Fishing the salt

It’s only a couple of weeks until frantic season, when the entire fishing world seems to be focused on the Kenai River. Now would be a good time to fish the saltwater.


There are things about the sea that I’ve never found anywhere else. There’s the unobstructed, spectacular view. There’s the mystery of it, never knowing what you might reel up from the depths. It’s a jungle down there, teeming with life, a place where whales make a living. There’s adventure with a hint of danger, being miles from land in a small boat.

My first saltwater outing this year was with my friend Steve Novakovich, owner of Emerald Pines Lodge, in Homer. It was one of those days when the water was as calm as Cook Inlet gets, perfect for trolling for salmon. Fishing off Anchor Point aboard Steve’s charter boat, the Cruiser VI, we caught four king salmon and four halibut, enough for several delicious meals and sharing with friends.

If you’re new to marine boating, it’s a good idea to get some experience from an expert before trying it on your own. A couple of trips with an experienced skipper will teach you things you would otherwise learn the hard way. Charter boats come in several sizes. The 40- to 60-foot boats carry 10 or more passengers, while the smaller “6-pack” boats carry only six passengers. On the Kenai Peninsula, saltwater charter boats fish out of Homer, Seward, Ninilchik and Anchor Point. Information about them can be found on line and in the Yellow Pages.

We sometimes forget that we live where king salmon are available all year, not only when they’re in some spawning stream. These “feeder” kings come into Cook Inlet only to feed, not to spawn. Mainly of Canadian hatchery origin, they make a nice addition to our local fishing, as well as to our tables. There is no better fish flesh than one of these fat kings, caught in their prime.

One of the things I like about fishing on the Cruiser VI is that I almost always take home a variety of fish. Early in the year, it’s usually king salmon and halibut. After the middle of July, it’s often silver salmon and halibut. Novakovich usually tries to make every trip a “combo,” trolling for salmon and drift-jigging with light tackle for halibut. The catch might also include rockfish, lingcod, Pacific cod and pink salmon.

Not all charters offer combo trips. If you want one, be sure to say so before booking a trip. Also be aware that combo trips aren’t always possible due to weather.

Whenever I’ve ventured onto the ocean, it’s been new and different, never boring, always changing. There’s no better way than a day on the salt to escape the frenzy of the Kenai Peninsula in July.