Reeling ‘Em In: Mud Bay offers chance at halibut fishing — without the puking

Yesterday, I ran across some very cool couples from down San Antonio way who were travelling around the state chasing spectacular vistas and fish.

They were firing lures mainly from the shorelines of rivers and lakes but were also interested in trying their luck from the two rigid-hull inflatables they were towing around on trailers.

They had used the rigs in freshwater lakes but were apprehensive about saltwater sojourns because anything higher than half-foot seas turned most of the flatlanders green as a fresh kale smoothie and transmuted the group into world-class power hurlers sporting an appalling lack of grace and accuracy when it came to hammering the water rather than their clueless spouses.

They were hoping for a tip as to where they might get the slightest shot at some fresh halibut fillets without having to hit the seafood section of some mega mart, so I suggested that they try banging some ’buts in Mud Bay and shared a story that I’ve written about before.

When I was working in the high north and still young enough to stand up without every joint in my body popping like miniature seal bombs, a fishing bro offered to take me on a halibut safari in his small skiff.

I was a bit circumspect about heading out into the bay in the modest craft until he told me that the run was only a quick jaunt from the mouth of the harbor northeast to his “clandestine hot spots.” Knowing him, if I didn’t go along, he’d flap his arms and squawk like a goosed chicken every time he ran into me in public so I signed on.

The trip turned into trips and some of the best action I’ve ever experienced with salmon rods, basic rigging and bait herring.

We’d usually head out before low slack then anchor up with a scent bag attached to the rope in about 16 feet of water to await the arrival of the tide line. As the current started to roll, so did the action. The fish were undersized at first, but still nifty to catch and release with the tackle we were using.

Things got more exciting as the water level changed and more fish swept into the area attracted by our submerged odiferous gunk bag and bait fish schools.

Slamming 10 to 40-pound flatfish with salmon tackle in shallow water is addicting. There’s no heavy haul up because all they can do is run straight away from you at high speed and the fight is on. They’ll even rocket out of the water like silvers occasionally, but mostly it’s similar to tangling with a king.

I told them to search for significant drop-off holes and anchor up on the edge because the halibut will lurk under the lips of the slopes to ambush prey being carried along with the tide.

I warned them not to expect too much this time of year because the seabirds haven’t been pounding bait balls yet inside the Mud. They mulled over their options and decided to take a crack at least nailing something within a few minutes of land while ensuring their consumed snacks didn’t end up as projectile threats to innocent sea creatures cruising the area.

Well, the Texans did just fine and emailed me that they had boarded three flats that evening weighing 11 to 18 pounds, and they only thing they hurled were expletives when they lost a ’but, then added how much they are enjoying Alaska.

I’ll bet they are. It has to be great to be able to finally stretch out and move around a bit when you are in a state twice as big as the one you came from.

Now let’s take a look at some off the state’s weekly fishing report for Week of July 9 – July 15.

Freshwater fishing

Dolly Varden counts into the Anchor River have really increased over the last few days which should improve fishing. Early morning or during the last couple hours of the incoming tide are the best times to take a crack at them. Try using beads, streamers, small spinners and spoons.

Saltwater fishing

Salmon

King trolling has remained slow with the blackmouths being scattered throughout Kachemak Bay.

Fishing the nearshore waters near Whiskey Gulch in Cook Inlet has also been slow for those chasing chinook.

Anglers are intercepting large numbers of pink salmon in the Point Pogibshi area. Well, isn’t that special? The average IQs of the ocean critters swimming around out there just plummeted to near zero.

There are sockeye accessible in both China Poot Bay and Tutka Bay Lagoon and weighted-hook flingers are having moderate success with snagging. Pinks are also starting to arrive in Tutka Bay lagoon to annoy the reds.

Halibut

Halibut fishing has continued to be good in offshore locations in Cook Inlet and outer Kachemak Bay. Some patient piscatorians have had success within Kachemak Bay east of the Homer spit.

A hunk of herring on a circle hook is the standard approach to luring in the flats, but lead-head jigs with grub tails tipped with obnoxious smelling fish-gork will enhance your chances of enticing the ’buts to take part in a fine dining experience.

Action at the Nick Dudiak Lagoon has gone to slow simmer after the Snagamania Fest ended at midnight of the seventh.

The Hole’s mayor, Tom, reports that some guys were catching silvers on outside and in the channel on Sunday. The coho are running a bit small at around 4-5 pounds. Some jumpers looked to be 8-plus pounds, and there is still a herd of nice kings swimming around escorted by numerous jacks.

The silver run is slowly picking up, so hopefully a big pulse is on its way and the lagoon won’t start steaming in this heat. This is not the way to enjoy poached salmon.

Other

China Poot personal use dipnet fishery has been jumpin’ for most residents making the trip across Kachemak Bay. The action should continue to fire on all cylinders over the next week.

Jig popping on the outer North Gulf Coast last week for lingcod was sweet with some nice butt-uglies landed. If you make the trip, expect to catch rockfish and halibut while drifting for lingcod over rock pinnacles. It’s hard to beat that scenario.

Emergency Orders

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.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-12-19 restricted fishing gear to only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure in the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River through July 15.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-11-19 limited the fishing season on the Anchor River in the beginning of the season and it is currently closed to king fishing. The Anchor River opened to all species, except kings, on July 1.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-13-19 reduced the chinook bag and possession limits in the Ninilchik River to one hatchery king 20 inches or greater in length through July 15.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-14-19 combined the annual limit for king salmon to two king salmon 20 inches or greater in length from the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Ninilchik, and all marine waters south of the latitude of the mouth of the Ninilchik River to the latitude of Bluff Point. For additional information, please contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Homer office at 907-235-8191.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if you have any tips, tales or snarky comments about bait stealing pinks.

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