It’s not hard to sell Homer as a fishing destination. For starters, it’s in Alaska. That already means incredible angling. Then there’s the little matter of the city being the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” a title it more than earns, although it fails to mention all the other fish you can catch. What we’re trying to say is that the fishing in Homer is really, really good.
In this article, we break down what makes Homer’s fishing so special and how you can get the most out of it. Learn about the top fish species and how, when, and where to catch them. Pick up tips on getting to town, and crucially, getting your fish home again.
What to Catch: Homer’s Top Fish Species
Let’s start with the basics. There are dozens of fish you can target in Alaska, but the vast majority of anglers go after just a handful of them. These are the species that no Homer fishing experience is complete without.
No surprises what comes out on top. You don’t get called the “Capital of the World” without some big fish to back it up, and Homer’s Halibut bite is outstanding. Trophies can top 7 feet and 300 pounds. An average day often sees fish weighing in the triple digits. And bear in mind that even a humble 20-pounder packs enough punch to give you a workout.
You can catch Halibut from shore, but it’s more common to jig or bottom fish for them from a boat. Wrestling with monster Flatfish sure works up a serious appetite. Luckily, Halibut is one of the most premium food fish in the world. One fish can feed the family for a week, with plenty left to ship back home. But more on that later.
Halibut is the star of the show, but Homer’s Salmon fishing is also legendary. All five Pacific Salmons show up to spawn here. You can catch them in saltwater by trolling or “mooching” (drifting plug-cut baits). Once they hit freshwater, fly fishing is the name of the game. Kenai Peninsula is a pilgrimage site for fly fishing fanatics from around the world.
Every species has its own special something. Chinook, or King Salmon, are the biggest. They’re also one of the tastiest – especially “Winter Kings” that have fattened up for their spawning run. Coho (Silver) Salmon fight the hardest. Sockeyes (Reds) have the richest, darkest meat. Pinks or “Humpies” are the smallest and huge fun on the fly. Chum or Dog Salmon are the least popular, but they do have great caviar.
Lingcod and Rockfish
Halibut aren’t exactly pretty, and Salmon can look downright terrifying when they spawn. However, neither of them compares to the monsters that live in the depths. Lingcod are your classic “horror from the deep” – ugly, tough, and super aggressive. As for Rockfish, they’re just too orange to be taken seriously. So why would you want to catch them? Because they’re delicious!
Lingcod and Rockfish are both caught by bottom fishing around kelp beds or rocky structure. You’ll often target them once you hit your limit on Halibut, in order to maximize your haul. Because why stop at one delicious species
…And Everything Else
As well as Homer’s famous sea fishing, you can also find plenty of freshwater fun. Local rivers and lakes hold Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Dolly Varden, Grayling, and Pike. There are also the annual runs of Salmon and Steelhead. However, fishing is restricted in some rivers, and in certain sections of others. Either read up on the rules, or fish with a local who knows them well.
Feel like some downtime from all the angling? Take a stroll on Kachemak Bay’s beaches and harvest some Steamer and Razor Clams. Clamming can be great fun, especially with kids. You have to look for holes or dents in the sand and dig up the shellfish hiding below. Just make sure you keep an eye on the tide and know where and how it will rise.
How to Fish: Main Styles of Fishing in Homer
It’s all fine and dandy knowing what to catch, but how are you going to do it? For most of the fish on offer, you’re going to need a boat. However, even that comes with a couple of options. Here are the main ways to do it, and the pros and cons of each one.
On a Charter
This is how most people fish when they visit. There are a few good reasons for that. Firstly, it’s simple. The captain provides all the gear and takes you to the best fishing spots. They also make sure you’re within the legal limits and seasons. You just get to focus on the important part: reeling in the fish.
There aren’t really any downsides to charter fishing other than the fact that you can’t catch Halibut on Wednesdays (Alaskan fishing regulations are weird). Of course, charters are always going to be more expensive than fishing on your own. But if you came all this way, it’s worth investing a little extra to enjoy world-class angling.
From a Lodge
If you want to go all out on your adventure, this is the way to do it. Fishing lodges are a one-stop-shop for all your angling needs. What they include varies with the place and the package but you can often find accommodation, food, equipment, and a boat, which you can take out solo or with a guide. Some will even fly you out to fish remote rivers.
Lodges are essentially a luxury version of fishing on a charter. As such, the main drawback is the cost. Expect to pay the best part of $1,000 per day for an all-inclusive experience. But here’s the thing: You need to stay somewhere, anyway. Lodges for arranging everything for you. Whether the convenience outweighs the cost is up to you.
On Your Own
If you’re not set on catching a monster, you can just grab your favorite rod and see what’s biting. When casting from shore, you’re in with a chance of catching Pollock, Sole, Flounder, and more. And if you want to open up your options, you can always rent a kayak in town.
We haven’t even started on the endless streams around Homer. This may be “The Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” but Kenai Peninsula also has some of Alaska’s best Trout and Salmon streams. Drive or hike out to wet a line in pristine waters full of trophy fish. If you’re just in it for the experience, all you really need is a license and a rod.
Where to Go: Fishing Spots around Homer
We won’t go into detail about all the local hidden honey holes. We’ll leave that to professionals guides. Instead, here are a few of the main areas you can fish. For some, you’ll need a boat, but you can reach many of them on foot. It all comes down to what you want to catch.
Shore and Freshwater Fishing Spots
- Homer Spit. Jutting into Kachemak Bay, the Homer Spit really is the end of the road. It’s also a great starting point for fishing around Homer. Make a few casts from shore for Sole, Flounder, Pollock, Cod, and even Halibut.
- The Fishing Hole. Also on the Spit, but worth mentioning separately. Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon is stocked each year with King and Silver Salmon. It’s one of the best places to fish from shore during the summer.
- Anchor River. This fly fishing heaven is home to Steelhead, Salmon, Dolly Varden, and more. It has easy road access to plenty of spots to cast from. You can only fish certain sections, though, so read up before you go.
- Caribou Lake. Feel like exploring Kenai Peninsula? This is a great place to get into nature. Caribou Lake is around 25 miles northeast of Homer and is full of big Dolly Varden and landlocked Sockeye Salmon.
Boat Fishing Spots
- Eldred Passage. These sheltered waters are just a short hop across Kachemak Bay and hold a range of species. Rockfish live around the islands, while small Halibut hide in deeper waters. You can find Salmon here, too.
- The Compass Rose. A good spot to visit when it’s too rough to leave the bay. This large area around 18 miles west of Homer holds both Halibut and Salmon. It’s literally marked with a compass rose on NOAA charts.
- Seldovia Point. You can find a little bit of everything in the waters off Seldovia: trolling grounds for Salmon, kelp beds for Rockfish, and deeper edges where you can anchor up and drop your lines for Halibut.
- Flat Island. This spot is out of the bay, so the water gets rough in bad weather. However, on a calm day, it offers amazing fishing around pristine kelp beds. Expect a mix of bottom fish like Rockfish, Lingcod, and Greenling.
When to Visit: Fishing Seasons and Local Events
Homer sees some pretty big changes over the course of the year – and we’re not just talking about the Alaskan weather. Fishing is highly seasonal here, as are many lodges and charter operators. Because of this, timing your trip right is key.
Homer Fishing Seasons
The main fishing season runs May–October. This is when Homer’s charter fleet is out in force catching huge Halibut and Salmon. The summer’s not your only option, though. Big, fat “Winter Kings” keep the bite hot in the early months. Species like Rockfish and Dolly Varden are actually around all year long – if you can reach them.
Of course, just because a fish is there doesn’t mean you’re allowed to catch it. Lingcod is closed for harvest until July. As for Halibut, you can’t catch them in January, on Wednesdays, or on Tuesdays from mid-July to mid-August. Check out our fishing calendar for a full month-by-month breakdown.
Homer Fishing Tournaments
Considering Homer’s sport fishing pedigree, you’d expect some tough competition during the summer season. Sadly, the most famous tournament in town, the Halibut Jackpot Derby, closed its doors in September of 2019. Apparently the City of Homer has big plans for a replacement event, though.
In the meantime, why not take on Alaska’s infamous Winter Kings? That’s where the rest of the competitive crowd will be. The Winter King Salmon Tournament takes place every March. It sees over 1,000 anglers head out in search of big fish and even bigger prizes. Last year’s prize purse weighed in at an impressive $160,000!
Final Thoughts: Logistics and Licenses
By now, you should have a good understanding of Homer’s fishing scene. But how should you get there? And how will you get all your fish home? Here are a few final pointers to help you organize your vacation.
Getting to Homer
They call Homer the “End of the Road” for a reason. The city’s over 100 miles south of Anchorage as the crow flies. Twice that by road. If you have the time, make a day of the drive. The route’s stunning and there are several towns to stop in along the way. If not, Ravn Airways runs multiple flights per day, all year round.
Up for something truly special? Nothing beats traveling to Homer by sea. The city is part of the Alaska Marine Highway. In summer, ferries run all the way up the coast from Bellingham, WA. It takes the best part of a week to get here from Washington, or around three days from Juneau, AK. Either way, it’s a journey that you’ll never forget.
Getting Fish Home
There’s no point reeling in a boatload of fish if you can’t take it home afterward, and transporting your catch can be a real nightmare if it isn’t properly processed. Luckily, this is something that local guides and lodge owners are very familiar with. They’ll usually arrange professional packaging and transportation after the trip.
If you prefer to organize things yourself, there are several fish processing companies in town. They will fillet, vacuum-seal, and flash-freeze you fish, ready for transport and in line with FAA guidelines. You can then take it on your plane, or have it shipped straight to your doorstep.
Getting an Alaska Fishing License
We’re almost done. There’s just one last thing you need before you hit the water: a fishing license. Anyone age 16 or over is required to carry a fishing license. You can buy them online, at Fish and Game offices, and in most sporting goods stores.
Alaskan fishing licenses are pretty straightforward. There’s just one type, called a Sport Fishing License, and it covers both fresh and saltwater. As well as the license itself, you need a stamp to target King Salmon. Finally, make sure you carry a Harvest Record Card with you at all times while you’re fishing.
End of the Road, Start of the Adventure
Homer is a pretty extreme place, thrown out at the edge of Kenai Peninsula, seemingly at the end of the world. Very few towns can compete with the magic of this “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.” Whether you’re touring the ocean on the hunt for huge Halibut or fly fishing in a nearby stream for Dolly Varden, one thing’s for sure: This is a trip that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Have you ever been fishing in Homer? Have we inspired you to do so? What would your dream Alaskan adventure look like? Let us know your thoughts and stories in the comments below!