I didn’t catch a king – I caught a prince!
While in Homer, Alaska last week, we did some king salmon fishing on the Anchor River.
The Anchor River is just 15 miles north of Homer and there is about a mile of river open to salmon fishing. The river is open up to a bridge that goes through Anchor, Alaska. Beyond that bridge fishing is off limits for salmon to allow the salmon to spawn. King fishing is open to fishermen Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from midnight to midnight.
When the tide comes in, the salmon swim upstream and hundreds of fishermen and women huck and heave every shape, color and size of lure at the salmon to get them to bite. When the tide isn’t up, the salmon hole up in deep pools waiting for the three hours of darkness to swim upstream and avoid eagles, bears, and the species known as homo sapiens. There are many similar rivers to which this spawning phenomena happens in Alaska. The Anchor River is popular to people residing in Homer because it’s close to town. The river is small, maybe 20 yards across.
The first day at the Anchor was Wednesday afternoon and evening. There were relatively few people and we found a spot with a long straightaway and a little bit of deep holding water. We fished and fished and finally Lanny hooked a really nice King. She fought it for a while and then beached it and hid it under her rain jacket so the bald eagles wouldn’t take off with it.
Now it was turn for my dad and me to catch something. A little while later I feel a nibble at the end of my line, and I set the hooks and hold on, expecting the line to be drug from my reel. Nothing happened so I started to reel in. There was definitely something on the end of my line, but it wasn’t a king. I could tell it was little and it was fighting as hard as it could.
I brought it up near shore and my dad took one look at it and said, “You didn’t catch a king – you caught a prince!” I look down to see a tiny little fish on the end of my line. He looked the same as Lanny’s, only 35 pounds smaller. He probably weighed in at a whopping 1.5 pounds! So, now I’m thinking to myself that I’ve managed to catch THE smallest fish in Alaska.
The next morning we arrived at the Anchor and got an “early start.” Our neighbor Manfred suggested we be there by 5 a.m. to secure a spot. NowManfred, for reasons I’ll get to later, doesn’t fish the Anchor. So, we show up early and drive down the road that parallels the river. We can already see silhouettes in the half light of the early morning dotted along the river. We get out of the car and start heading toward the river and it becomes apparent to us very quickly that we are late. All the good spots have been taken and it’s elbow to elbow all along the river. I ease into a spot with a little breathing room and I get right to it, hucking my fly upstream. After a few casts I hear splashing and turn my head to see Lanny fighting a king just downriver from me. After only a few cast she’s hooked one. And now the whole river is watching her. Most people are shooting darts out of their eyes at her because she’s only just shown up and hooked one.
While Lanny fights the fish, I settle into a nice rhythm and I am beginning to enjoy the day. Then out of nowhere I hear something loud, and it’s getting closer. A booming voice is echoing over the trees and down the water. Then this guy appears from behind the bend and he’s on his cell phone. Now everyone in the Kenai Peninsula can hear his conversation. He stops on the edge of the water, confers a bit longer with his colleague on the phone, clicks off and then surveys the river and sees a fisherman looking back towards him. This poor guy, like most of us, was looking at this guy out of curiosity, but this was clearly a signal to the cell phone guy to come join his fishing hole. So the guy stuffs his cell phone in his waders and gingerly wades out to within a couple of feet of this fisherman. Then, for the next hour, the guy who was on his cell phone proceded to talk this fisherman’s ear off. I’m thinking to myself if I wanted this much noise or conversation, I’d have gone to the local coffee shop, not the river.
A little while later, though, the cell phone guy gets tired and heads back to town to “get some grub at the diner.” Everyone breaths a collective sigh of relief and goes back to huckin’ flies. As it gets a little later in the morning everyone can hear a collective rolling of tires along the asphalt road. It’s nearing 8 a.m. and the tourists in the RVs start to show up. Now it’s combat fishing. People pour in from everywhere and you aggressively stand your ground for your 2-foot-by-2-foot swath of river. I keep thinking to myself that I haven’t been this close to anyone since I was in the womb with Lanny, and even then I didn’t have a choice. This is what Alaskans describe as “combat fishing,” and this is why the neighbor Manfred doesn’t fish here. You’ll have six guys fishing a tiny little hole and then you’ll have one guy show up and cast his line over everyone else’s and everything gets all tangled up.
After a little while the fish stop biting and we call it a day. Lanny released the king she had caught earlier in hopes of a bigger one the following day.
The next day, we show up even earlier, determined to beat the crowd. At 3 a.m., we are the only car in the parking lot and I’m psyched. I wasn’t too keen on fishing up someone else’s armpit again. We get to the good “grass hole,” as it’s known, and start to cast our flies. A few hours later as everyone is starting to show up, my dad, Lanny and I have all caught a king and are heading home to get a mid-morning nap. Then it’s off for a run through the woods.
Next week: Halibut fishing!
Editors Note: Tracy & Lanny Barnes are part of the US Olympic Biathlon team. Their WOMA blog, “Road to Russia” gives wonderful insight into what these talented athletes are going through to take a medal in February 2014 at the Winter Olympics held in Russia. It will be their third Olympics, along with recently winning the Biathon World Team Challenge Shoot Out to add to their successful biathlon careers. We encourage all the members of the WOMA, along with companies you may know, to help these twin sisters with donations and sponsorships. For more information, or to make a donation, visit their website atwww.twinbiathletes.com.