The early run of kings and sockeye has tapered off, but there are fish to be had on the Kenai Peninsula.
As Brian Miller, co-owner of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna said, “If you put in your time, you’ll catch your fish.”
For anglers looking to hook a few sockeye salmon, several people said the Kasilof dipnet and rod and reel fisheries are a good place to start.
While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sockeye counts on the Kasilof have tapered since the June 27 high of 22,404 fish in the river in one day, there are still thousands of fish pushing into the river and both dipnetters and anglers have a chance to tackle the run.
“Dipnetting season opened on (June) 25 on the Kasilof and for those first three days we got nothing but good reports,” said Jason Pawluk, assistant area sportfishing biologist.
The dipnetting season on the Kasilof River is open from June 25-August 7 and is available to Alaska residents with a valid permit.
The total yearly harvest limit in all Upper Cook Inlet personal-use fisheries — including the Kenai, Kasilof and Fish Creek dipnet fisheries — is 25 salmon and 10 flounder with 10 additional salmon for each additional household member, according to Fish and Game.
The Russian River has also slowed in the past week with an average of 200-500 fish coming up the river versus 1,000-4,000 in the past few weeks, however Pawluk said there may be another pulse of fish coming up the river.
Pawluk said now might be a good time to head up to the Russian as fewer people are using the ferry to cross the river and a knowledgeable angler could catch the last pulse of sockeye.
A personal-use dipnet fishery will open on the Kenai River soon and Pawluk said the red salmon run could be expected to peak around the middle of the month.
“If you look at the last five years as an example it’s kind of a serene entry pattern of sockeye into the Kenai for the first ten days of July ranging anywhere from 5,000 a day to 25,000 a day and that’s kind of, it’s not very great ... you might catch some if you really go out to put in your time and effort with dipnetting,” he said.
But, somewhere between July 14-17 during the last few years, there is a huge spike of fish.
“It’s a very small window where you’re going from like 12,000 a day to 20,000 a day ... phones start ringing and it’s like, ‘Dude they’re here, get your boat and get down here.’ It’s a wall of fish that hit the river and that lasts for two or three days,” he said. The dipnet fishery on the Kenai is open to fishermen with permits from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. starting July 10.
A handful of drift boats took to the Kenai River Monday for the first day of the late run king salmon fishery. Monday is restricted to non-motorized boats and is an unguided day. Pawluk said about 12 to 14 boats at a time took advantage of the fishery.
Tuesday’s first power boat day saw 89 boats on the river in the morning and about 50 at noon, he said.
Water conditions on the Kenai River are normal, although a bit high for this time of year and the water has good clarity with about a meter of visibility, Pawluk said.
An emergency order issued in June closed about 475 feet of riverbank on the Kenai River to fishing from shore.
The area is on the north bank of the Kenai River near mile 22 from the mouth of Soldotna Creek upstream approximately 475 feet according to the order.
The location is near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna and has regulatory markers showing the closed area. Anglers on boats more than 10 feet from shore which are not connected to the shore can fish in the area.
While bait is not allowed in the Kenai River king fishery Monte Roberts, with All Alaska Outdoors, said the water’s clear and kings had been better to fish Wednesday with the increasing visibility.
King fishing is also available on the Kasilof River.
“They’re spotty, but there are fish to be caught,” said Miller. “I talked to a couple of people that are catching some kings on the Kasilof.”
Several fishermen said halibut fishing was still going strong.
“Halibut fishing is still going gangbuster,” said Miller. “Halibut are a good thing to target right now because we’re at a lull in the salmon fishing.”
Anglers trying to avoid the hustle and bustle of the larger fisheries have a variety of lakes and flyout options available in the area.
Pawluk said people fishing stocked lakes or natural lakes had luck on various species.
“If you want to take your kids and teach them to fish or go to these places that are less crowded or more secluded, stocked lakes and lakes in general are good option,” Pawluk said.
He said several lakes on Swanson River road have wild natural stocks that have been reported as good fishing as well as stocked lakes like Longmere Lake and Sport Lake.
Miller said he had heard reports that stocked lakes were fishing well and suggested Johnson Lake, Summit Lake and Spirit Lake.
Hidden lake is also a good fishery, he said, especially for people who have a boat.
“Watch the weather,” Miller said. “Hidden Lake kicks up pretty good, but bring all your regular fishing stuff, you’ll be trolling an assortment of plugs or spoons.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at email@example.com.