“It's not a party until someone gets pinched!” ~ Andy Read all about The Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour, Ketchikan, Alaska – one of the best shore excursions that you can book on your next cruise to Alaska.
Karlynn and I aren't usually big on shore excursions when we cruise; because it's typically cheaper to make the arrangements ourselves; but as huge fans of The Deadliest Catch, we couldn't miss out on an opportunity to go on board one of the vessels from the show.
The Aleutian Ballad was part of season 2 of the show and has since been converted into a tour vessel with seats for guests and an experienced (and entertaining) crew all with the goal of showing you how things work and letting you experience some of the awesome creatures in Alaskan waters.
Now let's talk about the ship for a second. This beast is fully equipped with lower and upper deck seating (I believe the boat has seats for just over 130 people). It doesn't matter where you sit, all of the seats are amazing.
Furthermore, these guys are prepared for everything. They have tons of warm jackets on board that you can borrow if you get cold, heaters they can turn on if necessary and more life jackets than you can shake a stick at (you don't need to wear them when you board, they are just present if needed for emergencies).
For those of you who have pathetic excuses for bladders (like me), you will be glad to know there are washrooms on board the ship (I believe I counted 3) all of which are spotless. Yes, you heard me correctly… spotless washrooms on a fishing boat. Who knew?
There's also free coffee and hot chocolate on board as well as a full gift shop with snacks (popcorn, chips, chocolate bars to name a few) so you won't go thirsty or hungry. Seriously, these guys have thought of everything.
In addition, in front of the lower seating, there is a large aquarium (you can see it in the picture above) where they place some of their catch so you can see them before they are safely released back into the Alaskan waters.
I should also mentioned that they do their fishing in the protected waters near Annette Island which they have been given permission to fish as long as they release what they catch.
Alaska is such a beautiful place. Seriously, pictures don't do it justice.
Below, you'll see Dave, one of the fishermen and crew, preparing a ring of hooks which he then set out to see what they could catch.
As the boat headed out, they pulled in some lines which they had left out earlier in the day so we could see what they had caught. Amongst the fish they brought in were a Ratfish (yes, there is such a thing) and this stunning Rockfish pictured below. While they can't pass around fish to people for obvious reasons, they do make sure everyone gets to see them as well as tell you all about the species.
Following these we sat along the shore of Annette Island while they threw small bait fish out for bald eagles. There must have been 15-20 of these beauties just waiting to be fed. They came in fast dive bombing the water to pluck the fish out and several caught them in mid air. We were lucky enough that one of the pictures actually wasn't bad. These birds were so fast it was virtually impossible to get a good shot.
We literally sat there for 10 minutes or so watching the eagles dive in and fly around loading up on the fish Dave threw for them. It was a beautiful and amazing experience that you absolutely must try for yourself!
We then began the crab fishing experience which consisted of hooking and pulling up crab pots… just as they do in the Bering Sea. They made sure to show us exactly how everything works, explain how dangerous things can get and it truly was fascinating to watch them work.
Once they pulled up the crab pots using the huge pulley system pictured above (that's the technical term.. lol)… they pulled out several crabs and passed them around the upper and lower decks for everyone to hold.
Every single person had a chance to hold the live crab and take as many pictures as they wanted before they were released back.
With these guys we were told to hold their legs together so they couldn't get us with their nasty, nasty little claws.
Then there were these little guys, which I believe are called Rock crabs (?) although to be honest I can't exactly remember. What I do remember is that you are supposed to hold them like a sandwich (in the middle). I was surprised how soft their underbelly was. Also, is it just me or does the guy on the left look like he's fantasizing about how he'd cook it?
There were even a couple of these delicious looking morsels in the cages that came up, so they got passed around too.. sadly not on skewers though as we had to put them back.
I couldn't believe how big they were. Man, I could get used to fishing in Alaska real quick. There might also have been a giant octopus pulled out (which we didn't get photographed) that was held up and shown to everyone. Amazing stuff.
Fishing aside though, the other great part of the tour was Andy, pictured below.
Seriously. Dude has been through some seriously crazy scenarios and as we headed back, he made sure to keep us all thoroughly entertained with his stories of his time on the Bering Sea and his life growing up fishing. He is an amazing story teller and between the crew and the fishing, this is an absolute MUST do if your ship docks in Ketchikan.
The crew, Andy and Dave – pictured above, did an incredible job of keeping us entertained with stories of their fishing careers (and lives in general) as well as plenty of humor and anecdotes. These are two very seasoned fishermen who have experienced many traumatic and amazing experiences throughout their lives. They were absolutely an integral part of the tour and if they ever read this, thanks guys.. you rock!
In case you couldn't tell, Karlynn and I had an absolute blast. It was easily the best tour we've ever been on. We loved it so much, we plan on booking another cruise so we can go back and take the kids. That was, honestly, the only sad part of the experience.. I couldn't help thinking about how much my kids would be freaking out about how awesome it was. Oh well, guess that warrants another cruise! Poor me.
If you want to learn more about this tour or book it (seriously guys, book it) check out their website: Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour
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