20 Aug Alaska Fishing Report: August 9, 2018
First, I apologize for the long time between reports but as is usually the case, peak season affords very little free time and computer time takes second fiddle to fishing and taking care of our many guests. It has indeed been an extremely busy summer and now that July is behind us, we have moved on to the fall months and the final stretch of our Alaska fishing season.
July came and went in a lightning bolt and was very interesting to say the least. Both the late run king salmon and sockeye returns were like the early run returns and returns statewide in that they were not their normal strength. The late run of king salmon began with no bait restrictions and retention of any size but on July 16 the Kenai was restricted to catch and release only and this remained in effect for the duration of the season. Despite the restrictions, fishing for king salmon was decent with some very nice fish caught and released throughout the season. The late run of sockeye salmon seemed a little late to arrive, but they picked up speed in the second week of July and we saw regular limits and great action for a solid week to ten days. Sonar numbers were decent but not great but then took a noticeable dip around July 24. With less than 300,00 fish at that point in river and more than 600,000 to go to meet the minimum escapement goal, ADF&G made the wise decision to reduce the sportfish limit to one fish, close the personal use dip net fishing and greatly curtail the commercial fisheries in Cook Inlet. This resulted in more fish entering the river but unfortunately it was not enough, and mangers were left with the rare move to close the fishery entirely starting on August 1. As of Aug 9, only 687,000 sockeye has crossed the sonar counter just below the Soldotna Bridge and barring a very late surge of fish in the next week to ten days, it seems very unlikely the minimum escapement goal will be achieved. On the neighboring Kasilof, the sockeye run has been strong and seems likely to meet or exceed the top end of the escapement goal. The strong return on the Kasilof coupled with the lack of commercial fishing, prompted ADF&G managers to increase the limit from three to six fish starting on August 3. As of Aug 9, 382,704 sockeye had been counted in the Kasilof making it likely the run will exceed the top end of the goal which is 390,00 fish.
Despite the poor sockeye salmon returns to the Kenai, the commercial fishing closures allowed all of our silver salmon stock to make it into area river undisturbed and silver salmon fishing on the Kasilof, the Kenai and all of the fly out locations on the West Side of Cook Inlet have been nothing short of spectacular. Particularly on the Kenai where this is also a pink salmon year, fishing has been excellent with tons of action in the lower Kenai for both silvers and pinks. The early run silvers seem especially big this year with many fish weighing well over 10 lbs and a number exceeding 15 lbs. After an overall frustrating season for kings and sockeye peninsula wide, this early and strong showing of silvers is a welcome sight for not only our guests but also our guides. We are really enjoying the excellent fishing and the non-sop action and with the fresh pinks and the big coho, fish bags going to the processor and untimely home to our guest’s freezers have been full and heavy.
As we approach the seasonal peak of the early run of silver salmon in the next week to ten days, we are optimistic the season with continue to provide excellent fishing and we look forward to the remainder of the month. Given the size and run strength of the early run fish, we are very optimistic about the late run of silvers in September and look forward to closing out a very roller coaster season on an especially high note. Stay tuned for more reports.
Trout fishing in early August has also been very good in the middle river with some great numbers and some nice fish being caught drifting flesh flies. We look forward to more trout fishing into late fall as we continue that relentless pursuit of giant Kenai rainbows.
Please enjoy all of the great pictures form the last several weeks and look for more as we roll forward into September and October and some of my favorite times to be on the magical Kenai River.