Fishing in Homer: Maizie’s BIG Trip
by Melissa Norris
Fishing in Homer made my list of trips for 2020 early last winter. With a reduction in tourism this summer as an outcome of COVID-19, it turns out there are extra opportunities for Alaska’s locals. Many of the fortunate fishing outfits who can operate this season are offering special discounts and prime date openings for residents. Some trips I had been looking forward to this spring and summer were cancelled because of late openings, and even complete season closures. Fortunately there are always options for a fishing fiend like me. The need for fresh halibut and salmon summoned me along with wanting to take my near 6-year-old Maizie fishing in Homer on a BIG adventure.
My Mom and I always joke that before Maizie was born I filled out a form selecting all of the traits I wanted her to possess. I come from a long line of sarcasm so I confirmed I had, in fact, held an official Ticonderoga Number Two pencil between my fingers and filled in each bubble completely on that standardized test so that the answers could be accurately evaluated. She had to be smart, funny, sweet, and adorable. Of course, like all moms, I really only wanted her to be healthy, but since I was wishing I may as well shoot for the stars. And my dreams came true, because seriously, my kid is perfect. She even loves fishing!
Maizie and her dad are always down for a fishing adventure so I pitched the idea of a BIG trip to Homer in our motorhome to camp and fish with Big Dan’s Fishing on Memorial Day weekend, the day after our big girl would graduate from kindergarten.
I immediately asked Sarah Spies at Big Dan’s Fishing if they had an opening for my family. Sarah is great to work with and we nailed down a plan quickly. I wanted to fish first hand with them aboard their custom, 42-foot catamaran, the Game Changer. We climbed on the ocean vessel first thing Saturday morning. Initially I noted the spacious size of both the cabin and deck.
I knew we’d be fishing with Captain Dan Spies at the helm but I quickly learned they had combined us with a group slated for the Blackjack, their 6-pack boat, which meant we had the added pleasure of Captain Jesse Lindall on board helping on the deck. Weather could become an issue, they said, so they moved their 6-pack group to the half-filled Game Changer for the day. Seemed like a smart shift to me. Had I booked the 6-pack I sure would appreciate the opportunity to move aboard the larger 12-pack vessel and still fish in inclement weather! I know a bunch of salty dogs who would value this asset from a preferred fishing charter company too.
First things first, we sped out to the fishing grounds in their high-powered boat to find the tides were moving fast and the fishable water was deep. Getting the right lead weight figured out to hold bait was an equal order of business, as paramount as getting a chum bag going to draw halibut to the boat. Once those two missions were accomplished we saw steady action until each of the 11 anglers on board was able to harvest both their over and under halibut limits. In Kachemak Bay (Area 3A), that amounts to one halibut over 26 inches and one under per day per angler with four being your annual limit. The average “over” was 30- to 35 pounds and really that’s just right to us! I personally would not kill any halibut over 100 pounds, and I’d have to seriously consider releasing anything over 75 pounds. I don’t need that much meat and I want to see those fish breed and perpetuate the gene pool. There are proposals in front of the Board of Fish that could enrich limits this year, yet another “benny” for locals. I still urge you to fish responsibly, and only take what you need.
After the last halibut was bonked and bled we made our way back to Homer. With only a few hours left and 11 anglers aboard the Game Changer, we took a stab at trolling for kings. The action would come in spurts, we were told, if it was to happen at all.
The first king came quickly and it was a beaut, a thirty-plus-pound fatty if you have ever seen one. Then it stopped. Then it was back on for two more. We made several trolling passes but as predicted the bite would come and go. Kings are my favorite fish to eat, and halibut is easily next in line, if not tied for the lead. I was happy to see anglers who have never before caught Chinook get a chance to catch and later eat incredible salmon like these. I’ve caught plenty of kings in my day, and thankfully, will again.
We’ve been eating fresh halibut for days now. A blackened-halibut Caesar is on the menu almost every day this week and that suits us all just fine. You’ve never tasted halibut until you’ve tasted it the same day you retrieved it from the ocean floor. Thank you Big Dan’s Fishing!
Alaska is amazing. You just have to go out and enjoy it. Fishing in Homer is one way to do that. It’s a privilege to be a local, now more than ever. Our friends at Big Dan’s can easily put you on some halibut and salmon for your freezer, something most Alaskans cherish. They are currently offering combo trips to residents for only $250 per person through June 15. You might also consider booking one of their overnight charters. Contact Sarah at 907-598-3391 or visit bigdansfishing.com. Be sure to check out their booth in our Virtual Outdoor Show coming soon. And a congratulations is due for Dan and Sarah Spies who have just closed on their new Big Dan’s Riverfront Lodge right on the Kenai River! They are excited to be able to provide lodging now for guests, as well as their popular fishing charters.
Melissa Norris is the Publisher of Fish Alaska and Hunt Alaska magazines.