16 Jul Alaska Fishing Report: July 16, 2018
It has been several weeks since I last posted and that means things have been very busy for us. It has overall been a very challenging season from a fishing perspective with less than stellar returns statewide for most species of salmon. Here on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, our June returns of king salmon were weak which resulted in numerous restrictions to both early run king salmon fisheries. On the Kenai, prompted by weak sonar counts, king fishing was restricted to catch and release only on June 11 and then ultimately closed to all king salmon fishing on June 18 through July 1. On the Kasilof, king fishing was restricted to no bait and single hook starting June 11 through June 30. All these low counts and resulting restrictions made king salmon fishing in June a limited option, although we did see some success on the Kasilof. Most of our angling attention refocused to alternative species like sockeye on both rivers and on fly outs, and also trout fishing on the Kenai. While many of these options were not overwhelmingly productive, they did help us to get through a difficult early season and we were able to make the majority of our guests happy as they understood no one has control over mother nature and as cliché as it may sound…”that’s fishing.”
July on the Kenai River began with no bait restrictions and extremely high water making king salmon fishing extremely tough. Fish counts were tracking within normal numbers but water conditions limited fishing success. On the Kasilof July opened with the use of bait and fishing success was decent but not outstanding. With the bulk of the early run already moving out of the main stem and into Crooked Creek, only a limited number of kings were present in early July. The Kasilof is starting to see the late run kings arrive in decent numbers and fishing has been steady as we move toward the middle of July and the beginning of the historical peak of this fishery.
Late run sockeye fishing on the Kenai River began July with slow fishing but with time and persistence, anglers were rewarded with some nice sockeye catches. As we moved into the second week of the month, the first solid push of sockeye arrived, and limit catches of large, healthy late run Kenai Sockeye have been coming to the net daily. Despite this surge of success, the run overall is tracking below average in numbers with only 113,445 fish passing the sonar counter as of July 16. That compares to almost 150,000 last year on this same date and a whopping 504,000 in 2016. Obviously, the bulk of this return has yet to arrive and should show in the next week to ten days.
Despite tough fishing here on the Kenai and Kasilof, one very positive June and July option has been fly out fishing to Big River Lake on the West Side of Cook Inlet. The sockeye returns to both Wolverine Creek and also the south fork of Big River have been extremely strong this season and limit fishing has been the rule. In addition to the great fishing and spectacular scenery, these fly out trips have been excellent for bear viewing with both brown and black bears making regular daily appearances at Wolverine Creek and around the lake. Silver salmon are starting to arrive in the Kustatan River and soon we will make the seasonal transition on our fly out trips from sockeye at Big River Lake to the many remote silver salmon destinations we frequent in late July and throughout August.
Enjoy the many great pictures from the last several weeks and stay tuned for more reports as time allows. Despite a less than stellar May and June, we remain optimistic that July and the fall fisheries in August and September will hold some of the epic fishing we are more accustomed to. As they say, the best is yet to come!