Unhinged Alaska: As the Fishing Hole slips into hibernation, the tourists slide south

Around mid July, silvers started arriving in small fleets both inside and outside the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in Homer.

Things were so good that folks with the skills of a block of cement were getting hit after hit while those with the upgraded dexterity of a preschooler were actually able to land a few so naturally a thundering herd of hopefuls descended on the pond.   

I instantly switched to fishing the first glimmer of light during the weekdays because it was a lot less congested and the cohoes seemed to get grumpy- hungry and flat mean during the gloaming hours.

Since my wife and I rate crowded fishing conditions right up there with having Alaskan landscapes tattooed of on the soles of our feet, we opted to take Sunday afternoon spit excursions to observe the activities and enjoy a hot lunch.

Sounds like the quintessential laid back day doesn’t it? Not quite.

Watching the actions and techniques of the fishermen lining the shore was fascinating and a boatload of fun. Lunch on the other hand was not because, unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play well with our diminutive mutt.

Have you ever tried to take pleasure in a warm meal while trying to disregard a backseat theater death stare from a self professed munch monitor and treataholic miniature poodle?

Our simple attempt at a mid-day indulgence highly annoyed our emergency back-up dog who perpetually tries to make things into an international urinary crisis when we don’t share our food. It’s her way of making our victuals as cold as her normal dinner entrées if she can convince us that her bladder is about to go nuclear.

Much to her chagrin, this time around, she didn’t get away with it. We had her number and, unless drama dog let fly with her authentic signal for a relief romp by crossing her hind legs and spinning like a plane that just lost a wing, she’d just have to chill.

Things went much better after she realized that she had been put on “major ignore” and curled up to pout.

Meanwhile we stared in disbelief at some amazing displays of terminal fishing incompetence including a gentleman who seemed to be significantly less bright than his new reel. He somehow managed to get his buddy so wrapped up in his line after a hellacious attempt at a sideways cast that it took over ten minutes to extricate the poor guy.

I don’t know what was more entertaining, the disentanglement dance or the fiery expletive squawks from the victim that would have mortified Andrew Dice Clay.

When the run began to slow later in August, Fish and Game opened the area for snagging.

Talk about an overnight transition.

All of a sudden meat hunters were flinging everything from weighted hooks that could knock a hole in an engine block to set ups so puny they’d instantly snap free sending the barbed metals rocketing in search of some nearby piscator’s profoundly personal body parts.

Alpha silvers leading the schools abruptly started surfing backwards while the pack’s dim bulbs trailing in the rear shot sideways toward the beach like they had backed into frozen rectal thermometers.

The final blow to the lagoon was when the subsistence nets were allowed to hit the water. I actually started feeling a bit sad for the silver torpedoes. With frenzied snaggers flinging lead, nets in the water, and seals on their sorry butts it wasn’t exactly Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for a coho.

Anyone visiting the spit this last week who had the observation skills of a plastic garden gnome realized the silver run and The Hole are now deader than a seniors-only concert featuring Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem.

In fact, as of Friday morning, it resembled an oversized bathtub with nothing in it but a bewildered seal cruising around looking like it knew it should be somewhere else but didn’t have a clue of where that might be. The hapless thing was a fin flip away from qualifying as a member of the presidential cabinet.

Most of the tourists have now thundered south in their motorized mansions featuring matching Shih Tzus fitfully napping on the inside of the front windshield hoping their master won’t make any sudden stops morphing them into pugs while the “for amusement only” rat terrier happily knocks itself dingy trying to kick the heck out of the weird creature in the bedroom mirror.

I’m sure there will still be a final small surge of northern visitors this weekend because the streams still hold greedy dollies, tumbling rainbows and the flash of silvers looking for a cage fight, so batten down the hatches.

As for me, I’ll be prowling some river bank come Tuesday morning at one of my secret holes hoping I don’t get shot in the butt by some hung-over hunter thinking he’s stumbled into a grizzly.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t dodging lead along a tributary in the lower Kenai.

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