Carson's Alaska Newsletter #16
|Location: Homer, Alaska||Date: July 3-9,2003|
On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #16
July 3-6 Anchorage to Cooper Landing
The drive from Anchorage down to the Kenai was very beautiful. The road winds along the Turnagain Arm. Thank goodness we had a mostly sunny day so we could see the snow covered peaks along the way. Finally spotted some Dall sheep on the hillsides but you needed binoculars to make sure that's what you were seeing. No photos! Forgot to mention that we also saw our first moose on the road into Anchorage. Unfortunately we were on a freeway so we couldn't pull over.
July 4 dawned totally sunny - our first really nice day in a long time. We decided to take advantage of the great weather and hiked 2 miles out to the Russian River Falls. We could see salmon trying to jump up the falls to get to their spawning grounds upriver and there were large groups of them in shallow, still water resting till they had the energy to continue on.
A couple miles downstream from the falls is the famous area where fishermen stand shoulder to shoulder trying to hook the salmon as they start up the Russian River. It's called "combat" fishing and Fred decided to give it a try. There's a passenger ferry that is pulled along a cable to get the fisherman to the other side of the river where the fish swim along the bank. According to a local, it's a totally different style of fishing. You really are trying to snag the fish in the mouth as it swims by. They even have charts telling you how many fish are expected to be in each spot on what day. We're talking 30,000 fish a day at its peak. Unfortunately, we were not there during the peak. So he came away empty handed. But we'll probably come back in a couple weeks when it's predicted to be "peak" time.
Meanwhile we finally crossed paths with friends Jeanine and Dan Wainwright who are also Rving around Alaska. We had a nice visit and then joined them and friends they know who live here for a potluck barbeque.
July 7-9 Cooper Landing to Homer
The drive down to the southern part of the Kenai crosses many creeks and rivers where salmon come back to spawn. Further along, the road parallels the shore of the Cook Inlet. At low tide, this is a popular spot for clam digging. Across the Inlet are two large snow covered volcanoes, one of which is considered active since it erupted in 1989.
The weather has turned very nice and sunny. In fact, Anchorage reported a new record high for July of 84 degrees. The weathermen are calling it scorching heat! Guess they've never been to Las Vegas.
We are staying in Homer at the very end of a 4 mile long spit that juts out into the bay. We have a great site that looks across the bay at several glacier covered volcanic peaks. Homer is called the Halibut capital of Alaska and charter boat operations line both sides of the spit. Every afternoon the charters arrive back with their catch which they hang up for all to see. Most of the Halibut are about 25-40 pounds but we saw one 73 pounder and an awesome 220 pounder. I can't even imagine what it took to bring that one in.
July 9 - Another fish story just for the Halibut!
Today I found out what it takes to bring in a Halibut - even a small one. We went out on a charter out of Ninichilk - a small fishing village about 40 miles north of Homer. We had been told by other campers that this was a great place to go Halibut fishing because the boats don't go out as far as those in Homer. They are after Halibut for eating rather than sport (100 pounds and up). Thank goodness we listened to them. We were on a boat named the Butt Chaser with 4 others plus the captain - a really nice guy who has lived here since 85. We went about 8 miles out into Cook Inlet in about 80 feet of water. Halibut lie on the bottom so you have to put a fairly large weight on the line and let it touch bottom. You jig your line up and down every so often to attract the halibut. When it begins to nibble, you start to reel in order to hook him and get him off the bottom. That is no easy chore. Then once off the bottom, you reel, and reel and reel until you can get it on the surface. Halibuts are mostly dead weight to bring up although some of the smaller ones actually fight. I caught the first one shortly after dropping anchor at the hole and I thought I'd never get it up before my left arm died. Thank goodness it was only 80 feet. (Steve and Stacey did an overnight charter from Homer that went out 2-1/2 hours before they dropped lines down to 200 ft.) My Halibut was about 35-40 pounds - what is called a "turkey." A real nice size for eating. One of the other gals on board eventually caught about an 80 pounder called a "shooter" because they actually shoot it before bringing it on board. The rest of the catch were "chickens" - probably about 15-20 pounds. After about 7 hours we had caught our limit - 2/person. It was getting tough to just hold the rod even without a fish on. We barbequed one of the fillets for dinner and I think Halibut is now my favorite fish instead of salmon. Boy was it good. We're going to end up with about 30 pounds of filets which I think we will mail home with our salmon as there is no more room in the freezer. Thank you Don and Penny for the use of your freezer.
Tomorrow we head north with stops in Kenai and Soldotna before heading to Seward.
Barb and Fred