Best Alaska Fishing Trips

Where do you think the best fishing destination is in the world?  Alaska is touted as one of the best fishing destinations in the world. We had one of the best Alaska fishing trips from Homer (Motto: Where the land ends and the sea begins).

best-alaska-fishing-trips-homer

Alaskans fill their freezers with fish, and tourists mail their catch home, and if RVing, some people bring a second freezer to fill while in Alaska.  We filled our RV freezer with halibut in June and salmon in August.

What if you are not an experienced fisherman?  You don’t have to be!  When going on an Alaska fishing trip, the good captains teach you everything you need to know.  That’s especially true of Captain Daniel of HomerFishing.com. Daniel was voted the “Best Fishing Guide” by Alaska Magazine in 2018.  When booking with Daniel’s Personalized Guide Service, we had no idea that he was considered tops among Alaskan fishing guides.  On a later wildlife boat trip, I was talking with a Captain who asked, ‘Who did you go halibut fishing with?’  When he heard it was Daniel, he said ‘You got the best!’

DISCLAIMER:  Many thanks to Daniel’s Personalize Guide Service for hosting us. While we were hosted at no charge, I received no payment for this post, and this post is my honest opinion.

Best Place for Fishing

We chose Homer Alaska with its large harbor, numerous fishing charters, and access to Kachemak Bay to try our hand at deep sea fishing.  The Homer area is a famous destination for catching many types of fish throughout the summer.  From Homer, you can go ocean fishing on a charter boat for halibut, salmon, or rockfish, surf cast off the Homer Spit for salmon, or cast a line from shore into Fishing Lagoon for salmon.  Homer is buzzes with people who come from all over the world to fish in Alaska.

Everyone talks about the fish they caught – reeling in the big one.  It seems like it’s the only conversation amongst the visitors who flock to Homer in summer.  Although most boats and accommodations were booked, Homer didn’t seem that crowded.  If you prefer having your feet firmly planted on land, there are plenty of places in Homer to fish from shore.

Homer Alaska – Best Alaska Fishing Trips

kachemak-bay-has-the-best-alaska-fishing-trips

We took a short walk from Homer Spit to the harbor where we found the boats headed out for a full-day or half-day of fishing.  The sun was shining brightly and glistening off the harbor with snow-capped mountains of the Aleutian Chain bordering the sea.  The sea was a mirror reflecting the mountain scenery and blue sky.

Fishing generally starts out early morning for a full-day fishing trip.  I was happy that our start time was bumped later to 7 AM.  We enjoyed the morning sun on our short walk from Homer Spit to the harbor at 7 AM.  It was a gorgeous, warm morning for Homer.  Taking in the salty sea aroma as we walked, we could see life waking up in the harbor as private fishermen readied their boats for a beautiful day on the water.

Gathering at the Fishing Boat

Captain Daniels boat Optimist at dock

Arriving at the Optimist, our charter boat for the day, we were greeted by Captain Daniel.  The other fishing boats are already gone.  Since it was such a gorgeous morning and the seas were calm, Daniel explained that we didn’t need to leave as early.  He made sure we had everything we needed for the day – windbreakers, waterproof outerwear, food and snacks for the anticipated gorgeous day of fishing.  The day was unusually calm for the Homer area – lucky for us. 

We met our group of fishermen and women and everyone settled in on the boat for the ride to the fishing grounds for the day.  As expected, most of us were tourists to Alaska.

Choosing the Fishing Destination

The group on the Optimist with us chose to fish exclusively for halibut, or ‘buts’ as they’re called.  One man is an Alaskan, and his sister also grew up in Alaska.  They booked early with Daniel because the locals know how good he is at finding the fish and taking care of his customers.  We were happy to fish for halibut since it was something we had never done.

Captian Daniel completing the paperwork for our halibut catch

Captain Daniel identified some spots that he was sure had lots of halibut.  That’s where we headed. Daniel prefers to fish in 100-200 feet of water, where he claims there’s more action, although on average the fish are smaller.  Or fishermen can choose to go for the bigger fish in deeper waters where there is less action throughout the day.  Daniel goes with the preferences of his customers.

The Boat Trip to the Fishing Location

As we headed out of the harbor, Daniel told us about the harbor and some of the boats.  The sea was an enormous spectacle of nature, with the sea birds, sea-life, and surrounding snow-capped mountains.  Spending the day in this incredible beauty was worth the trip for me, and we had so much more to come!

Common-Murres-spotted-onour-way-to the-fishing-location

On our way out to the best fishing waters, Daniel drew our attention to the sea animals that he spotted as he drove.  Of course we saw lots of otters, some mamas and pups rafting together or hanging out in the waves. Daniel pointed out the flocks of Common Murres, a fishing bird that can dive to 400’ for food.  As we took in the vista, we watched for seals, sea lions, and whales.

For one of the best Alaska fishing trips, we traveled the length of Kachemak Bay, leaving it behind as we headed toward the Gulf of Alaska.  Arriving at a fishing spot that Daniel likes, we are surrounded by the sea, mountains, and Seldovia in the distance. Seldovia has no road system connecting it to other communities, so it is accessible only by boat or plane.  While anchoring, Daniel explained that over the past week, his customers caught their limit of halibut here.  We are amazed that we have the spot to ourselves with no other boat in sight.

Two-curious-sea-otters-watch-as-we-pass-to-fishing-destination

All around us the sea animals were out looking for their morning meal.  We saw otters in the distance and Common Murres diving for fish.  As the otters got closer, we watched them rafting together.  Some otters had pups on the chests as they floated on their backs.  What a beautiful spot!

Time to Fish

We learn that halibut love octopus and that’s what they feed on here.  This spot offers a 200’ – 220’ shelf where the halibut like to hang out at the bottom. 

Daniel tells us that halibut have a great sense of smell, good eyesight, and good hearing.  He instructed us in the fine points of attracting, hooking, and reeling in halibut, demonstrated the technique.  We were fitted with rods and weights, and Daniel talked to us about fishing here while he cut up the bait and baited our rods with a halibut’s favorite meal, octopus.  We asked lots of questions while he set up the rods.

Once set up with a halibut hook, weight, and bait, he passed the rod to one of us and told each where to stand in the stern of the boat.

Alaska Deep Sea Fishing – Halibut Fishing Technique

Before putting our lines in the water, Daniel gave us a lesson in catching halibut.  Let the line out quickly but controlled so the sinker drops to the bottom without jamming the reel.  Then slowly lift the rod to pull it a few feet up and gently drop it back down again.  Jigging that 2-3 pound lead weight, 2 or 3 HUNDRED feet down soon began to wear on us novice halibut fishermen and women.  It’s hard work on the shoulders, and even more tiring when bringing in that fish.

Irish Lord caught on a halibut fishing trip from Homer Spit, AK

Very shortly after we dropped our lines, someone yells, “FISH ON.”  Daniel went to see what the line looked like and very quickly said, “It’s not a halibut; reel it in.”  None of us wanted to believe that it wasn’t a halibut, but Daniel was correct.  Up came a beautiful looking fish called an Irish Lord, from the sculpin family.  We learn that they are not fish we should eat.  Back it goes into the deep blue sea.

Daniel knew who needed to adjust their reel’s drag, and whose rod tip was vibrating from a nibble.  He moved us around while we fished to help us avoid tangling lines.  Daniel never stopped, as there is always something to do, like helping with the reeling-in technique, bringing a fish onto the boat, re-baiting hooks, measuring, and storing the fish.

Getting our limit

All six of us were soon lining the stern deck, rods smoothly bobbing up and down again.  Daniel reminded us, “When you feel a nibble, let them chew on it for a bit, then give a strong, smooth pull – don’t jerk it.”  It’s not long at all before someone else yells “FISH ON” and now the fun begins.  Pulling the rod up smoothly, then winding the reel as you lower the tip back down.  Repeat, repeat, repeat (200 feet down, remember?).  We all wanted to watch, while we’re still working our own rods.  Eventually “COLOR” was called out as the fish was close enough to the surface to see.  Daniel prepared his gaff to pull the catch on board.

Tom showing off his halibut catch

Daniel kept us all busy fishing unless someone wanted a rest or snack break.  We all got our limit, and finished fishing by 1 PM.  Being so early, Daniel was kind enough to give us an opportunity to do something else by boat.  One choice was to visit Seldovia by boat, something that was on my list for Homer.  Since the others simply wanted to go back early, that’s what we did.

Returning to the Harbor

On our cruise back to Homer, we watched the sea-life, sea birds, and looked for a whale that had been hanging around the cruise ship dock the previous day.  Once docked, Daniel went to work cleaning the fish.  He put each person’s or couple’s catch in a different bin.  Then he asked if we wanted it prepped for travel.  After everyone said yes, he called the fish store and packer on the pier; a guy came to the boat with a wheelbarrow to transport our catch.

Captain Daniel preparing to clean halibut

In the packing side of the store, we were asked the weight size we preferred for each package, and if we wanted it flash-frozen, shipped, or held in their freezers.  I had them make ½ lb. packages, vacuum seal, and flash freeze them.  Tom and I returned at the end of the week, after we’d eaten everything from our freezer, to pick up our catch.  We happily filled our RV freezer with halibut.

The Fishing Capital of the World

Wendy and Tom pointing to all of the halibut caught

Homer has 75 licensed charter fishing boats, and when we were there in late June 2019, only 50 were active.  The halibut season runs from mid-May to August 15.  In 2019, boats went out daily except on Wednesdays.  The Alaska Fishing and Game Commission regulations call for one day with no fishing for halibut.

Most boats are full, especially the smaller charters with personalized service; they are 6 and 8-pack boats. There are some larger charters that take larger groups.  We lucked out when Captain Daniel Donich of Homerfishing.com responded to my request.  We felt lucky to be fishing on the Optimist, a 6-pack charter fishing boat, with Captain Daniel.

What types of Fish are Caught in Homer

Halibut are found in the Northern Pacific along the continental shelf.  Various fish species abound in the waters around Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet, including lingcod and rockfish.  While there are plenty of places to fish in Alaska, Homer is best known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.”

Fishing Alaska in June

June is a good time for Halibut and King Salmon fishing in the ocean; other fish species found in the rivers on the Kenai Peninsula like steelhead trout, salmon, and Dolly Varden.

In Homer in June, the temperature generally ranges from the low 40s to the mid-60s F.  It can be quite breezy on the water, and cool if the sun goes in.  Captain Daniel recommended dressing in layers with the outer layer of pants and jacket being waterproof and good for breaking the wind.  I was glad to have my Marmot waterproof pants that I purchased specifically for this trip.  Waterproof non-slip shoes are recommended.  Both Tom and I have waterproof Oboz hiking boots that we love for hiking; they were fine for standing in a fishing boat.

We needed all of our layers in the morning on the ride out to the fishing location.  As the day warmed and the sun shone brightly, we peeled our layers and stowed them in the indoor area.

Choosing an Alaska Fishing Trip Excursion

There are so many options when choosing a Homer fishing trip.  Charter boat sizes range from a 6-pack (6 people) fishing boat to over 50-foot boats that hold 10, 12, 16, 18 or more fishermen.  Some trips are 1/2-day, ¾-day, or full-day. There are overnight or long-range multi-day trips so fishermen can catch their limit for each day.

If you choose your Alaska fishing excursion based on the lowest price, likely you’ll have more people on the boat or a shorter amount of time fishing.

Our Captain

Capitan Daniel of the Optimist, came to Alaska from Seattle Washington in 1984 to work on boats (specifically boat building at that time).  He left and came back in 1988 to work on fishing boats, and in 1992 he got his license to run his own charter company.  As of 2019, he’s been running his own charter fishing business for 27 years.  Daniel knows his fish, their behavior, where to find them, what they like to eat, how to attract them to your line, the different methods required to actually hook and reel in the different fish. He even knows the health of the waters and the fish, plus what contributes to their health. Daniel has been working in fishing-related businesses in Alaska for 35 years.

Daniel runs fishing excursions all year round, weather permitting.  In winter, he takes charters out to fish for salmon as long as it is at least 30 degrees F, which is warm enough to go fishing in Alaska.

Conclusion

You can certainly find fishing all over Alaska, like Seward, Valdez, Whittier, Juneau, in the rivers on the Kenai, and on the mainland.  However, for a most memorable fishing experience, I highly recommend Homer and Captain Daniel on the Optimist.  His attention to every part of our fishing adventure made the trip special.  Daniel takes people fishing year-round as long as the temperatures are above freezing.  Homer, Alaska offers year-round fun for fishing enthusiasts.

We ate our halibut for 4-6 weeks, several nights a week.  I found 7 different recipes for halibut to change it up.  Halibut, especially fresh like that, is excellent eating!  We were so pleased and feel lucky to have fished with Captain Daniel.

We loved our 10 weeks in Alaska, but Homer holds special memories for us because of the all different, exciting experiences we had there.

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Best Alaska Fishing Trips - Wendy and Captain Daniel with halibut catch from 6 fishermen
Best Alaska Fishing Trips - Wendy and Captain Daniel with halibut

12 thoughts on “Best Alaska Fishing Trips

    • If you have any desire to fish at all, Alaska is one of the best places to do so. We fished for both salmon and halibut. It was a great experience, and I didn’t need to do more days fishing than we had done. It’s a personal choice.
      Stay tuned for our next posts on Alaska. The next one is on bear viewing.

  1. Wow! Captain Daniel really does sound like an expert. I loved fishing in Alaska in the short time I lived in Juneau. I only caught salmon, but ate plenty of halibut. They can be so big! I can only imagine the strain on your shoulders, arms and back trying to reel one in. If I ever make it to Homer, I’ll definitely consider an excursion with Capt. Daniel.

    • You are right about the strain. I had either Tom, my husband, or Capt. Daniel, finish reeling in my fish. While it was exciting, I know my limits. Tom, who is pretty strong, said it was a lot of work. Someone will always help reel it in if needed. It’s pretty amazing when the big fish are brought on board.

  2. hi Wendy,
    as always, I really enjoyed your wonderful, informative article (& Tom’s fabulous photos) about fishing trips in Alaska!
    (I knew Alaska is famous for its salmon, but I had no idea about its amazing halibut! thanks for all of this excellent info about halibut fishing.)

    • Barney, Most of the salmon fishing is done in rivers and they are generally caught in fresh water. The ocean or salt water fishing is for halibut, King salmon, and rockfish in Alaska.

  3. Alaska is such a beautiful place – I loved my trip in 2016. I don’t really like fishing, but I sure did enjoy eating the fresh salmon in Alaska. I was surprised at how big those salmon are! Pulling in something as big as that might convince me to try fishing again — looks like a fun time!

    • We are not big fisherman either, but when in Alaska, I thought that I have to try both salmon and halibut fishing since it is such a big deal in Alaska. I am glad I tried it. It was exciting! To be honest, I never completely finished the reeling in since it was so hard on m y shoulders, so the captain or Tom finished all of the reeling in for me. It was still exciting! The only reason I would say not to go is if you get seasick.

    • It is definitely an Alaskan experience to be out in the ocean with the sealife around you and reeling a big halibut. And Daniel is a great captain, ensuring everyone has exactly what each person needs.

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