Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 4:59 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anglers share bond, beer, even secrets

Reeling 'em in

By NICK C. VARNEY

I was ambling around one of the cleaning tables the other day when three senior Washingtonians showed up with a batch of mungo cohos. They were friendly enough but secretive about the origins of their treasure trove of silver until they found out that we all grew up fishing the same waters of Puget Sound and streams of the High Cascades.

As the banter developed, they admitted they were nosing around for halibut "way the hell out there" when they spotted several heavy concentrations of feeding seabirds. They glassed them and noted jumpers in the surrounding waters so headed toward the disturbance while gearing up with plug-cut herring and trolling equipment.

A bit more reminiscing resulted in an invite to their evening campfire and when I showed up with a generous tuition of some local Pale Ale growlers I was immediately enrolled into an enlightening fishing seminar.

While solemnly pondering the empty bottom of one of the growlers J.D., the elder of the elders, kicked off his part of the lecture with these words:

"We all know that salmon have three sensing mechanisms to find prey. They are sight, smell and sound.

"First, let's deal with sight. The action of your bait or lure is very important. You need to have a have good rolling and erratic action that mimics a struggling baitfish. But salmon can't see more than a few feet and it gets worse as you go deeper. Kinda like drinking one of these jugs."

Dan B., the lesser elder burped, "Second, ya gotta remember to use the salmon's excellent sense of smell. A nice plug-cut adds more 'trail' especially with the application of scent enhancers. Yet still, that may be not enough.

"The third sensing mechanism is the one that brings it all together but, for some reason, I can't think of it right now."

Bill J. the sober elder, let out a long sigh and rumbled, "What brew boy is trying to get at is that along a salmon's side and on his head and back there are tiny hair-like projections called cupula. Each of these has a nerve cell at the end. These cells are used to pick up vibrations in the water such as the wiggling of baitfish tails. He might not see or smell the snack fish but those movements will put them on his radar and their trail.

"We used that info when we hit the bird feeding frenzy and got into a damn rodeo of flying coho, screeching birds and baitfish popping out of the water like tree frogs steppin' in hot grease. Awesome stuff."

The old boys went on to claim that they released a bunch of smaller silvers before unleashing a secret weapon on the hawgs lurking lower down.

What was their secret? HotChip Flashers for the deeper troll and they swore the things were killer attractors for chinooks, too.

As the evening came to an end, I asked them if I could write about their experience including the secret stuff. You've just read their answer.

Thanks, guys, and now for a look at some of the state's weekly fishing report.

A youth-only fishing day is scheduled for 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 4 p.m. to 7 p.m, to help young anglers set up fishing gear and fish for silvers in the lagoon.

Fresh Water Streams

Anglers fishing the lower sections of the Anchor and Ninilchik Rivers and Deep Creek have seen things starting to come alive with more silvers especially in the morning. Newby fish have been entering on the incoming tide so the run is building.

Make sure you know the difference between a steelhead trout and a coho in the rivers. The coho you can eat (remember, if you remove it from the water you must keep it). The steelhead will eat you in fines, if it's removed from the water; plus, it must be released immediately.

Salt Water: Halibut

Halibut fishing is as scanty as a pole dancer's wardrobe in Kachemak Bay, but the heat turns up if you scoot on out to central or southern Cook Inlet.

Try fishing around and during slack tide. This allows anglers to keep their bait on the bottom without using the weight of your average anvil.

Herring is the most popular bait, but octopus, salmon heads and competent fishermen also enhance the chance of landing one.

Salt Water: Salmon

Silver fishing in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay is starting to pick up at Flat Island, Point Pogibshi and offshore. Trolling has been the best way to get into some righteous action.

Reports continue to surface that some small schools of cohos produced some fair fishing at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Other reports deduce if you want a silver you better bring your own.

Other Saltwater fishing

Lingcod fishing has been fair. Many anglers target lingcod near the rock piles and pinnacles by Elizabeth Island and Kennedy Entrance. There is a minimum size limit of 35 inches and a bag limit of two per day and two in possession. A gaff may not be used on any fish intended for release.

Cod, pollock and a variety of flounders are plentiful off the end of the Homer Spit. Try using herring, jigs or various odiferous fishy yuck for the best success.

Personal Use

The Kachemak Bay coho salmon gillnet fishery opened Aug. 16. A permit is required and available at the Homer Fish and Game office.

The China Poot personal use fishery is closed.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if you have any tales, tips or tenuous lies to tell.

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