King season starts with waiting game

Early run king salmon continue to swim into the Kenai River, but fishing efforts and catch rates remain low because of poor water conditions.

An estimated 1,505 kings had entered the river as of Monday, according to a count released by the Department of Fish and Game, but unusually low water levels have kept many anglers away.

Robert Begich, biologist with fish and game, said there’s not a lot fishermen can do except wait.

“The water is still below average so there’s not a lot of fishing activity on the river right now,” Begich said. “But there are folks getting fish. When the water conditions get better, it should be pretty good.”

Begich described water clarity as “fair to bad” as a result of snowfall runoff.

Visibility readings Monday were 0.55 meters at Mile 15.3 and 0.38 meters at the sonar station at Mile 8.6, the department reported. Water temperatures are stable at 49 degrees.

How fast the river will rise is unclear. Begich couldn’t explain the near-record lows for this time of year.

“If I knew that I would be a rich man,” he said. “Every year is a little different. This year it’s been interesting, to say the least.”

Bait is prohibited on the Kenai through June 30 and anglers must use single hooks. Fishing is currently closed to rainbow trout on the Kenai.

Also on the Kenai, hooligan are swimming upstream. Begich said the big change to the regulations this season is that gill nets are prohibited for hooligan fishing.

On the Kasilof River, Begich said the outlook for kings is good and that anglers are doing “pretty well” despite low water levels.

The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek opened last weekend to kings and brought mixed results, said Carol Kerkvliet of Fish and Game in Homer.
Both areas will reopen at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, remaining open through midnight Monday.

During the opener on the Ninilchik, some anglers had success using bright yarns and beads with enough weight to drag a bare hook across the bottom. Others used silver spoons or salmon eggs.

The department didn’t release the number of catches.

“Overall, I think it was slow to fair, depending on a lot of things — what time of day you were there, if fish were moving in, expertise, what you were using, all those things,” Kerkvliet said.

The new leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is Rick Pruzek of Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Derby organizer Paula Frisinger said Pruzek landed a 176.5-pounder on Bob’s Trophy Charters with Captain Trenton Peck aboard the Tuff Stuff on May 30.

The derby runs through September.

Also in Homer, a portion of the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon will open to anglers 15-years-old and younger from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Saturday. The youth-only fishing area will be clearly marked, Kerkvliet said, and the remainder of the lagoon will be open to anglers of all ages.

Fish and game employees will be on hand from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to demonstrate fishing knots and show young anglers how to release fish.

Rods will be available as well. It’s the first of three youth-only events at the lagoon this season.

“It’s fun and different and a good thing for families to check out,” Kerkvliet said.

Got a fish tale to tell? A favorite fish photo to share? Email it to tightlines@peninsulaclarion.com.

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