When I think of Homer Alaska, three things come to mind: Tom Bodett, The Salty Dawg Saloon, and feeder kings. A feeder king is a king salmon in the ocean that is not yet river-bound. They are doing what salmon do in the ocean, swimming around feeding on whatever they can find until their biological clock signals it’s time to back to their native rivers to spawn and die. In this sense you could think of a feeder king as a salmon during their mid-life–neither a fry nor a “river monster.” It just so happens that the waters around Homer are favorite area for these fish during certain times of the year and their numbers and popularity of the fishery continues to grow.
Up until recently, people thought that feeder kings were of Cook Inlet origin, fattening up around the spit until heading back North to spawn. With declining king salmon numbers in the last decade, people became concerned that the harvest of feeder kings, with a more liberal bag limit of two per day with no annual limit, was detrimental to the cook inlet king salmon stocks. However, studies using PIT tags and genetics show that 99.8% of the fish caught between October 1 and March 31 originate somewhere outside of Cook Inlet. As the summer progresses, numbers show that anywhere from 10% to 24% of the kings caught off Homer were bound for Cook Inlet streams. In short, harvesting of these fish does not put our Cook Inlet runs in jeopardy. So if they aren’t from Cook Inlet, where do they come from and does this new information warrant new regulations and management?
Though the study is not yet complete, the word on the street is that many of these fish come from hatchery (and wild) fisheries located in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and even Oregon and Washington. With evidence showing the harvesting of these fish is has little effect on Cook Inlet stock, the Alaska Board of Fish has decided to widen the winter king fishery season for 2017–starting September 1 (as opposed to October 1) to March 31st. At Tower Rock Lodge, we see this a great opportunity to add yet another excursion to our list of fishing options. For example, if our September guests have had their fill of trout or silver fishing on the Kenai, they now would have the opportunity to chase feeder kings in Homer. Even if the fishing is slow, the drive to Homer is breathtaking, the culture at the Salty Dawg is priceless, and Kachemak bay with its sea otters and whales is ideal for the nature viewing enthusiasts. So if you want to catch your rainbow and eat your king too, September might be the best time for you come see us at Tower Rock Lodge this fall.