Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Nick wraps up his summer fishing column

It was a short, strange, summer but it looks like the season for doubling the layers of my rain gear has finally arrived. Soon the small puddles in the yard will grow to where they’ll experience tidal fluctuations. Ernie, our wood pile weasel, will be foraging through storm blasted alders stalking clueless rodents that think they’ve attained the safety of high ground only to discover the meaning of a “quick snack.”

River fishing is going to be tougher as the fronts blow through, accompanied by deluges temporarily raising water levels and mucking up the rivers’ clarity, but those too shall pass and the steelhead will roll in to fire things up. How so? Well, any knowledgeable stalker of this magnificent beast knows that, once a rainbow returns from the ocean and has transfigured into a steelhead, you have a turbocharged fish with the serious horsepower to rip lines and launch toward the ionosphere. OK, that was a bit much, but they are one hell of a water warrior.

Steelies take high flying aerobatics to a stunning level of brawling frenzy that my friends and family have always honored with its liberation back into the wild no matter where the battle was fought and/or release requirement required. If you have a bucket list for fishing, make sure they are on it.

It’s time now to take a look at the fishing report for the week of Sept. 1–7 and the last of the season.

Freshwater Fishing


Coho fishing has been keeping the score keeper busy in the lower section of the Anchor River. Activity may gear down a bit if the river rises after the forthcoming series of storms move through, but just have patience.

The use of bait was prohibited after Sept. 1, but spinners and flies will still entice strikes once things quiet to the point where you can identify the holes and eddies and your prey can discern what you’re flinging.

Dolly Varden

Dolly fishing on the lower Kenai Peninsula roadside streams including the Anchor River remained fair with the best action dependent on the fluctuation of the stream levels. Beads normally work the best, but give the other benchwarmers in your tackle box a crack at provoking an attack such as miniature spinners and spoons, along with succulent looking flies.


Update and tips: A few steelhead have been caught in the lower Anchor by anglers targeting silvers.

Getting a persnickety steelhead to bite is righteously tough, but you can get their attention with beads, jigs and plugs.

Steelhead have a thing for a cool looking dead drift, as well as the colors pink and purple.

Note: Dead Drifting just means letting the current control the presentation, not the fisherman or the line. You don’t strip, twitch, or add any sort of movement to the lure and the line isn’t altering the bait’s drift. Simply put, it’s just going with the flow.

A jig under a bobber is one of the easiest ways to start steelhead fishing. Swinging flies is also effective. Anchor River steelhead counts are now available on the Fish Counts webpage — only 28 have been counted so far, so it’s still a bit early.

Saltwater Fishing


Conking halibut has continued to be excellent near the mouth of Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet, and around the corner from Point Pogibshi.

If you don’t have a boat, there’s some very fine charters available in Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik.

Note: After this holiday weekend, some of the charters will be closing shop for the year, so be sure to check around for availability as the month flies by.


Believe it or not, there have been reports of excellent king catches in locations near the mouth of Kachemak Bay. Fishing with herring behind a flasher is a good hammer, but fishing with spoons is also a sound bet for fall trolling out of Homer.

Continuing to disappoint, trolling for coho remains somewhat sea slug slow in K- Bay and Cook Inlet. The best silver hunting territory has been at the mouth of Cook Inlet near Point Adam and along the Chugach Islands.

For anyone still paying attention, the coho run in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon has timed out with only confused dawdlers poking around and they are as rare as wild bison on Bishop’s Beach.

Emergency Orders

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

Emergency Order 2-RCL-7-03-20 and 2-RCL-7-04-20 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 2020.

Now, before we shut down for the year, we’d like to express a very special thank you to Mike B. and the great professionals at our local Alaska Department of Fish and Game Office, plus Kali H., the Regional Information Officer in Anchorage, for their timely updates, excellent assistance and super sense of humor. Without them, it would have been impossible to offer the breadth of coverage we were able to provide.

Of course, we cannot pull the plug without mentioning how much we appreciated the avalanche of timely and accurate information provided to our team by the unsanctioned but honorary Mayor of the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, piscatorian savant, king of the kings and all-around great guy, Tom, aka, Big “T.”

A very special thanks also to Lou, Willie, Turk, Terri and a multitude of others for their tips and tales throughout the summer.

Also, we deeply appreciate those of you who took the time to email us to express your love for our state, Homer, and how you are planning to return as soon as possible after the pandemic recedes. We are looking forward to it.

One final note: I want to express my loving gratitude to my wonderful wife, Jane, who proofreads the column and offers suggestions to keep the word police from storming the cabin and/or my editor, Michael, from having to chug a bottle of extra strength Pepto-Bismol every time he opens one of my submissions.

Now it’s time to chill the keyboard and head out to where the silvers and steelhead lurk in highly classified haunts.

Hey, it’s far from over. I’m sure there will still be a closing surge of northern visitors this weekend because the streams still hold greedy dollies, the flash of silvers, and steelhead looking for a cage fight. Weather permitting, those halibut and sea cruising salmon wouldn’t mind an end-of-season fracas either, so batten down the hatches and enjoy the good times, until we can’t.

Nick can be reached at

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