From do-it-yourself fishing for Dolly Varden on the Anchor River to a fully outfitted, multi-day charter, Homer and north to Anchor Point is a hotspot for angling on the Kenai Peninsula. After all, as the sign leading into town declares, Homer is the self-proclaimed “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.” But halibut isn’t the only fish around, and the variety of offerings can seem daunting, so doing a little research can make the trip much easier. Here’s what you need to know.
Homer has a decades-long history of charter fishing, so you’ll find lots of options to charter a boat for halibut, salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and even shark, depending on season and weather.
Halibut: You can find everything from half-day trips to multi-day excursions into the Kodiak archipelago, but the most popular are half-day charters on large boats (12–20 anglers) and full-day trips on “six packs” (boats that take no more than six anglers). On the half-day boats, anglers can expect to catch their limit of halibut (as of 2015, it’s one fish of any size and one under 29"). Some six-pack charters don’t target fish under 29" at all, though they may make a quick stop for smaller fish on the way back to port. Expect to pay somewhat more for these full-day trips. And be aware that you won’t find charters on Thursdays.
Salmon: Homer has a spectacular, though often overlooked, salmon fishery. Feeder (or "winter") king salmon are targeted year-round, with "spawners" found in the fishery from roughly May through August. Feeders can run anywhere from a few pounds to more than 50, with the winning fish in the March Winter King Derby usually weighing in the 25- to 35-pound range. King salmon fishing in Kachemak Bay can be phenomenal at times, with limits often granted to anglers willing to brave the elements in the dark winter months. Several charter operators are available year-round to chase these amazing fish. Silver salmon begin to show in the fishery in July and are targeted through September. Pink salmon are most abundant in odd numbered years, though streams in Kachemak Bay State Park are on an even-year cycle.
Combos: Many charters offer combo trips, where halibut, salmon, rockfish and lingcod may be part of the day’s quarry. Halibut and King salmon trips are offered nearly all year, with halibut only being off-limits in January. Silver salmon and halibut charters are popular in late July and August, when Kings are often as numerous as Silvers in the daily bag. Lingcod season opens July 1, and you can expect decent results for the first few weeks of the season. Black rockfish, cod, and yelloweye are additional targeted species.
Other species: Specialty charters out of Homer run the gamut. You can find boats offering salmon shark charters (you’ll need to book the entire boat), half-day Pollack charters, and trips that offer fast action on smaller fish within the bay. Some outfits don’t go after halibut at all, but can provide a great day on the water chasing cod, rockfish, salmon, and other feisty fish.
How to Book
To book a trip out of Homer, do some research. Get started well before you plan to arrive, and talk to numerous charters about when you’ll be there and what your expectations are. If you find yourself in Homer and are looking to book in person, drop by the Chamber of Commerce building on the way into town for info, and then head out to the spit. Most charters have offices on one of the several boardwalks in the high-traffic areas near the harbor. We have worked with several charters for years, and you will find our recommendations in the list below.
What to Ask
If your biggest desire is simply to have a day on the water and catch a couple halibut, then one of the half-day boats or larger vessels may be your best option. If you want the chance at really big fish, then you may want to look at a full-day “six pack” Just don't plan on catching a 100-pounder; anglers may catch a few every day, but they’re the exception, not the rule.
If you’re a family with kids, make sure that the captain you’re considering is good with that; some skippers are more kid-friendly than others. If you’re a small party filling out a “six pack,” realize that if the other folks on your boat aren’t done, you’ll be fishing until they are. A family of 4–6 should seriously consider booking the entire boat, as that gives you the option of saying you’re done and ready to go home.
Also, ask about the boat you’re booking. Does the skipper have a reputation as “Captain Midnight”—the first out and the last in? That’s good for some folks but not all. And don't be overly swayed by hanging trophy fish or old pictures of successful excursions. Tomorrow may be nothing like yesterday. One more piece of advice: Don't limit your queries to charter offices. Ask about the best boats at coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops, and talk to people on the street. Folks are generally pretty friendly, and usually happy to give an impartial opinion.
What to Expect
If you’re on a half-day boat, you’ll pretty much know when you’ll be done. Full-day trips may not return until dinnertime, though most charters are back between 3pm and 5pm.
The weather may be anything from pouring rain and windy to dead flat calm and sunny, and often on the same trip, so pack rain gear, along with food. However, don't get carried away; space is at a premium on boats, and there’s not always going to be room for, say, a big ice chest.
If you’re concerned about seasickness, take motion sickness meds the night before your trip, and again in the morning. If you’re already queasy before you take them, however, be aware they may not help.
Almost all charters include filleting in the cost, and will call a processor to meet the boat and deal with your fish should you want. Getting your fish home can be expensive—at least $3 per pound for vacuum packing and shipping. Most processors will hold your fish until you’re home, and then ship it to you via 2-day Fed-Ex. Your fish will arrive frozen solid and ready for your freezer. Fillet yield on fish is variable, but you can plan on roughly 70% for halibut, about 50% for salmon, and between 25–30% for rockfish, cod, and lingcod.
For the angler not interested in a charter, Homer and the Lower Peninsula offer multiple opportunities for do-it-yourself trips. Since many of the river fisheries occur at specific times, it’s important to do your research. For instance, though July is a popular travel month, it’s pretty much between all the salmon runs (except reds on the Kenai/Kasilof, but that's not what were talking about here). King salmon river fishing opens in late May and is done by June, but In late July and August things start to pick up again with dollies, pinks, and silvers arriving in the Anchor, Ninilchick and Deep Creek areas. Various roadside saltwater fisheries are open to exploration as well, with different degrees of success depending on one’s target species.
Go fish! Cast your line for iconic Alaskan salmon and halibut — as well as other species — as you explore the shimmering waters around Homer with the passionate fishing pros of Maverick Charters. The stunning area is one that many travelers don’t get to explore, and all ages can enjoy this unforgettable outing — no experience necessary!
Skip the 2‑hour boat ride out to the fishing grounds and take a 30-minute floatplane flight straight to the boat instead! From world-class halibut to five species of native salmon runs, the ocean is teeming with life. All trips are private to ensure you and your group have the best possible experience. Further customize the experience by adding a dinner or wildlife cruise to your day on the water.
Season: Mid April to September
$195+3/4 to Full Day Excursions
Homer is the halibut capital of Alaska, and this longtime charter company offers a blue-chip way to get to the fish. They have high-quality boats, experienced captains, and enthusiastic crews — as well as an inside line on finding halibut, rock fish and silver salmon. But they also offer a variety of other ways to enjoy the waters off Kachemak Bay, from wildlife cruising to paddling a kayak or hiking in Kachemak Bay State Park.
O’Fish’ial specializes in saltwater halibut and king salmon charter fishing experiences out of Homer, as well as Long Range trophy fish hunts. Owner Chad has spent countless hours with seasoned Alaskan fishermen who shared time-tested advice – and their fishing hotspots – with him. He combines this knowledge with a customer-service focus and passion for sharing all the excitement and adventure Alaska fishing has to offer.
Half-Day Fishing Charters Embark on a half day fishing charter with Rainbow Tours and try your luck reeling in one of Kachemak Bay’s world famous Halibut. Rainbow Tours has been in business since 1982, and experienced guides will help you reel in your catch. While this is a fishing charter, it is not uncommon to see wildlife while you are out on the water. Seldovia Wildlife Tour This is a 7 hour narrated tour begins in Homer and…