26 Jan Alaska Fishing Reports: 2006
2007 Year in Review
As the 2007 season comes to a close, there is much to remember and reflect upon before looking ahead to 2008. This past season, like every season, was unique in many ways. Run strength, run timing, weather, river conditions all play their part in making each season a little different than the last.
After a few weeks of chasing spring steelhead in southeast Alaska, winter cobwebs were well cleared and in mid May we began fishing the Kenai and Kasilof rivers for big, bright kings. The Kasilof began as it did the year prior with some fish in mid May but really no serious numbers until later in the month. The Kenai was seeing some fish as well with most of the action coming in short-lived bursts around the tides. Water levels on both the Kenai and the Kasilof were very low early in the season due to our late winter and chilly spring. By the first week of June, the water had risen considerably on the Kenai and fishing was improving as well. At the same time on the Kasilof, good numbers of both hatchery and natural kings were filling up the holes and fish boxes. Action on the Kasilof remained very steady for the first two weeks of June. Likewise, the Kenai was also seeing very consistent fishing and after June 10, we started to shift the majority of our king effort toward the Kenai. Despite colder than normal water temps and a few rain storms that muddied the river for few days, June proved to be a very exiting month on the Kenai River.
Mid June also marked the opening of trout season on the Kenai and this season, like so many in the past was another epic one for trophy trout. Mid to late June and even into early July found the bulk of the trout population just below Skilak Lake where they congregate for their spring spawn.
Away from the Kenai and on the other side of Cook Inlet, our fly out trips this season began in earnest in mid-June. We frequented both the sockeye fishery at Big River Lake and the king fishing on the Chuit and both provided several great days of fishing combined with spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing. The sockeye run to Wolverine Creek and Big River Lake was exceptionally strong this season and despite the relative popularity of this remote location, this trip continues to provide one of our most consistent and memorable remote fishing and bear viewing experiences. Even though Kodiak Island and Karluk lagoon are normally a mainstay on our June fly out menu, this year we did not fly to Alaska’s “Emerald Isle” due to late king returns and emergency closures. Every year is very different and we hope the Karluk rebounds nicely next season. The Chuit became our primary fly out destination for kings this June and despite less than favorable weather conditions, we did find good numbers of fish. With less than average snowfall this past winter, the Chuit remained fairly low. On bright, sunny days, the fishing was tough in the reduced flows. In the lower light of the morning and on days with cloud cover, the fishing was very rewarding. This river remains one of our favorite fisheries of the season as seeing huge wild king salmon in a small creek like the Chuit is what Alaska fishing is truly all about.
After a robust June, July debuted with great anticipation. Hopes were high for another banner late run of kings, as we saw in 2006. The month started with some success, but overall fishing was only steady at best. The average size of the kings in early July seemed much smaller than we are accustomed to. Speculation wondered if these were still late arriving early run kings and the big, thick-shouldered late run kings had yet to arrive. As the month progressed we did see a fair number of larger fish but fishing success and the overall size of the kings was below average for the Kenai River in July. Reasons for the less than stellar late run are likely many, though perhaps the biggest factor was the aggressive persecution of the commercial sockeye fishery in Cook Inlet. Excessive gill netting along the migration route leading to the mouth of the Kenai snared many thousands of our sacred Kenai giants. Sonar counters indicated good numbers of kings were entering the river throughout the month but it was likely counting excessive numbers of smaller kings that had used their size advantage to evade the commercial nets. Sonar counts are also regularly skewed by large pulses of late run sockeye. Despite the mediocre fishing, we did manage consistent results daily and our boats worked very hard to afford our anglers more than their share of king sized opportunities.
As we entered the last week of July and the final days of the 2007 king season, a number of nice fish came to the net but overall the run never really seemed to hit full stride. Likewise, the sockeye return in late July and early August remained fairly contained and unlike the past two seasons when we saw a good portion of the return arrive late, the sockeye run had definitely pasted its peak as we entered early August.
The first week of August is definitely an exciting time despite the close of king season. Even with the run in its ladder stages there are always enough sockeye still present to provide plenty of action and meat for the freezer. In addition to sockeye, we also begin to see the first waves of early run silver salmon and for sheer numbers, trout fishing is very tough to beat. This season was no exception as throughout the summer, and especially in the first few weeks of August, we saw world renowned rainbow trout fishing.
Beginning in the second week of August, catch rates for early run silvers were starting to become more consistent. One could expect to have a fair number of opportunities in first 2-3 hours of the day and on a number of days this yielded limit catch of chrome bright coho. The silver bite typically tapered off mid morning and this proved a perfect time to shift our angling attention to the Kenai’s prolific trout fishing. This fishery has become increasingly popular in the last decade and with the no retention regulation for fish over 18 inches, the middle section of the river has maintained a remarkable population of very large and completely wild rainbow trout. Recent statistics note the angling public is well aware of this awesome fishery as trout fishing now rivals king salmon fishing on the Kenai River in total angler hours spent on the water.
The early run of coho tapered off as it normally does in the last days of August, though the bigger and brighter late run of Kenai silvers was waiting in the wings. After a brief week to ten day respite between runs, the lower Kenai started getting consistent pulses of bigger fish in mid September and this transferred up-river in rapid fashion. The fall is always a very special time to visit the Kenai, especially when you consider the parade of fish that have entered the river throughout the course of the season. Indeed this year the Kenai saved the best fishing of the season for the end as mild temperatures and lots of fresh ocean bright salmon kept us busy well into October. Though unpredictable weather wise, the late season can be very rewarding for those willing to risk the inclement weather. Realistically, unless you live here, trying to plan a fall fishing trip to the Kenai anytime after mid October is simply a roll of the dice. Last year the river was frozen shut by late October and this season, even in mid December, it’s ice free and begging anyone that will listen for “just one more cast…”
Indeed the fall is always a very special time to visit the Kenai, especially when you consider the parade of fish that have entered the river throughout the course of the season. Year in and year out the Kenai and surrounding waters fulfill the fishing dreams of visitors worldwide and we feel truly privileged to have spent the past eighteen seasons living our own dream. Thanks to all of our guests both new and old as it is your patronage that has allowed us to continue doing what we love and that is helping our guests plan high quality and professionally guided fishing adventures to the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai River and surrounding waters. We are definitely looking forward to yet another action packed fishing season in 2008 and we sincerely hope you can be there to join us.
Mark, Cindy, Faith and Caleigh
Alaska Fishing Reports: Sept 7-Oct 4
Within a week, the boundless sea of yellow and orange leaves that make Alaska in the fall on of the most picturesque places on earth, are all but gone. They gather in our yards and on the many flowing waters ripe with rotting salmon. A fish carcass, leaves and a bear print are all likely companions for this part of the season. With all but the final few days of the 2007 season now down river, we have one final report before starting work on the annual newsletter Kenai Current which will contain the complete 2007 year in review.
The late run of Kenai Silvers began arriving in small but consistent pulses beginning around the second week of September and seemed to pass through the lower portion of the river in rapid fashion. They were very aggressive and yielded limit catches on most days. These ocean fresh salmon, many still with sea lice on them, had an excellent average size of over ten pounds. Our boats all saw several fish in the 15-20 lb. class and for the Kenai, this is a very large silver. The late run of Kenai silver salmon is always very exciting to pursue as it includes a big reduction in fishing pressure, bigger fish and low water. Even now in the first week of October we are seeing very high numbers of fresh fish and outstanding silver salmon action. We can expect this final salmon run of the year to last well into October and November.
Trout fishing in the late season never quite peaked like it can in some years. The lack of concentrated pink (even years only) and sockeye spawn (aside from some concentrated numbers near the outlet from Skilak Lake) never herded the bulk of the fish to select areas but rather the trout population remained well distributed throughout the Kenai many prolific food sources. While the single egg pattern (painted beads) did work well for select periods and areas, flesh was by far the season’s best offering. The lack of concentrated numbers failed to prevent the amazing Kenai from yielding countless trophy sized rainbows as persistent fishing was regularly rewarded. We can expect the rainbow fishing to be well worth exploring until mother nature freezes us out and winter begins.
Alaska Fishing Report: Aug 20-Sept 7
The early run of Kenai silver salmon has definitely passed through the system as of the last week. Other than a brief peak in this fishery during the second and third week of the month, the run was average at best with most days conceding limits but with a fair amount of effort involved. As of early September, only small pulses of late run silver salmon were being reported in the lower river but the fish that are arriving now are large, very bright and hard fighting. The numbers of late run silver salmon should steadily increase in the next week to ten days and we should see good fishing well into October. Trout fishing on the Kenai River both above and below Skilak Lake has been excellent. The trout below Skilak are finding well presented single egg patterns tough to resist as they go on their annual fall feeding frenzy in anticipation for the long winter ahead. Trout fishing should only improve as water levels recede and we get deeper into the fall season.
Crescent Lake continues to be the most viable late season fly out option with Fresh silver salmon available and abundant sea run dollies providing very consistent action. We have had only a handful of trips still traveling by float plane this late in the season but those still fishing are doing very well at this location. A recent trip to Big River Lake revealed the vast majority of the silvers had moved into their spawning habitat and are turning color. Very few keepable, fresh silvers are still available in any of the West Cook Inlet drainages.
Alaska Fishing Report: August 20, 2007
This report will briefly cover the past month of fishing here on the Kenai and beyond. The gap in coverage is largely due to our very busy season and simply the lack of necessary time needed to post. We apologize for the delay….
The 2007 late run of Kenai king salmon ended with a fizzle rather than the bang of the past two seasons. Extensive commercial netting for sockeye salmon in Cook Inlet unfortunately curtailed any major pushes of Kenai kings into the lower river despite what seemed to be fabricated sonar counts that indicated otherwise. Talking to any professional guide that was on the river in the last week to ten days of July, you will hear the same story, disappointing fishing success. While there were some nice fish available and our guides did have some very good days, overall the run failed to yield the easy and “good ol’ days” angling that we have become accustomed to during the peak of the late run. Again, far more aggressive commercial netting for sockeye in Cook Inlet surely increased the by-catch of trophy Kenai kings and rather than making it into the river to spawn they were unfortunately killed in both set and drift gill nets. Hopefully this unfortunate occurrence will come to light in this winters Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting which will take its customary triennial look at Cook Inlet management plans. I highly encourage anyone with any concern for our genetically unique Kenai King salmon to participate in this important process either in person or with written testimony to the board. Information regarding upcoming meetings and testimony can be found via the ADF&G Boards Support page: https://www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us/
The late run of Kenai river sockeye was nowhere near as prolific as the past two seasons. Last year the run was late and ADF&G closed the river for sockeye fishing and severely limited commercial fishing until late July when a large very concentrated push of fish finally hit the river. This late push continued well into August yielding excessive numbers and excellent fishing well into the month. This sockeye closure also proved to be an incidental blessing for late run king salmon as with no commercial nets, king fishing in the lower Kenai was as good as we have seen it in several seasons. As previously mentioned, this was far from the case this year as the sockeye escapement goal was closely monitored and barely achieved with back to back commercial openings and therefore only sporadic and limited bursts of sockeye made it into the river at any given time. The fishing was still good for those with patience and persistence but it was not the best sockeye return we have seen by any means. The more regular commercial netting also took a huge chunk out of our early arriving silver salmon and fishing for silvers did not materialize until the nets were removed around the 10th of August. We are now seeing decent but not sporadic fishing for early run Kenai river silvers with some days being very good and other being just OK. This run should continue to build over the next week to ten days and fishing success should become more consistent over this time period. Fishing for Kenai River rainbow trout and dolly varden has been very good. Good numbers of larger fish have begun to concentrate in the section of river below Skilak Lake and angling success for these resident fish has been excellent. This should only continue to get better as the kings and sockeye set up and begin to spawn.
Our remote fishing for silver salmon got off to a somewhat slow start in late July but quickly picked up steam in the first week of August. All remote locations have seen very good numbers of silver salmon including Big River Lake, the Kustatan, Buchatna Creek and the Chuit River. We have been fishing one or more of these locations daily and have seen excellent fishing with limit catches being the rule. These locations should continue to provide very good action into the final days of August and even early September.
Alaska Fishing Report: July 16, 2007
The end of June saw small bursts of decent king salmon fishing but the transition between early and late run Kenai King salmon was definitely apparent. Some years the two runs overlap and fishing remains quite consistent but this season there was definitely a lull in the action as the early run moved on to it’s spawning grounds and the late run began to trickle in from Cook Inlet. Now as of July 16, we still have not seen any major pushes of late run kings in the Kenai River although we are catching kings daily. Our boats are taking from 1-4 kings per day but the average size of the fish is smaller than we typically see for July. Many of the fish we are taking are in the 15-25lb. range indicating the fish may be late arriving early run kings or that these are simply scouts of the late run and the larger fish have yet to arrive. Expectations are high for the coming week as counts did ramp up over the weekend and it is definitely time for the late run to make a good showing in the lower river. The late run sockeye have also failed to arrive in any numbers yet but reports of large schools in Cook Inlet indicate they are headed this way. Counts have been from 2,000-6,000 per day this last week and this is a mere trickle compared to the 20,000 plus per day needed to make the fishing worthwhile. Again, expectations for the coming week remain high as we should see both the kings and the sockeye numbers bump up considerably.
Trout fishing on the Kenai River has been nothing short of remarkable with 100+ fish days being the rule. A number of fish approaching 30+ inches have also been landed and for sheer action, this catch and release fishery remains on the top of the list.
Remote fly outs:
Sockeye fishing at Big River Lake and Wolverine Creek remains very good. There are still great numbers of fresh sockeye in the cove and lots of bears to watch as well. Silver salmon have also hit on the west side of Cook Inlet and reports from the Kustatan indicate limit fishing is occurring daily. There are also some silver already being caught in Big River Lake.
Fishing Report: June 23, 2007
The Kenai River came up considerably in the last week after a spell of hot weather resulted in snow and glacial melt. The river held its color despite rising daily until late in the week when it became too dirty to fish effectively. Late Thursday through mid day Saturday saw less than optimal water conditions and less productive fishing as the river was more of a cloudy grey than its typical turquoise green. On Saturday afternoon after a day of clouds and cooler weather, the Kenai finally regained a slight hue of green, though fishing remained far lass productive than earlier in the week. The majority of the early run kings seemed to have moved upriver with the higher water and the numbers of fish entering the mouth remains lower (200-400 fish daily). The fish appear to be moving very fast in the higher water and this has definitely hampered fishing success. Nonetheless, a fair number of king are still being caught daily with most boats landing 2-5 fish per day. The early run should remain on the decline and we should begin to see the first scouts of the late run arriving soon. July is just around the corner.
On the Kasilof, king fishing remains fair even though we are past the historical peak for the early run fishery. Boats are still averaging 2-7 kings per day but this likely will not last as again this run typically is past its peak by this time in June and will very likely see a dip in the action before the late run kings arrive in mid to late July.
Big River Lake and Wolverine Creek are producing limit catches of red salmon daily as the first waves of fish to this location seemed to be very strong. A number of sockeye have already entered the creek itself but many still remain in the cove at the mouth of Wolverine and new fish are arriving daily. Bears have been seen on a regular basis although so far this season it has been more black than brown bears.
The Chuitna has plenty of kings in the system but low clear water has them off the bite. Recent cloudy weather and rain will likely improve this location considerably before the widow for the fishery passes July 1.
Mark’s Fishing report, June 15, 2007
Kenai / Kasilof
The Kenai River is now maintaining a consistent turquoise green color and with the use of bait beginning Tuesday, fishing success has also become more steady. Catch rates are considered fair to good with most boats landing multiple fish per trip. The river has a large number of smaller jack salmon (kings from 5 -15lbs) present and these are providing great action between hook-ups with larger kings. Our boats have been releasing a fair number of fish that are over the 44 inch slot range but there are also plenty of nice 25-40 lb. fish that are beneath the slot and perfect for those wanting to take a fish home. Sonar counts still remain good but have declined since the spike of over 1000 fish on June 8. The run should remain strong into late June before numbers of late run kings begin to enter the system. As long as the river holds its color and the fish counts continue to be above 500 fish per day, good fishing for Kenai king salmon can be expected.
For recent sonar data, please see:
Trout fishing on the Kenai opened this week with fair results below Skilak Lake. The number of fish has been quite good with anglers landing 15-30 fish individually per trip. Many rainbows are still completing their spring spawn so some are displaying vivid coloration but many have chromed back up and look bright and very healthy. This fishery will only continue to produce great fishing until its season peak in the fall.
The Russian River is seeing good numbers of sockeye salmon and these fish can be seen splashing along the edges of the main stem Kenai on a regular basis. Reports from those fishing the Russian itself have been very positive with limit catches from the confluence up to the falls. Those willing to walk well upriver from where the Russian meets the Kenai are finding plenty of fish and far less people.
On the Kasilof, the number of fish entering on the tides has begun to wane although there does seem to be more fish in the holes upriver and action remains fair. We are past the seasonal peak for this run so one should expect this fishery to taper off over the next week to ten days. The ratio of “natural” or wild fish to hatchery fish seems to be at least 50/50 with good numbers of both fish currently in the system. Water levels are rising fast with our recent dose of warm, sunny weather.
The Chuit is quite low for this time in June but good numbers of king salmon are available. The fishing is only considered fair with anglers landing 1-5 fish per rod, per day. The clarity of the river is holding steady so although it is on the low side, the fish are still biting good and are not too spooked by super clear flows that can sometimes dampen the fishing on this small remote river. We have enjoyed exclusive access to some of the river’s prime holding water with the helicopter and even though the number of fish has not been excessive, our trips have been quite successful. When and if the river rises and more kings push upriver from tide water, the fishing should improve dramatically.
On Big River Lake and Wolverine Creek, good numbers of sockeye are now entering Redoubt bay and the mouth of the creek and fishing had been good. We are also starting to see bears arrive and this has made for some excellent viewing opportunities to go along with limit catches of red salmon. This run should only get better and better into July before the much anticipated run of silver salmon arrives.
Mark’s Fishing report, June 9, 2007
Kenai / Kasilof
The Kenai River finally regained its emerald green color late Friday and intro Saturday and fishing was again possible. Success rates varied river-wide but there was some decent action for a handful of guides ands lucky anglers. Despite excellent fish counts, fishing success is still considered less than average as water temperature hover at 42 degree, considerably colder than normal for this time of year. Nevertheless, for those here vying for that one chance at the largest king salmon on earth, some did realize their dreams. One lucky angler on my boat landed a fish that taped 52 inches and was an estimated weight of 70+ lbs. This is what the Kenai is all about. Fishing conditions will improve drastically (without additional rain) by Tuesday and we are expecting next week to be very productive.
Good numbers of Russian River Red salmon are also showing and those willing to put in the time are catching a handful of these delicious salmon.
On the Kasilof river, fair numbers of king salmon are entering on each tide and fishing is considered fair to good. The success rate is less than normal for this time of the season but it should continue to pick up and get better considering run timing statewide has been late overall. Fishing pressure had been high due to the adverse conditions on the Kenai but this should even out now that the Kenai is more fishable.
Mark’s Fishing Report, June 6, 2007
The Kasilof River is seeing good numbers of king salmon in recent days although the number of boats on the river has been extreme on certain days and this has had a direct effect on fishing success. On days when there are a moderate number of boats fishing, the catch rates have definitely been better as there are only a finite number of kings available daily. Overall though the run continues to improve and it should get better through this week as we head for the seasonal peak of this run (typically June 10-15).
On the Kenai River, fishing on this past Friday and Saturday was considered very good with most boats landing between one and three kings. The river was closed for the regular Sunday and Monday break and on Tuesday high winds and rains over the weekend in the Kenai mountains muddied the water and made king fishing all but impossible. The dirty water increased water levels considerably and made visibility very poor. Until the river cleans up (likely not till Saturday), king fishing on the Kenai will remain very tough.
West Side Cook Inlet: Fly Out fisheries
Sockeye returning to big river Lake have made their first appearance and catchable numbers of fish are present in the outskirts of the lake. Water levels on Big River and Big River Lake are very low but the fish are balled up in select locations and catch rates have been decent for the few trips angers have made to this location.
Cook Inlet Halibut / King Salmon
Cook Inlet halibut fishing remains very consistent with limit catches being the rule for all boats heading out for these tasty flatfish. The tides are less than optimal now but will improve daily heading into next week. King fishing in the Inlet has slowed and many captains have put away the troll gear and are not fishing for kings in combination with their halibut trip as the results are not worth the effort. This is typical for this time in June as the kings move past the marine fishery and enter the rivers.
Mark’s Fishing Report, May 30, 2007:
Water clarity on the Kenai River improved considerably in the last two days and the number of kings entering the river continues to increase daily. With the better conditions, fishing success has also picked up, although catch rates are still only fair. Fishing should continue to improve into the first week of June. Fishing on the Kasilof river has also picked up with more fish available in the last two days. This fishery should also continue to pick up as we enter the first week of June as this is historically a very productive time for this river.
Mark’s Fishing Report, May 29, 2007:
Much like 2006, the early runs of king salmon on both the Kenai and the Kasilof Rivers are off to a fairly slow start. Numbers of fish on both rivers have yet to materialize though enough kings are showing in each system to providing some decent action mainly around the high tides.
On the Kasilof, fishing is gradually improving each day but the river is still very low and the best fishing seems to be in the lower portion of the river and is occurring a few hours before and after the high tides. Boats are averaging one to three fish per trip and it seem clear that the major push of early run Kasilof kings has yet to arrive. The larger numbers of fish should improve fishing considerable and we hope this will happen in the next week to ten days.
On the Kenai, fishing last week was considered decent with decent numbers of fish being taken around the high tide in the lower river but recent rains have put the river off color and as a result, fishing success has waned. The water is clearing daily and fishing for early run Kenai kings should pick up throughout this week. Sonar counts are slowly increasing.
Cook Inlet salt water fishing has been the most consistent so far this season with good king salmon fishing at times and very good catch rates for halibut in the 20-40lb. range.
Good luck on the water and great fishing!