He’s back! Get ready for fishing

Here we go again.

This weekend officially kicks off Reeling ‘Em In where we take a stab at providing you with the latest and bestest-ever information on what’s biting what and where.

This weekend, what my crotchety bud Willie calls the “Northern Horde” will begin its seasonal descent into our hamlet. That description is a bit over the top because he includes all Alaskans residing beyond the Seward highway cutoff and any visitors arriving via motor homes, cruise ships, planes, unicycles, saddle broke yaks or crawling on all fours.

It doesn’t matter to him. He thinks that the Lower 48 is a separate country and that Anchorage should be. If it were up to him, he would make them all apply for seventy-two hour, once in a lifetime, visas and then have to do the rest of their visiting via the Discovery Channel. Other than that, he’s pretty amicable toward the big city outsiders from Soldotna.

Turk and I have tried to reason with him, but how do you get through to someone who thinks that the top of Baycrest Hill should have a borderline checkpoint?

We have explained numerous times that tourists mean jobs and a healthy local economy but all we get back is a stare so vacant that it has an echo.

Don’t get me wrong, Willie is a definite asset to society. He does a tremendous amount of community service. Just because it’s court ordered shouldn’t detract from the fact. Plus, he is an outstanding fisherman and has provided inside tips on hot spots and fishing techniques for years. Some of them have even been legal.

I’m also looking forward to the piscatorian insights from my vet bro, Turk, Tom, the self-proclaimed Mayor of The Fishing Hole, interviewing fisherpersonages at the cleaning tables and working with the timely and vital information provided by our local Department of Fish and Game.

So, with all of that said, it’s time now for our 2018 fishing report for the week of May 21 to May 27:

Emergency Orders and Regulation Reminders

Razor Clam Emergency Order

All Eastside Cook Inlet beaches from the Kenai River to the tip of the Homer Spit are closed for all clamming through December 31, 2018.

Regulation Reminders

Save yourself some humiliation and always review the Southcentral Sport Fishing Regulations (available online or at any fishing license vendor) and emergency orders on the Department’s website before you go fishing.

King salmon regulations for Cook Inlet saltwater are found on pages 72-74 and for Kenai Peninsula freshwater beginning on page 66 of the 2018 Southcentral Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet. The booklet is free so if you don’t pick one up, you’re not bright enough to win a game of checkers with your bait.

A king salmon 20 inches or longer that is removed from the water must be retained and becomes part of the bag limit of the person who hooked the fish.

Steelhead trout are present in lower Cook Inlet streams in the spring. Be familiar with identifying steelhead and king salmon before you go fishing. Steelhead may never be retained or removed from the water. The booklet even has pretty pictures and detailed descriptions of these fish, so no excuses.

Regulation changes are in effect for guided anglers that fish for halibut. A more extensive description of these federal changes can be found at: https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/chfactsheet.pdf

Saltwater Fishing Report

Halibut

Halibut fishing has been fair. A few boats returning to the Homer Harbor last week had halibut larger than 100 pounds, including the current Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby leader.

Michael Eskelson of Sutton brought in a 187.6-pound, 76-inch fish caught on a private boat. Eskelson was fishing on a private boat fishing with 40lb test weight line on a small salmon penn reel.

Halibut fishing should be in full swing this Memorial Day weekend, as more fish cruise in from their overwintering waters back to where the living is easy in the summer feeding areas around Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay.

As usual, herring impaled on a circle hook is a great bait, but octopus, salmon heads, and jigs will also get their drool on.

King Salmon

Trolling has been fair in Upper Cook Inlet North of Bluff Point to the Anchor Point Light, and in the Whiskey Gulch area. Catches have been spotty in Kachemak Bay.

Spawner kings are returning to Cook Inlet but the harvest has been low. Anglers usually hunt these fish in shallow waters close to shore in Upper Cook Inlet from Deep Creek south to Bluff Point.

Feeder kings can be found throughout Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. The most consistent catches were north of Bluff Point over the last week.

Prevalent trolling set-ups for chinooks include herring, hootchies, tube flies, and spoons behind a flasher or dodger. Try out a range of leader lengths for different gear action behind flashers.

A downrigger setup is necessary to troll deeper water. Banana weights work well to troll gear near the surface.

Looking for kings? Try fishing a variety of depths up to 100 feet near rocky points and kelp beds. Look for birds feeding on bait fish. The feathered gluttons are a dead giveaway to even bigger gluttons feeding below the waves and bait balls.

Chinooks have begun dribbling into the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon (The Fishing Hole). Numbers should hopefully increase as the month progresses but expect fishing to be slow for at least through next week.

A variety of methods can work at the Fishing Hole, including spinners, and herring or eggs suspended beneath a bobber. Try fishing when the incoming tide begins to flood the lagoon and/or the genesis of dawn.

Rockfish

Rockfish are found near rocky points and in kelp beds. The most popular places to target pelagic rockfish in Kachemak Bay are near Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi.

Try fishing for them while trolling by using spoons, tube flies, or herring. Jigs also work well.

Shellfish

Tides are small this week so we won’t dwell too much on them this time around. Clamming tides begin again on Sunday, May 27 through June 1. More then.

Note:

There are occasional PSP advisories issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Contact them at (907) 269-7501 or check out their PSP pages on the internet at http://dec.alaska.gov/eh/fss/seafood/Shellfish_Home.html for more information.

Other Saltwater Fishing

If you’re limited by access to a boat or by the weather, fishing off the end of the Homer Spit can be a kick.

Species available include walleye pollock, Pacific cod, Dolly Varden, a variety of flatfish, and, possibly, a lost chinook. I have also seen things pulled on shore that defy categorization. That’s when it becomes truly a kick as the screaming starts.

Fresh Waters Fishing Report

The Anchor River will be open to king fishing on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28.

Fishing was poor on the opening weekend; expect poor to fair fishing this week as well. Water conditions are still very cold and somewhat turbid, although the water level has fallen to a fishable level.

As of May 21. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s weir on the Anchor River has counted zero kings so far this year. The weir is positioned several miles upriver from the mouth. As of the same date in 2017, 505 kings had passed the weir.

Deep Creek and Ninilchik River will also be open to king fishing Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28. Expect Ninilchik to have the best water conditions for fishing and Deep Creek to have higher and more turbid water.

Salmon egg clusters are usually the most effective in turbid water conditions. Try angling at the mouth of the river during the incoming tide for newly arriving fish. Herring or spinners may also work well.

Increased numbers of hatchery kings are expected to return to the Ninilchik River this season.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t in the boonies giving his new fly fishing rig a shot.

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