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Fishing report: Homer halibut improving, Talkeetna trout biting

Tony Weaver
Photo by Joe Selig

I'm always surprised at the gems I discover doing the fishing report. Putting weather, tides, water levels, fish return and other information together is great. However, none of this guarantees a successful fishing trip, and placing a call to an angler or guide who has been fishing the area you plan to visit often helps. Hopefully, that person is reputable and never lies about how many fish he or she caught.

I called Steve Babinec of Saltwater Safari Company in Seward on Tuesday for a report, and he mentioned how the static Gulf of Alaska coastal currents can really turn on the fishing, as it did last week when he caught a bunch of large fish.

He explained how the Gulf current in his area intersects the outgoing minus tide and creates hot fishing. The water west of Montague Strait does funny things, with the redirected tide churning up bait and firing up the fish.

I noticed this phenomenon years back fishing with Babinec on his boat, the Legacy, with the current running east to west near Cape Junket. I was thinking that couldn't be right, that the tide should be running north to south. Babinec enlightened me about the "static current effect" -- or redirected tidal currents -- being pushed west. These and other tidbits of information really increase your fishing knowledge.

Dustin Slinker, a Ship Creek regular and owner of the Bait Shack, probably knows more about Ship Creek fish than anyone, and he let me in on a nice tip this week. He explained how the fish on the tides will run ahead of flood tide to the dam and if the water isn't just right will fall back on the ebb to the lower river or all the way to Cook Inlet. That is why Ship Creek fishes well into the flood tide, slows down "on the peak" and then picks up again on the outgoing tide.

"Catch them coming and going," Slinker says.

That is why I write this fishing report. Every week I get to talk with the experts and share the latest information. Hopefully, someday I'll be lucky enough to fish every day like Slinker and Babinec.

Mat-Su

Fishing has been slow on the Deshka River. There are a few pre- and post-spawn rainbow trout being caught in the upper river. I spoke with Mike Hudson from Three Rivers Fly & Tackle in Wasilla, who spent the last couple of days on the upper Deshka.

Hudson said he didn't see any kings caught at the mouth but heard of a few fish landed. The weir counts are 82 fish as of Tuesday. We are still probably two weeks from seeing significant numbers of fish. Last year, 60 percent of the 18,531 kings that passed the weir all season did so the week of June 21-27.

Parks Highway streams are fishing fair to good for trout. Most are being caught on smolt patterns and small spinners. Many flowing waters along the Parks Highway are catch-and-release only for rainbow trout until June 14; check the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website for clarification.

The Talkeetna River has been fishing fair to good for trout. In the main stem of the Talkeetna, the water has cleaned up over the last couple of days as the hot weather that brings high and off-colored water has departed. With this year's low snowpack, the Talkeetna should fish well for a couple of weeks. Clear Creek is also low and clear and a few trout are being caught. Any combination of smolt, leech, sculpin and flesh patterns should produce.

Most valley lakes are fishing well too. The warm weekend brought many fish to the surface. Midge and chronomid hatches are under way, and anglers can catch fish on dry flies as well as damsels, leeches and dragonfly nymphs. Spin fisherman should try eggs and floats on the Kepler-Bradley and Memory lakes.

Seward

Fishing in Seward was decent the last couple of days and over the holiday weekend. Crowds were not bad and there have been some nice catches of larger halibut caught out towards Cape Junket. Babinec of Saltwater Safari said he had an epic day last weekend fishing near Montague Island in 280 feet of water, with several halibut exceeding 70 pounds. Cod and herring proved to be the best bait combination. Water temperatures remain a little above normal for this time of year, and that has brought the bait and larger halibut closer to shore.

Saltwater Safari owner Bob Candopoulos is back skippering this year; sharing the duties on the Legend with nephew Bob Savino.

Reds are still arriving at the north end of Resurrection Bay. This a terminal fishery with one access point on private property. See the ADFG website for more information.

Whittier

Halibut fishing remains productive 2.5 hours out of the harbor. Most the better fishing has been out near the Montague Straits.

Kristen Labrecque of Saltwater Excursions said her anglers hauled in nice 30-to-40-pound halibut on Tuesday, though finding the smaller under-29-inch fish needed to complete anglers' limits proved difficult. She said the rockfish have cooperated and the Pacific cod have been numerous. Most rockfish have been caught with salmon- style setups using up to 4 ounces of lead with squid skirts and cut bait. Most of the halibut she has caught have been on soaking bait on Kodiak Custom halibut rigs or circle hooks with half a herring.

Anchorage

Most Anchorage lakes have been stocked and the fishing has been good. These lakes are convenient and a great place to let the kids have a good time.

Jewel Lake is a fine place start. The south parking lot off Dimond Boulevard is about as easy as it gets. Also try Cheney Lake off Baxter Road; a wayside there makes it easy. Boat access will improve your chances of better fishing.

Ship Creek is slow for kings with less than a half dozen kings being caught per tide. Recent rainfall should improve the fishing, according to Slinker. Most of the kings have been less than 20 pounds, an indication that the run is still early. The fishing may not gear up for two weeks.

Twentymile River hooligan fishing by dipnet is improving. Fish the flood tides. Open season for hooligan in salt water is April 1-May 31; in fresh water, it is April 1-June 15. There is no bag or possession limit for personal-use smelt and no permit is required, though a fishing license is needed. Remember to slow down and watch for anglers along the Seward Highway. Do not trespass on the railroad tracks or the railroad right-of-way.

Homer and Kenai Peninsula

Early season halibut fishing out of Homer is improving, with Illinois angler Shawn Agnew leading the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby with an 82.4-pound flatfish.

Captain Diane Caso-Morris of Bob's Trophy Charters on Tuesday said her fleet of boats has done well, especially last Friday. The wind picked up on Saturday and Sunday, slowing things down.

Saltwater trolling for kings in Kachemak Bay was fair to good last Friday, with anglers catching 7-to-15-pound fish and sometimes a larger spawner.

Regulation changes are in effect for guided halibut anglers, who are now limited to one fish of any size and another no more than 29 inches.

The derby, which runs through Sept. 15, features the GCI $50,000 and Stanley Ford F-150 tagged fish. All together, there are 115 tagged fish ranging in value from $250 to $1000. Check the derby's new automated leaderboard at HomerHalibutDerby.com

Expect the Deep Creek, Anchor and Ninilchik weekend fisheries to improve this weekend. The Anchor River has been slow for kings with a very few fish caught last weekend, picking up a bit on Sunday (75 kings past the weir) and Monday (80). So far this season, 240 kings have passed the weir located two miles upstream from the river mouth.

At this time of year, steelhead trout leave the rivers and enter saltwater after spending the winter in the river after spawning in spring. Familiarize yourself with the differences between kings and steelhead trout before you fish and practice good fish handling if you catch a steelhead. Most important, hooked steelhead must not be removed from the water and released immediately.

The Kasilof has been producing a few kings and there are a fair number of reds already in the river, according to Dave Wilson of Let's Fish Charters. He has been hooking and landing one or two kings per day on K13 and 15 Kwikfish.

Saltwater fishing near the Deep Creek and Anchor Point launches has been fair, although slower than last week for kings. Anglers are also catching a fair number halibut with some of the best fishing near shore. I spoke with Rod Van Saun of Van Saun Charters who reported catching some 40- to 60-pound fish.

Tony Weaver has fished all over Alaska for more than 40 years. He is a photographer and author of "Topwater: Flyfishing the Last Frontier Alaska." He has written for numerous outdoor publications and can be seen on KTVA as a host on "Get Out Fishing" and on OLN's program "Alaska Outdoors."

 


By TONY WEAVER
Special to the Daily News