01 Jul Alaska Fishing Report: July 1, 2019
Its hard to believe it is July 1 and the first third of our season is actually behind us. It has been a very positive early season on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers with lots of excellent fishing. It has also been a very good season on the salt-water with excellent halibut fishing in Cook Inlet as well as great fly out fishing for sockeye at Big River Lake as well as king salmon on the Nushagak river.
May and June King Salmon fishing on the Kenai and the Kasilof began under preseason imposed restrictions on both rivers. The Kenai started and ended the early run with catch and release only fishing and the Kasilof was no bait, single hook as well as retention of hatchery fish only. These conservative restrictions proved to be prudent as no additional restrictions were imposed in-season and both rivers saw good fishing opportunities throughout May and June. The Kasilof king return was an excellent mix of both wild (naturally produced) and hatchery kings and the average size of the fish was up considerably from last season. Fishing was good without bait but certainly not as good as if bait was allowed. That said, our boats saw plenty of action and were able to harvest many nice hatchery kings. The Kenai had a much better early season than last year when the river was closed due to low numbers. The minimum escapement goal for early run Kenai kings was met and there was some good fishing opportunities for those interested in catch and release. Unfortunately, mother nature delivered one of the warmest Junes in my 29 seasons here on the Kenai and this created less than optimal water conditions as melting glaciers brought high water and poor water clarity.
By far the biggest highlight of the early season was the early run of sockeye salmon to the Russian River, a tributary of the upper Kenai. This return ended up being the highest ever recorded with an incredible 92,000 sockeye passing the weir located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake. This greatly surpassed the escapement goal of 22,000 to 42,000 and on June 17, 2019, ADF&G upped the limit on the Russian from three to nine fish. Fishing on the main stem Kenai for us was outstanding for the entire month of June. From our bank here at the lodge to just upstream in our regular July gravel bars to spots we like below Skilak Lake, the sockeye just kept on coming and limits were largely the rule. It was sockeye salmon fishing in June like we have never seen before and hopes are high for a similarly strong return of late run sockeye in July. We are already seeing some of these larger, main-stem sockeye in the system now with lots more on the way!
Fly out trips to the west side of Cook Inlet and Big River Lakes have been outstanding with lots of nice sockeye limits being caught and some excellent bear viewing opportunities. With the warm weather, temperatures in Redoubt Bay and Wolverine Creek have been too warm to bring many fish into the clear water but fishing in the lake and in the south fork of Big River has been outstanding.
Halibut fishing in Cook Inlet has been consistently awesome this year with a great average size of big healthy halibut. Our saltwater captains have worked very hard to put our customers on limits this season and a big thanks to all of them for their tireless effort on the saltwater. We also saw excellent king salmon action in the salt water this early season in combination with the great halibut fishing!
One other noteworthy event to our early season has again been the record-breaking warm temperatures and a large fire burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuse North East of the Sterling highway above the town of Sterling. Now at just over 70,000 acres and only 15% contained, the Swan Lake Fire is definitely something to keep an eye on and those with pending trips driving down from Anchorage should plan ahead for unexpected delays, etc. We do not expect this to impact and fishing whatsoever, it is just important to plan ahead on drive times in case there are any delays due to the smoke.
A big note of appreciation to all of our happy customers so far this season, it has been our pleasure to be part of your fishing vacation to Alaska and we look forward to many more guests as we enter the peak of our busy fishing season here on the Kenai Peninsula! Till the next report, enjoy the many great pictures and good luck on the water wherever you are!