-oriented, and I make sure my captains—and myself—have downtime so we stay fresh and can bring our A-game to every outing. Many customers have told us that their day of fishing is the day of their vacation they remember the most, so we want to give them a great experience.
How do these values influence the overall experience for customers?
We get a lot of return customers—some who have fished with me for almost 20 years! They end up feeling almost like family.
How does the company engage with and contribute to the local community in Seward?
One effort we’re proud of is donating boats to the combat fishing tournament put on by the Armed Services YMCA In Seward every year. Some of the service members who go out have never been out on the ocean. It’s always great fun.
What do you do in the off-season?
I try to go somewhere warm to fish, like Australia, Hawaii, Florida, or Panama. It always helps to see how other people guide their fishing trips—and to have someone else bait my hook for a change!
What are your plans for the company’s future
You know, we started small and today we have 4 boats for 3–6 passengers as well as a 10-passenger boat. We’ve also had some really great captains over the years. Besides wanting to maintain a healthy fishery, I’d love in the future to sell boats to my captains so they can continue the job of sharing Alaska this way. But that’s still years and years down the road. I’ve got a lot of time left!
Go Fishing with Pro-Fish-N-Sea! Trips run from mid-May through September. Learn more about their trips here.