Travel Strategies for Simplified Travel To & From Green Rocks Lodge In Southeast Alaska?

Lots of people venture to Green Rocks Lodge near Petersburg, AK for some fishing fun in the Last Frontier. Getting you, your family and/or friends there with your luggage and then returning home with that wonderful catch can be challenging. I’ve done this successfully over the past 10 years and have settled into some strategies to minimize hassles (and costs) of overnight layovers and baggage handling. Below you will find some travel tips to help make your trip to the lodge as fun as possible.

Pack as Light as You Can-
Green Rocks Lodge is a self-guided operation. The lodge provides the various fishing gear needed to catch halibut and salmon (depending on what’s in season). So you don’t need to haul fishing gear there. I oftentimes do however because I have select rods/reels that I just enjoy fishing with. Just be mindful that once you get a good feel for things there that you can be selective of what you bring. It all adds weight to your bags and what you need to be mindful of when checking bags in and recovering them. Alaska Airlines has a fishing tackle allowance policy where they count both a tackle bag and rod tube combined, as being one baggage item.
Fishing southeast Alaska is often a “cool weather” experience. Not brutal cold, but not shorts and t-shirts. I bring 2 sets of clothes that allow me to layer for warmth or peel off as it warms up. It tends to rain often there so your clothes may get damp. The cabin heaters in your room at camp can help dry your clothes between days. Good rain gear is a must to keep you safe and comfortable. Knee-high rubber boots are helpful to allow dry access into/out of the boats for the beach launch at the lodge. With all of this in mind I’m still able to easily keep my luggage load down to one bag under the 50lb maximum before “over-weight” charges would be applied. Green Rocks offers a recommended packing list to help you on your trip there.

Traveling To Petersburg-
I live on the east coast (PA) and my annual trips to Green Rocks Lodge have been done out of the Washington DC metropolitan airports (Reagan or BWI). I have never been able to fly into Petersburg, AK on the same day that I leave the east, even when done early. We’ve laid overnight in Seattle or Juneau, AK on every trip. I’ve had fun in both layover cities so don’t despair, just do a little pre-trip research online to plan some things you like to see. I recommend Pike’s Market in Seattle (accessible by rail from the airport) and touring downtown Juneau’s shops/restaurants/bars (Uber ride from a hotel near the airport).
Here’s my main pointer when laying overnight in Seattle (more than 12 hours) since your arrival flight in. Save your baggage fee receipt that you paid for your bags flying in. Alaska Air may try to charge you to check your bags in for the second leg of your flight into Petersburg the next morning. Their policy is to charge baggage fees again for layovers in excess of 12 hours, thinking you set the travel plan to stay in the layover city that long on purpose. When I’ve checked in my bags on the second day for flight into Petersburg, I’ve explained to the attendants at the Alaska Air counter that I made my flight arrangements with the quickest route to Petersburg and that they layover was forced due to no same-day flights to Petersburg by the time my flight arrived in Seattle the day before. The attendants have always waived the baggage fee for the flight from Seattle to Petersburg.
I recommend planning to arrive in Petersburg at least a day before your scheduled week at Green Rocks Lodge. This allows for more relaxed travel and adds a cushion in case of weather delayed flights. Petersburg is a fun town to walk around the docks and shops. There are some hikes and paid tours you can try if you like (to be covered in future blogs).

Traveling Home-
This is where you want to pay attention to timing of flights. I’ve done this a few different ways and have now settled into my preferred mode that I will describe here. But let me set the stage clearly for you now as to how things will likely be for you. You will be tired after a fun full 6 days of fishing at the lodge. You will have frozen fish in tow. Taking your fish home in quality airline approved freezer boxes that Green Rocks Lodge provides is the most economical way to get your valuable catch home. These boxes will be counted as luggage (lodge staff will portion your boxes so that they do not exceed the 50 lb. limit).
First of all you can fly back home with a layover in Seattle. I don’t do this anymore if I have a choice for a red-eye flight back to the east coast. The layover in Seattle will require you to retake possession of your baggage items (fish boxes too). There is a fee-based luggage storage facility near the baggage claim area at SeaTac airport (Covid19 had the freezer storage shutdown at least temporarily last year). Going this route will have you scrambling to re-gather your luggage and freezer boxes to continue your flight home the next day. Not so fun after a short night sleep and early morning wake-up to take a shuttle ride from your hotel to the airport. If you do this then keep your baggage fee paid receipt from the return flight in from Petersburg to Seattle. Show them this receipt at the check-in counter to get the fee waived for your flight home.
My current (experienced) choice is to schedule my return trip from Petersburg back to the east coast in as quick of fashion as is possible (with least number of stops along the way). I try to target arrival back to the east coast to be within 20-24 hours of leaving Green Rocks Lodge on Friday morning. When done right, I will not have an overnight layover. By doing this, I do not have to touch my checked bags and fish boxes until I arrive at my final destination. The freezer fish boxes that Green Rocks Lodge provides for your fish are sturdy heavy-waxed coating with your fish stored in foil-bubble wrap. The fish boxes will be securely bundled with tightened nylon strapping (done by the lodge). I’ve found my fish to still be frozen upon arriving home with these boxes the next day. Light thawing of the edges of select freezer wrapped fillets has not been a problem when I’ve put them all in my home freezer for later enjoyment.
My recommendation is that while selecting your flights for the return home trip that you pick one with a total time to reach your home airport in under 24 hours with no overnight layover if at all possible. This leaves all of the baggage handling to airline staff while you try to catch some sleep on the plane ride home. You will still be tired when you get home but you will have some wonderful memories of a fun trip to the Last Frontier and some special fish fillets for you to enjoy in the year ahead.

Additional Hints-

Consider getting an Alaska Airlines credit card which allows you to build travel miles with all card purchases. It also offers a “companion-fare” discount rate of about $125 added to your regular priced airfare and allows you to take a family member/friend with you on the round trip excursion. This makes roundtrip travel for the two of you to be almost “buy one, get one”. Having the card also allows you to have the fee waived for the first baggage item of every member in your group (up to 6). Current baggage fees run $30 for the first bag and $40 the second one and $100 for each one thereafter.
If you opt to bring some fishing gear (again Green Rocks Lodge provides all the gear needed to catch fish) then know that current Alaska Airlines baggage policy for “sporting equipment” allows the traveler to count the combined baggage of a rod tube under 115” length (with 2 rods but I don’t think they count them) and a tackle box/bag as being one singular baggage item. So going there with your luggage bag plus rod tube and tackle bag will count as a total of two baggage items ($30 plus $40, with the $30 waived if you have the Alaska Air Visa card). It will be the same cost going home except the fact that you will likely have fish boxes in tow. Your third and subsequent items will all cost $100 each for baggage fees going home. Based upon personal experience, I recommend that if you decide to bring a rod tube and tackle box/bag that you save those two items as the last ones that you check in at the counter. The agent may need to be reminded of the airlines sporting-goods fishing tackle policies.