Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:04 PM on Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fishing isn't always about what's caught

The Texan wrote seeking "the true story on halibut fishing at Homer." He had heard from friends who are here and friends who have fished Homer and left that "(t)he halibut fishing in Homer is very poor. The halibut are very small, yellowish and mushy."

After acknowledging that he realizes tourists are important to Homer businesses, he gets to the point: "We do not want to spend $5,000 and travel 9,000 miles from Texas to get to Homer and find out the fishing is terrible. Please advise us if you will, please."

We're not in the travel-advising business, but the Texan's query has caused us to ponder anew topics like fishing and traveling and hospitality and conservation.

On fishing: With Alaska Department of Fish and Game emergency orders closing Kenai Peninsula rivers and streams and some salt waters to king fishing, halibut fishing looks like the best fishing for miles and miles around. But, remember, it's called fishing, not catching. Most anglers have experienced the disappointment of good fishing (and catching) all around them, while they go home skunked. Did the skunked angler enjoy the company of good friends, good conversation, jaw-dropping vistas? Well, it wasn't a wasted day. Some folks never have that experience.

On traveling: Let's face it, traveling is a gamble. If you travel to Alaska, maybe, you'll get a week or two of those postcard-blue days; then, again, maybe it won't stop raining until you take your seat on your return flight home. Maybe, you'll see moose, bear and whales — oh, my; or, maybe, the only wildlife you'll be able to write home about are the biggest mosquitoes you've ever laid eyes on.

Travelers who pin their hopes on one particular thing when they visit a new place — no matter where they are headed and what the main event is — are likely to be disappointed. Anyone set on dividing the number of pounds of fish they catch into the money spent to get to Alaska and go fishing will be eating some pretty expensive fish. It's hard to justify the cost. And it's likely all those anglers will talk about when they get home is how much that fish cost them.

On hospitality: Just like the worth of a day can't be measured by the weather, a trip to Alaska is much more than how many fish are caught or how many eagles can be counted. Call us crazy, but we think the Alaska experience has more to do with close-up encounters with the people who live in this unique state than it has to do with close-up encounters with bears and eagles and fish. The one thing that's most likely to make or break someone's visit here is how they're treated. Bad day fishing? Most charter captains can entertain their guests in such a way that fish are the icing on the cake, not the main course. Bad weather dampening spirits? How can that be when Alaskans know there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear? Isn't it still possible for a lively discussion to brighten any day?

The bottom line: Sure, the fishing restrictions are disappointing. And they will eventually hurt all of us — not just those who sport fish or commercial fish or subsistence fish.

But those tasked with the responsibility of keeping Alaska's fisheries healthy have to act in the best interests of the fish, not the people who depend on them. Ultimately, it's far better to have some closures than it is to have no fish.