Exclusive: Halibut Fishing with Montana Veterans in Alaska
What a week. I had the honor of spending the past few days tagging along with some Montana combat veterans on a Halibut fishing trip in Alaska. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime for us all.
Our fishing boat captain Bill McCutcheon with Bottom to Top Charters says he thinks we caught 22 Halibut total over three days, and that was with some rough seas that moved in one of the days.
(Click here for Part 2 of our Alaska fishing coverage featuring the Montana veterans on the trip and some of the fish they caught)
I joked that Chris Grudzinski was our trip commander for the week. I knew Chris Grudzinski when he was an Infantry Staff Sergeant in the Montana Army National Guard's 1-163 Infantry Battalion shortly after both of our tours in Iraq. You know him through his efforts starting up the Montana Veterans Meat Locker. He's organized these trips for Montana veterans going on 5 years now.
Chris Grudzinksi quote about trip: We have been so fortunate with catching fish. Bill is amazing. We can't catch something at one spot, he'll take us to another. And he holds high expectations for catching this fish, but as everybody was looking around, and the views when the fog lifted, and the realization kind of was hitting in with guys of- 'I'm in Alaska, look at this view, look at this water, on this boat, these guys that we're hanging out with.' This is a once in a lifetime experience. And it's truly a bucket list that the words again don't express how great this is for everybody.
Here is the first haul of halibut the Montana veterans brought in on the first day thanks to fellow veteran Bill McCutcheon.
Bill spends about half his time in Yakutat, Alaska and the other half in Roundup, Montana. He and his wife Tammie and their incredible kids operate Bottom to Top Charters out of the small fishing village of Yakutat.
Here's Bill with his "Show Girl" fishing vessel in the background.
Bill McCutcheon describing Yakutat, Alaska: To describe this. Breathtaking. Some of the tallest mountains in the Northern hemisphere. Some of the best fish in the country. Have it all in one place- it's unreal.
As we started our first day of fishing Halibut, it reminded me of how an experienced Walleye fisherman might fish Walleye back home in Montana.
Bill McCutcheon describing Halibut fishing: We're using essentially the same type of stuff. We're just using a lot of big jigs and bait. It's really comparable to the same type of fish and same structure. You're looking for the same type of water conditions, it's just on steroids in a sense.
For five years now Bill and his wife Tammie have donated this trip for Montana veterans. Tammie told us she wants others, especially veterans, to see what she fell in love with in Alaska and in Yakutat. (I joked with her if she was talking about Bill or Yakutat)
Tammie McCutcheon on Yakutat: We get a group that is brand new- whether it's a family that they've saved up to come to Alaska and they get off that plane and they're in awe or the veteran group...they've surely never been to Yakutat...it reminds me what I fell in love with and I absolutely love that rejuvenation. To me it's like, 'okay, I got to not take for granted what I get to see every day because I am very lucky. And so that's it. That's a huge thing is to be able to share Yakutat with people.
By the way, if you'd like to hear more about the trip- we'll have a special 4th of July show on Monday's "Montana Talks with Aaron Flint" between 9 and 10 a.m.
Check out part 2 of our coverage featuring the Montana veterans on the trip and some of the fish they caught.
Big thanks to Chris Grudzinski with the Montana Veterans Meat Locker for letting us tag along on the trip. A big thank you to Leonard's Landing for the fish processing as well.