Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Homer Spit looking like its own self again

Chinook fishing looks good in the fishing hole — but watch out for those seals.

Update: Due to low king salmon returns, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed king salmon fishing in salt waters near the Anchor River and has closed all sport fishing in the Anchor River and Deep Creek. See further information below.

The Homer Spit was beginning to look like its old self again over the Memorial Day weekend when it hosted the bright smiles of first-time visitors, returnees and locals brave enough to negotiate the traffic.

The beach areas and docks were bristling with sport seekers armed with freshly oiled reels, new line, hooks and poles featuring unsnapped tips and functional eyelets not secured with Duct Tape, unlike the gear stuffed in the back of my pickup.

I’m not ashamed of my antique rigs and setups even though one of my line-flinging buddies claims it’s the reason I usually fish the dusky silver skies of night and the creeping red-gold of dawn.

Not true. That’s when the fish tend to get nasty and the fight’s on to see if my rod can make it another season without morphing into a short stick modeling a Gorilla-glued reel. Hey, 21 years and counting.

To change the subject, the kings continue to build a presence in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

Last week’s high tides gave a boot to their scaly butts and moved new arrivals inside.

They’ve been striking with the tide changes and when the sun seeks sanctuary for the evening or stretches its rays in the dawning hours.

They have a thing for taking a shot at silver bladed, blue bell, Vibrax spinners and other flashy paraphernalia such as orange beaded Flash and Glos with various flasher accents.

Of course, herring under a bobber remains a killer lure, especially when it’s plug-cut small enough for a king to chow down without fear of unhinging its jaw.

The semisecret, smack down, bait remains modest chunks of mackerel, also loitering a couple of feet below a bobber.

Remember, kings are notoriously light biters, so if your float submarines, let it run before setting the hook. I usually do a slow count to five to make sure the fish has committed and the hook will engage rather than be pulled away.

Suggestion: If you land one, quickly bleed the beast. Don’t leave it exposed on the bank to slow roast until only a seagull with a death wish would pick at the mush.

More about the lagoon later.

Now it’s time for the fishing report for the week of June 1.

Freshwater Fishing

The Ninilchik River will open to sport fishing on Saturday, June 5 through June 7. The kings have started to return to these streams in low numbers but should continue to improve over the next week.

As of May 31, only 90 kings have been counted compared to 214 by this time last year.

Update: On June 3, ADF&G issued a notice closing the Anchor River and Deep Creek drainages to all sport fishing effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 5 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 15, 2021.

“As of June 1, 2021, a total of 127 king salmon had been counted on the Anchor River using a combination of video weirs and sonar. By this date, in years when the Anchor River sustainable escapement goal (SEG: 3,800-7,600 king salmon) was not achieved, an average of 300 king salmon had been counted,” the notice read. “Based on the 2018-2020 Anchor River king salmon run timing, the escapement is projected to be less than 2,000 kings in 2021.”

“This year’s Anchor River king salmon run does not look strong enough to support further sport fishing opportunities this season,” stated Area Management Biologist Mike Booz in the notice. “Closing these streams to sport fishing, along with the nearshore closure in the Upper Cook Inlet salt waters, will give us the best chance of achieving the escapement goals.”

Thanks to Mother Nature’s watering her Kenai Peninsula gardens, the Anchor River and Deep Creek are experiencing high and muddy water conditions that will limit the effectiveness of gear. Hard to hit what you can’t see, so expect slow fishing. If things clear up, try size-5 spinners or small plugs to get a king’s strike blood up. See emergency order 2-KS-7-09-21 regarding fishing gear restrictions later.

In the Ninilchik River, water conditions are better and more favorable. The best fishing is usually in the early morning hours, but give the harbor a shot with spinners at high tide for the new comers. Also, try fishing with salmon roe clusters suspended close to the bottom for hatchery king salmon. See emergency order 2-KS-7-10-21 regarding king salmon bag and possession limits later.

Saltwater Fishing

Halibut

Halibut fishing continues to gather steam as more flats roll in from their winter haunts.

The tidal exchanges will be more laid back this week, which should allow you more time on the hook to entice the ‘but gluttons patrolling the smorgasbord offerings of the sea bed.

Unless you have your hot spots marked, it may behoove you to try drifting around in various locations to find the fish before anchoring. Or, you can just sit there like some dipstick who couldn’t win a Tic Tac Toe match with a sculpin and watch your bait dissolve.

The Compass Rose area is usually a pretty cool place to find some steady action this time of year.

Ya gotta love herring on a circle hook when it comes as an enticement for halibut, but octopus, salmon heads and various jigs work well. If you can find them, all white jigs with red beady eyes can really stir things up. Remember, I said, “can.”

King Salmon

Trolling for chinook was pretty fair in K-Bay last week and the fish were dispersed throughout its environs.

Anglers had less stellar luck in tracking down the kings in the nearshore waters of Upper Cook Inlet. It always helps to fish the early morning hours when the blackmouth are more active.

Update: On June 3, ADF&G issued a notice closing sport fishing for king salmon within 1-mile of shore in the saltwaters of Cook Inlet north of the latitude of Bluff Point (59° 40.00’ N. lat.). This regulatory change is effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 5 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 15, 2021.

More on the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon:

There will be a youth only fishery area established across from the entrance on Saturday, June 5.

As of June 2, the #4 and #5, Vibrax spinners continue to rule the catch out there.

Some jacks have shown up, and most kings are running the gamut from 7 to 16 pounds, with one fish hitting scales at 21 pounds.

The most action seems to be around low tide, just before the flood, or the early morning hours. You have options.

Last week’s large tides kept their promise of more fish, but were jerks for bringing along five to seven seals to rip the fish a new one and put a major damper on the bite.

The first batch of coho smolt were released two weeks ago and the king salmon smolt are scheduled this week or next.

Sadly, the scofflaws are back. Maybe they don’t have a clue that they are required to record kings 20 inches or more. Even some snaggers have shown up with weighted treble hooks. Not cool, but some ticket time would be.

Chinook have also started to return to the Seldovia Slough and are moving in and out with high tide. Try drifting salmon roe clusters or running plugs from the bridge. Casting spinners from shore should be effective in the lagoon area.

Here are the Emergency Orders promised earlier.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-10-21 reduced the king salmon bag and possession limits in the Ninilchik River to one hatchery king salmon 20 inches or greater in length through 11:59 p.m. Monday, June 14, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-09-21 restricted fishing gear to only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure in the Anchor River and Deep Creek drainages through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-08-21 reduced the king salmon annual limit north of Bluff Point from five to two fish through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-RCL-7-04-21 and 2-RCL-7-05-21 closed all EASTSIDE Cook Inlet beaches to clamming for all species from the mouth of the Kenai River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit in 2021.

Until next week …

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t triaging his fishing gear before another run at the kings.

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