When the red, white and blue bell clipped to Andre Ellibinian’s pole clanged loudly Wednesday, the flannel-clad French-speaking fisherman sprang into action.
With barely a grunt, and only the extreme bend of his rod to indicate the large silver hooked on the other end, Ellibinian expertly worked his catch to the shore as his fellow anglers reeled their lines in and stepped out of his way.
More than 25 people and just as many cars sat idling along the river bank Wednesday at Centennial Park in Soldotna as the silver, or coho salmon, run makes its way up the Kenai River.
The chilly weather kept many fishermen in their campers and cars, though Dwayne and Bonnie Ogden, of the Kalifornsky-Beach area, sat in camp chairs watching their lines.
Bonnie, her hands clad in hot-pink fuzzy gloves to ward off the cold, said it was much colder at 5 a.m. when the two arrived at the park to fish.
Between them, they’d caught three coho and were willing to stay until 11 a.m. to try for the other three and limit out for the day.
Dwayne said he was surprised at how busy the park had been when the two arrived first thing in the morning.
“It’s been a good silver year,” Bonnie said.
Doris and Otto Fuchs, a couple from Switzerland, stood along the shoreline after landing a coho mid-morning as the two wrapped up a tradition that began in 1987 of spending their summers in Alaska.
They’re here for the food.
“We go fishing, look for mushrooms and look for berries,” she said. “We enjoy nature and have friends here.”
Doris said standing on the bank of the river, watching for a rod to bend was not her favorite way to fish.
“You have to sit and wait,” she said.
She said likes to stand in a stream and be physically engaged in the art of fishing where she can “feel the bite.”
The water level on the Kenai River remains well above average for this time of year and coho are being caught with good angler success rates according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for Fish and Game, said people are using flesh and eggs to fish for silvers in the mornings and sometimes switching to trout in the afternoons.
The second pulse of silvers is coming through the Kenai River and into Skilak Lake to bed down for the winter, he said.
Typically the coho fishing will be good through February.