Halibut, sockeyes heating up

Walt Gutjahr was 30 minutes away from calling it a day when he felt a tug.


"I just started putting more pressure on the fish and more pressure and it started to move," said Gutjahr, 78. "I knew it was big because when it hit the hook, it shook its head and the pole bent two feet.

"I said, 'Oh, that's a hell of a fish."

In Alaska for the time after winning an open auction fishing trip at a recent fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in San Diego, Gutjahr landed a 210-pound halibut June 16 aboard the Homer-based "Grande Alaska," a 37-foot charter.

The battle, Gutjahr remembered by phone Wednesday from his home in El Cajon, Calif., lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.

Had it not been for some tangled line that took the captain and deckhand a few minutes to unravel while Gutjahr was hooked up, the 75-inch fish would have been aboard even sooner.

"The crazy thing is it never ran with the line," said the lifelong angler, who has caught 300-pound marlin but had never halibut of this size. "I think she may have been spawned out and was just empty."

The anglers aboard "Grande Alaska," fishing in 140 feet of water off Barren Islands, also landed catches of 110, 98 and 77 pounds in what was a busy week in halibut fishing out of Homer.

On Sunday, Sterling resident Chad Aldridge trumped Gutjahr by landing a 350.8-pounder. Aldridge was fishing with a ticket in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby and is now the current leader.

Another monster, a 300.6-pounder, also was caught this week, but that angler didn't have a derby ticket.

"We are getting some action here at derby headquarters," event organizer Paula Frisinger said.

There's also been a lot of action for sockeye salmon in the Seward area.

Emergency orders were issued to increase the bag and possession limit for sockeye in the northern waters of Resurrection Bay. The increase began Saturday and will remain in place through July 31, although Dan Bosch, a management biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, said the bite has slowed the past few days.

"It's not as good as it was last week," Bosch said. "It's just a natural thing, getting near the end of the run."

The limit is 12 per day in water north of a line from Caines Head to the north point of Thumb Cove.

In the Resurrection River drainage downstream of the Seward Highway and Nash Road, the limit is six per day. Single-hook artificial lures are the only legal method of fishing for sockeye in freshwater.

For the Kenai River, an estimated 8,656 early run kings had passed through the sonar as of Tuesday, according to Fish and Game, but the run is on pace to rank as the third-worst since 2002.

The escapement goal is between 5,300 and 9,000.

Kings captured in the netting program between June 13 and 20 varied in size, but about 34 percent were less than 32 inches long - considered below average.

The action is better on the Kenai for rainbow trout as anglers are reporting success between Kenai and Skilak lakes and from Skilak Lake downstream to the bridge in Soldotna.

"The water is clear and those using wet flies or streamers are having success," said Jason Pawluk, a biologist with Fish and Game.

At the Kasilof River, fishing in on the decline but kings are still being caught, according to report from Fish and Game. Most are hatchery fish stocked by the department.

Kings are being caught on plugs wrapped with sardine or anchovy, but success rates are reported to be higher with small cheaters or Spin-n-Glos with salmon roe.

Early run sockeye are coming through the Kenai downstream of the Russian River Ferry crossing as well as the upper Kenai between Sportman's Landing downstream to Jim's Landing.

However, a temporary closure was placed Tuesday on public entry to the forested area on the north side of the Kenai River near the ferry crossing because of heightened bear activity.

The closed area spans about 29 acres, according to a release from Fish and Game. It includes all areas beginning at the ferry entrance road and parking lot, downstream along the Kenai to Lover's Rock, which is adjacent to the Sterling Highway, and east on the Sterling to the point of beginning.

All land in those areas that is more than 25 feet from the Kenai is closed. The closure will remain in effect until July 21, though it could be extended or rescinded, according to the release.

The Russian River sanctuary remains closed. Check regulations for details.

To the south, the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River are closed to all fishing. The lower portions of the Anchor, Stariski Creek, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik will reopen July 1.

There will be good clamming tides from June 30 to July 5, said Carolyn Bunker of Fish and Game, as razor clams are on the sandy beaches from Kasilof to Homer.

They are exposed at tides of minus-2 and lower. The bag limit is 60.

Fish and Game also reported that conditions at area lakes are excellent. Twenty-seven central Kenai Peninsula lakes are stocked by the department.

For lake trout, the best bet is at Kenai, Skilak, Tustumena or Hidden lakes by trolling with spoons, plugs, stick baits, spinner rigs or drifting using jigging tackle tipped with dead-baits like herring.

Fish in deep water.


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