Sunday, June 15, 2014

Homer Alaska, the Most Beautiful Place in Alaska?

    Of all the things we had planned on our trip, this is the ONE thing I looked most forward to.  I have forever heard and seen the adventures of sportsmen coming to Alaska to fish for the incredibly large halibut, affectionately named 'Barn Doors'.   Finding the charter resources, camping, licensing, and other logistics was probably the easiest part.  I did actually buy another Engel 12vdc freezer for our RV's longer trip storage, but made sure it was empty by the time we got here for the fishing trip.
     What I did not expect was the natural beauty of the location of Homer, Alaska.  Situated at the southern most tip of the Kenai Peninsula, half the town sits on a hillside on the mainland while the hustle and bustle of the fishing/tourism center sits at the end of a 4 mile long spit that extends into Kachemak Bay.  The surrounding scenery across the bay is typical Alaska; one long panorama of snow capped peaks the provides the perfect backdrop for any photograph.  Our typical luck dictated that low clouds and drizzly rain were the state of the weather the day we arrived.   At least there were NO mosquitos.  We camped at the Fishing Hole Campground on the spit with potable water, bathrooms, and access to the RV dump station.  The cost is minimal.  Again, due to the weather we depended on the Honda generator more than we would like to. 
     It rained all day our 2nd day here.  We still ventured out to visit our charter office to confirm and pay for our fishing trip, and of course shop till I dropped.  Barb has incredible staying power.  I must admit that I did find a very nice insulated fleece pullover for our fishing adventure.  We also visited the Fisherman's Memorial located near the south edge of the spit.  This is dedicated to all the fisherman who have lost their lives in pursuit of their passion on the high seas.  Included in this is the name of Jonathon Hillstrand Sr., the father of 5 sons who still pilot the vessel Time Bandit, of Deadliest Catch fame and based in Homer, AK. 
     After several hours of touring we decided to treat ourselves to the local lunch favorite, Fish n Chips and where else do you eat this, but on a double decker bus restaurant.  The baskets were reasonably priced and the fish excellent.  I must admit that Barb's rockfish was much tastier than my halibut. 
     After several more hours we had quenched my wife's passion for shopping and there was only one place to go on a rainy Alaskan afternoon to top off our day out.  The Salty Dog Saloon! 

     This world famous watering hole is the last stop for nearly every boat captain and crew after a day pulling 'Barn Doors' out of the ocean.  It was early enough to avoid the harbor crews, but we were still lucky to find a couple of seats at the bar to stop for a bit.  There is only one thing you can order here and that is beer, liquor, or soda.  The only food on the menu is microwaveable hot dogs.  Seems hard to believe that would satisfy anyone's appetite after a hard day at sea. Every inch of wall and ceiling space is adorned with literally thousands of dollar bills autographed by patrons.  Of course we did our part as loyal MSU Spartans fans with a GO GREEN GO WHITE dollar bill autographed by my wife and I.   
     Our third day I was up with the sunrise at 4 a.m. (and walking Dharma) and finally saw the mountains across the bay.  I took several shots and Dharma barked at a harbor seal. 

     Later we went to the top of The Bluffs where we could look down on all of Kachemak Bay as well as the Spit with the mountain backdrop

     We traveled to the Beluga Marsh where we got very close to several moose. 

     When we returned to camp we were treated to an eagle that was sitting calmly surveying his surroundings on a local building. 

     No visit to Homer would be complete without the "Fish Tale".   We fished with North Country Charters, a highly experienced outfit with over 35 years experience out of Homer.  Our vessel was 'The Irish', a 53 foot craft capable of accommodating 15 fishermen (or ladies).  We chose the 'short range' charter which is 7 hours in duration rather than an 'all day' trip.  We did cruise out just past the mouth of Kachemak Bay, but not much further into the Gulf of Alaska.  This was Barb's first trip on the deep blue sea and I wanted to make sure she would be fairly comfortable.  On the other hand, I consider myself to be fairly experienced at barfing over the railing should the seas become rough.
     Dawn arrived early as usual and the bay was fairly smooth with winds only at 6 mph.  But, once underway and the charter boat reached the end of the bay and turned south into the Gulf of Alaska things quickly changed.  The remaining 15 minutes of the trip out was full of good swells and tested everyone's limits.  The day went too quickly as we all caught our limit of halibut, but only two reasonably large fish were caught; a 73 and a 106 pounder. 

     Moving around we caught a LOT of the smaller size fish around 27-36 inches, weighing about 15-18 pounds each.  Barb and I were among these warriors.  We also released 6 other fish that were too small to keep, but have to admit that regardless of size this type of fishing tests every muscle in your body.  Imagine reeling in a 15 pound dinner plate from a depth of 204 feet.  I know the guy who battled the 106 pounder for 49 minutes was flat tuckered out and rested afterwards for the better part of an hour. It was a great day nonetheless and once the seas settled down the trip in was smooth.  The crew of the Irish were hard working young college students whose made sure everyone had fun.  I give my wife credit as she landed the two best fish, but I didn't puke and that makes me just as happy.  We vacuum packed and froze nearly 40 pounds of delicious fish (cheeks included).  I think it's safe to say we can't wait till our next trip. 
We were able to access WiFi through our Verizon Hot Spot 

1 comment:

  1. Love your boat basin photo with the mountains in the background. I hear the "chickens" are better eating than the "barn doors."