Homer is known for halibut, and the harbor is full of charter boats that take you out for the day for around $275 per person in the high season. Every day, a few people catch fish that are larger than they are, and halibut more than 50 pounds are common. Using gear and lines that look strong enough to pick up the boat, you jig the bait (chunks of herring or cod) up and down on the bottom. Halibut aren't wily or acrobatic, and fighting one can be like pulling up a sunken Buick. Regulations allow anglers to keep two halibut per day in this region, as opposed to one in Southeast Alaska, but those rules could change; if keeping fish is important to you, check before you go. You can download the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulation booklet from www.alaska.gov/adfg. Getting out to where the fish are plentiful requires an early start and a long ride to unprotected waters. People who get seasick easily shouldn't go, as the boat wallows on the waves during fishing. One good full-day operator is Silver Fox Charters (tel. 800/478-8792 or 907/235-8792; www.silverfoxcharters.com).
Half-day charters have less chance of getting way out to the biggest fish but cost a lot less. Rainbow Tours (tel. 907/235-7272; www.rainbowtours.net) operates a big boat for the shorter outings, charging $105 adult, $95 senior, and $85 12 and under. This choice makes good sense if you are not a fishing fanatic or are taking kids, as full day halibut fishing is exhausting and can be tedious. Other halibut charter boats can be booked through Inlet Charters Across Alaska Adventures (tel. 800/770-6126; www.halibutcharters.com), with many years' experience setting up fishing trips and other activities.
Salmon use Cook Inlet year-round, and anglers pursue kings with trolling gear even in winter, though most fishing occurs in spring and summer. The town has a Winter King Salmon Tournament in March. The most popular spot to fish from shore is the small inlet on Homer Spit called the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, which is stocked with king and silver salmon. Kings return to the lagoon from late May to the end of June. Silvers arrive in mid- to late July, peaking in early August. These salmon have nowhere to spawn, so all must be caught. At the end of the runs, Fish and Game may allow snagging, which is something like mugging salmon and can be a lot of fun, if not something to brag about. For saltwater salmon fishing in a more natural setting, head across the bay to Halibut Cove Lagoon or Seldovia. The closest road-accessible streamside fishing is 10 miles up the Sterling Highway. The Anchor River is a lovely fishing stream with steelhead and rainbow trout (both catch-and-release only), salmon, and Dolly Varden char. Popular fishing streams cross the Sterling Highway farther north toward and Soldotna. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game maintains a fishing hot line at tel. 907/235-6930. They're located at 3298 Douglas Place (tel. 907/235-8191).
Getting Your Fish Home -- An angler can easily come back from a halibut charter with 60 pounds of fish that, when cleaned, will yield 30 pounds of filets. A serving is around half a pound of halibut. Eat as much fresh as you can, as it will never be better, but be prepared for how you will deal with the rest of your bounty, which, if bought in a grocery store, would cost as much as $500 (it's illegal to sell sport-caught fish). If it is properly and quickly frozen, it will retain much of its quality well into the winter; if not, you waste this superb food. If you're lucky enough to catch that much salmon, the problem is even more immediate, as salmon is more sensitive to proper handling. Most fishing towns have a sport processor that can vacuum-pack and flash-freeze your catch for $1 to $1.25 a pound. You can get it home conveniently as checked baggage; depending on your airline baggage fees, that may or may not be a cost-effective option. The processor can provide sturdy fish boxes and cold packs. If you aren't leaving right away, processors may hold the fish, and many hotels have freezer facilities. If you have to ship it, use an overnight service and make sure someone is there to put it in the freezer on the other end. Above all, keep the fish hard frozen; thawing and refreezing diminishes the quality off any fish and can turn salmon into mush. Consider having some of your salmon smoked, if possible, making it a ready-to-eat delicacy very welcome as a homecoming gift. Halibut can be smoked, too, but because of its low fat content and delicate flavor and texture, it doesn't come out as well as salmon.
In Homer, Coal Point Trading Co., 4306 Homer Spit (tel. 907/235-3877; www.welovefish.com), will process and pack your catch as ordered. Ask your charter captain, who will come and get the fish directly from the boat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.