Rushin' the rushing Russian

The battle has begun on the Russian River where an unexpectedly large run of sockeye salmon prompted managers to loosen restrictions on fishing the early run.


Anglers who make their way to the clear Cooper Landing-area river can bag six sockeye salmon a day and have up to 12 unprocessed fish in their possession at a time.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also expanded the area allowed for fishing for early run sockeye, opening the Russian River Sanctuary Area, a move many anglers said left the best spots open to lay a line the water and catch a red salmon.

The sanctuary is at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers where the obscured glacial water of the Kenai gives way to the crystal clear water of the Russian and anglers with polarized lenses have a good chance of spotting a fish before they land it.

“Fish seem to hold there before they go up the Russian,” said Dave Goggia, owner of Hooky Charters.

But, the clear water and close access to a campground can make shoulder-to-shoulder fishing a regular occurrence in the area.

“I think if you go early in the morning or late at night, you can get away from the crowds,” Goggia said.

While local tackle shops carry Russian River flys, Goggia said he would use the Kenai Bug.

“Years ago, I was fishing and I used flies like everybody else — Russian River flies — and this guy came up and said it was a new fly he had developed and gave me one and he said ‘I think you’ll have better success.’ Doggone if he wasn’t right.” Goggia said he buys the bugs, a hook wrapped with different bright colors of yarn, for his clients every year.

If you go:

  • The Upper Kenai River mainstem and Russian River are designated as fly-fishing only from June 11 - August 20.
  • The sanctuary area is the waters upstream from the Fish and Game markers placed just downstream of the ferry crossing on the Kenai River, up to a Fish and Game marker about 100 yards upstream of the Russian River mouth.
  • Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed year-round and the gap between the point and shank must be 3/8-inches or less.
  • The Russian River drainage system upstream of a Fish and Game marker about 600-yards downstream of the Russian River falls is closed to all salmon fishing.
  • Wear protective eyewear and be prepared to fish in close quarters, so watch for flying hooks.


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