Saltwater: Fishing the briny deep

Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2000

Saltwater fishing trips combine spectacular scenery with a variety of target species and most often involve a full day of traveling and fishing in open water.

Getting to the fishing grounds is easy.

Homer, Seward and the beach-launch areas at Ninil-chik and Anchor Point all host charter boat fleets.

A day's fishing can cost anywhere from $100 to $175, depending on the season and extras, such as lunch and filleting. All charters include tackle and bait.

From April into Septem-ber, saltwater anglers mainly target Pacific halibut. These fun-to-catch, fine eating fish usually weigh 10 to 30 pounds, but the occasional "barn door" can weigh more than 400 pounds.

Try entering one of the local fishing derbies to add an element of excitement to your day's fishing.

Most halibut are caught from anchored boats in 50 to 200 feet of water. Anglers generally use 80-pound tackle and bottom-fish with chunks of herring, but these voracious predators also have been caught on trolling and jigging gear.

A live halibut 50 pounds or more can flop across a boat's deck faster than you can say "fish on" and do a lot of damage in the process, so the big ones usually are shot in the head and harpooned before being hoisted aboard.

From early May to early June, when the kings migrate up Cook Inlet toward their natal streams, many charter captains offer "combo trips" targeting king salmon and halibut. This involves fishing near the beach for kings on the incoming tide, and then running out to deeper water to anchor up and fish for halibut on the slack tide.

If a boat trip on the open ocean doesn't suit you, saltwater fishing is still an option at locations such as the enhancement lagoon on the Homer Spit.

Both king and silver salmon can be caught there, especially when the runs first return.

Use a casting spinner or spoon or try using salmon roe or a small herring under a bobber. The fish are of hatchery origin and even though they can't spawn, they still return to the lagoon because they were "imprinted" there as smolts before being released to migrate to sea.

August is silver salmon season, especially in Homer and Seward. These acrobatic fish are great fun to catch on light tackle. Most anglers troll or mooch for silvers with herring.

A combo trip for silvers and halibut is a fun way to finish a fishing season and stock up a freezer for winter.

Good luck fishing the briny deep.

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