An Outdoor View: On variety in fishing

Author’s note: Not much has changed about fishing on the Kenai Peninsula in the 18 years since I wrote this piece, first published by the Clarion in June 1999. — LP

I recently had a nightmare, a really scary one. I was at a Board of Fisheries meeting. After some bureaucrat explained how the proposal under consideration would accomplish “the loftiest of ideals, equality,” the board unanimously adopted a regulation that required everyone to fish with exactly the same tackle and technique.

That woke me up, as most anything will on these short June nights, and I got to thinking about fishing.

One reason fishing has remained so universally popular over the years is that no two of us see it as quite the same activity. Some of us like it simple; others like it complex. Some fish for excitement; others fish for relaxation. Some do it partly for food; others do it purely for sport. Some enjoy the social aspects of fishing; others like fishing in quiet solitude. Fishing seems to be whatever we want it to be.

Part of fishing is discovering what works for you and weaving it into your own ways, means and mojo. Here on the peninsula, we have so many different kinds of fishing that even the most avid anglers don’t have time to enjoy them all.

On Memorial Day weekend, I got my kicks by fishing the Friday night king salmon opener on the Ninilchik River, drifting a luminescent Spin-N-Glo in the dark water at midnight in the dim hope that I could land a king if I did somehow manage to hook one. Others, possibly more intelligent or more patient than I, waited until a more civilized hour to begin. Some of these walked upstream, past the crowded holes, and fly fished. Others cast spinners and spoons from the shore opposite the dock in the small boat harbor. Still others fished from the dock with a bobber and eggs, looking as if they were waiting for a 4-ounce crappie to bite, and not a 30-pound chinook.

Fish for kings at the confluence of the Kasilof River and Crooked Creek and you’ll see an unbelievable variety of tackle and technique. In the fast water, you’ll see anglers flipping flies, Kenai red-fishing style. In slower water, you may see a woman drift-fishing with a Spin-N-Glo and eggs, and 10 feet upstream a man fly fishing with a purple Egg-sucking Leech. On the bank behind these two might be a kid casting a Pixee spoon between them. Like as not, he will have no boots, and the top 12 inches will be broken off his spinning rod. A few feet beyond Pixee range, you might see drift boats, back-trolling and back-bouncing.

Down at the “enhancement lagoon” on the Homer Spit, some anglers cast spoons and spinners for kings, while others sit and watch bobbers, beneath which might be a glob of eggs, a herring or some “secret” bait. In Halibut Cove Lagoon and in Seldovia, other anglers do pretty much the same thing from boats.

Anglers in small skiffs can be seen trolling herring and lures for kings within a couple hundred yards of the Homer Spit. Anglers in larger boats can be seen trolling with downriggers off Bluff Point, about 10 miles from the spit. Some anglers fish from their own boats; some fish from chartered boats.

Then there’s the Kenai River, where within a 10-mile stretch you might see people back-trolling, back-bouncing, drift-fishing and trolling downstream on an incoming tide. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll see something new on the Kenai.

All of the previously mentioned fishing occurs during the same time of year. Thousands of people, all doing the same thing, only differently. The Department of Fish and Game presents it in boring statistics — so much catch-per-unit-of-effort,” or so many “angler-hours” — but it boils down to this: Without variety, our fishing would be pretty dull.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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