18 Mar Why the Kasilof? Why Not
There is certainly no doubt the Kenai is the world’s most famous salmon river, home to the largest kings
on earth and the place of piscatorial dreams. Yet just 20 minutes down the Sterling highway is the
Kasilof, a river slightly smaller than the Kenai, but equally rich in historic angling lore and yes, huge
salmon. While they have many similarities, the differences between the two glacial streams are vast.
The Kenai has the luxury of two great lakes in its system which act as enormous filters settling out glacial
silt and giving the Kenai its trademark turquoise hue. The Kasilof takes a less interrupted journey from
glacial headwaters to salt. It flows from Lake Tustamena, the largest lake on the Kenai Peninsula which is
fed by multiple glaciers thus making the Kasilof more turbid. Despite the milkier water color, the Kasilof
is every bit as potent at producing world class salmon and steelhead. Beginning in May, the Kasilof sees
the first kings of the season, all headed for a small tributary named Crooked Creek located just above
tidal reach. There has been a hatchery on this tributary sine the 1970’s and they enhance the run each
year with stock from Crooked Creek origin. There is also a naturally produced component to the run
that spawns on its own in Crooked Creek. This combined return makes for a very productive drift boat
only sport fishery for king salmon from mid-May until late June.
The Kasilof sockeye return also begins in May and extends well into July with an average escapement of around 500,000 fish.
These fish dash from salt to many miles upriver in a matter of hours and when they are present in peak numbers, many
shoreline locations will yield limits.
In July, the Kasilof sees its second run of kings and these are all wildand largely main-stem spawners. They rival the Kenai Chinook in size with
a number of fish over 50 lbs. landed annually. With the extreme water volume the Kasilof experiences in July, catching huge kings
from a drift boat can be quite a challenge and very exciting.
August on the Kasilof brings silver salmon and lots of them. Headed for tributaries of Tustamena Lake, the cohos hit the river in mid-August
and remain present well into September. Behind the silvers is my favorite of all, the steelhead trout! They
first arrive in late August with the bulk of the run arriving in October. With a backdrop of falling leaves
and autumn colors, these chrome bright sea-run rainbows are a perfect way to end the season. Indeed,
the Kasilof has just about everything a visiting angler can want, incredible scenery, a peaceful float,
vibrant runs of salmon and steelhead and let’s not forget, the Kenai is just 20 minutes away.