Wave of baitfish makes for hot saltwater King action

A massive influx of baitfish in the marine waters of Cook Inlet has lured king salmon to the southern Kenai Peninsula’s near shore fisheries much to the delight of fishermen and charter fishing guides.

Robert Begich, biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the marine troll fishery has been hot the last few days for both kings waiting to enter the river and the usual feeder king populations.

The lower Kenai River is also, for the first time in several years, seeing a good run of hooligan, Begich said.

“When there is a lot of hooligan and bait fish on shore, it pulls in a lot of kings, feeders included,” he said. “The fishing tends to be better yet still.”

Early run king fishing on the Kenai River has been slow, although it’s very early in the season and only a handful of anglers have braved the weather, Begich said.

“We’ve been getting a couple of interviews a day, but nobody is having any luck,” he said. “I guess it’s like Horace Greeley said a long time ago on the western frontier. I’ll just say, ‘Go south, young man.’ That’s where it’s happening.”

Fishermen are encouraged to double-check the status of their sportfishing license and the regulations book before heading out fishing. Current rules are in place for no-bait trophy king salmon fishing on the Kenai River.

Currently, Fish and Game emergency orders prohibit:

■ The retention of kings greater than 20 inches and less than 55 inches throughout the Kenai River, and the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai to the Sterling Highway bridge.

■ Use of bait. Fishermen must use one, unbaited, single hook artificial lure.

On July 1, fishing will open to bait and retention of kings from Slikok Creek downstream to the mouth of the river. The rest of the river from the outlet of Skilak Lake down will open for bait fishing on July 15. Fish that are not legal to keep may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Based on its preseason outlook, Fish and Game reported that this year’s Kenai River early-run of king salmon is expected to be very low.

In the Kasilof, anglers are not allowed to keep naturally-produced king salmon. The bag and possession limit for hatchery fish, identifiable by a clipped adipose fin, is one greater than 20 inches in length through June 30.

The Russian River, the upper Kenai River — from Skilak Lake to Kenai Lake — and the river from the outlet of Skilak Lake to the Upper Killey River are closed to all fishing through June 10 for the rainbow trout spawning season. The upper river and Russian sections will open on June 11 to trout and salmon fly fishing only.

Between Skilak and Killey will also open on June 11, but is not a fly fishing only water.

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