Web posted Wednesday, May 8, 2002

photo: fishing

Even the youngest anglers can hook a trophy king or silver salmon at the Fishing Hole on the Homer Spit. Fish the incoming tide as if it were a river, or relax on the beach and try a bobber and bait.

The Fishing Hole

One of the best places to fish on the lower Kenai Peninsula is the Homer Spit, primarily through the efforts of the state of Alaska, the city of Homer and local sport and commercial fishermen.

A tiny bight known as the "Fishing Hole" has been stocked with king and silver salmon, providing easy-access angling from mid-May to mid-September. It is one of few places in Alaska that king salmon are available much of the summer, and even fewer that has a wheelchair-accessible ramp for fishermen.

The enhancement program began as an experiment during the 1980s, a cousin of the successful Halibut Cove Lagoon and Seldovia king salmon fisheries started by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. All are "terminal fisheries," meaning the fish have nowhere to spawn. That may be frustrating for the fish, but it's good news for anglers, who are allowed to take most of the fish.

Salmon eggs are raised in a hatchery to smolt size, then transferred to floating pens in the Fishing Hole. They are held captive for two reasons: the tiny fish are fed to increase their size -- and therefore their survival rate when released into the ocean -- and imprinted to the saltwater that, several years later, will attract them home to the "hole."

The original king salmon enhancement program was so successful that Fish and Game expanded it to include a second run of kings that return during late July and early August. The late-run kings are larger, averaging some 30 to 35 pounds, though some may exceed 60 pounds. The earlier fish are smaller, averaging 15 to 20 pounds apiece.

A silver salmon enhancement program was instituted as well, providing fish from early August to mid-September. The cohos, known for their feisty behavior when caught, average about 8 pounds.

As each of the three runs dwindles, the Department of Fish and Game may open the Fishing Hole for snagging. The openings will be announced locally and signs will be posted. But when the next salmon run starts, snagging is halted so that bait fishermen can try their luck.