Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Labor Day tourism was slow, but fishing was smokin’ hot

Over the Labor Day weekend, the Homer Spit looked as though the holiday had been over for a month.

The lack of RVs, tents and relentless traffic was a strange sight, but foreseeable, because of a relentlessly aggressive beast known as the Swan Lake Fire and the dense, smoky-fingered, stranglehold it had on the throat of the Sterling from the Seward Highway to Mile 71 Sterling Highway.

For many of those who braved the trip down or stuck around to fish, their gamble paid off.

Numerous charters and private boats slammed the silvers, rockfish, a few wandering kings and, of course, our infamous, beer-batter-doomed, halibut.

For the river hunters on the Anchor, things finally hit high gear when some coho became fed up with cruising the mouth’s hood and invaded up stream. Mix that stampede with a feeding frenzy of dollies and matters shot to deep-fryer hot for a while.

We are now entering that time of year where things dramatically wind down as the last of the Lower 48 road warriors slide over the southern horizon and our northern neighbors begin to nest themselves into a pre-hibernation mode, storing tackle and organizing their sanctums into miniature NFL stadiums while prospecting personal cubbyholes and backyard sheds for winter playtime gear and snow toys.

That’s cool because it leaves a lot more room for our hard-core locals who realize that’s there’s still some excellent fishing left.

Now, before we drop in on this week’s fishing report, I’d like to honor a promise made to J. D. Landsky from Louisiana who asked if we could reprint some humorous quotes about fishing that we published a few years back. No problem J.D.; here ya go:


“Since 3/4 of the earth’s surface is water and 1/4 land, it’s perfectly clear the good Lord intended that man spend three times as much time fishing as he does plowing.” – Unknown

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” – Doug Larson

“No man has ever caught a fish bigger than the one that got away.” – Remy Walsh

“Most fishermen swiftly learn that it’s a pretty good rule never to show a favorite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife.” – John Voelker

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” – Steven Wright

“Fly fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.” – Ed Zernuni

“Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.” – Unknown

And finally:

John Steinbeck once said, “It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.”


Now it’s time to take a look at report for the week of Sept. 3-9.

Freshwater Fishing

Coho fishing in the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers, and Deep Creek has slowed after a nice uptick last week. Try just after the incoming tide or early in the morning. The water is still extremely low, so try size 3 or 4 spinners.

Hit the early morning for hungry schools of dollies. Pegged beads, little spinners and spoons will do the job just fine. Varden are mostly schooled up in the Anchor around the upstream sections near Black Water Bend and further upstream near the bridge on the south end of the North Fork Road.

There haven’t been a lot of reports of steelhead trout yet, but some locals and guides have spotted a few in the Anchor River. The steelies should be upping their game and start motoring up these streams throughout the next couple weeks. Expect steelhead fishing to peak in mid-September and continue through October. Beads pegged above a hook is the most popular way to target them, but jigs fished under a bobber or swinging flies can be very effective as well.

Saltwater Fishing


Trolling for kings and silvers remained more than respectable near Silver Ridge during the last week. If things get a bit slow, try various set ups to see what’ll snare the picky eaters’ interest at the moment. Give a shot at trolling without a flasher, using spoons and herring with various the lengths of leader. A shorter leader will produce a tighter, faster action behind a flasher than a long leader will.


Halibut are still hanging around and being caught closer to the Spit and in the inner bay, but the most consistent fishing is still in outer Kachemak Bay, in Cook Inlet, and around the corner from Point Pogibshi. Using a chum bag can give the ’buts a serious case of the munchies.

Herring on a circle hook still rules as the most popular flat whacker but jigs work well if you know how use them. A little movement will do wonders. That means keeping the jig active, not reaching for another brew.

Other Saltwater Fishing

Lingcod and nonpelagic rockfish hunters are continuing to journey well outside of Kachemak Bay for dependable takes. Many lingcod chasers nail them by drifting over rocky pinnacles with jigs.

Black rockfish can be caught by jigging and trolling near prominent points of land, with larger fish and more consistent fishing near Point Pogibshi and beyond. Pelagic rockfish can also often be found near Bluff Point and Dimond Creek.

Emergency Orders

Please review the Emergency Orders and News Releases below in their entirety before heading out on your next fishing trip.

• Emergency Order 2-RCL-7-01-19 and 2-RCL-7-02-19 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 for 2019.

For additional information, please contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Homer office at 907-235-8191.

Nick can be reached at if you have any tips, tales, or insights as to what may have happened to all of those silvers we were expecting to roll into the Nick Dudiak Lagoon this summer. No more alien abduction theories involving extra-terrestrial sushi restaurant owners please, Marty. Try cutting back on your happy pipe, ‘K?

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