Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Salty fisherman gives snaggers an earful

Don’t cross ol’ Willie when confronted about dubious fishing methods.

Update: This story has been updated to include an announcement that snagging will open at noon Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and adjacent waters.

Last weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to run across some old friends from my high arctic prowling days, Blackjack and Linda S., who had just set up their Taj Mahal of a camping rig in a slot at the fishing lagoon’s campground.

It had been over five years since we last fished together, and they ended up smoking north with coolers full of fillets and smiles as big as their motorhome’s windshield.

While scouting the cleaning tables, I spotted Turk visiting the couple standing adjacent to a rig massive enough to serve as an alternative landing site for a Coast Guard rescue chopper.

As I rolled up to the lodge-on-wheels, I picked up the rumble of Turk’s voice and raucous laughs of Blackjack and Linda.

Turk was re-counting a rather heated engagement our gray-weathered bud, Willie, got into at the pond prior to their arrival. Willie isn’t easy to get along with sometimes and could start an argument during a Quaker quilting bee, so I was hoping that the rowdy discourse wasn’t something he stirred up.

Not quite.

Willie became fed up with one of the snaggers ripping at the kings and approached the miscreant who had flipped him a rather impolite digital-signal after Willie politely informed him that he was fishing illegally.

Ole Willie, who is just the downside of 80, became a bit red under the collar and asked the gent why in the hell was he using a snagging rig that was a cheesy set-up for boneheads who have the fishing skills of a sloth on meds.

The guy suggested Willie do something physically impossible to himself and went on to whine that he hadn’t caught anything anyway because his leader kept snapping off and pointed to fish swimming around dragging lines and lures in their backs.

Well, that retort set Willie on “steam,” and he lit into the dipstick, growling the fish had to be hooked in the mouth and asked, “What’s next, dip netting and skeet guns when the silvers start firing out of the water? Check out those chinooks down there. Once you and the rest of these daycare dropouts get through with them, they’ll be lugging around so many hooks that you’ll be able to dangle their skins from your campervan antenna and catch up on local news from your hometown in Dickweed, Mississippi.”

The gentleman stormed off, and Willie went back to his sitting bucket, and a plug cut herring floating beneath a steelhead bobber. He had his limit an hour after low tide.

The last time Turk spotted the disgruntled scofflaw, he was sitting on a log, gnawing on a Spam sandwich while nursing his ego and a shot of Black Label, watching Willie haul in two beauties that the guy would have never landed with his light line set-up in the first place.

It’s time now for this week’s fishing report for the week of June 22.

Freshwater Fishing

The Ninilchik River is open to fishing for hatchery king salmon for the rest of the season. The bag and possession limits were increased for hatchery king salmon from one to two fish, and there is no annual limit.

Drifting eggs under a bobber is your best shot, but they’ll also lay a lip on plug-cut herring, spinners, plugs and flies.

Fresh kings continue to join the river run each day when the tide arrives, but the action has only been fair due to mud crawling slow. Take a crack at fishing the lower river as the tide recedes or during the early yawn of dawn.

Saltwater Fishing

Halibut

Halibut fishing continues to keep its fire burning with bigger slabs hitting the decks.

The marine weather forecast looks good for the beginning of the week in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. This should give halibut hunters a chance to high-tail it out to more distant, offshore locations. If you do a little research, you can map out spots to seek sanctuary and still nail flats on rougher days inside Kachemak Bay near the Islands, in Tutka Bay and Mud Bay.

King Salmon

Trolling for kings was reasonable to downright respectable in Kachemak Bay last week, and the chromes remained spread out throughout the bay. There were frequent strikes at Point Pogibshi and Bluff Point.

The large tides this week can make trolling a challenge in the middle of the tidal exchange. Troll the same direction as the tide.

There are still a decent number of blackmouths motoring around the lagoon along with some fresh fish showing up with the tides. Action has begun to slow, and the older fish that survived those ravenous @$$#**+^ seals are starting to develop a blush to add to their wardrobe of fashionable hook displays.

One sockeye was caught over the weekend, and more jacks are taking a line-ride to shore. No cohos yet. Best fishing has been in the early morning hours using size 4 or 5 spinners, but herring hasn’t lost its appeal nor has cuts of oily mackerel.

The Seldovia slough and lagoon are still kicking out kings. Drifting roe clusters rules the catch along with running plugs from the bridge.

Update: Snagging will open at noon Friday, June 25, through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and adjacent waters excluding the Homer Boat Harbor. The areas open to snagging includes the Lagoon and the waters from the Homer city dock (near the entrance to the Homer Boat Harbor) northwest along the east side of the Homer Spit to an ADF&G marker located approximately 200 yards northwest of the entrance to the Lagoon, and 300 feet from the shore. The waters open to snagging do not include the Homer Boat Harbor. The Homer Barge Basin approximately 0.5 miles northwest of the Lagoon is closed to all sport fishing by regulation.

“This will give anglers a greater chance this weekend of harvesting the buildup of king salmon that are currently in the Lagoon” stated Area Management Biologist Mike Booz.

All other regulations remain in effect. This includes the bag limit and possession limit of two king salmon of any size. Anglers are also reminded that king salmon 20 inches or longer that are harvested in the Lagoon are included in the Cook Inlet annual limit of five king salmon and must immediately be recorded in ink on the angler’s license or on a harvest record card.

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-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 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-17-21 closes sport fishing for king salmon within one mile of shore in the salt waters of Cook Inlet north of the latitude of Bluff Point (59° 40.00’ N. lat.). This regulatory change is effective through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 15, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-16-21 closes the Anchor River and Deep Creek to all sport fishing effective through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 15, 2021.

Emergency Order 2-KS-7-08-21 reduced the king salmon annual limit north of Bluff Point from five to two fish effective 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, Turk and Blackjack aren’t busy making sure Wild Willie doesn’t get into anymore dust ups with certain lunkheads at the lagoon. He’s too old to fight, although he does have a nasty bite if he remembers his dentures.

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