Homer lies at the end of the Sterling Highway, some 5 hours down the Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage. The arrival of good friends from Idaho prompted a long weekend getaway starting in Soldatna. After a comfy night camped out with moose in our friend's yard, we ventured down the Kasilof River to check out the fishing scene. Dip netting had just started, and the beach was packed full of RVs, campers, and tents. The pop-up village converged on this spot for one reason, Sockeye (red) Salmon.
Scores of hopeful netters lined the shore, wishing to fill their permits and freezers. The technique involves a net strung around a five foot diameter hoop with a 10 foot handle. Netters wade into the water, holding or sweeping the net in the current until a fish happens to swim into it. While it's hard work, the reward is great, yielding some of the highest sought after salmon in Alaska. We aren't official residents yet, and couldn't take part. You can be sure we will be there next year!
Homer is known for excellent Halibut fishing opportunities. Anglers regularly pull in limits of the bottom feeding fish ranging from 10 to 300 pounds. Because they live in deep water, it's generally necessary to fish them from a boat with heavy gear. One option is to hire a guide. We opted for the do-it-yourself option, and rented a boat. After a walk-through of the 28 foot vessel, we hit up the bait shop for some circle hooks, herring, squid, and two pound lead weights.
We were on the boat by 7:30 the next morning, and motored down Katchemak Bay. Never having fished for Halibut before, we were a little unsure what to expect. Luckily, one of our group actually new how to rig the heavy setup and we dropped anchor at what we hoped would be a good spot. With the rods baited, the heavy weights sunk over 100 feet to the bottom of the bay. Before the fourth rod was in the water, the previous three were already hooked up to fish, a triple! While the fish were small by halibut standards, we seemed to stumble upon a ridiculously good spot, and filled our limit in just a few hours.
After fishing, we picked up the rest of the Homer crew and motored to Halibut Cove, an idyllic village located on a island just across Katchemak Bay. This place seemed like something from a movie set: lush green mountains rising from the sea with bright, well kept homes perched on hillsides. Boats and float planes parked where you'd normally see cars and trucks. Elevated boardwalks led from art galleries to coffee shops to homes. We docked at The Saltry Restraunt, and walked up the steep gangway to our table. The seating was outdoors, underneath an overhung cliff and above the rising tide. Wine, crevice, oysters, salmon, more oysters, dessert...I can't remember a better lunch. If you go to Homer, put The Saltry on your list!
With full bellies and a packed cooler, we headed back to the house for some fish processing. While the first fillets weren't the prettiest, we quickly learned the technique and worked our way through many pounds of fish.
Our first catch is in the freezer, and my day dreams are full of future fishing, hunting and harvesting to come!