Even on a rainy, blustery day with four-foot swells on the seas, the worse day out on the Kachemak Bay just off from the Homer Spit still beats the best day at the office by a nautical mile.
Such was the case on May 6, when members of the ECHO News team, my husband, my son and a dear friend embarked on a combination harvesting and tagging venture with Happy Jack Charters operated by Don Swanson.
Our goal was to tag several fish for the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby and perhaps take a few back home with us to start the annual restocking of the freezer.
“Well, I don’t know for sure about the weather,” Swanson said as we slowly motored out of the Homer boat harbor. “But we will see.”
Not truer words were spoken.
The forecast certainly was not optimistic. But we were in Homer the boat was paid for and adventure beckoned.
We had slept well the night before in the Dovetail Cabin owned by Karen and Bryan Zak of Alaska Adventure Cabins. We had enjoyed the spectacular view from the cabin’s deck the night before and in the morning before driving down to the Homer Spit to meet up with Captain Don.
It was time to go fishing – well, um, I would so much rather go catching – if you catch my drift.
But as Alaskans know, even if they did make appointments, fish would not keep them consistently and pleas for placid seas often go unheeded by the big weatherman in the sky.
Nonetheless, I was determined to get out there.
Everyone else in the boat seemed only slightly hopeful about the day’s venture. Okay, yes, the unspoken, “Amy is nuts,” lingered in the cabin. Still, there was a job to do and if nothing else, we could make the best of the experience. Right?
Good thing sea sickness pills were down my throat.
It has been a couple years since my last boat trip on the Kachemak Bay. It was time to regain my sea legs. I pondered this as Captain Don got the boat on step and we headed like a tiny bat out of hell on the big expanse of sea toward the latest hot spot he had heard tale of from other charter captains.
The ocean spray alongside the boat was indeed a gorgeous frame for the snow-capped mountains that rim Kachemak Bay.
After approximately an hour of motoring, Captain Don said we are on top of the coordinates he had been given. Fish were there for sure. Lots of them.
So were some pretty big swells. We sat idle for a while waiting for the seas to possibly calm.
Well, okay. At least we know a good hole to come back to next time.
Let us continue to be optimistic about this day.
Captain Don turned the boat around and we headed back toward the shore; back toward another hot spot he has knowledge of. Perhaps there the sea swells will be smaller.
As we motored along, he told us of his years driving the People Mover bus in Anchorage – his last two years in the Chugiak-Eagle River area and his lament that the Municipality of Anchorage is implementing plans to end service here. He told us about his grandchildren and how he located his charter operation in Homer to be closer to them.
Soon enough we were on top of a hole where he has pulled plenty of halibut from in the past.
My son, Ian, age 19, is an eager fisherman. The ECHO News publisher, John “LJ” Kennedy, got to live out his fantasy of being a deck hand as he and my husband, Bob, rigged up four strong rods and sent the bait to the bottom.
It was time to fish.
Never mind those foot and half to two foot swells rocking the boat back and forth. Just hang on and jig.
Our friend, Dawn Gordon, opted out of that. She stayed near the heater in the cabin – she was completely chilled from the cold ocean air. I too spent some time warming up in and out of the cabin – two layers of gloves and my hands were still numb.
Yet, we needed to catch a fish.
LJ pulled up a couple of Irish Lords, but those do not count for the halibut derby. And yep, those things are just plain old ugly.
But Ian saved the day. He always does. Even when Bob and I are completely skunked, Ian gets a fish.
Every. Single. Time.
It is a good thing that that kiddo I call “The Manchild” has been blessed in this manner.
The mood on the boat was certainly headed toward desperation as the goal of tagging at least one fish and getting video of this seemed to be slipping away.
But thanks to Ian who reeled up a nice chicken halibut that measured less than 29 inches – the requirement to be tagged – that goal became reality.
As Captain Don selected one of the tags provided by folks from the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Ian asked, “How much will that fish be worth if somebody catches him?”
“No idea,” Captain Don replied with a grin, “But someone will be lucky to catch him.”
And thus, our one and only halibut catch of the day received a name.
Lucky is his name
I held Lucky as he wiggled and flipped and Captain Don tagged him. I will say he was gorgeous. At that moment, he represented all the beautiful bounty of the Alaskan waters. I was grateful.
It was time to put him back from whence he came.
“Bye, bye, Lucky,” I said as he slipped from my hands and beneath the water.
“I wonder who will catch him,” Ian said.
The weather was taking its toll on our previously eager spirits. It was time to call it a day and head back to the shelter of the harbor and to our cabin where a toasty heater, a hot shower and the endlessly amazing view of the mountains and volcanoes and the sea and the world-famous Homer Spit awaited.
Yep, the worst day fishing still beats the best day at the office by a nautical mile.
Editor’s Note: Contact the Alaska Adventure Cabins online at www.alaskaadventurecabins.com. Read our separate story online about this unique lodging opportunity. Contact Happy Jack Charters online at www.happyjackfishingcharters.com or call 907-744-9143. Mention the ECHO News for special charter pricing.