Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: And it’s a wrap

Nick writes his last report for the summer

Labor Day weekend was a bit temperamental at the beginning.

Snits of tedious showers peppered the area and then teased with promising massages of sunshine that morphed back into irksome drizzles capering through neighborhoods to waterlog spirits until Sunday.

The new day brought a respite from the doldrums of sullen cloud covers hanging around the area and then really upped its game as the sun slept.

The night brought forth a dazzling display of finery featuring brilliant stars bathed with a background of pulsating glows of the aurora. Some of the resultant Facebook photos were as stunning as the fact that I slept through all of it. Wicked bummer.

But then came along a blue-sky Monday ideal for whipping up some beautifully seasoned rib eyes for the bar-b while getting ready to submit the final fishing report for the season.

Hey now, chill. The hard core realizes that there’s still some excellent fishing to look forward to but, unfortunately, it’s also the time of year to put this column on hiatus for around eight months.

So, before we close things out, I’d like to thank some special people for their tales, tips and professional support this summer.

First of all, kudos to Mike and the local Department of Fish and Game professionals and Kali along with Shane in the Anchorage office for the plethora of angling information they published each week. Without their expertise, input and great sense of humor it would be tough to get you the timely information you need to plan a successful and safe outing.

I also, once again, want to offer a distinguished tribute to the unofficial mayor of the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and plastic throne holder of the southwest corner of the pond, Tom, the fish assassin extraordinaire. The bait mackerel enthusiast has supported this column with his piscatorian expertise, jaw boning insights, and verbal smackdowns of rule breakers with rods for years and his observations have been invaluable. He is also one of those unsung heroes who proxy fishes for those infirmed or in need. Plus, he’s a really nice guy unless you are talentless miscreant who has no clue on how to catch a legal fish so lowers themselves to unauthorized snagging because they think it’s cool to look like a clueless dipstick with a pole.

And finally, a special tip of my spinning gear to Jeff, Jacob, Pete, George, Mikey, Ted, Grant, Jerry, Susan, Jeri, Abe and the Madison family who shared some exceptionally unique tips, hilarious comments about the column, and rowdy accounts of their misadventures while visiting the area. There just has to be a modicum of truth somewhere in there.

Alas, it’s time now to take a look at this season’s concluding fishing report for Sept. 6:

Freshwater Fishing

Salmon

Coho fishing in the lower Kenai Peninsula streams is still fair but will be wrapping up around mid-September.

As of Sept. 1, they can be chased in the lower 2 miles of the streams with unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures. Size 3 or 4 spinners or heavily weighted flies will should do the trick.

Steelhead

Expect the steelhead run to reach its peak in late September. Fishing success will vary with water levels after that and can be monitored with the Anchor River hydrograph.

Make sure you are aware of the differences between a silver and a steelhead.

It’s pretty simple. Steelhead/rainbow trout have black spots all over both lobes of the tail while silvers have black spots only on the upper lobe of the tail. Too much info for ya? Try reading it a bit slower this time around. Notes are allowed — even encouraged for some of you.

A well-presented bead pegged under a bobber is a great way to entice a steelhead bite. Beads are typically fished with a fly rod. Add more split shot to sink the bead if the current is too fast to let the bead plink along the bottom and be sure to adjust the depth of your bobber or strike indicator as needed. Fishing with a marabou jig and bobber is a great way to get started targeting steelhead. Plugs and swinging flies may also work well. Pink and purple are typical colors of tackle used to fish for steelhead.

The Anchor River steelhead counts are now available on the ADF&G fish counts website. The weirs will only be operational through late September.

Dolly Varden

Dollies are beginning to adopt their colorful fall spawning patterns. There are fewer dollies in the lower Kenai Peninsula streams than in recent years, but anglers may still catch them while fishing for steelhead.

Dollies also love a well-presented (i.e., dead-drifted) bead, and will bite small spinners, spoons, and flies also.

Saltwater Fishing

Halibut

Halibut fishing will continue to be fair over the fall months at locations in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. It might get a bit get tricky as winter storms make for rough seas and green gilled passengers.

Large jigs or herring on a circle hook are effective for halibut fishing. Consider the tide, and be sure to fish near slack, especially if the tides are large.

King Salmon

The fall months in Kachemak Bay typically offer some of the best king trolling of the year. The feeder king salmon tend to move around the bay, but bait can concentrate them in larger schools.

Locations in the outer bay can have remarkable fishing when the weather allows, including Fourth of July Creek, Silver Ridge, and Bluff Point. The inner bay has lots of great spots closer by including Bear Cove, Glacier Spit, the islands (Yukon Island area), and the green can near the Homer Spit.

Herring pegged in a head clip fished behind a flasher is the classic setup, but spoons with and without flashers work very well, along with a variety of other tackle like hoochies or plugs. Try trolling the same direction as the tide and try setting the gear at various depths between 10 and 100 feet.

Tanner Crab

The Kachemak Bay Tanner crab sport fishery (visit the online store for permits when available) will be open from Oct. 1, 2022, through Feb. 28, 2023. A pot or ring net may be used to target Tanner crab.

The highest concentrations of Tanner crab tend to be found west of the Homer spit in 300 and 500 feet of water. Pots need to be set in deep water to be successful. Use bait such as fish carcasses secured in the pots.

Emergency Orders

Emergency Orders 2-RCL-7-01-22 and 2-RCL-7-02-22 closed all EASTSIDE Cook Inlet beaches to clamming for all species from the mouth of the Kenai River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit in 2022.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy trying to negotiate his backyard via a paddleboard again.

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