Ninilchik and Homer: Festivals and Fishing!
After a fun-filled week in Seward, the Eco Womb Tour was ready to move on to our next adventure. My mom had contacted the organizers of Salmonfest, a festival in Ninilchik we had our sights on for years. As we were getting ready to leave, we heard that they had a spot open for us. Super excited, we drove down the Sterling Highway to Soldotna in a hurry.
The Kenai River, renowned for its salmon fishing, flowed right through town. We tried our luck several times, but weren’t able to catch the elusive fish. One of my goals while in Alaska was to catch a wild salmon, clean, cook, and eat it. It would be the perfect local, wild meal. This dream became sort of an obsession as we fished again and again with no luck.
We headed down the road to the small town of Ninilchik, where Salmonfest was located at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds.
Due to us being a last-minute addition to the festival, we weren’t given a spot inside like we usually did. Instead, our bus was parked at the entrance and we set up a booth in the kids area. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but it worked fine. Better, actually.
The festival was a whirl of friendly people, yummy food, and lots of good music. The bands played deep into the night, and picked right back up in the morning.
After the festivities were over and we had packed away our event gear, our next stop was Homer. Or actually, the Homer Spit: a long and thin piece of land extending 6 miles into Kachemak Bay. It weirdly reminded me of the Florida Keys, in the way that you parked along the bayside and could walk over to the ocean side.
The place we chose was situated close to the boat harbor, and overlooked the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, or “The Fishing Hole.” This lagoon was the location of a terminal fishing program. Which means first they release baby salmon into the lagoon, and then once the salmon grow up they swim into the sea like normal. Then they return in a few years, fully grown and ready to spawn. But since there’s no river for them to go into, they swim around the lagoon jumping around and looking for a way out. Its a very popular fishing spot, and I was keen to try it out. But the road to the wild-caught salmon meal was full of bumps.
Our first day there, my backpack with all my fishing gear was stolen :(. Luckily my fishing rods were still there, so I started from the bottom with not quite nothing. We got some bait from a shop, and set out to catch the lifeblood of Southern Alaska.
After three days of doing nothing except fishing, I caught my first wild salmon! It was exhilarating, bittersweet, and so much fun!
At the end of the day I cleaned my silver salmon as well as a pink salmon that someone had generously given to us while fishing. It was a messy job, but well worth it.
The next night, I cooked up the salmon on the outdoor stove, adding it to some local gold potatoes from the farmers market in Homer, as well as some organic carrots also from the farmers market. What turned out was a all-local, organic, wild and sustainably caught meal. The perfect meal.
Meanwhile, while I had been pursuing the fishes, my family had done some exploring. The spit had a lot of cool shops to check out, as well as a secret swing under the boardwalk.
On the mainland, we visited the amazing Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitors Center with really cool exhibits and a trail to Bishops Beach. Definitely a must-do.
Towards the end of our stay, my mom and dad surprised everyone by announcing we were taking a boat tour across the blue waters of the bay to the small town of Seldovia. The tour would stop at Gull Rock, known for its seabirds, before going through Kachemak Bay State Park on our way to Seldovia.
It was an amazing trip. It’ll take way too long to fit it all in here, so that will be covered in my next post.
Until next time,