Salmon pulse through again

Continued sockeye rush prompts increased bag limits, dipnet hours

The Kenai River continues to fill with sockeye, anglers and dipnetters as bag limits and fishable hours have increased.


A second push of sockeye came through the river on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with 97,914, 110,898 and 88,255 fish being counting respectively. Through July 23, a total of 894,547 sockeye had been counted.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials gave the thumbs up for anglers to keep six sockeye per day with 12 in possession effective on July 21. However, in the Kenai River above Skilak Lake and in the fly fishing only areas, the bag limit remains three per day, three in possession.

“If you want to take advantage of the increased bag limit, you have to do it in the lower Kenai River downstream of Skilak Lake,” said Jason Pawluk, fish and game assistant area management biologist. 

Sockeye are spread out throughout the Kenai River, Pawluk added.

“Right now sockeye fishing with rod and reel is good pretty much anywhere you can find the fishing moving up,” he said.

Fish and Game managers also opened the Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery to 24 hours per day through the end of the fishery on July 31.

“It was good over the weekend, but we just got a report from the (Alaska State) Troopers saying it slowed down significantly this morning,” Pawluk said Tuesday.

Good fishing should sustain for the next several days, but the bad news is the bulk of the main sockeye run is likely over.

Pawluk said offshore testing indicators recently dropped “significantly.”

“We might see good fishing for a few more days but then it might kind of drop off,” he said.

So far there haven’t been any reports of pink or coho salmon showing up in the river. Anglers can expect a pink run in the second week of August and there are typically two pulses of silvers — in August and late September, Pawluk said.

Trout fishing improves

Rainbow trout fishing action continues to heat up with the increased amount of food washing through the Kenai River system.

“Trout is picking up,” said Mike Harpe, manager and guide of Kenai River Fly Fishing. “It is starting to get there. We’ve got a lot of sockeye getting caught in the upper river so you get a lot of that flesh rolling down and that really helps.”

Harpe recommended fishing a flesh and egg combination pattern — “back to the basics,” he said. If you are fishing from shore, Harpe suggested trying the Kenai River sanctuary area.

“Wherever those fish are getting cut and cleaned that’s where you are going to find those trout,” he said. “That’s what they are keying in on. They are isolated in, I call them the carcass dens. They are laying in those pockets where a lot of carcasses roll in. The bottom of the eddies.”

The majority of the upper river is performing well, he added.

“It has been pretty quiet, the crowds,” he said. “I’m surprised how quiet it has been with how many fish that have been pumping through here. A lot of that has to do with the dipnet frenzy that just went on this weekend, which will probably go on this upcoming weekend, too.”

Pawluk reminded anglers that king salmon fishing in the Kenai River is prohibited and dipnetters are not allowed to keep kings.

There are no negative tides this weekend to benefit clam diggers, but there will be negative tides of -1.1 feet on Monday at 7:57 a.m. and -2.4 feet on Tuesday at 8:49 a.m. in the Deep Creek district. 

New Homer halibut derby leader

Carol Allis of Phoenix caught a 300-pound halibut on Wednesday aboard the Daze Off with Capt. Willie Beachy of Reel Fun Charters to become the new leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby. However, hours before that fish came in, Pam Hanshaw of Homer weighed in two halibut she caught — a 230.2-pounder and a 225-pounder — to be the leader, but only briefly.