Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 2:43 PM on Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fishing 101: Know regs and emergency orders

This past week was terrific — if you were fishing for clams. The tides were so low that some diggers needed GPS gadgets to find their way back to the mainland. Unfortunately there still were some mollusk hunters that couldn't count and ended up experiencing up-close and personal interfaces with Alaska Wildlife Troopers who were not only better at math, but very proficient at awarding wall-mountable citations.

There were some minor tremors of excitement at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon when rumors started flying that up to three kings were hooked into during a 24-hour period and were actually hefty enough to bend a pole. Some of the enthusiasm dwindled when the fishermen making the "pole bender" claim discovered they had momentarily hung up on the bottom.

Seriously, things out there have been so slow that you could do better bobber fishing in a vat of beer, but changes are in the wind.

With the bigger tides, reports of a few catches of seven- to nine-pound chinooks are surfacing. Stay cool. It's nothing to sneak out of work for because, if it was, your boss would already be there.

It's time now to look at the state's weekly fishing report.

Regulation Reminders and Emergency Orders

The Anchor River closes to sport fishing beginning Saturday at 12:01 a.m., through June 30, at 11:59 p.m. to protect returning king salmon. King salmon escapement in the river through Tuesday was 1,107 fish, slightly higher than last year's escapement of 901 king salmon, but well below the 2004-2011 escapement average of 2,799 king salmon for this date. The department will continue monitoring king salmon escapement in the river to determine whether additional management actions are necessary to achieve the escapement goal.

The emergency order closing the Anchor River each Wednesday during the king salmon season and relocating the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulatory marker approximately 1,000 feet downstream of the junction of the North and South Forks remains in effect when the Anchor River drainage re-opens to sport fishing July 1-July 31.

The May 30 emergency order that allows only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure during the June 9–11 Deep Creek and Ninilchik River king salmon opening remains in effect for those streams.

Lingcod remain off limits until July 1.

Salt Waters: Halibut

Early-season halibut fishing is fair to good. Most fish are small, averaging around 13 pounds, if they've just had a large meal and are weighed with the bait still in the mouth.

Again with the mushy halibut: The flesh of these fish is very soft or flabby, sometimes with pockets of jelly-like tissue, and fish are reportedly mushy after being cooked as well. This anomaly generally just shows up in halibut under 20 pounds, known as chickens.

So how do you identify one before bonking it?

Well, if you nail a fish that feels flaccid or does not look as robust as a healthy halibut should, release it immediately unharmed. These halibut look like the air has gone out of them. Instead of round and firm they are two steps away as qualifying as Frisbees. There may be wrinkles near the base of the dorsal and ventral fins and they fight with the vigor of a rock. On the white side they may have translucent areas on the skin where muscle bands are visible through the flesh. They are edible if you don't mind ingesting something with the consistency of oatmeal and meat pudding.

Fact: Mushy and chalky halibut are not one in the same.

The difference? Chalky halibut don't look like deflated whoopee cushions. Chalkiness is rarely visible when the fish is boated, but develops over a period of hours. It is caused by a buildup of lactic acid, which reduces the ability of flesh to retain water. Their flesh is a bright, opaque white color, rather than translucent like normal flesh. When cooked, chalky halibut is drier and can be either consumed (it has acceptable flavor) or used as a placemat. To minimize chalkiness, kill and ice your fish promptly upon landing.

If I have totally confused you, try calling the Homer office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and ask for Barbie (235-8191). She's an expert on these beasties.

Salt Waters: Salmon

Trolling success for feeder kings remains fair to good off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point, Point Pogibshi and north to Ninilchik. Anglers have picked some respectable early-run kings near the shore in the waters off Anchor Point, Whiskey Gulch and Deep Creek.

King hunting is sluggish at the Halibut Cove Lagoon and should start up soon in Seldovia Bay.

Other Saltwater Fishing

The bag and possession limit for spiny dogfish sharks is five per day and in possession. The bag and possession limit for all other sharks is one per day and in possession and these must be recorded on the back of your fishing license.

The rockfish harvest in lower Cook Inlet is creeping along early in the season though some are getting whacked while trolling for kings. This would be a good time to bone up on looks of local rockfish because several different species may look like they have the same moms.

Don't forget the unique fishing available off the end of the Homer Spit. Walleye pollock (famous in fish sticks), Pacific cod (delicious in fish and chips) and a variety of flatfish species compete for bait off the beach.

Note: If you catch something really ugly that's all head and teeth with a face that would frighten a salmon shark, let it go. Even the other fish don't find it fit to eat.

Fresh Waters: Salmon

The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek, as defined by the ADF&G markers, will open to fishing at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 9, through midnight, Monday, June 11. Expect poor to fair fishing on both streams.

Water conditions are low and clear on the Ninilchik River. At Deep Creek, the water conditions have been fluctuating from the amount of snow melt and recent rains. Conditions may improve by the weekend.

The best time to jump on these rivers is during the early morning opening hours on Saturday, and at their mouths during the incoming tides. Remember, leave the steelheads alone. They are catch and release only. Do not remove them from the water while letting them go.

Know the difference between a steelie and a king. It can save you big bucks and lessen your shot as a portrait in your family's Hall Of Shame. Steelhead must not be removed from the water and be released immediately.

All shrimp and crab fisheries in Kachemak Bay are currently closed.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if you have nothing better to do but talk about fishing.