Outdoors & Recreation

Family Fun on the Homer Spit

Story and Media by
Kalb Stevenson
Media by
Cecil Sanders
Written by
Kalb Stevenson

Ah, December in Alaska. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it’s officially cold and dark outside. While the Christmas season is on the horizon, summer is still half a year away. For dads who fish, this can be the roughest time of year.

Poor dad! He works so hard to make this time of year special. Stringing lights around the house at 20 below and chopping firewood for the stove to keep the house warm on Christmas Eve, even though it means growing icicles from his nostrils to his beard. Mom and the kids see his hard work, and while they secretly want to give him the gift he has always dreamed of … say, a multi-day fly-out fishing excursion, the reality is that money is tight. So, the family opts for something much less expensive and much more practical. Something like … wool socks. Okay, wool socks and a new fishing rod. What else does the frugal Alaskan angler need besides dry feet and a trusty tool for hooking fish?

Dad is grateful for the gifts, and he gathers the family around to explain the best gift of all – time spent with them. He announces that he can’t wait to break in his new socks and try out his new fishing rod and on a family road trip next year. Everyone cheers. But where will the family go? Mom knows. She points to a framed picture of a lighthouse resting on the shore of Kachemak Bay. Destination: Homer, Alaska. Dad agrees, and they begin making plans for the day in summer when they will, in Clark W. Griswold-type fashion, pile into the family station wagon (in Alaska, it’s called a “Subaru”) and head four hours south to that charming little town on the coast.

A popular bumper sticker has helped many Alaskans come to know Homer as “a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.” It’s true that the offshore fishing in Kachemak Bay is top notch, and many charter offices in town offer halibut and salmon fishing trips that provide a chance at a whopper of a catch. However, there exist some less pricey opportunities to catch fish right in town, primarily on the Homer Spit.

To those that are unfamiliar, the Homer Spit sounds like a crude “Simpson” reference, but the 4.5 mile strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay is actually one of the most popular places to enjoy summer activities, including fishing. It’s home to the Homer Boat Harbor, which contains both deep and shallow water docks and serves up to 1,500 commercial and pleasure boats at its summer peak. On the Spit, tourists and residents can charter a boat or plane, go beach combing, camp, park an RV, or find restaurants, shops and hotels.

The fishing opportunities on the Spit include a local lagoon containing returns of stocked king and silver salmon, and saltwater fishing from the shore near the Land’s End Resort. The fishing won’t compare to that which can be found out in the open ocean or at a remote creek that is only float plane accessible, but it will afford some moderately-sized fish and – more importantly – some time to relax and fish alongside family and friends without breaking the bank.

Down to the Old Fishin’ Hole

The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, better known as “The Fishing Hole,” on the Homer Spit provides opportunities for king (Chinook) salmon in May and June and silver (Coho) salmon in July and August. It’s great to see people from all walks of life, even children, enjoying schools of fish circling by while they practice casting their lines and attempting to hook and wrestle in a salmon. Although there is plenty of room to land them, be warned that it can be difficult to get the salmon to strike. The reason is, they go off the bite after having spent a little time in the lagoon and can become a bit wary of fishing lures. When the seawater rolls into the lagoon on the incoming tide, so will the fish. A limit can sometimes be taken on either side of the entrance to the lagoon or at other areas around it with a little bit of “flipping” or “tight lining.” As fish swim through a gauntlet of lines with mouths open, someone’s leader will ultimately find its way into a fish’s mouth, even without a current. The leader will slide towards the hook creating a little bump in the line that the fishermen will feel on a sensitive fishing rod. A quick upward thrust of the rod tip to set the hook results in shouts of “fish on!” all around. Some anglers prefer to try and induce a strike using a colorful or shiny wet fly like a zonker or a Vibrax in green, pink or blue color. Others, still, swear by their secret recipes for cured salmon eggs for an efficient means of bringing home some of the precious meat.

When the lagoon opens for snagging later in the year, as opposed to the slightly more sporting methods mentioned above, the catch rate really picks up about two hours before low tide. As the tide recedes, the lagoon becomes quite shallow, meaning there will be fewer fish per unit of water. The trapped fish will circle in the remaining water like ducks in a barrel and produce a nice meat harvest. Try having kids throw out a double hook or mooching rig with green yarn attached to each hook. Instruct them to land their cast just beyond an oncoming school of salmon and reel in slowly before ripping the hooks through the water. Polarized sunglasses are a big plus for this kind of sight-fishing, as you will really need to see the fish to be successful.

There’s no need to worry about meeting escapement levels in this enhanced fishery. Each year, newly-hatched salmon are raised to smolt size in hatcheries before being transferred to floating pens in the lagoon. In these pens, they are protected from predators, raised to a larger size, and “imprinted” with the unique saltwater chemistry of the lagoon that will, years after their release, eventually attract them home to waiting fishermen. There seems to be more fish per angler at that time of year, and the trip down in early August allows me the opportunity to pull off the highway and try to pick up a few extra sockeye that are still moving up the Kenai and Kasilof at that time of year.

Don’t Forget the Herring!

Once there are some salmon in the cooler, it’s time to explore life outside the lagoon. The beach between the Land’s End Resort and the docks offers some great catch-and-release fishing for saltwater species including flounder, pollock, or small halibut. Every now and then a silver or king gets caught that’s worth keeping, but these are a rarity here.

Some herring, some larger, rod holders and a few lounge chairs are all you and your family will need to have a relaxing afternoon of fishing right off the beach between the Land’s End Resort and the docks. The best fishing is on the incoming tide - in particular, just before high tide. Just stick the rod up vertical in the rod holder and wait for some action on the tip. Once there is movement, grab it quickly and set the hook. Easy as apple pie.

As you plan your family fishing trip to the Homer Spit next year, make a mental note to bring your camera. Remember that the town itself offers some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and ample opportunities for wildlife viewing from the car, including bald eagles, sea otters, and moose. Have I also forgotten to mention there are some charming coffee shops and boutiques that mom will surely love? So, even though it’s been snowing for the last twelve hours, do try to find some Christmas cheer and block out the image of all that white powder piling up in your driveway. In just half a year’s time it will all be melted, and it will provide runoff that some of these fish will use to make their way to your favorite fishing hole, and into your freezer. You can bet your wool socks on it.

No items found.

Family Fun on the Homer Spit

Outdoors & Recreation

Author

Kalb Stevenson

Kalb Stevenson is an experienced biologist and fisherman and a long-time Alaskan. He is the owner of Axiom Environmental LLC., a consulting company based in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Stevenson has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, agency reports and popular press pieces in the areas of fish and wildlife ecology and environmental science. He enjoys spending time with family and friends and fishing around the state.

Ah, December in Alaska. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it’s officially cold and dark outside. While the Christmas season is on the horizon, summer is still half a year away. For dads who fish, this can be the roughest time of year.

Poor dad! He works so hard to make this time of year special. Stringing lights around the house at 20 below and chopping firewood for the stove to keep the house warm on Christmas Eve, even though it means growing icicles from his nostrils to his beard. Mom and the kids see his hard work, and while they secretly want to give him the gift he has always dreamed of … say, a multi-day fly-out fishing excursion, the reality is that money is tight. So, the family opts for something much less expensive and much more practical. Something like … wool socks. Okay, wool socks and a new fishing rod. What else does the frugal Alaskan angler need besides dry feet and a trusty tool for hooking fish?

Dad is grateful for the gifts, and he gathers the family around to explain the best gift of all – time spent with them. He announces that he can’t wait to break in his new socks and try out his new fishing rod and on a family road trip next year. Everyone cheers. But where will the family go? Mom knows. She points to a framed picture of a lighthouse resting on the shore of Kachemak Bay. Destination: Homer, Alaska. Dad agrees, and they begin making plans for the day in summer when they will, in Clark W. Griswold-type fashion, pile into the family station wagon (in Alaska, it’s called a “Subaru”) and head four hours south to that charming little town on the coast.

A popular bumper sticker has helped many Alaskans come to know Homer as “a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.” It’s true that the offshore fishing in Kachemak Bay is top notch, and many charter offices in town offer halibut and salmon fishing trips that provide a chance at a whopper of a catch. However, there exist some less pricey opportunities to catch fish right in town, primarily on the Homer Spit.

To those that are unfamiliar, the Homer Spit sounds like a crude “Simpson” reference, but the 4.5 mile strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay is actually one of the most popular places to enjoy summer activities, including fishing. It’s home to the Homer Boat Harbor, which contains both deep and shallow water docks and serves up to 1,500 commercial and pleasure boats at its summer peak. On the Spit, tourists and residents can charter a boat or plane, go beach combing, camp, park an RV, or find restaurants, shops and hotels.

The fishing opportunities on the Spit include a local lagoon containing returns of stocked king and silver salmon, and saltwater fishing from the shore near the Land’s End Resort. The fishing won’t compare to that which can be found out in the open ocean or at a remote creek that is only float plane accessible, but it will afford some moderately-sized fish and – more importantly – some time to relax and fish alongside family and friends without breaking the bank.

Down to the Old Fishin’ Hole

The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, better known as “The Fishing Hole,” on the Homer Spit provides opportunities for king (Chinook) salmon in May and June and silver (Coho) salmon in July and August. It’s great to see people from all walks of life, even children, enjoying schools of fish circling by while they practice casting their lines and attempting to hook and wrestle in a salmon. Although there is plenty of room to land them, be warned that it can be difficult to get the salmon to strike. The reason is, they go off the bite after having spent a little time in the lagoon and can become a bit wary of fishing lures. When the seawater rolls into the lagoon on the incoming tide, so will the fish. A limit can sometimes be taken on either side of the entrance to the lagoon or at other areas around it with a little bit of “flipping” or “tight lining.” As fish swim through a gauntlet of lines with mouths open, someone’s leader will ultimately find its way into a fish’s mouth, even without a current. The leader will slide towards the hook creating a little bump in the line that the fishermen will feel on a sensitive fishing rod. A quick upward thrust of the rod tip to set the hook results in shouts of “fish on!” all around. Some anglers prefer to try and induce a strike using a colorful or shiny wet fly like a zonker or a Vibrax in green, pink or blue color. Others, still, swear by their secret recipes for cured salmon eggs for an efficient means of bringing home some of the precious meat.

When the lagoon opens for snagging later in the year, as opposed to the slightly more sporting methods mentioned above, the catch rate really picks up about two hours before low tide. As the tide recedes, the lagoon becomes quite shallow, meaning there will be fewer fish per unit of water. The trapped fish will circle in the remaining water like ducks in a barrel and produce a nice meat harvest. Try having kids throw out a double hook or mooching rig with green yarn attached to each hook. Instruct them to land their cast just beyond an oncoming school of salmon and reel in slowly before ripping the hooks through the water. Polarized sunglasses are a big plus for this kind of sight-fishing, as you will really need to see the fish to be successful.

There’s no need to worry about meeting escapement levels in this enhanced fishery. Each year, newly-hatched salmon are raised to smolt size in hatcheries before being transferred to floating pens in the lagoon. In these pens, they are protected from predators, raised to a larger size, and “imprinted” with the unique saltwater chemistry of the lagoon that will, years after their release, eventually attract them home to waiting fishermen. There seems to be more fish per angler at that time of year, and the trip down in early August allows me the opportunity to pull off the highway and try to pick up a few extra sockeye that are still moving up the Kenai and Kasilof at that time of year.

Don’t Forget the Herring!

Once there are some salmon in the cooler, it’s time to explore life outside the lagoon. The beach between the Land’s End Resort and the docks offers some great catch-and-release fishing for saltwater species including flounder, pollock, or small halibut. Every now and then a silver or king gets caught that’s worth keeping, but these are a rarity here.

Some herring, some larger, rod holders and a few lounge chairs are all you and your family will need to have a relaxing afternoon of fishing right off the beach between the Land’s End Resort and the docks. The best fishing is on the incoming tide - in particular, just before high tide. Just stick the rod up vertical in the rod holder and wait for some action on the tip. Once there is movement, grab it quickly and set the hook. Easy as apple pie.

As you plan your family fishing trip to the Homer Spit next year, make a mental note to bring your camera. Remember that the town itself offers some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and ample opportunities for wildlife viewing from the car, including bald eagles, sea otters, and moose. Have I also forgotten to mention there are some charming coffee shops and boutiques that mom will surely love? So, even though it’s been snowing for the last twelve hours, do try to find some Christmas cheer and block out the image of all that white powder piling up in your driveway. In just half a year’s time it will all be melted, and it will provide runoff that some of these fish will use to make their way to your favorite fishing hole, and into your freezer. You can bet your wool socks on it.

No items found.

Author

Kalb Stevenson

Author & Media

Kalb Stevenson

Media Contributor

Cecil Sanders

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