After leaving Kenai Tuesday afternoon we drove down the rest of the Kenai Peninsula to Homer. We had previously been told Homer is becoming a destination for tech money and I can see why. It is a super cool little town with an amazing view in a great protected bay. There are long beaches and plenty of parks. There are a bunch of interesting shops and it is the type of town where a lot of the businesses have hand painted signs. It immediately just feels like more of a community than other places we have been so far.
We immediately drove out the spit just to see what is out there. There is a large RV park, a stocked fishing lagoon, a lagoon with an outlet to the bay where people can apparently catch salmon, the ferry dock, a very full “small” boat harbor, and a bunch of resort condos. I called and then stopped in at a charter business to find out about winter King salmon fishing or halibut fishing and found I could get out on a charter on Thursday. That would give us a day to explore a bit and relax, though the weather was supposed to be pretty ugly Wednesday.
The first night we camped up at a city park with a nice view of the mountains. As we turned into the park, from a completely residential street, there was a moose standing on the corner. At first I thought it might be a statue in the park, but then it looked at me and walked off. Great, I hope the dogs don’t think they can make friends with a moose!
Wednesday was not too bad in Homer, though the mountains were clearly getting snow/rain and there was weather out further in the Cook Inlet making the ocean rather rough. We went down to the beach and took a long walk under the bluffs.
When we came back I took the windy opportunity to practice flying my kite. My cousin, Blair, is going to teach me to kite surf this summer so I need to make sure I have some basics down.
We also did some bird watching along a slough just behind the beach and saw some new birds. There were at least White-Fronted Geese, Widgeons, Pintails, Green-Wing Teals, Goldeneyes, and a shorebird we think was a Bar-Tailed Godwit.
In the evening we decided to park on the spit just across from the harbor as there are some campsites just off the road facing the ocean.
The next morning I headed out with Keith on Ocean Hunter Charters in search of halibut. Keith was a great guide, and, although he is a Wisconsin transplant, he had a lot of good Alaskan stories and pictures to share. I was showing the boat with a grandfather, son, and two grandsons from Pennsylvania who came up specifically for halibut fishing in Homer. They had gone out with Keith on Monday and were coming for round 2.
While I was out fishing, Sara took Kenai for a run on the beach and then relaxed.
Our fishing was up and down. There is a two fish limit and one has to be under 28″. We started in nice weather as the tide came in and we had a ton of bites, but didn’t hook up on many fish. The guys from Pennsylvania caught one nice (~35 lb.) fish and I think someone caught a small one. The rest of us just kept getting bites and hauling up our line to make sure we still had our herring bait. That is no easy task when you are bottom fishing in 250′ of water!
The wind in the morning was blowing in, with the tide. As the tide went slack, the fishing was a lot easier as the current didn’t pull the line way out to the side, but the fish still weren’t hooking up well. Keith’s concern was that as the tide shifted and the current ran out with an onshore wind, the water might get really rough. The sun was already ducking behind some clouds and at times it was pretty cold.
Of course, that’s when the fish started really biting. As the tide shifted we all started catching fish. I pulled in a nice fish that was also about 35 lbs. and then one right around 28″. I think those smaller ones weigh between 5 and 10 lbs. Then one of the guys from Pennsylvania pulled up a super nice halibut – Keith estimated 60-65 lbs. They don’t really fight like some fish, but pulling up a 35 lb. – 65 lb. unwilling fish is not an easy task and we definitely felt it in our forearms hauling up the rod and reeling. In the end I think we managed 7 halibut and one ling cod. Although we didn’t reach our limit the Pennsylvania guys had already fished one day and they had plenty of fish to ship home.
I ended up with 20 lbs. of fish. We kept some to fry up here and I’m shipping the rest to my parents and a buddy in NJ who wanted a fillet. We had halibut fish and chips a few days ago in Seward and although it was not cheap merely because we are in Alaska, it was ridiculously delicious.
In the evening light we drove up the bluffs above Homer. The view is stunning. I’m sure it would be even more amazing when the vegetation greens up, but the land, the bay, and the mountains on the other side is a million-dollar view. I guess we should probably move here before all the silicon valley types realize that living in a place like Homer with that kind view is what the money is for!
Last night we stayed back up near Kenai at a dry camp owned by Kaley and Fred. Fred is a high school friend of Sara who moved to Alaska many years ago and has worked all over the State. He now works for NOAA fisheries and lives down in Ketchikan, but they still have the camp on the Kenai Peninsula. They generously offered to let us stay all summer, and we haven’t left the area yet, so …………….