With early-run king salmon and razor clams pretty much out of the picture for the coming season, let’s take measure of what’s left.
Below are some ideas designed to spark ideas for things you can do in the coming months. This isn’t about “how to,” but about trying something that might be new and different. As for the how-to, you’ll find no end of it in books, videos, magazines and the Internet. While you’re at it, pick the brains of friends and acquaintances.
With the east-side beaches closed to harvesting razor clams, one of the usual rites of spring is gone. But wait. We can venture to the west side of Cook Inlet, where clams — for some reason — remain abundant and large. Some charter outfits are even offering clam-halibut combo trips. This is a long ride in a small boat, so it would be “weather-dependent,” but on a calm day, it would be an adventure. It probably would beat the alternative: Frozen razor clams in local stores go for upward of $15 per pound — when you can find them.
Beaches on the south side of Kachemak Bay present other possibilities for clams. You won’t find razors there, but littleneck and butter clams. You can access these beaches with your own small boat, or by water taxi. Extreme tides expose mussels on some of the rocks.
Water taxis can be useful for several activities. Kayakers and campers use them for accessing Prince William sound and the south side of Kachemak Bay. Some water taxi outfits have rental kayaks. Keep in mind that a water taxi can deliver you to the many cabins for rent by the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska State Parks, and that water taxis can carry a lot of weight. By using water taxis and float planes, the world is your oyster.
Fishing for king salmon in Alaskan rivers has varied from “iffy” to “disastrous” in recent years. However, fishing for “feeder” kings, sometimes called “winter” kings, has been fairly good. The vast majority of these kings are of Canadian-hatchery origin, and apparently are relatively unaffected by whatever is causing the downturn in abundance of Alaska-origin kings. In saltwater, feeder kings can be found year-round near Homer and Seward. Most are caught from boats by anglers trolling with downriggers. These fish are nowhere near as large as mature kings, but they are fun to catch and hard to beat as table fare. Several charter outfits target them. Call them, and find out how they’ve been doing.
Halibut fishing in Cook Inlet improves as the water temperature rises and more fish come into the inlet. By May, it’s not bad. By late June, it’s pretty good, and more large fish are being caught. July and August usually are best months. If you charter, spend a little more and go on a combo trip that gives you a chance to put both halibut and salmon in the box.
Fishing for halibut from the beach is becoming popular. It’s not for everyone, and it may not be as effective as fishing from a boat, but it’s a lot less expensive and you can do it in any kind of weather. Among the many advantages of fishing from shore:
■ You can take the baby, grandma, Old Blue and Uncle Bubba, and all for free;
■ you can hunt for agates while you fish;
■ if you’re rigged up right, you can catch a salmon;
■ you can get up and leave anytime you want;
■ you rarely have to watch someone show what they ate for breakfast.
When it comes to eating, some people prefer Pacific cod over halibut. These “true” cod can be found not far out of Homer and Seward, within reach of anyone with a small, seaworthy boat. They are often found in great abundance, and there is no sport-fishing bag limit for them.
Fly fishing for salmon can be challenging, but on the right stream at the right time and place, it can be so much fun, you’ll wonder why it’s not illegal. You haven’t lived until you’ve fished “on top” for silver salmon, and with streamer flies in a river full of feisty chum salmon.
While it’s true that we don’t have as many king salmon and razor clams as we had a few years ago, what’s left is more than enough.
Les Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.