Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Know your fish and avoid encounters with the wildlife troopers

Fish and game handbook has pictures to help identify species.

Recent scouting forays to area cleaning stations have revealed that some remedial education in species identification might be helpful to those wrangling over what they’ve actually caught. Such de-escalation is especially essential before the fillet knives start flying on the processing tables.

Know your fish, especially with the plethora (boatload) of species available in Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet and their fresh water tributaries.

Last week I was asked to help settle a mild dispute between visiting anglers as to what the limit was on the silvers they had in their coolers. Fortunately, they were one under. Unfortunately, they had pinks. Fortunately, they had a great sense of humor and, with a bit of tutoring, ended up with some silvers to add to their pink pile.

It’s not all that unusual for novice anglers to be unable to quickly tell the difference between the two species if they are caught in the salt. But add an equivalent lack of knowledge when it comes to discerning the distinction between chum from sockeye, or steelhead from silvers, then a compassionate intervention is called for before a law enforcement officer steps in to discuss bail options.

I learned a long time ago to avoid arguments and accompanying death stares associated with this topic by keeping a copy of an Alaska Fish and Game’s sports fishing regulations summary in my truck.

It showcases first-rate color pictures of salmon, trout and other species commonly found in Alaska waters along with multicolored pics of rockfish and additional saltwater species including halibut and other edible delights.

Note: A profound exception to the term “edible delight” is the Arrowtooth Flounder which features meat that, when it gets anywhere near cookware, has the propensity to mutate into an unpalatable guck or a slurry concoction that would gag a Tasmanian devil.

If you already possess the multi-section Southcentral Sports Fishing Regulations Summary booklet, check out pages 86 through 90 where disagreements, potential brawls and idiotic bets can be settled without damaging vulnerable body parts and/or egos.

Caution: If you decide to offer pictorial proof confirming that your classification of the species is correct, make sure that the person you are debating perceives just you, and not a set of twins. Arguing with a brain powered by a 12-pack makes about as much sense as anchovies on a chocolate caramel cheese cake.

Now it’s time to take a look at the fishing report for the week of Aug. 10.

Freshwater Fishing

All sections of the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Stariski Creek, and the Ninilchik River remain open to sport fishing. You may not fish for salmon above the 2-mile marker in the streams, and gear is limited to single-hook and no bait above those markers.

The lower section of the Ninilchik remains open to hatchery kings but closed to the taking of the wild ones. Check out the emergency order at the end of this report for more info. All other streams are closed to king fishing, period.

Silver counts are on the rise through the Anchor River weirs, but it’s still early in the run. The coho believe that the most important meal of the day is breakfast, so hit them at the first glisten of dawn when they get their serious bite on or when they are riding the incoming tides in the lower sections of Anchor River, Deep Creek or Ninilchik River.

The coho counts for the Anchor River are posted on the Fish Counts website. Small numbers of dollies and pinks are passing through the lower sections daily. The Anchor River daily dolly tallies are also posted on the Fish Counts website. Anglers have been having limited luck finding dollies in the upper section of the Anchor this year.

Don’t forget that the Homer Reservoir is a super spot to take kids to fish for dollies. The critters are small but abundant. Spinner casting will get it done in style.

Saltwater Fishing


The halibut bite is rolling along in “fair” gear throughout Kachemak Bay and Lower Cook Inlet. The tides were fairly large throughout the week, so anchoring on the slack gave more time to fish without the bait taking off toward Mount Augustine.

Both drifting and anchoring can work to catch halibut. It works the other way too, ya know.

King Salmon

Trolling for kings continues to be an uphill grind, but the tenacious and hardcore hunters are still nailing the fish scattered throughout K-Bay.

Pernicious pinks have brought in more reinforcements to effectively lower the average IQ of Kachemak Bay’s denizens of the deep. Throw out some bait between Seldovia and Flat Island and they’ll descend on it like blood starved mosquitoes in the arctic tundra. Boats chasing kings need to set their gear much deeper to get below the wandering mobs of vacuous humpies.

Coho Salmon

Trollers have been picking up silvers around the Homer Spit or Point Pogibshi. Small thin blade spoons or troll size herring are simple but effective lures for the sky climbing beauties.

Coho fishing has been fair to good at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, especially just as dawn begins to open its eyes around daybreak or on the incoming tides. The outer beach can heat up too when the sea retreats.

Plug cut herring or small cluster of salmon eggs under a bobber work well. Casting silver chrome blue Vibrax spinners with an easy retrieve can stir up some action.

Sockeye Salmon

There are reds built up in the saltwater just before China Poot Creek for snagging. Snagging tends to be best before a high tide flood all the way up to the markers denoting the beginning of China Poot Creek.

Personal Use

The China Poot Personal Use dipnet fishery has been extended through Sunday, Aug. 15. There are still plenty of sockeye in China Poot to dipnet. The fish are in good condition and most haven’t begun to turn or deteriorate yet. There are very few to no pink salmon present, but please remember you must release them unharmed, although under the breath swearing is tolerated if you do capture one in a dipnet.

Emergency Orders

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-18-21 increases the hatchery king salmon bag and possession limits in the Ninilchik River from one fish to two fish 20” or greater in length and removes the annual limit effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 12 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, 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 if he isn’t busy out teaching a new vocabulary to an errant humpy befouling his net.

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