During summer months, there is a very good chance you will see several whales. We did indeed see several of these magnificant mammals. This photo was taken in Tutka Bay as we were heading out to do some halibut fishing (or so we thought). This was the closest we got to a whale - we were about 300 yards away.
In addition to this whale, we saw several sea otters, thousands of humpies (pink salmon), numerous bald eagles and one goat/bear in the Tutka Bay area.
Undaunted by our failure to catch any halibut on our first attempt, we tried again on our third evening of our stay on Tutka Bay. This time we went out with a local Tutka Bay resident on a trip arranged by the owners of Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge. Our captain was Rick, who knows all the local fishing holes in Tutka Bay. We got off to a slow start - Rick threw the anchor into the bay without attaching it to the chain, so we had to go back to his house for another anchor. He returned with one and said "I hope I don't do the same thing, this is my last anchor." We later learned that this was not the first anchor Rick has tossed overboard - several of his are sitting at the bottom of the bay. We certainly weren't shortchanged. Rick told us he would stay out with us as long as we wanted - and he did - we fished until we were too cold to continue (10:45 pm).
Rick wasn't originally a native of Alaska - he moved here many years ago to get away from civilization -- and electricity. He did, in fact, live without electricity for many years, but finally asked himself "Why?" Now he has seen the light and lives with electricity.
Anyway, we met success (of sorts). I caught 3 butt-ugly buffalo sculpins, while my husband caught 2 smallish halibut - one weighing 10 pounds and the other weighing 15 pounds. Mind you, some people catch halibut weighing over 300 pounds, so that kind of puts our catch in perspective. Let's just say my husband's little fishies wouldn't win any fishing derbies. But we didn't care. We caught some halibut and that was success in our book.
You can have your halibut frozen and shipped home, but the expense ($80) to ship home these two little fishies wasn't worth it. We donated them to the Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge, and the owners were absolutely delighted to have them.
The peak in the background is Grace Ridge, standing at just over 3,000 feet. The lodge owner's son-in-law gave us a lift by boat to the trailhead on the other side of Tutka Bay. The trail is all within the Kachemak Bay State Park, and is a beautiful hike. It begins in a lush forest, and then climbs above the treeline through tundra. At that point the trail disappears, and it is a free for all to the top. In July, the climber will have to ford small creeks and cross snow fields. The final ascent (the last 100-200 feet) is very steep and requires scrambling up near cliffs on all fours, but no technical climbing. The summit has stunning views of the Kachemak and Tutka Bays to the north and west, and glaciers and peaks in the Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park to the east and south.
Tutka Bay was swarming with pink salmon, or "humpies" while we were there in July. They would swim under the pier in schools of hundreds, teasing and baiting US, not the other way around. My daughter, husband and son are demonstrating their original, if not unorthodox, fishing skills in this photo.
The locals will tell you the humpies are the least impressive to catch because they are so plentiful and any idiot can catch them. They are the least desirable in terms of taste. In fact, the humpies are mainly used for canned salmon.
I just had to paste this little tidbit of information from a page I found on the internet:
"If you catch a pink over 15 pounds it is a world record and you can get on the cover of Fishing & Hunting News. I’m sure the record has been broken before but then not very many people want to be noted for catching the 'World’s Largest Humpy'. It’s kind of like being known for killing the 'World’s Largest Rat' or 'World’s Largest Slug'."
From www.thefighinggoddess.com - All About Humpies
Maybe the Alaskans don't view the humpies as a challenge, but my family managed to come up empty handed. If any idiot can catch humpies, what does that make us?
The sea around the Kenai Peninsula is a prime location for halibut fishing. For the best fishing, head out to the Cook Inlet, which is where we were headed on our second day at Tutka Bay. On the day before we took our trip, the same fishing boat with its party of 4 caught 80 halibut fish among them in that location. Naturally, we had high hopes of doing the same as we left our lodge in the morning. However, the weather gods were not smiling on us that day and we learned the fishing from one day to the next can vary significantly. When we went fishing, the waters were extremely rough, so all the fishing boats, including ours, were turning back before getting out into the Cook Inlet. At the time, I thought we weren't heading out because the fish don't bite when the seas are rough. I later learned that it was because the fishing tours don't want puking customers, or worse, customer overboard in the arctic sea. Had I known that in advance, I think I would have mutineed and insisted we continue out, rough seas or not.
We tried fishing in another location in the Kachemak Bay, but unfortunately the entire boat got completely skunked. By noon we had caught nothing, so our captain recommended that we call it a day, rather than waste our time catching nothing but kelp. Here's the amazing thing - he gave us a complete refund! Never mind that he had to give up his entire morning to take us around the bay. This is typical of the people in Alaska - they seemed far more intent on making sure we enjoyed their beautiful state than making money off of us.
It wasn't a complete loss - we had wonderful weather, great company and got to see a whale.
Take a kayak out to the Herring Islands, which are located at the mouth of the Tutka Bay. The Herring Islands are almost entirely uninhabited by humans. You WILL see bald eagles, sea otters, salmon and loads of jellyfish.
The Herring Islands used to be known for the thousands of schools of herring in the area - hence its name. However, due to overfishing, the herring are now gone.
This photo was taken at our lunch spot. The beach, which is serving as a resting spot for our kayaks, is not sand, but is made up a thousands of tiny bits of shells!