Halibut Fishing in Homer
Photos & Story by John Forbes
If you drive 223 miles south of Anchorage on the Sterling Highway, you will eventually encounter an interesting yet peaceful town known as Homer. Situated at "The end of the road," Homer is a special place for both visitors and residents alike, as it boastfully holds the unofficial title "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." Dozens of boats depart the harbor each day during summer in hopes of reeling in the "big one". Some fishing charters offer king salmon fishing as well, yet the main fare is clearly the halibut. There is an annual Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby that offers enormous cash prizes for catching the biggest fish as well as selected tagged fish. The current leader of the 2011 derby sits at 350 lbs! Wowza! But no worries, there's still time to catch a fish that weighs 351 lbs, since the competition runs all the way through September 30th.
A few weeks ago, my family and I decided to try our own luck at halibut fishing in Homer. While they slept in the comforts of a lodge, I decided to camp in a tent on the Homer spit. The spit is a four and a half mile strip of narrow land that extends into Kachemak Bay. It is home to the boat harbor and restaurants as well as the notorious Salty Dawg Saloon. The spit is naturally occurring and is the second largest in the world. Camping on the beach was fascinating! I was greeted by several swooping bald eagles and a few curious sea otters. It was also quite windy on the spit that weekend, which I found out the hard way. Coming back to our campsite, I noticed my tent was no where to be seen. It turned out a large gust had taken it, stakes and all, down the beach about 100 yards where it had fortunately become snagged on a picnic table. In Alaska, we are clearly at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Moving on, I was relieved to finally get onto the fishing boat the next morning. There is something special about being out in the ocean with a fishing pole in hand. We had taken a charter through North Country Halibut Charters and we found ourselves on a six man vessel known as the Belle Ile. The weather was being stubborn, forcing our captain to take us into waters which weren't so rough. The weather is usually mild in Homer, but this weekend happened to be a bit more windy and precipitous, although we were just happy to be out there. We dropped our herring-baited hooks to the bottom of the ocean and waited for results. Aside from a few Irish lords and a ferocious looking salmon shark, we were mostly catching 30-40 lb Halibut at a consistent pace. Initially we threw them back, hoping to hook into a mammoth size fish. As the afternoon wore on and the seas became even rougher, we had to settle on the medium sized halibut. However, we weren't disappointed, because it turns out that the medium to small sizes are actually better for eating. Needless to say, we went back to shore with some good looking fish and a great experience under our belt.