Ever since I caught 9 fish one day when I went fly fishing in Colorado, I have considered myself somewhat of a fishing genius. I guess I should also mention that those were the only nine fish I have ever caught in my life, and that I also haven’t been fishing since then. But in my eyes, I am a slayer of fish. So it will come as no surprise to you that I went out on the boat last Sunday morning fully expecting to reel in the 350 pound, derby winning Halibut.
That’s not quite the way it went down.
Halibut fishing was one more of the Homer bucket list activities that we were able to check off while my dad was in town. We got up at the crack of dawn to make it to 6:30 am check in for our half day trip. Though I was sleepy (and maybe just a little bit grumpy), nothing could dampen my fishy spirits and ambition. As we motored out of the harbor with Homer Ocean Charters on the mighty Explorer, the sun was just peeking up over the horizon.
This was the first sunrise we had seen since arriving in Homer (until recently the sun came up at around 4 am), and what a miraculous one it was.
It turns out that the good majority of the half day trip was to consist of driving time. For some reason, there have been a lot of unhealthy Halibut turning up around Homer, and they are YUCKY to eat. Scientists still aren’t sure why this is going on, but the meat of the fish which is usually firm and flaky and oh so delicious, is instead chalky and mushy on these sicko fish. To avoid the chalky fish, we had to get out of the area. We ended up way down the coast and out into the Cook Inlet near Flat Island before we were finally given the ok to drop our lines.
Justin was sick by this time. Poor guy, I won’t go into that part anymore except for to say that he didn’t get to enjoy any fishing with us for the whole trip. I felt really bad but he was a trooper about it.
If you are considering going Halibut fishing, I have only one word of advice for you: bulk up. I have weak wrists and minimal upper body strength and I literally thought I was going to die trying to reel my line in over and over. I was making loud grunting noises and everything. To add insult to injury, my dad had pulled in the first two fish on the boat, and had already reached his limit for the day. I, on the other hand, had reeled in nothing after an hour. In addition to bait and a hook, heavy weights (I think probably about 5 lbs) are attached to the fishing lines so that they will sink all the way to the bottom where the Halibut hang out. Having to reel that 5 lb hook in over and over to put more bait on my hook because fish kept eating it off was becoming too much for me.
Time had passed, and I was now almost the last person on the boat who hadn’t caught a fish. I could feel desperation setting in. We cruised on over to a different spot and dropped our lines, and I had just started to bring mine back in when, miracle of all miracles! I felt a tug on the line. I set the hook, and began to haul the thing in as fast as my meager arms could manage. It turned out to be an 11 lb fish, but it felt like I was pulling a whale to the surface. The next one came shortly after that, a 15 pounder! I guess it’s no 350 monster, but to be honest I would have rather cut my arms off than reel in something that heavy.
On the trip back, our entertainment was watching the deckhands process the fish. They were both small, pretty girls about my age, not exactly who you would expect to find swabbing the decks of a fishing boat. But no one could be fooled by their looks, these girls were bad asses. They filleted those fish like Benihana ninjas, and if one of the fish moved from the block, they would beat it with a big old club until it quit moving. Pretty cool.
Justin had arisen from the dead at this point, and we got to enjoy the ride back all together. We were lucky to go with Homer Ocean Charters because Justin did some side work for the owner earlier this summer. There are a lot of different charter companies in Homer, and I have always wondered how people make the decision to choose one. If you find yourself in that same predicament, Homer Ocean Charters was great. The boat was clean, the crew was friendly (and very helpful for someone with limited arm strength who had never been fishing in the ocean before) and they made sure that no one went home without fish.
Halibut fishing is one of numerous really good ways to get outside and remind yourself that you’re in Alaska.