Tips from Nick: Get up early and sharpen your filet knife

I am an unabashed uber-early morning fisherman.

When I’m on a serious waterline hunt, I try to be kicking shore-side rocks by the time dawn lifts a groggy eyelid to peer over the gunmetal mountains.

Why? Because the fish I stalk usually hit the cock crow buffet just as the sun releases rivulets of color across the bay and I want to be the head chef serving the line.

I was taught about the early morning bite by my father after I grew big enough to grasp a rod without launching into a body surfing exhibition when a lunker hit.

The methodology rarely failed and I was able to spend the rest of the day swimming and hiking whilst accumulating scrapes, cuts and bruises that dismayed my mother and grossed out my little Sis.

Those were the halcyon days of my youth.

Now, when the bite is over, I spend my time prepping the fish, purging crud out of the bait box, applying Calamine lotion to itch-enriched bug nips, Tiger Balm to my back and Neosporin to various nicks, gashes and inadvertent hook piercings that would still appall my mother but secretly amuse my siblingette who claims that I was a sub-adolescent terror in Red Ball Jets who should have been placed on perpetual loan to a zoo’s primate department.

Part of her persisting testiness undoubtedly stems from my genteel mentoring of her initial attempt to process a fish that went a bit sideways but for now, because readers have been requesting a refresher course on a very basic technique for filleting salmon, I’ll save that tale for an Unhinged Alaska yarn.

The following method has been published in previous years and, from the responses, has worked well for both the beginner and semi-competent.

Give it a shot. Maybe your knife wielding will produce a product that doesn’t resemble a catastrophic malfunction at a Yummy Chummy processing plant.

First, employ a fillet knife that is sharper than the business end of a meat mallet.

Once the fish has been cleaned (keep the head on), lay the fish with its back toward you and near enough to firmly grasp. This will decrease the possibly of slippage during the routine resulting in the ill-timed removal of a pinky from a moderately inebriated dude named Mungo standing next to you.

Start just behind the head and begin to cut toward the tail with the knife blade in firm contact with the vertebral column. Cut at a slight angle to glean as much meat as possible along the back. Continue smoothly cutting through the ribs until you reach the tail. Place the finished fillet aside and let bystanders stand in awe.

Next, flip the fish over and repeat the same process while warily eyeing Mungo. Voila, another cool fillet.

Now remove rib bones. Start by sliding the fillet knife lightly between the rib bones and the flesh. Keep the fillet knife as close to the ribs as possible to make sure that you won’t slice off more meat than you could serve as an entrée. Once the ribs have been removed, trim the fillet removing any fat, fins or anything else that disgusts you.

Lastly, remove the bones cut through during the filleting process by using a small pair of needle nose pliers and/or your significant other’s favorite tweezers to tug them from the flesh. You’re welcome.

Now, the fishing report for the week of August 2 to August 9.

Regulation Reminders

The Anchor and Ninilchik Rivers and Deep and Stariski Creeks opened on August 1 to fishing for Dolly Varden and steelhead/rainbow trout upstream of the two-mile markers. Steelhead/rainbow trout may not be taken nor removed from the water and must be released immediately.

The lower portions of the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Stariski Creek are open to sport fishing except for kings. The chinooks may not be targeted and if hooked, be released pronto.

The bag and possession limit for other salmon is 3 per day, 3 in possession, with only 2 per day, 2 in possession that are coho (silver) salmon.

On the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Stariski Creek and Ninilchik River, bait and treble hooks are legal gear through August 31.

The marine waters of Tutka Bay Lagoon within 100 yards of the hatchery net pens are closed to sport fishing for any species.

Boat hunters report catching spiny dogfish while targeting halibut. Anglers are advised to spin props to another location if the dog bycatches are high. Of course, you could stick around to hit your bag and possession limit of 5 per day and in possession with no recording requirement, just for the bragging rights. To whom, I haven’t a clue.

The bag and possession limit for all other sharks is 1 per day and in possession, which applies to the annual limit of 2 and must be recorded immediately on the back of your fishing license.

Halibut

Halibut fishing has cranked down for some anglers while others, with a clue, report consistent catches.

Unguided anglers can retain 2 halibut per day with 4 in possession.

Anglers chasing halibut are having success using large herring on circle hooks. The ‘buts also have a thing for octopus, squid, salmon heads, and bright jigs.

Fishing around and during slack tide will help you keep your bait on the bottom without the use of a discarded car chassis.

Salmon

Trolling success for king salmon has been fair to good from the Eldred Passage area, Point Pogibshi and the south side of Kachemak Bay. Other salmon species are being caught in these areas as well, especially pretentious humpies.

North of Bluff Point anglers are reporting chinook fishing as slow with improved catches of coho and those snotty pinks. Decent numbers of coho have been caught in the Point Adam and Point Pogibshi areas.

Anglers are reporting good catches of pinks along the south side of Kachemak Bay. My condolences.

On the plus side, pinks may be used as bait in the salt water fisheries even though they are counted as part of your daily bag limit.

Downriggers are essential for trolling in deeper water. Try various depths between 15-90 feet. Small herring trolled behind a flasher or dodger is the most effective presentation. Small thin blade spoons and large spoons have been working as well. Try fishing in deeper water over 50 feet, to avoid the humps when targeting king or coho.

There were reports of decreased catches of late run kings from Anchor Point to Deep Creek over the last week. Try trolling in shallow water at high tide for best success.

Youth-Only Fishery

The Youth fishery at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon is Saturday, August 5.

A portion of the lagoon will be open to youth 15 years of age or younger from 12:01 a.m. until midnight. Department staff will be present from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to help young anglers fish, tie egg loops and fishing knots, and learn the best way for releasing fish.

Coho are still entering the lagoon and hopefully, as the tides build next week, fishing will improve as more silvers arrive.

Try salmon eggs or herring suspended under a bobber or spinners like #3 Vibrax featuring blue, red, or silver bell bodies.

The lagoon is closed to snagging.

In Tutka Bay Lagoon there is a high number of pinks available and the numbers of sockeye have declined. The reds probably don’t want anything to do with the humpies.

Lingcod season opened July 1. The bag and possession limit for these Freddy Kruger wannabees is 2 fish and the minimum legal size is 35 inches with head attached or 28 inches from tip of tail to front of dorsal fin with head removed to make sure it’s really dead.

Fishing for lingcod has been slow since the season opened on July 1. Your best bet seems to be near the Chugach or Elizabeth Islands.

Fishing off the end of the Homer Spit can be an amusement park experience while flogging the salt for walleye pollock, Pacific cod, an odd assortment of flatfish, and creatures with names best left unsaid.

Be certain to check regulations regarding bag and possession limits and know which species may devour your pet before it hits the cooler.

Reports continue of catches of black, dark, and dusky rockfish along Bluff Point and near Point Pogibshi and around the Chugach Islands

Personal Use Fishing

China Poot personal use dip net fishery closes on August 7. Complete regulations are found on page 12-13 of the Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulation Summary booklet.

Dipnetting success for sockeye in China Poot continues to be good.

Streams

Expect good Dolly Varden fishing this week in the upper streams.

Most of the Dolly Varden have moved upriver behind spawning kings. Flesh flies and egg patterns are their turn-on.

Success for pinks is a given. They are idiots.

Good numbers of pink and chum salmon are available in streams on the south side of Kachemak Bay. So?

Coho are starting to arrive area streams and more may enter as the water levels start to rise from rain and the higher tides arrive next week.

Salmon roe clusters and herring will get the silvers’ feed on.

Shellfish

Razor Clam Emergency Order: All Eastside Cook Inlet beaches from the Kenai River to the tip of the Homer Spit are closed to the taking of all clams through December 31, 2017.

The next series of clamming tides run from August 6 - August 11.

There will be a Tanner crab fishery opening October 1 and closing February 28, 2018.

All shrimp and other crab fisheries in Kachemak Bay remain closed for 2017.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if you have any tips, tales or “Fear the Swimming Dead” rumors about Lingcod.

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