Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 2:23 PM on Wednesday, August 15, 2012

After a hard day fishing, there's an easy way keep your catch fresh



By NICK C. VARNEY

Before beginning this fishing report there is something you should be aware of from our new "Trust me, it doesn't mean a thing" files.

Last week, when I took the dog out for its early morning stretch-n-things, our breaths steamed steel gray in the dawn's chilled air. Later 40 or so cranes pirouetted over the cabin squawking something significant to a smaller flock headed up-ridge. I didn't think much about the events until a three-quarter white bunny bolted from under the deck and then it hit, "Man, steelhead fishing is roaring in on a fast track and I need a new rod."

My pragmatic wife thought the observations may portend an early arrival of winter and that we might want to get a jump on preparations, thus the "Trust me" files were born. I mean what's more manly, stacking wood or standing stately on a riverbank practicing catch and release techniques? Just the thought of the latter makes my beard grow faster.

Moving on...

Have you ever had one of those quintessential days of angling where you've nailed a couple of 70-plus-pound halibut, fought for more than an hour with a colossal skate, limited out on silvers, netted a spectacular feeder king and finished the hunt by boating a 60-pound lingcod street fighter that drained your last ounce of strength to pull it over the rail?

Come to think of it, neither have I.

On the other hand I have felt physically hammered after extensive periods of stalking fins and stuffing coolers. When that happens the last thing I want to do is end up standing over a cleaning table elbow deep in fish gorp while rats with feathers wait for an opening to swoop in and purloin part of the catch.

So, I turn to an old trick taught to me by a Native friend when we first moved down here.

I wrap the whole un-gutted fish in a kitchen sized plastic trash bag and freeze it.

I've had them stored like that for over a year without freezer burn and they're actually fun to process.

It's simple. When you feel the urge set one out in room temperature and amble by once in awhile to give it a slap. When the side of the carcass becomes a bit pliant it's cleaning time. Slit the semi solid fish as you normally would, reach in and pop out the frozen gutcicle then scoop out the spine's iced up blood vein with a spoon. The fish is then ready to fillet when you feel it's the easiest to cut. No messy blood, guts, slime, bugs in your face or thieving birds that belong on skeet shooting range.

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

Regulation Reminders and Emergency Orders

The youth-only fishing will be Saturday from 12:01 a.m. to midnight at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. A portion of the fishing area at the lagoon will be set aside only for kids 15 and younger to fish. Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff will be available from 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. to help young anglers set up fishing gear and fish for silver salmon returning to the lagoon.

Anglers are reminded that coho salmon 16 inches or longer once removed from fresh water must be retained and become part of the bag limit of the person who originally hooked the fish. A person may not remove a coho salmon 16 inches or longer from the water before releasing it.

The waters upstream of ADF&G markers on the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Ninilchik River and Stariski Creek are closed to all salmon fishing, including catch and release, but open to Dolly Varden and rainbow/steelhead trout.

Rainbow/steelhead trout may not be removed from the water or kept, and must be released immediately.

Lingcod must be at least 35 inches long with head attached or 28 inches from tip of tail to front of dorsal fin.

Salt Waters: Halibut

Halibut fishing has been rockin' along with enjoyable results except that most of the flats still haven't reached the size of strapping young adults and remain small. Samples harvested last week out of the Homer port fell just short of 15 pounds.

Salt Waters: Salmon

Anglers are still popping some nice feeder kings off Bluff Point, but the chinooks that had been lurking in the Point Pogibshi area seem to have wandered off in search of better bait fish buffets elsewhere.

High catch rates of pink salmon have been reported on the south side of Kachemak Bay and off Bluff Point so break out the canners again and forget using valuable bait. These fighters are total loons and will snap at anything shiny. I caught one once using nothing more than a beer can tab tied to a hook. These fish have skin scales brighter than they are.

Sockeye salmon are still available in Tutka Bay and are looking for accommodations where they are allowed to smoke.

Silver salmon catches are starting to improve but are still somewhat a drag off Bluff Point. It's the same with Point Pogibshi and it's semi rotten at Silver Ridge.

Chum lovers should try the Seldovia area.

Some diminutive schools of silvers continue to poke their noses into the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, but fishing is so slow that the act of casting remains the hottest action out there.

The best chance to hook a fish is probably when the rising tide flows into the lagoon sometime next year.

But don't give up. Twenty foot tides are coming this weekend and may push a number of cohos into the hole for the kids on Saturday.

Snagging is allowed Lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay south of Anchor Point.

Other Saltwater Fishing

Rockfish harvest in Lower Cook Inlet has been moderately successful for those wanting to add them to their freezer's stash.

Lingcod season remains open. Fishing for the prehistoric looking beasts has been fair to good near Chugach and the Barren Islands.

Warning: Fishermen who elect to fillet lingcod at sea are reminded that to comply with minimum size regulations, the fillet must be at least 28 inches long or anglers must retain the carcass which could result in nightmares for the paranoid and squeamish who have to stare at it until reaching shore.

The end of the Homer Spit is a popular location to catch pollock, Pacific cod, a variety of suspect flatfish, and thankfully, Dolly Varden that add a little class to the grab bag species skulking off shore.

Personal Use

The Kachemak Bay coho salmon gillnet fishery opened today. A permit is required and available at the Homer ADF&G office.

Streams

The Anchor River, Deep Creek, Ninilchik River and Stariski Creek are open to sport fishing; bait and treble hooks may be used.

Silver salmon fishing is slow to fair on these streams and should improve as more fish arrive with the higher tides.

Salmon roe clusters and plug cut herring work great along with flashy lures and locally tied flies sold by the experts who know the rivers.

It's hard to beat an early morning bite or getting into newbie silvers arriving at the mouth of these streams during the incoming tides.

There has been some outstanding fishing for dollies especially higher up in these streams.

Shellfish

A good clamming tide series began Wednesday and runs through Aug. 22. Don't forget that 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 hasn't been hijacked into some pre fall maintenance that doesn't include vital adjustments to the fish racks in the walk-in smoker and testing a new rod.

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