09 Nov Alaska Fishing Report: September 1, 2020
Fall is definitely in the air. The leaves are beginning their seasonal transformation and eventual demise. North winds are starting to blow, and millions of salmon of all species are filling the gravel with their prodigy before also perishing from their effort. Late season is always a very exciting time as you look back on a busy summer of fishing yet still look forward to some of the best fishing still to come. Before we plunge headfirst into another epic fall fishing season here on the Kenai Peninsula, let’s look back on the past two months and the core of our season.
July began with a meager flow of sockeye into the Kenai River but with very good numbers entering the Kasilof River. For the most part we spent the first week to ten days in July fishing sockeye on the Kasilof and making some effort on Kings when time allowed. The Kenai was restricted by emergency order to no bait and only retention of king salmon less than 34 inches. This was a result of the poor early run return and concerns regarding the strength of the late run, which turned out to be well warranted.
By the second week of July, sockeye counts on the Kenai were ramping up daily and the first good pushes of late run Kenai sockeye are always some of the most pristine fish of the summer. Bright chrome and hard charging upriver we were fortunate to intercept just enough each daily to fill all our limits and put lots of smiles on our customer’s faces. The run continued to build at a perfect pace throughout the month and that combined with incredible Alaska summer sunshine and the perfect mix of occasional rain, July was shaping up to be pretty much perfect, almost.
Unfortunately, the late run of king salmon on the Kenai really struggled this season. Much like runs across the entire state, Kenai Kings just cannot seem to consistently reach important escapement goals and thus restrictions have become the norm. The Kenai eventually closed to all fishing for kings on July 24. Even with the restrictions it failed to reach the minimum goal as only 11,500 fish were recorded. The optimal escapement for late run Kenai kings is 15,000 to 30,000 fish. Now more than ever we will continue our conservation-oriented stance toward harvest of wild Kenai and Kasilof kings and catch and release (when fishing is permitted) will be strongly encouraged.
With the close of king season and no silvers yet in the river, sockeye salmon carried their typical weight with limit after limit for the next several weeks. The steady push of 20K plus a day entering the river made fishing extremely fun, as despite the occasional lull in the action, you just knew there were more coming. We fished sockeye well into the second week in August when low and behold, a few silvers began making their way into our daily sockeye limits. When you start to see silvers caught consistently while sockeye fishing it’s a good sign that its time to start targeting silvers and that’s exactly what we did. During the second half of August we began seeing particularly good daily pushes of silvers and fishing success was high.
This year was also an even year and a pink salmon year and it was an exceptionally large return. Starting in late July they flooded the lower Kenai in earnest. By early to mid-August they had moved upriver and were literally blanketing the entire 50 miles from Skilak to tide water. The sheer numbers involved with a pink run of this magnitude are staggering. As they begin to spawn and the billions of loose eggs that don’t make it to the gravel begin tumbling though the countless gravel bars, it really a cool thing to witness. Of course, if you are a trout lover, its game on. Nothing gives our amazing population of wild rainbows and steelhead a boost like that much protein spread throughout the river. Our resident species really do benefit greatly from this amazing transfer of energy from the ocean and if the trout are happy, so are our guests. We always look forward to pink salmon years for trout fishing on the Kenai, especially the late fall, so stay tuned.
Silver fishing was steady throughout August and although there were not a lot of easy limits, the fish were there and with sufficient effort we put plenty in the net daily. Early in the run we concentrated mainly on the lower river but later into August we found ourselves above the bulk of the pink salmon and we fished mostly below Skilak Lake. On many days we were also able to fish for trout in addition to the silvers and both should just continue to get better as we move later into fall. The Kasilof also saw an average run of silvers in August and produced several limit catches for our guests. This run should continue to produce good action into the first couple weeks of September.
Please enjoy all the incredible pictures from the last couple months and check back a little later for the conclusion of our season and more great photos!