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Taking the Kids: Thinking about adventures past and to come -- in Alaska

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Hold on tight! Not to the careening roller coaster that everyday life has become during this pandemic, but to the fishing pole, especially when you are fishing for halibut.

It's not easy to hold onto that pole -- or, at times, to normalcy these days. Stuck at home, reduced to virtual armchair travel, I've been musing about lessons learned on past trips -- like the days we spent fishing last summer in Alaska. Besides, it's fun to think about good times -- and remind ourselves we will have fun traveling again.

When we started out early that chilly late summer morning, I doubted I'd catch anything, even though we're in the halibut capital of the world at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula in tiny Homer.

My skepticism is understandable since, after a day and a half of fishing for salmon on the famous Kenai River in Alaska, before we got to Homer, we didn't catch any keepers. The most exciting part of the day was meeting Chili, the dog, who was fishing with his family. But hey, vacations are like life -- they never go as planned. And, as they say, that's why they call it fishing, not catching.

"The hardest day of fishing I've had all season," said our guide, Sean Smart, at Kenai River Recon, after we unsuccessfully tried nearly a dozen different spots for silver salmon, sockeye salmon and trout. He felt so badly he insisted on buying us a beer at a local brewery. Did I mention a forest fire had closed the road and prevented us from getting back to where we had been staying? No worries. We simply went on to Homer as scheduled to fish for Halibut but without any of our gear.

"Of course you'll catch fish," says Grant Peel, the affable 25-year-old boat captain for Alaska Coastal Marine, who is piloting the Foxfire the morning we are halibut fishing. He takes 11 of us hopefuls 25 miles out west into the Cook Inlet (about a 90-minute ride on fairly calm seas) to find those famous halibut that so many come to Alaska seeking.

 

I'm still dubious when we put the baited and weighted hooks in the ocean, dropping them 200 feet. Immediately one person gets a bite ... then another ... and another. Within 45 minutes, all 11 of us, me included, have caught the two fish we are allowed to keep -- nearly 100 pounds of fish!

"We caught the tides just right," Peel explained. "There was no current, so the fish ate the bait faster."

Chuck Kim, a Denver doctor, wins the prize for the biggest, about 15 pounds, and he's jubilant, posing for pictures.

Nearly a year later, stuck at home, trips canceled in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I smile thinking about that stellar day and the rest of last summer's trip to Alaska. I'm thinking about where I want to go next when we can travel again -- and I encourage you to do the same. Maybe that will take the sting out of adventures you have had to cancel.

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