Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Try out Nick’s smokin’ salmon brine recipe

I was watching some cool looking, single engine, private jets rocketing out of the airport the other day when I realized they were a nice metaphor for how the summer is blowing through our piece of paradise.

Come on, Aug. 20 already?

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I first received reports from the Nick Dudiak Lagoon’s raconteur and self-professed mayor, Tom, that the persnickety chinooks were starting to conduct drive-by strikes. Yeah, I know, it was back in latter part of May, but still … ouch!

Since then, the column has touched on subjects ranging from salmon species recognition to a plethora of hints on where to find them, when and where, along with suggestions on techniques to entice those beauties into attacking your tantalizers. Pinks? Eh, not so much. They’ll try to follow you home, if given a chance.

This season we have had to deal with some bummer setbacks like king fishing in several freshwater streams being slammed shut tighter than a polar bear’s butt on jagged ice.

At the moment, we seem to be dealing with a silver run that may be finally picking up with the rising tides. I’m receiving reports of some nice catches in the subsistence nets during the gillnet opening and the Anchor River is showing life, especially in the glimmering pewter flush of morning. Eggs and spinners are the leading jaw grabbers. More later.

Before we jump into the deep end of this week’s fishing news, I want to honor the request of several readers who have asked for the recipe for a good dry brine that we’ve published before so, here you go.

Dry Salmon Brine

4 cups brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

¾ -1 cup rock salt

Garlic powder or crushed sprinkle over salmon

Onion powder

Lemon Pepper

And/or any other seasonings to your taste.

Mix the brown sugar, white sugar and rock salt together. Add a teaspoon (more or less) of one or all of the other seasonings.

Put a layer of salmon filets skin side down in a pan. Put a layer of the mixture on top. If you have a lot of salmon to brine you can use a deep dish and put a layer of salmon then a layer of mixture as many times as needed. Brine for at least 24 hours. The longer you brine the more flavor the salmon gets. Remove the salmon from the brine and rinse off any excess brine. Dry off the salmon with paper towels and let air dry for 10 to 30 minutes. Smoke until done to your likeness.

We have used this brine for years, thanks to Susan Hubbard’s generosity, and we constantly have to check our stash of smoked filets before company leaves in the summer. They can be a sneaky, sticky fingered lot.

Now it’s time to take a look at the fishing report for the week of Aug. 18 – Aug. 24.

Freshwater Fishing


Coho fishing has been improving and, as stated previously, hit them around the twinkle of dawn with salmon egg clusters suspended beneath a bobber or try a flashy spinner.

Anchor River silver counts are now on the Fish Counts website. On Aug. 16, 92 coho passed through for a total of 345 as of that date.

Dolly Varden

Dolly fishing on the lower Kenai Peninsula roadside streams, including the Anchor River, has been poor to fair. On the Anchor, things are looking like many of them have motored upstream. Your luck will fluctuate along with the stream levels. Beads should work best, but don’t give up on small spinners, spoons and flies.

Saltwater Fishing


Good halibut fishing hasn’t toned down much in offshore locations. Plenty of nice slabs were fought and boated during the week. I spotted some nice 30 to 40 pounders brought in from super-secret, pinkie swear, holes dimpling the bottom of Mud Bay.

If you don’t have anything resembling a viable boat, give a call to one of the outstanding charter services available out of Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik.


Trolling for coho remains a bit slow, but is picking up on Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. The best reports of silver action center around the mouth of Cook Inlet near Point Adam and along the Chugach Islands.

Since the subsistence fishery has fired up, the silver run in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon will probably deflate like a beachball smacked with a snagging hook. Knowledgeable fin stalkers will hang around for late arrivals after the nets are put to bed for another year.

Kings are still being caught in scattered areas throughout Kachemak Bay, including north of Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi.


Emergency Order

Please review the Emergency Order and Advisory Announcement below in its entirety before heading out on your next clam hunting safari.

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.

Nice clamming tides are occurring this week and there is a good number of razor clams available in the Polly Creek and Crescent River Bar areas of the West Cook Inlet. Access is difficult, but there are charters available in Deep Creek. Watch the weather and be careful out there.

Want a looksee into what is happening in the fish world of the Northern Kenai Area? Check out its fishing report that debuts almost every Thursday at

Until next week …

Nick can be reached at if he isn’t busy trying to contact whoever chartered that beautiful yacht anchored east of the Spit to ask them about the vessel’s trolling speed.

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