Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 12:07 PM on Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mud Bay offers some hot spots for fishing halibut


Several years back I met some fishermen from the Pacific Northwest who were spending a few weeks chasing fish from Valdez to Homer. They hunted mainly from shore, but were towing trailers filled with gear including two Zodiacs. They used the rigs in calm lakes, but were apprehensive about saltwater sojourns because anything higher than six-inch seas turned most of them as green as kelp and morphed the gang into world-class professional power hurlers with an appalling lack of accuracy when it came to hitting the ocean rather than a cohort.

They were bemoaning the fact that they wouldn't be able to get a shot at scoring some halibut unless it came from a supermarket's seafood section, so I let them in on the secret of the flats of Mud Bay.

The story was simple: Many years ago, when I was still young enough to stand up without every joint in my body popping like Fourth of July fireworks, a fishing bro offered to take me on a halibut safari in his small skiff.

I was a bit circumspect about heading out into the bay in the modest craft until he told me that the run was only a quick jaunt from the mouth of the harbor northeast to his "clandestine hot spots." I signed on.

The trip turned into trips and some of the best action I've ever experienced with salmon rods, basic rigging and bait herring. We'd usually head out before low slack, then anchor up with a scent bag attached to the rope in about 16 feet of water to await the arrival of the tide line. As the current started to roll, so did the action. The fish were undersized at first but still cool to catch and release with the tackle we were using.

Things got more exciting as the water level changed and more fish swept into the area attracted by the submerged lure trail and bait fish schools.

Slamming a 20- or 30-pound flatfish with salmon tackle in shallow water is addicting. There's no heavy haul up because all they can do is run straight away from you at high speed and the fight is on.

Try it. The same holes are still out there and can be found with a little patient searching.

There also are deeper areas in the 70-plus foot range in the vicinity of the barge buoys that can be prolific and hide a hawg or two.

Why revisit the Mud Bay story? Because the seabirds are back on bait balls inside the bay and some of those same Pacific Northwest visitors have returned to enjoy some fine "chicken" fillets assured that, if things stay calm, the only things they'll be hurling are expletives when they lose a butt.

Now let's take a look at some of the state's weekly fishing report.

Regulation Reminders and Emergency Orders

The Cook Inlet Area noncommercial (sport, personal use and subsistence) Tanner crab fishery will not open on July 15 by emergency order.

The English Bay River drainage and Cook Inlet from Point Bede to Point Pogibshi is closed to sport fishing for sockeye salmon through July 31 by emergency order.

The following restrictions apply for salt waters of Cook Inlet south of the latitude of the mouth of the Ninilchik River to Bluff Point within one mile of shore: Through Sunday, July 15, catch-and-release fishing is allowed for king salmon, but king salmon may not be retained or possessed. King salmon that are caught may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

The following emergency orders have been issued for the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and Deep and Stariski creeks: The Anchor and Ninilchik rivers are closed to fishing through July 15, and then restricted to single hook, no bait from July 16-31; Deep and Stariski creeks are restricted to single hook, no bait through July 31. The Anchor River Alaska Department of Fish and Game upstream regulatory marker will remain downstream approximately 1,000 feet of the junction of the North and South forks through July 31.

Salt Waters: Halibut

Halibut fishing is tolerable to quite adequate, but most fish are still in grade school. Sampled halibut harvested out of the Homer port during the past week averaged just more than14 pounds. "Mushy" halibut remain available for those of you who enjoy instant soup. If you prefer fillets that you can't spread on toast, move to another area where the fish fight harder than a sea urchin.

Salt Waters: Salmon

Snagging is allowed in Kachemak Bay east of a line from Anchor Point to Point Pogibshi through Dec. 31, except in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

Trolling success for feeder kings has been a bit of a bummer in Kachemak Bay, but a few boats have brought home some nice catches. If you want to know where they are going, you'll need to launch a drone.

Pink and chum salmon are using up bait in the Seldovia area. Pink salmon are turning up in Tutka Bay. If it has been awhile since you've had anything on the other end of your line, this could be a spot to find out if your light gear still works.

King salmon fishing at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit, Halibut Cove Lagoon and the Seldovia Harbor is over. (Well, that sucks. We were still hoping for one solitary fish to surge in somewhere so they'd open the area for a shot at snagging the thing).

Silver salmon will start arriving to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in the next few weeks. (Hopefully they will arrive in schools of more than two fish at a time).

Other Saltwater Fishing

Lingcod season opened July 1. Fishing success has been passable to really decent for those pursuing the lings near Chugach and Perl islands.

Spiny dogfish have been showing up on some of the cleaning tables. Remember, the bag and possession limit for them is five per day and in possession with no recording requirement. Not so for all other sharks. They are one per day and in possession and must be recorded immediately on the back of your fishing license.

Rockfish harvest in Lower Cook Inlet is picking up with the opening of lingcod season. Many of the local rockfish are delicious, but it's highly recommended that you are able to recognize what you are tossing in the fish box because several species may look alike.

Fishing off the end of the Spit continues to amuse the masses and fill coolers with everything from Walleye pollock, Pacific cod, various flatfish, Dolly Varden and finned beasties that share the same DNA as their relatives featured on the Sci Fi channel.

Personal Use

The China Poot personal use dip fishery is open to Alaska residents through Aug. 7. No permit is required. The bag and possession limits are six sockeye per person per day. Only sockeye salmon may be retained.

Bonus info: A few sockeye salmon have actually been reported in China Poot Bay. Hopefully this won't start a stampede.

Fresh Waters: Salmon

Expect fair fishing for pink salmon and Dolly Varden in Deep and Stariski creeks.

Pink salmon should start entering streams on the south side of Kachemak Bay such as Humpy Creek and Seldovia River.


The next clamming tide series begins July17-23

Don't forget the following or you'll wish that you would have blown your hard cash on a couple of plates of Calm Casino at a five star restaurant instead of bail and you wouldn't be covered in mud.

The sport, personal use and subsistence bag and possession limit for littleneck and butter clams have been reduced from 1,000 littleneck clams and 700 butter clams to a combined bag and possession limit of 80 clams.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn't prospecting for flats in Mud Bay.