Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Hunting beasts

By the time you read this, lingcod season will be open and I just ran across a draft of a response I sent a reader who asked what I thought of the creatures.

I told him that I knew from personal experience that they are beyond werewolf gruesome, have a set of fangs that give salmon sharks seizures, and flat relish making a brunch out visiting relatives.

Other than that, they are rather laid back unless you rile them up by directly staring into their eyes or get anywhere near what they consider their personal space.

If pissed, they possess fiery tempers and will attempt to rip off an appendage if you hassle them with a gaff. They also make exceedingly touchy pets. “Why?”

“Nothing.” He wrote back. “I was trying to ask how they taste.”

I answered that I considered them quite delicious and would rather snarf down a batch of Panko crusted ling and chips than a platter of halibut filets from a large flat.

I assured him that the smaller halibut, when prepared properly, especially by our local eateries, are ambrosia to the palate. But, after the heftier ones develop into slabs-with-abs they tend to lose their tenderness especially if overcooked on a home grill and end up as entrées resembling table mats.

I never heard from him again.

If you are interested in hunting the beasts over the holiday weekend, here are a few tips.

There are several basic things to consider when searching for lingcod. First, stony bottoms and pinnacles are their ambush grounds. The rockier and more vertical, the better the bet that you will find them hangin’ in their nooks while sporting a nasty territorial attitude (rough reefs usually between 30 and 330 feet deep).

Second, tide and current makes a big difference. Slow water movement at tide changes is cool because you can fish vertically with less hang-ups and gear loss. When your lure hits bottom, immediately pull it up a few feet and start a jigging motion to put verve into your bait set-up. This action will also help you keep from getting embedded into something such as wicked rock snags. (Jigs can be most anything with glitz from the standard diamond types to flashy and wicked-cool looking Yo-Zuri jigs.)

Finally, most lingcod get malevolent when first hooked but if you win the battle and get a hefty one into the boat without structural damage to your equipment or body, don’t forget to bleed it out immediately to avoid a more pronounced fishy taste.

This is just one piscator’s way of doing things. Trust the pros that you’ve chartered or buddies who have already trounced some of these delectable, fillet bearing, Ophiodon elongates (Latin for warthog-ugly greenling).

Time now for the fishing report for the week of July 1, 2024.

Freshwater Fishing

Anchor River and Deep Creek opened to sport fishing other than king salmon on July 1.

Dolly Varden are just beginning to ease into streams in small numbers which will result in sloth-slow fishing this week. For fly fisherman, smolt patterns, streamers, and beads are the best options. Spinners and spoons are cool options for fishing with spinning gear.

The Ninilchik River is still open to fishing for hatchery kings through July 15 but the run is dropping gears. For chasing newbie fish, try hitting the harbor area on the incoming tide. With these continuing low water conditions smaller (size 3 or 4) pink or chartreuse spinners should be your best bet. Flies, plugs, and spoons will do just fine also. If you incidentally hook a wild chinook, get it to the bank expeditiously as possible and set it free without removing it from the water.

China Poot personal use dipnet fishery has been knocking out limits of sockeye for most of those venturing across the bay. Water conditions are still high which makes spotting fish more difficult.

Saltwater Fishing

Kachemak Bay/Cook Inlet

Halibut

Halibut fishing remained righteous for large fish over the week. The bigger hawgs were coming from many locations including Cook Inlet and the outer coast near the Chugach Islands. Flat Island continues to be a reliable option for taking nice numbers of the smaller flats. Fishing around slack tide is the preeminent time for hunting halibut because you can hold the bottom with less weight.

Lingcod

Lingcod fishing opened on July 1. Expect fair to good fishing over the next week when seas are favorable to make it out to the outer coast to hunt along the coast from the Chugach Islands to Gore Point.

King Salmon

King fishing south of Bluff Point was pretty good for anglers trolling over the weekend. Continue to expect trifling numbers of chinook scattered throughout Kachemak Bay.

Small troll herring or spoons behind a flasher are still the top strike getters, but hootchies and tube flies will also fire them up.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye fishing in China Poot and Tutka Bay Lagoon was good over the last few days. Expect conditions to roll the same over the upcoming week.

Surf Fishing

Dogged surf fishing advocates were hitting gold on several of the Cook Inlet beaches last weekend, including the Deep Creek area and the Homer Spit. Long line flingers were nailing a variety of groundfish including halibut, sculpins, skates, sharks, flounders, cod, and things we dare not mention.

Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon

King fishing has been pretty sad at the fishing hole and should be nearing its last breath.

Since there is no significant buildup of blackmouth, it’s highly unlikely that the lagoon will open for snagging what remains of the fish.

For getting a shot at the few fresh arriving stragglers, a chunk of mackerel or a plug cut herring drifting about 2 feet under a bobber has been working well the entire season. Firing various colored Vibrax spinners has also stirred up some action.

Note: The seals this year have been raising hell out there this season. They been swarming the lagoon in numbers reaching a dozen at a time and razing havoc with the salmon and fishermen alike.

May haps the AKF&G and city should get together and devise a blocking gate device to screen the entrance of the lagoon to dissuade this growing invasion.

Our email box runneth over with unseemly suggestions and complaints about the subject. You’re aiming the wrong way folks.

Razor Clams

There are several days of minus tides this week that will provide opportunities to dig razor clams in west Cook Inlet. Both Crescent River Bar and Polly Creek have good numbers of large clams this season.

Emergency Orders

Please review the emergency orders and advisory announcements below in their entirety before heading out on your next fishing trip.

• Changes to Gear in the Ninilchik River

• Sport Fishing for King Salmon Closed in Upper Cook Inlet Salt Waters

• King Salmon Bag Limit Reduced from 2 to 1 in Lower Cook Inlet Salt Waters

• Cook Inlet Sport Fishing Regulation Changes

• East Cook Inlet Razor Clam Fisheries Remain Closed for 2024

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com unless you are frothing around the gums about the seals. Until next week…

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