I am not a fisher-woman. Let’s be up front about it. I don’t get it, why it’s so enjoyable and relaxing. To me, it’s just casting, waiting and reeling; casting, waiting, and reeling; casting… Sometimes you get a fish, but, how often is it all that exciting? I must lack patience, because I find it mind numbing. [Note that this refers only to recreational fishing.] As I always say, “Please don’t teach me to fish. Just give me the fish.” What can I say; I like to get to the point…fairly quickly. Anyways, my idea of fishing is to sit, read a book, and drink a beer in a lawn chair or on the boat while the fisher-people, usually my dad, fish. Because, while I don’t like fishing, what I do like is spending time with my dad. So, when our Alaska travel planning took us to Homer, “the Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World,” I thought…’Hmmmm…Pops likes to fish. We both like to eat fish. Maybe we should go fishing. It can’t be too dull…It’s Alaska.’
Homer is a cute coastal town at the end of the road on the Kenai Peninsula, situated on Kachemak Bay off the Cook Inlet. The icy waters are teeming with not only halibut, but to many other species, including salmon, trout, steelhead, cod, and rockfish. Having planned arrival in the midst of salmon season, I thought the best idea was to do a full day combining king salmon and halibut fishing. An extensive review of available charters led me to Homer Ocean Charters, reservation made, and that was that.
Months later, my dad and I roll into Homer, weary from a long day drive, but excited to get out on the water to catch some fish. Yes, I was excited. I mean, fishing for halibut in Alaska sounds pretty cool, right? Wake up at 5am. Sign in at 6am. And, off we go. It was a beautiful morning with calm waters, a cool temperature, and beautiful backdrop of overcast skies and deep blue grey mountain silhouettes. Our captain motored us and 4 other passengers out past birds flying about and groups of otters swimming in the bay to our first fishing spot.
Our first task was to catch some salmon. So, I was quickly taught that we were trolling with 4 lines being pulled behind our boat anywhere from 30-60 feet underwater. Salmon hit their prey hard, so when you see the tip of the rod bounce, you must grab the rod and set the line. OK, I thought, sounds easy enough. Well, then, we waited…and waited.
Then, I heard noise about a humpback whale over the radio, and motored my tush right up to the bow of the boat with my camera to keep a look out for said whale. Not a great sign, huh?
After some time and the others all taking their turn catching baitfish (unintentionally by the way), I was called back…to fish. So, I reluctantly went back to man the poles and shoot the shit with the other passengers…when I saw the tip of the pole bounce…”Hey, is that a bite or something? What’s going on there?” “Set it. … Set it.” So, I jumped up, grabbed the rod, jerked it backwards, and started reeling.
‘Hey, this ain’t so bad.’ I pulled in my first fish, a baitfish, but it was okay. It’s all part of the experience. According to our guide, the salmon fishing hadn’t picked up yet. And, due to regulations, we were not allowed to fish near the shore where many of them feed. Even the rivers in the area hadn’t opened for salmon fishing yet due to low numbers. So, I didn’t have super high expectations for the salmon fishing, which is fine. Because, if there are so few in the waters to concern the wildlife service, then I really don’t want to be catching them anyways. But, that was enough excitement to get my morale going. I was ready to fish.
After a bit more time taking turns manning the rods and catching bait fish after bait fish (much to the surmise of our captain), we headed out to do some halibut fishing…farther out…where the waters are rockier…leading to an interesting scene of 6 people trying to keep themselves upright and inside the boat while focusing attention on their lines in order to not miss any bites. This experience was like an emotional roller coaster for me. You drop your weighted line until you feel it hit bottom, then you tap your rod and wait until a bite. The line felt heavy to me without the fish on it, so I found it confusing to figure out if I even had a fish on hook or not. Once you feel a bite, you don’t set the hook but you have to keep a steady pressure on it as you reel. But, when the fish actually hit, it felt like a tugboat was tangled in my line. I thought, ‘What the hell. That better be a big fish.’ I mean, seriously, even the smallest fish, gives you such a fight. I caught a halibut pretty quickly, a smaller one, like 20 pounds, perfect for eating. So, I was pretty ecstatic. It was work, but it was really fun to catch a halibut. I mean, this is what I envisioned when I planned this little excursion; out on the high seas with my dad, catching halibut like a boss.
Then, I got wrapped up in the ‘gotta catch a big fish’ game…much to my demise. Soon after my first, I caught a second, similarly sized halibut. “Oh, no, throw that back. I’ll wait for a bigger one.” So, I caught a few more small halibut…then, my arms got tired. And, every time I reeled up my line, it felt like a lot of work. Often times, I would feel a bite, but then lose the fish and have to reel up the (weighted) line the replace the bait. And, then it began to feel like fishing…a real hassle, I tell ya.
But, I was determined to get my second fish (current regulations limit us to 2 halibut per person per day). I wanted that meat in my freezer, and I wasn’t going home without it. So, my vest, jacket, hat and gloves came off. ‘Let’s do this…and can we make it quick?’ Back at the rod, determined to catch a halibut worthy of keeping (for eating purposes), large size no longer relevant, I had a take no prisoners kind of attitude. Within a few casts, I had a halibut, and in no time, everyone had their halibut. And, at this point, I was ready to get the hell out of Dodge…but with renewed morale. I had my 2 halibut…and my dad had his 2 halibut…and we were all happy. A good day of fishing. An Alaskan adventure. Time with my dad well spent. But, I think I’m good for awhile. I’ll leave it to the pros.